First Story :
This main story reprints Marvel Team-Up (1st series) #53.
The X-Men are flying over the desert of New Mexico, heading back home in New York. Suddenly, Colossus points them below at the remains of a plane crash. Cyclops assures him he saw it. He’s heard rumors that this area they’re flying over is known as “the desert triangle.” Several planes have supposedly gone down here recently, mysteriously bursting into flame. Nightcrawler, in a very laid-back mood, argues they don’t have to worry about that. It would take an awful lot to knock this baby out of the sky!
Below, the villain known as Sunstroke has spotted the X-shuttle: more fools, flying right over his trap! He’s been shooting down planes for weeks, looting them for supplies and food. But he’s never come across a plane like that. This should be interesting. He then releases his solar bursts and strikes the aircraft.
Surprised, the X-Men realize they’ve been hit! Phoenix notifies Cyclops that blast was too much for Professor Xavier – he’s out cold! Scott warns them all they’re going down and instruct Jean to project a force field around the ship. Just as they impact, Scott tells them to hold on; they’re going to hit hard. He asks Jean to keep that force shield up; he’s still pouring the juice!
Sunstroke emerges from above them, floating in the air. He loftily announces that they can’t beat him out here. He is Sunstroke and he draws his strength from the blazing heart of the desert sun! The desert belongs to him! All who pass through must fall before him! He notices that already the girl begins to weaken! Jean admits Sunstroke is right: she can’t keep the shield up much longer. These “Phoenix” powers are still so new to her. She’s not sure what her limits are…
Just then, her resilience finally gives way and she passes out from the strain of keeping up the teke shield. Sunstroke relishes: the girl is down! And he believes Cyclops is next! “You pyromaniac!” Scott rants and raves. If he’s hurt Jean, he promises he’ll make him pay! He fires his optic blasts against the villain, but Sunstroke shields himself with his solar beams.
Scott tells Storm he’ll take care of the unconscious Jean and points Ororo at the enemy: her powers will be most effective against Sunstroke. Flying towards him, Storm thinks she knows a way to turn the villain’s lights out. She is curious to see what happens when she puts a few dark clouds on the horizon…
Storm’s plan seems to be effective as Sunstroke’s power indeed begins to fade. Sunstroke realizes that this girl can create clouds – she’s blocked out the sun and, with it, his own powers. He has one last chance to stop her before all his power is depleted. With the last ounce of strength left on him, he blasts her. It’s a direct hit and he watches as Storm falls.
Thankfully, Nightcrawler teleports at her aid and grabs the stunned Storm. However, he then spots a cactus below them at the ground that seems to have come out of nowhere. Reacting in time, he teleports again before he and Ororo are impaled on the cactus and rematerialize next to the plant. Kurt thinks something is very strange around here. Overhead, the flying Sunstroke rejoices: with the woman down, the power of the sun is once again his!
Below, a raging Wolverine urges Colossus to show this sucker they mean business! Piotr is happy to comply: one fastball special coming up! He grabs Wolverine and prepares to throw him towards Sunstroke. However, Sunstroke suddenly unleashes a brilliant burst of light. Sunstroke correctly surmises that they can’t hit what they can’t see. Indeed, an almost blinded Colossus makes a bad throw, sending Wolverine flying against some rocks close nearby instead.
Much to his surprise, Wolverine finds himself stuck in these flaming rocks, as they seem to grow hand-like appendages and hold him captured in there. He tries to get loose, before he sees Banshee flying close by. Meanwhile, Sunstroke announces that now they will meet the same fate as all those who pass his domain: “Prepare to fry!”
Having just tracked down his teammates, Banshee thinks that little detour with the web-crawler took longer than he thought. It looks like he arrived just in time to save his friends! He then unleashes his hypersonic scream, causing the rocks below to give way. A rockslide, Sean thinks – did he do this, he wonders.
Further below, Sunstroke covers his ears, unable to withstand Sean’s scream. Much to everyone’s surprise, then, Sunstroke disappears – swallowed up by the Earth, as Banshee keenly notices. Wolverine begins clawing at the ground, exactly where Sunstroke stood before he vanished. It doesn’t make sense – the villain was here a minute ago!
Cyclops summons everyone back to the ship. The heat is taking its toll. They’ve got to get home: Jean and the Professor need medical attention. Indeed, they take off with Cyclops piloting. Professor Xavier comes around and Colossus asks him if he’s all right. Charles assures him he’ll be fine once he’s had some rest. He’s just worried about Jean. Still, he congratulates his students: they won today because they fought as a team, just like he always taught them. Things could have been a lot worse for all of them. Teamwork is something that loners like Sunstroke can never understand.
Back in the desert, Sunstroke’s own teammates come to his aid. The first one to kneel above the injured villain is Butte. Her body is wholly made of rocks – in fact, she was able to camouflage herself as a rock when trying to ensnare Wolverine. She asks Sunstroke if he’s all right. Sunstroke assures her he’s fine. She managed to cover him completely. They had no idea where he was. He then shouts at his other two teammates, Cactus (the cactus-like being who mysteriously sprouted below Nightcrawler) and Gila (a sentient big lizard) that they can come out.
Gila argues that Sunstroke may be the headliner, but it is his low profile team members that keep him in the spotlight and out of captivity. Cactus suggests they do no more shooting down planes for a while. They need to conserve their energy for when their master summons the Desert Dwellers to strike again.