Marvel Team-Up Annual #1

Issue Date: 
December 1976
Story Title: 
The Lords of Light and Darkness

Bill Mantlo (writer), Sal Buscema and Mike esposito (artists), Hugh Paley (color artist), Jim Novak (letterer), David Yardin (cover artist), Jorge Molina (variant cover artistArchie Goodwin (editor)
From a plot by Bill Mantlo, Chris Claremont and Bonnie Wilford

Brief Description: 

At the Nest, a secret underground thinktank in the Nevada desert, an international team tries to solve the energy crisis with radiation experiments. Suddenly, an underground earthquake causes the radiation to be released, killing one of the people and transforming the other seven… Peter Parker is present at an international conference on energy held aboard a flying 747. Another guest is Professor Xavier, accompanied by his students. When they fly over the Nevada desert, the ship is attacked by flying robots. Cyclops and Spider-Man manage to land the plane, while several other X-Men fight off the robots. And soon the X-Men and Spider-Man look for the source of the attacks finding the Nest and the surviving scientists, who have been transformed into superbeings influenced by Hindu mythology. They attacked the plane because they were searching for a certain powerful individual. After they have captured the X-Men, it becomes clear that they want Jean Grey, who was recently transformed into Phoenix. Adding Phoenix’s power to theirs, they hope to leave Earth behind and enter the cosmos. Jean refuses but, as it turns out, the state of the seven gods is unstable. They will die soon if they remain on Earth and take the planet with them. Cyclops figures out way for the heroes to send the gods into space where they can find another energy source. After they have succeeded, the heroes return to the plane, where Professor X has made sure that the civilians forget about their identities.

Full Summary: 

Chapter 1 - The Nest
The Nest, a hive of top-secret government activity stuck in the no man’s land of the Nevada Desert. Stephen Marchesi, special projects investigator for the US Senate, lands there and is let in by one of the automated MPs. He is apprehensive as he enters the Nest, unhappy about the secrecy surrounding the project. He is welcome in by Brian Mann, designer and project administrator of the Nest and one of the world’s foremost nuclear experts.

Mann introduces his seven colleagues, an international group, all of them busy with the problem of the world’s depleting energy resources. Bio-physicist Vic Norman, who is busy with how life fares under intense radiation. Jan Maarshall, electrical engineer who had created the robot guards of the project and named them Rakks (after the Rakshasas of Hindu mythology). Karen Lee, Stephen’s estranged ex-wife who ignores his presence, astronomer Si Fan Chung, Karen’s new lover who greets Stephen coldly. Radiation expert Martin Aaronson and project overseer Randy Tate, who greets him enthusiastically, while he thinks of her as little more than a girl Friday and figures she should have remained a stewardess.

Working behind protective glass is the group’s last member Arman Nila, who left India just before Mrs. Gandhi decided that scientists owed their mind to the state and he managed to take the secret of irradiating common minerals with him. He is working on the Nila Pile. The most incredible harnessing of energy known to man.

Karen warns she is picking up tremors on her instruments. There is an earthquake right beneath them. Mann shouts at Nila to stabilize the pile or they are all doomed! The others begin to panic and Marchesi sees why: the plexi-screen between them and the irradiated pile has been damaged. Nila, whose suit has been damaged as well, apologizes The pile begins to glow, something detonates. Stephen Marchesi dies and the Nest seems totally destroyed.

Chapter 2 - Day of the Demons
The world’s first conference on manmade mutations is convening on a flying Boeing 747 with representative scientists from all nations as well as reporters. The giant plane is refueled in flight, so that the weeklong conference can continue uninterrupted while the plane circles the desert of the American southwest. They are just about to fly over the Grand Canyon.

Several scientists are discussing the role of outside factors like radiation on mutation. One of them, Sir Lionel, introduces Peter Parker, who is here as a reporter but still has a scientific background. Sir Lionel introduces Soviet scientist Dr Myshkin and his hapless translator / brother-in-law Boris.

Peter asks Sir Lionel why he singled him out and gets the reply that he is the only journalist here with a degree in physics and Peter’s professor asked him to watch over him.

They reach another part of the room where Senator Turner loudly lectures that he doesn’t care about cooperation with the East during a Cold War.

Peter recalls Turner is under investigation of the wrongful use of military funds. Something to do with the disappearance of his son in the Bermuda Triangle. Peter decides to take a picture of him, while Turner whinges about the mystery guests in first class. How Reed Richards convinced the airline to let them ride gratis he will never…

He is interrupted by Charles Xavier, flanked by his students, who replies that it is actually quite simple. While Richards was unable to attend, he knows about his interest in mutation. He is Charles Xavier and the young people behind him are his students.

More agitated, Turner shouts that Richards gets anything he asks for. Xavier points points out the public is showing gratitude. Wolverine steps up, growling that he doesn’t think the Senator gets the picture, so he will paint him one. Turner demands who he is. Wolverine grabs him by the lapel and snarls it’s none of his business and he doesn’t much like his tone. While Scott Summers tries to drag Wolverine back, Peter also gets between the men, reminding them this is a conference, not a wrestling match. People are supposed to be reasoning with each other. He is reasoning, his way, Wolverine retorts. Scott orders him to let the Senator go, almost blurting out his codename.

That moment the pilots scream in alarm. There suddenly is a black cloud in front of them. The instruments go crazy and they dive into the cloud. The engines die and the passengers are falling around.

He has let go of the Senator, Wolverine snaps, satisfied? Storm tries to grab Xavier. He tells her not to worry about him but find out what this is.

The flight attendant shouts they have broken out of the cloud and now several objects are flying at them coming from the ground like guided missiles.

Peter Parker recognizes them from a Daily Bugle story some years ago. They are Rakks, created by some Swedish scientist named Marshall. He recalls they are named after demons whose function was to guard the gates of hell.

The Rakks are suspended in mid-flight in front of the plane and fire energy beams from their eyes, shearing off the nose of the plane in mid-flight. The pilots are too injured to keep flying the plane. Xavier shouts that only Scott and Peter are close enough. They race to the cockpit to gain control of the plane. Peter Parker, in the meantime, has recognized several of the X-Men. Since they are taking care of things, he slips way to change into his Spider-Man costume. However, he’s forgotten to lock the door of the restroom. When the nauseous Senator Turner bursts in, Peter hides by clinging to the ceiling.

In the cockpit, Cyclops steers the plane. When the Rakks are about to attack again, he fires his optic blast at them. The Rakks burst into the cabin. One of them reaches for Xavier, though it then senses it is here for someone else. That moment, Spider-Man kicks it away. Xavier orders Banshee and Storm out. Spider-Man closes the hole after behind them to repressurize the cabin while he two flyers try to fend off the Rakks.

In the cockpit, another Rakk makes its way inside from under them through the baggage compartment. Colossus wrestles it away, while Cyclops is busy trying to land the plane. He throws the Rakk toward Wolverine and Jean, who with the help of Spider-Man take it out. While they joke Xavier sternly reminds them the plane is still falling. Spider-Man joins Cyclops in the cockpit. Cyclops explains he can land the plane but cannot decrease their speed.

Outside, Storm and Banshee still have to fight off the Rakks, who try to delay them while the plane is meant to crash.

Inside the cockpit, Spider-Man asks if Cyclops can land them in one piece if Spidey manages to slow the plane down. He creates a web parachute that slows down the plane’s descent.

The plane lands hard and Storm and Banshee wonder if the others survived. A moment later, Spider-Man jumps out followed by the X-Men. Jean Grey wonders why they were attacked. Xavier muses he senses that someone noticed their powers. Cyclops warns the conversation is beginning to upset their fellow passengers who are also emerging from the wreck.

The civilians wonder what is going on and Senator Turner shouts that the attackers were after the muties - or haven’t the others recognized their mystery passengers – the X-Men!

Cyclops snaps the X-Men just save their necks, and if Turner doesn’t understand, maybe Wolverine will have to hold him back from tearing into him.

The Russian scientist Dr. Mishkin tries to calm Turner down and points out that the X-Men didn’t attack them. What makes him so sure - unless they were behind it. Maybe commies and muties are working hand in glove! Turner rants.

Wolverine threatens him with his claws. The Russian tuts at their predilection for violence, then shows them a device, the world’s most sophisticated radiation detector, meant to be unveiled at the conference. He switches it on and announces he has never received such a strong level of radiation when he tested it on irradiated animals in his lab.

Colossus opines there are similarities between the device and the X-Men’s Cerebro. Xavier agrees. Jean Grey wonders who or what it is detecting. Finally, Mishkin points into the desert: the readings are coming from there, a slagged over mound. What’s left of the Nest. Storm adds the robots came from there as well.

Nightcrawler announces they must go there. Dr. Mishkin warms them that it would mean certain death to go there unprotected against the radiation. That mound is highly radioactive. He offers them his invention - anti radiation spray, which will protect them for an hour. He adds that it has never been tested. Spider-Man states Mishkin go himself with eight volunteers.

Chapter 3: Into… the Hellpit!
And soon the seven X-Men and Spider-Man make their way towards the mound. They see a crack in the ground and figure that’s where the robots came from. Wolverine aggressively asks Spider Man if he thinks he can keep up with them. Spidey retorts he has been keeping up for years and since he doesn’t her people talk about the “amazing Wolverine,” he must be doing something right.

Xavier telepathically warns them of danger before his message is interrupted. They note he seemed to be in pain. Storm and Banshee fly beyond the screen of radiation.

Back at the plane, Myshkin asks his bodyguard Boris to get some water for Xavier, who seems to be in pain. Xavier replies he has been living in a nightmare.

At the mound:
Spider-Man points out their flyers have been gone a long time and suggests they follow them. Wolverine snaps they can take care of themselves and he can’t recall asking him for suggestions. The two get ready to throw down when Nightcrawler steps between them, pointedly remarking only Wolverine needs stopping. He has fought beside Spider-Man before and he battles only when provoked.

Suddenly, the mound shakes beneath them, as if trying to shake them off. Then the tremors stop and the radiation screen grows brighter.

In the meantime, Storm and Banshee fly inside the Nest to see everything melted. Suddenly, laser beams attack Storm and Banshee suffers from a mental attack and falls down. Two figures, one male, one female, stand in the shadows. The chaos wheel has done well, the woman observes, referring to the glowing object in her hands. The man agrees, but these two are not the one. She agrees. She senses the one is still outside. They step past the two unconscious X-Men considering them of no importance.

Outside, the other X-Men and Spider-Man see something moving behind the radiation screen. Cyclops orders Jean to use her mental powers and scan them. Spider-Man warns them his spider-sense is tingling. Whoever it is, is dangerous.

It is a redhaired man with glowing hands, who greets them as “mortals,” warning them he is Yama Dharma. He is death. Colossus runs toward him and gets blasted in return. Jean cries out his name and telekinetically tris to protect him. Yama Dharma notices that, but he must not harm her. The others, however, need not be spared. He fires at Spider-Man, who dodges his blasts.

Nightcrawler teleports behind Yama Dharma and attacks him. Thanks to the distraction, Wolverine manages to move in and slash him. However, instead of flesh and blood, there is only cosmic energy under the torn cloth, causing Wolverine to panic that this cannot be real.

Yama Dharma draws a knife, ready to attack Wolverine. Spider-Man leaps in to help Wolverine but suddenly a high-pitched wailing causes all of them to drop. Only Colossus holds on, trying to crawl towards Yama Dharma. However, Kali’s chaos wheel fells him too, though she commends his nobility.

Yama Dharma tells her that, if they weren’t so much alike, he thinks he might love her. She chides him that must never be, for he is keeper of the dead while she exists to create disorder among the living. They turn to the unconscious Jean Grey. She is the one they were waiting for…

Chapter Four: A Gathering of Gods
A little later inside the mound, the X-Men and Spider-Man are trapped in a forcefield. Outside the forcefield kneeling is Jean Grey, dressed in her new Phoenix outfit. The gods stand before them looking at her expectantly. Jean begins to awake, hearing their voice in her mind. She awakes surprised and cries out “oh my God.” “Gods,” one of the eight glowing beings who used to be the scientists corrects her.

Jean tries to telekinetically free the others, but her mind blast bounces off the forcefield. Angrily, she shouts at the beings, demanding what they want of them. One of the eight introduces himself as Brahma and telepathically shares his story with Jean.

As the explosion destroyed the Nest, Araman Nila was closest to the pile. His mind was the first, infusing all of them with the stuff of his thoughts while they were bombarded with radiation. Nine people died, yet death embraced only one. The other eight were reborn, molded and mutated by the myths from Hindu mythology… they became, Brahma the creator, Shiva the destroyer, Yama the death-god and Mara the dreamer, Vishnu the preserver, Ratri, the night, Kali the black madness and Agni lord of fire. Myths that shaped them into gods.

In the meantime, Nightcrawler figures their own powers are holding them. He begins to teleport, while knowing that he cannot, but his power has created a rift in the field freeing Banshee. Banshee uses his sonic scream to free Colossus, who creates a rift for Cyclops. On and on, they quickly free the next one.

Jean, who senses what is going on, is busy distracting the gods, listening to their story. Brahma continues that their state is unstable. They must transcend this plane of being or die. Even now, they are drawing energy and, when they ascend, they will leave this world a dead husk. Jean protests that they would destroy the world for eight lives. Eight gods against a world of mortals, Brahma corrects her.

Only if the get the chance! Spider-Man announces, vowing they won’t let them. Kurt points out they still haven’t said what they want from Phoenix. Brahma explains they need a ninth to bind their energies and work as a focus to stabilize their path to godhood. One who in the end will become one with them. Such is the power they sense in Phoenix. Jean makes her disgust clear. Brahma retorts they will have her power and begins to glow.

Wolverine immediately attacks him. Brahma doesn’t react but Agni grabs Wolverine’s arm and burns him agonizingly. Cyclops shoots Agni and Spider-Man hits Yama, causing Ratri to trap Storm in darkness, while Kali attacks Nightcrawler and Banshee with the chaos wheel. However, this time the heroes are better prepared and cover their ears. Banshee unleashes a sonic scream at her and Kali cries to her husband Shiva for help. Shiva threateningly raises his trident but Cyclops shoots it out of his hand.

Phoenix tries to focus but can’t, as she finds herself under attack by Mara the Dreamer. She realizes he is trying not to harm her, just hold her while the others destroy the X-Men.

Colossus hits him and pushes him into Ratri, thus freeing Storm and Jean. Storm calls a thunderstorm down on their foes but they see that something is happening to the gods; they begin to lose shape and are breaking up. The end of all, Brahma predicts. Phoenix retorts it is just their end. Brahma states the energies of Earth are now bound to them and the world will die with them.

Cyclops begins to understand: they needed Phoenix to contain their force until they could become some other form of energy. Spider-Man suggests moving the gods from Earth to space. There has to be more than enough energy for them in space. Cyclops agrees. He tells Brahma to have his people link hands. They stand in a semi-circle with Phoenix standing in front of Brahma in the center, Colossus and Spider-Man are at each end respectively. Cyclops tells Phoenix to have Brahma’s mind energy flow through her. Jean screams in pain as she does so.

Cyclops tell Nightcrawler to tap the mental projection she is beaming at him and teleport it into the path of Cyclops’ upward eyebeam. Nightcrawler complies.

Banshee holds the interface in place with his sonic scream, containing the energy which gathers strength on the ground. Despite Storm acting as a cooling agent Spider-Man and Colossus are about to falter. Wolverine wants to intervene but Storm orders him back: If he breaks the linkage, he will kill them all.

A moment later, the gods disappear their essence traveling upward in a narrow beam of light until, safely away from the surface of the Earth, they transform into something else, causing astronomers to announce the birth of a new star.

Xavier telepathically contacts the team to tell them Dr. Myshkin’s device no longer registers any trace of radioactivity. They have done well. Now they have a plane load of people who know who they are, Spidey complains. Xavier curtly denies this before breaking off contact. Phoenix explains that he has blocked any knowledge of what happened or their involvement from the minds of their fellow passengers. Spider-Man muses he would be handy to have around when he needs to explain things to a certain Mary Jane Watson. Cyclops suggests he ask him once, just to see what he’d say.

Characters Involved: 

Banshee, Colossus, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Phoenix II, Professor X, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men)

Stephen Marchesi
Professor Mishkin
Sir Lionel
Senator “Stoneface” Turner

Agni, Brahma, Kali, Mara, Ratri, Shiva, Vishnu (Lords of Light and Darkness)

Story Notes: 

Senator Turner is an antagonist from the short-lived Skull the Slayer series.

This is the only appearance of the Lords of Light and Darkness.

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