Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #357

Issue Date: 
July 1998
Story Title: 
The Sky Is Falling

Steve Seagle (writer), Dan Norton, Dexter Vines and Scott Hanna (artists), Steve Buccellato (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft / DL (letters), Mark Powers (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

In Ptarmigan Creek, Anchorage, Alaska, the town is suddenly raided by swarms of crows which go inexplicably savage and begin attacking the humans. There on vacation, Phoenix, Cyclops, Archangel, Beast and Iceman join forces to engage them, compromising their own anonymity in the process. In the end, they manage to stop the pandemonium and, although each of them claims credit on the victory, they all disagree on what the source of the attack was. In Manhattan, Dr. Agee examines Rogue’s file, arguing that she will soon be as cured as his once-mutant sister, Rebecca – notwithstanding Rebecca is actually horribly misshapen, owing to his experiments. In outer space, Deathbird is finally convinced to release Bishop from captivity. Feigning feelings for her, Bishop succeeds in preventing their ship from crashing on a sun – however they are now on collision course towards another planet.

Full Summary: 

Ptarmigan Creek

Until four minutes ago, the town was a quaint, lightly-populated adjunct to Alaska’s best-known metropolis, Anchorage. Now the town is suddenly under attack by a swarm of birds that have gone savage! “Help me!” a young woman screams, running in the streets, dropping her bag of groceries. She begs someone to get those birds away from her! Passers-by watch in horror. An Inuit dressed like a Shaman announces that Chulyen the Crow God has come! He has summoned him! Chulyen is the master of this land and will reclaim what belongs to his people!

The sounds of the attack are not yet heard blocks away, where Cyclops, Phoenix, Archangel, Beast and Iceman have gathered for an early dinner and an interrupted conversation about their future as X-Men. A peeved Warren asks Bobby to stop reaching in front of him like a slob. Bobby asks him why. Is it because Warren is afraid that Bobby will somehow interfere with the image-inducer he is using to conceal his blue skin? Jean amusedly wonders if she is going to have to separate them. Scott tells her not to mother them; they might get used to it.

Hank does not want to interrupt such scintillating idle chatter, but reminds Scott he started to say something about “a new dream for the team” – one to replace the Professor’s. Scott admits he did, but then he got a kick in the shin under the table. Smiling, Jean explains it was his adoring wife’s way of saying “don’t rush into the serious stuff.” Yes, Beast agrees – especially in such a public…

The sky is falling!” a panicky man suddenly screams outside the restaurant. Undeterred, the mutants turn back to their conversation. Archangel thinks it’s the story of their lives. Having to monitor every word they say, wrap Hank up like the living mummy, have Warren use the only image-inducer on hand, just to try to blend in. But knowing something is going to come along and screw up sooner or later. “Sooner, I’d say,” Hank remarks.

Suddenly, he points outside the restaurant and tells his peers to look out; something is causing a human stampede! Warren realizes the crowd is in blind panic and wonders what it could be. “A John Tesh concert?” Bobby quips. Just then, Connie, the waitress, pops up and greets them all. Embarrassed, she admits she thought she brought them menus but… she forgot! Without paying attention to her, the X-Men decide to depart. “Quickly, people!” Cyclops motivates them. “Back door for stealth or front for directness?” Bobby suggests. “Hey! I said I was sorry!” Connie exclaims.

Outside, the five X-Men are shocked to see that the source of this commotion is… crows! Jean realizes they’re crazed; swarming like bees without their queen! Cyclops thinks it’s impossible; these birds shouldn’t be predatory! Iceman knew it: they shouldn’t have turned down Doctor Dolittle’s team application! How are they supposed to fight a rabid flock of crows?! Hank corrects him: crows don’t travel in flocks. Iceman asks “Mister Thesarus” what the correct term is, then! It’s a murder of crows, Hank corrects him. “It may well be for the civilians still on these streets!” Cyclops remarks. “Civilians?! What about me?” Hank exclaims as the birds proceed to attack him. Phoenix urges everyone to spread out. They are to save lives, but try not to compromise their identities… it might just add to the panic!

Beast jumps over a car and rescues a young woman attacked by the crows, leaping away with her in his arms. He can save her, but not her groceries. Which means they’ll have to leave that can of spam behind, though he’s not certain that’s a bad thing! Seeing him rescuing the girl, Bobby tells him to get her inside the restaurant.

Suddenly, Iceman sees a woman and her son helpless in the clutches of some birds. He tells them to hang on and then grabs a notice from a dentist’s office. “Hey birds! Time for your six-minute check-up!” he growls and slams them with the notice.

Nearby, unwilling for the moment to trigger his optic blasts, Cyclops relies on his punches to drive away some birds. Contacting Jean through their telepathic rapport, he tells her there’re too many of them; he has to fire at least one blast, or… Phoenix retorts that, no, he doesn’t. Even if they weren’t trying to retain their anonymity, he is under doctor’s orders not to use his powers. Besides, she can deploy a psi-blast to override the creatures’ minimal mental impulses. However, the effect of her psi-blast proves to be a short-lived one and the birds come after her again.

Outside the restaurant, Archangel tells Iceman he’s covering for him and urges him to keep clearing people out. Bobby assures he’s all over it! Suddenly setting his sight on the raving ‘Shaman’ guy, he tells himself he’s not seeing this! The ‘Shaman’ rants that the Chulyen brings the sky down upon them all! He moves through him to steal the land back from those who stole it from him! Bobby quips it sounds like a bunch of claptrap from Time-Life’s “Mystic World” books, but whatever! He’s just glad the guy’s nutso self isn’t a figment of his own imagination, like Hank kept saying! He tells the ‘Shaman’ to stand right over there, because, he swears, if he vanishes again and leaves Bobby looking like a…

Chris Miller, the local sheriff, suddenly shows up with his police car and urges Bobby to get inside; all of them! It’s not safe out here! He vows that he will handle this! Iceman asks him to let him past and explains it’s that old Indian guy out there; he’s the one doing it! Chris gets out of the car and fires up in the sky with his rifle. He is confident this will take care of it, causing the birds to disperse. Scott asks him if he’s certain. Chris indeed is; these crazy birds have been lighting all over the city tonight. They just need a scare to keep them moving on. He admits he doesn’t know why they’re doing it, though. He assumes it’s overbreeding, lack of food because of these late snows, or just some misrouted migration.

Bobby insists he’s got it all wrong! He’s telling them: it’s this Indian guy! He said he summoned an ancient crow god! Chris is baffled: and Bobby believed him? Sure, Bobby replies in confusion – why shouldn’t he? An amused Chris points out that New Yorkers might get their Magneto and their Doctor Dooms, but this is Anchorage. The closest thing they’ve got to a super-villain is Councilman Shockley. Still, Bobby insists it was the Indian man! He had these weird masks at first, then this pelt coat…

Chris interrupts him: he knows who Bobby’s describing. “Moon Wolf” he calls himself. Chris thinks that guy is a crazy loon. He claims he’s responsible for everything. He said he’s the god of ice and snow, he said he was the unibomber even three days after they’d caught him and…

Suddenly seeing some feathers falling off Warren’s pocket, Chris momentarily pauses in confusion – Warren plays possum – before he continues. He points out there’s all kind of weird stuff in the world. Not all of it is the work of a supernatural shaman or deadly mutant lunatic. “We do know,” Beast agrees. Chris decides to get back to work. He suggests they stay inside tonight; they might be safer.

Unreasonably late snow also falls on Manhattan. In the midtown Manhattan, offices of the Agee Institute for Genetic Studies, Dr. Aubrey Agee continues his studies in his lab. Addressing his sister, Rebecca, who is also present in the room, Agee tells her it can be done. He’s convinced he can cure the mutant Rogue, just like he cured Rebecca. Though Rogue does not yet trust him. Not even enough to tell him her codename, though Agee knows that was supplied by other parties. He wishes Rebecca could see Rogue’s DNA sample, it’s staggering… as if it contains the genetic material of a number of different people simultaneously.

Agee decides to put the data on the screen for Rebecca to see. He doesn’t know why he didn’t think of that before. He knows what she thinks. “He didn’t think because he’s always thinking of something else.” She’s right, of course: he’s always in the next step. Rogue appears on the screen. Agee remarks of that she is hideous, isn’t she? But soon, she will be cured, and as lovely and pure and human being as Rebecca is. He turns to face his sister, a horribly misshapen, gnarled creature confined in a test tube.

Ptarmigan Creek

Jean asks if they are heading back out before it gets dark. Warren thought this was the land of the midnight sun. Jean assures him it is, but they’re not quite into the season yet. Seeing him worried, she asks him if something’s wrong. Warren thinks her neighbor, the sheriff, might have seen his feathers. He was just enjoying fitting in and then something has to go and mess it up.

Beast takes a respite from the book he’s been reading and argues that, given the number of odd things he’s seen today, he doubts the sheriff would think much of it even if he did see. And as for heading out, he strongly suggests they do so… immediately. The local news reports are not so good, he stresses as he turns up the volume in the television. A newscaster reports that the injury toll continues to rise from these unexpected, violent bird attacks. Cyclops believes Beast is right. The big problem is how they can do that and still guarantee their anonymity.

“I’ll tell you…” Jean argues and reappears dressed up in her Phoenix costume, much to everyone’s surprise. She argues they can’t. However, they are X-Men. If this town is in danger, their responsibility is to save it first, and worry about personal repercussions later. Scott asks her if she’s saying…

Suddenly, Melissa Murphy shows up and enters through the balcony door, startling everyone. She hopes she hasn’t come at a bad time… Panicked, Cyclops asks her to wait a minute, but it’s too late. Startled by the sight of the winged Archangel, the blue-skinned Beast and Phoenix in costume, Melissa pauses. Warren stutters that this isn’t what it looks like… Melissa asks them not to worry. She already knows – kind of. She saw Warren on the roof the other day. She realizes he’s a mutant – like the blue guy hiding behind the couch!

Warren realizes she sounds like she doesn’t mind. Melissa assures him she doesn’t. She just hopes they can help stop the birds. She explains she was in L.A. during the riots caused by that Operation: Zero Tolerance. Besides, she knows they’re not monsters. She’s sort of a mutant, too. “You are?” Cyclops asks in disbelief. Six toes on each foot, Melissa reveals with a certain pride. It shouldn’t matter, but in this world, it’s enough to get called every name in the book, she explains. Scott assures her that if she keeps their secret, they’ll keep hers. Jean adds that of course they’ll also help. Even the “blue guy”, Hank quips.

That moment, a universe away, inside Deathbird’s ship, the captive Bishop demands that she free him. Deathbird argues she cannot do that – he’s injured. Bishop retorts she’s insane! This craft is damaged – and they’re hurtling into a sun! He knows she feigned his paralysis to hold on to him, but the time for such games is over! Deathbird is incredulous: if he knew she betrayed him and his fellow X-Men to protect her love for Bishop, why would he help her now? Bishop explains he’ll help to save them both. He’ll help because, no matter what she’s done, he… he does love her, and love cannot be denied.

Deathbird is pleased to hear his thoughts have become one with hers. She announces he has earned his freedom and releases him from his restrains, instructing him to assume the front helm. Bishop does as told and soon announces to Deathbird that they’re doing it; they’re pulling out of the gravitational pull! Satisfied, Deathbird argues that together they’re most formidable – imagine what they could achieve with their combined might! Bishop explains that the good news is they’re not going to crash into that sun. The bad news is that he can’t make the same promise about another planet overhead.


Jean watches the team planning out their strategy. She sees everyone dressed up in their onetime costumes, from the time they were they only X-Men, the original X-Men. “Split reconnaissance teams, then?” Archangel asks Cyclops. Scott thinks that’s best. He instructs Archangel and Beast to take the outlying areas and see if they can discover where the birds are originating from. He then turns to Jean and calls her name, seeing how lost she seems to be.

Jean breaks out of her trance and sees everyone in their current costumes. Scott asks her if she’s all right; she looks as if she’s seen a ghost. Jean explains she’s fine. She was just thinking… remembering something. She tells him to go on. Cyclops announces that he and she will handle the in-town crisis. Turning to Bobby, he tells him he’s not sure why but he thinks he should… “Go looking for my Indian wacko,” Bobby completes his phrase with a mischievous smile. He assures Scott he’s already there. Hank jests that, while Bobby’s out there, he can see if he can find the Easter Bunny, as well. As the team is about to depart on their different missions, Cyclops wishes them good luck. He doesn’t know why things like this always seem to find them, but he does know they were once the X-Men. He’s confident they can beat this. “Once?” Hank boggles. They will always be the X-Men!

Iceman begins searching around. No sign of that weird mystic around the totem pole where they last saw him, but maybe he’ll turn up around the totem they wrecked into after hitting that poor moose. He thinks maybe Hank was right; maybe Bobby did imagine him. Maybe the mental workout he got from Sauron’s hypno-vision had some after-effect. Maybe he needs some hardcore time off to relax and spend more time with his father, now that he’s found him again after all these years.

Maybe not, Iceman finally thinks as he encounters the Indian guy, Moon Wolf, where he expected, raving. He asks Bobby if he’s an emissary of the Chulyen, the Crow God. Has he come to reward Moon Wolf, his humble servant? Bobby quips that, if by “emissary” he means “X-Man” and if by “reward” he means “carry him away on an ice slide,” then yes, he’d say he got it right all the way around. He immediately picks him up and departs with his slide. Moon Wolf instructs his ‘children,’ the crows, to follow him: “Do not allow him to remove me!” Unbeknownst to Iceman, an entire family is watching from their home. The father of the family wonders what that is. Another guy realizes that’s one of the mutant X-Men, and the birds are following him! He could have told him this would have had something to do with mutants!

Elsewhere, two men in a cabin observe Archangel flying in the sky, carrying Beast with him. One of them realizes they must be mutants – this is the most incredible thing he’s ever seen! Every blight of the lower 49 finds its way up here sooner or later! The other man wonders if they should sound an alarm. His friend agrees: they’d better alert someone. Mighty strange coincidence, seeing a man with wings during a swarm of killer crows!

Overhead, Hank discerns that Warren’s mood seems to be improving. Archangel confesses he loves it up here – especially since he got his natural wings back. None of the weight of the world pulls on him when he’s flying. Beast notes he’s sounding downright philosophical. He should loan Warren some Julian Jaynes when they get back to the Institute. Warren stresses he is not going back to the Institute. He and Betsy have their own…

Suddenly, Beast warns him of danger below. Not birds, but the coloration of that run-off suggests minerals at the least, and more like wastes and pollutants being pumped out of that plant below and into the stream. Though a crime in and of itself, environment pollution isn’t what they’re trying to track down. Archangel tells him not to be so sure and points him to a horrific sight: birds drinking, washing in, and generally encountering poisoned water. Beast believes they may have their answer. He suggests they get to the others and…

Just then, one especially aggressive crow gives Hank a headbutt! “Birds!” Warren screams, seeing how they are surrounded by several of them. Hank can’t help but quip: “Paging Mr. Hitchock… White courtesy telephone, please…”

Elsewhere, Phoenix is telekinetically flying Cyclops and herself above the city. She argues that maybe these birds are nature’s way to man’s encroachment of this habitat. Cyclops thinks that, despite the things they’ve seen in their time as X-Men, this is something far more natural than mystical. There are a number of rational, scientific explanations for what they’re seeing. Maybe the birds have been thrown off their migratory patterns by weather events like El Nino, or… Jean remarks he’s become so “Scully” since he started watching X-Files.

Below, the panicky deputy of Sheriff Chris Miller tells him that the shots aren’t scaring the birds away! Chris retorts it worked before! Just then, Cyclops and Phoenix come near him. Head for adequate cover, officer, Cyclops tells him and explains they’re here to help. Chris doesn’t know where they came from, but argues they don’t need their type of help around here. Wild birds or not, he’s the sheriff and there’s nothing he can’t handle than a bunch of muties ca…

Just then, he screams as the savage crows perform a synchronized, relentless attack on him! Cyclops realizes in horror that they’re devouring him! Phoenix sees houses nearby and suggests they get Chris in one of them.

A frightened elderly couple opens the door, wondering what is going on out there. Phoenix explains the sheriff and his deputy need their help. Cyclops asks the couple to keep these two inside and tend to their injuries until he and Jean can stop these birds. The couple reluctantly complies and takes the sheriff and his deputy inside. The elderly man asks Chris who these costumed folk are – Avengers? Chris explains they’re mutants – probably helping because they caused this… feeling guilty. The elderly woman argues that’s not a very charitable thing to say about people who just saved his life. Chris reluctantly realizes it isn’t.

Outside, Jean explains that she’s trying to psi-blast the birds and send them back like she did the first time they came up against them, but something on the psi-plane is hampering her. And the birds seem to be organizing themselves more – resisting her efforts. Scott asks about the others. Jean reveals Iceman was on his way, but…

“Impossible!” she suddenly exclaims and flies up in the sky. Scott asks her what this is. Jean admits she doesn’t know yet. She just singled out a bird with no psionic register whatever. Something’s up with this one – maybe it’s the leader. She’ll tell him once she’s got it! In hot pursuit of the crow, she finally grabs it by its feet!

Just then, she sees Archangel and Beast passing her by in mid-air. She’s glad they’re back and suggests they go down and see if they can help Scott. “Help Scott?! Help us!” Warren counter-suggests! They’ve got a thousand angry blackbirds on their tail! Jean thinks they can entertain the thousand she and Scott have here! Below, Scott argues he’s fine, although he moans a little each time he releases a blast, his health still strained. Landing down with Hank, Archangel tells him not to worry; they’ll cover him. Scott insists he’s fine. Hank retorts there’s no need for gallantry; they’ll all be pecked to death if this keeps up.

Bobby also shows up and tells them to have no fear: Iceman’s here! “Hey! Come back here!” he shouts as he sees Moon Wolf slipping out of his grasp. Moon Wolf vows that Chulyen, the Crow God stands tall in this place! Bobby tells the guys to hang on, while he covers them. Hank despairs: it looks like Iceman brought even more birds! Scott argues it looks far worse than that and points him to a giant, shadowy, birdlike shape materializing right beside Moon Wolf – a mass of crows all merged together!

Moon Wolf preaches that Chulyen comes to say this land was their land before it was the whites’ homes. He comes to say they are borrowers of this place, not its owners. He comes to say return what is not theirs or perish! Gazing at the massive shadow, Hank wonders if he’s seeing things. Scott admits that, if he is, they’re sharing the hallucination. But is it intentional – or is it just a mass coincidental form? Iceman also sees it and remarks it’s huge. It looks like their only good offence now is going to be a good defense. He tells them to stay low and he’ll cover them. Scott coughs that they need to stop this… now!

At this instant, each of the X-Men react in their own way, striking at what perceive to be the source of the danger. Phoenix tears apart the soulless crow she detected, which turns out to be mechanical, Iceman throws a snowball on Moon Wolf, and Cyclops releases a full-force optic blast which pulverizes the gigantic crow – at the cost of his own fragile health. Quivering from the pain, Scott moans that his insides feel like fire. He wonders if what he did worked… He can’t see…

As he collapses on the snow, Jean reminds him that a blast that powerful could have killed him – why did he do that? Scott explains he was the only one who could stop them. “You?” Iceman boggles – he was the one who nailed the Indian guy. Jean argues that the birds fell when she destroyed that mechanical crow! Archangel wonders if it even matters – they have to get Cyclops to a doctor. Scott retorts he’s fine… He just needs some… “Codeine?” Beast suggests. “Time,” Scott clarifies. The bandaged deputy also shows up and announces that the sheriff wanted him to apologize to them for what he said before and to thank them for saving his life. Jean agrees that’s what they do.

Bobby insists he can prove it was Moon Wolf who was controlling those birds, and grabs his bag. Moon Wolf screams at him not to touch his bag of enchantment! Iceman asks them if they heard that: bag of enchantment! That’s how Moon Wolf was safe from those birds! As he opens the bag, he discovers that it is full of… birdseed. Puzzled, he still insists it was him… he knows it was him…

Warren argues that actually it might not be any of these things. Beast explains that they discovered chemical pollutants leaking into the birds’ primary water source just out of town. They may have resulted in acute environmental poisoning evidencing as manic psychosis in the birds. Phoenix wonders how that would explain the amassed bird form. The deputy remarks that the sheriff said they didn’t have the birds here until they had mutants. Beast admits that it’s possible one, two, all or none of these events are responsible for the birds. The universe is driven by complex causality, not simple. It’s fear that makes them look for the easiest explanation to their problems.

Like blaming those who are different from them for their own troubles, an Anchorage resident argues as he joins in the conversation. He tells his people that these mutants saved all their lives and they should be thankful for that. Hank is pleased: a little reason in a chaos of storm. Annoyed, Bobby concludes that no one believes in his Indian guy story, then. “I wouldn’t say nobody,” Hank quips.

All of a sudden, a crow made out of smoke is conjured from Moon Wolf’s eyes and flies away, screeching and cackling evilly! “Hey!” Bobby screams, the sole witness of this. “Yes?” the others ask him, oblivious. “Uh… nevermind,” Bobby gives it up.

Characters Involved: 

Archangel, Beast, Iceman (all X-Men)

Cyclops, Phoenix IV (all former X-Men)



Dr. Agee

Rebecca Agee

Chris Miller

Melissa Murphy

Moon Wolf, the Shaman

Residents of Anchorage (all unnamed except Connie and Ronnie)

On monitor image:


Story Notes: 

The story seems to be loosely inspired by Alfred Hitchock’s 1962 film The Birds – hence the Hitchock reference – in which the birds in a small town suddenly go wild, with no obvious reason, and begin attacking the humans.

Beast is correct that the group name for crows is not flock, but a “murder of crows.”

John Tesh (misspelled here as ‘Tesch’) is an American composer and pianist of pop and contemporary Christian music. Julian Jaynes was an American psychologist who expressed controversial views on consciousness.

Doctor John Dolittle is the main hero in a series of children books (also adapted for other media), a doctor who can communicate with animals in their own languages.

Scully, one of the two main heroes in the TV series X-Files, is renowned for her disbelief when it comes to inexplicable, potentially supernatural phenomena.

Deathbird took Bishop away from the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #345. Iceman endured Sauron’s hypnosis in issue #354 – rather than #345 as the footnote mentions. Melissa saw Archangel’s wings and Iceman first saw Moon Wolf in issue #356.

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