X-Men (1st series) #103

Issue Date: 
February 1977
Story Title: 
The Fall Of The Tower

Chris Claremont (author), Dave Cockrum (artist), Sam Grainger (inker), John Costanza (letterer), Janice Cohen (colorist), Archie Goodwin (editor)

Brief Description: 

In Cassidy Keep, Juggernaut and Black Tom Cassidy have defeated the X-Men and are now keeping them as prisoners. The villains have been hired by a mysterious employer, whose sole purpose is to lure Xavier to the keep and have him murdered. The only X-Man who has evaded capture is Nightcrawler, rescued by a group of leprechauns who have always lived in the castle, to the knowledge of housekeeper Eamon O’Donnell. Eamon explains to Nightcrawler that the villains have been keeping the leprechaun families hostage, forcing Eamon to do their bidding and keeping him from warning the X-Men. Nightcrawler uses his image inducer to appear as Xavier before the two villains and begins to fight them. Storm finally snaps out of her trance and unleashes a savage gale. The battle rages on and the villains manage to lure the X-Men to the top of the castle. After Banshee topples Tom over the parapet, Juggernaut abandons his fight with the X-Men and jumps into the water to save his friend’s life. The villains then go missing. Meanwhile, Erik the Red – the man who hired Juggernaut and Tom – communicates with his employer. The latter is furious. Princess Neramani is soon to reach Earth: they have to prevent the X-Men from coming in contact with her. Erik promises he has the best man up to the task, the X-Men’s oldest and deadliest foe – Magneto!

Full Summary: 

In Cassidy Keep, Mayo County, Ireland, six small men with pointy ears – leprechauns! – carry the unconscious Nightcrawler. One of them points out to one of his colleagues, Donal, that the castle’s gone quiet. Another leprechaun surmises that the battle’s over, with Juggernaut and Black Tom Cassidy the victors. As for Banshee and his fellow X-Men, they’re all as good as dead. “Not all, Padraic,” Donal O’Padraigh, an older-looking leprechaun, reminds him. They managed to save Nightcrawler. He tells them to hush up and get this boyo to safety while they’ve still got the chance.

One of the leprechauns realizes that Nightcrawler is waking up; what do they do? Donal instructs them to hold onto him and keep him quiet; if he starts yelling, they’re lost! That proves to be easier said than done, though. “Watch out! He’s free!” one of the leprechauns screeches as Nightcrawler indeed breaks free. “Hold on, Wolverine! I’ll…!” Kurt shouts, before confusedly realizing he must be dreaming. What’s happened to the battle? And who are these… people? He is surprised to see they’re all… little. And their ears are pointed like his! He is dreaming, because that would mean they’re… no… impossible. ”It’s not,” one of the leprechauns insists. “Leprechauns?! Phantastisch!” Kurt exclaims in excitement. He’s talking to real… Oh, wait till he tells his friends! Upon exclaiming that, he starts wondering about his friends… the battle… what happened to them?

Eamon O’Donnell appears and announces that the X-Men have been captured by Black Tom and Juggernaut. Nightcrawler is confused to see him. Eamon reminds him he’s the seneschal of Cassidy Keep and till Black Tom came the man who kept the families of the leprechauns safe from harm. Nightcrawler’s friends are in deadly danger, it’s true, but so are Eamon’s friends.

It began about a month ago, when Black Tom Cassidy tricked his way back into this castle that had once been his home. He brought Juggernaut in with him. Kurt can guess what happened next. The first night, they took most of the leprechaun families prisoners and held their lives hostage against Eamon’s good behavior. And not just for himself alone. Black Tom took orders from a tall man in red armor and a horned helmet. Eamon tried to get a warning out through lawyer Flaherty, but he misunderstood, thinking that Tom was after this castle, Banshee’s inheritance, never realizing that what Tom wanted was Banshee’s life. All the X-Men’s lives.

“A man with a Viking-sounding name?” Kurt asks him. He thinks he knows who Eamon means. But first things first: they need a plan to rescue their friends. A leprechaun interjects: he’s been wondering about the fact that, when they found Nightcrawler, the part of his that lay in shadow disappeared. How did he do that? Kurt tells him he’s mistaken; he can’t do anything like that. “I saw it!” the leprechaun insists. Matter of fact, his face is always a shadow. That Kurt knew, but this other thing… Still, it wouldn’t be too hard to check.

Kurt sticks his hand into shadows, only to realize in excitement that his hand is, in fact, invisible in shadows: incredible! He decides to try it with his whole body. He blends into shadows and disappears, wondering if Eamon can see him. Eamon can only see Kurt’s yellow eyes. He can feel him, so he assumes that Nightcrawler is still there; this is spooky.

Just then, a leprechaun barges in, informing Eamon that Black Tom has the X-Men in his laboratory and plans to torture them. “What!?!” Nightcrawler exclaims in horror, as he emerges out of the shadows. “Lord an’ lady preserve me,” the leprechaun gasps, startled. Nightcrawler demands that they show him the way to the laboratory – quickly. Eamon leads him on; he’ll have him there in no time. He only prays they’re not too late.

Soon, through a ventilation duct, Nightcrawler and Eamon spy on Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut keeping the X-Men captive in the laboratory. “My friends…!” Nightcrawler blurts out, horrified. Eamon sympathizes. He feels the same way because his friends – the leprechaun families – are being held in the dungeons behind the lab.

Inside the lab, Black Tom asks Juggernaut to calm himself: what does it matter if Nightcrawler escaped? Alone, he can do them no harm – and the other X-Men’s powers are neutralized. They’re helpless! Once Black Tom has activated his neuronic tangler glove, they can begin their work here in earnest.

Juggernaut disagrees: they don’t need Tom’s fancy glove. If they want Xavier’s pupils hurt, Juggernaut has the power to do that and more. Black Tom retorts that this is one instance where brute force isn’t the answer. There’s a limit to the physical force a body can stand. Juggernaut’s way would probably kill these X-Men long before they’ve served their purpose. Tom’s way ravages the mind, yet leaves the body undamaged; exquisite, never-ending agony! Xavier will do anything to spare his pupils that kind of pain. He’ll even let Black Tom and Juggernaut kill him.

Nightcrawler realizes it’s the Professor they want. That gives him an idea. If this doesn’t work, though, he asks Eamon to send his body to Xavier’s School of Gifted Youngsters! Instantly, he teleports away. Moments later, Juggernauts smells a hellish stink, like fire and brimstone, the smell that Nightcrawler leaves behind when teleporting. Juggernaut alerts Black Tom: Xavier is here!

In his wheelchair, ‘Xavier’ tells them that he understands they wish to see him. There is no need to threaten his students. All they had to do was ask. Juggernaut replies he’s got it wrong. All they want from him is… his life! With that, he lunges at ‘Xavier.’ Surprisingly enough, ‘Xavier’ springs out of his wheelchair and dodges Marko’s attack. “I hope you’ll excuse me if I don’t let you take it,” the fake Professor X quips. He scoffs: Cain is getting slow in his old age. Is that why he needed someone to help him ambush the X-Men this time? Juggernaut is incredulous: Xavier is laughing at him! “Of course, dear brother… there’s so much of you to laugh at!” ‘Xavier’ says with a devilish grin. “Shut up!” Juggernaut roars and makes to punch him, but ‘Xavier’ effortlessly and graciously leaps in the air and dodges the blow.

Black Tom realizes something’s wrong here; he thought Juggernaut said Xavier is a cripple. “That’s enough out of you!” ‘Xavier’ replies and kicks Tom. The villain should consider this partial payment for what he did to Nightcrawler. Black Tom decides to blast the Professor the same way he did for Nightcrawler, since Xavier seems to have such an affection for the ‘goblin.’ ‘Xavier’ easily avoids the blast, sticking to the wall, much to Tom’s surprise. Juggernaut realizes this isn’t his stepbrother at all. Regardless of what he looks like, it’s got to be that cursed, two-toed, blue-skinned freak!

Juggernaut attacks. His punch hits home with unimaginable force, its shockwaves hammering through the ancient granite that forms Cassidy Crag, shattering the rock, powdering it, slamming ever outward, until there’s a clear opening through to the sky. The captive Storm can finally see the sky. That moment is all it takes: the traumatic claustrophobia that had held Storm prisoner far more effectively than any shackles, falls away – and all hell breaks loose.

Storm creates a hurricane, her big wind smashing through the shackles and taking the X-Men out of there. Juggernaut snaps it’s not taking all of them away: Banshee’s going nowhere, he proclaims as he snatches the Irish mutant.

“Free! Gods of the earth and air be praised! I am free!” Storm shouts in exultation, soaring up to the sky. “Anything you say, lady… but how’s about puttin’ Petey and me down, huh?” Wolverine interjects. Almost on cue, Storm delivers. “Not like…” Wolverine grumbles as he and Piotr are discarded to the ground like sacks of potatoes. “Oh, my achin’ back…” Wolverine complains. Pointing to the high-flying Ororo, he confides in Colossus that the ‘broad’ has gone flakey. “I mean, look at her!” However, Colossus corrects him: Storm is very happy. He also demands that Wolverine – shorty – never call her a ‘broad’ again.

Back in what’s left of Black Tom’s lab, the walls have come tumbling down. One of the leprechauns remarks that the sudden wind smashed everything. He thinks they have a way out. The little men secretly watch as Black Tom and Juggernaut bicker. “You and your bloody temper!” Black Tom chides his friend. If Cain hadn’t cut loose at the wall like that… Juggernaut apologizes. He reminds him they still have Banshee, though. The leprechauns move away from the scene, one of them cautioning the others to be silent: not a peep out of them. 

The little guys stumble on Nightcrawler, who’s once again unconscious. Donel observes it’s like half the lab fell on him. Another leprechaun who didn’t previously encounter Nightcrawler wonders if he’s a demon. One of his colleagues, Kelson explains he’s a friend; one they’re honor-bound to save, provided he’s still alive.

Outside, an impatient Wolverine asks Colossus to get these boots – the restraining devices placed by Black Tom on Wolverine’s feet – off of him. Colossus struggles in vain: the shackles on Wolverine’s feet are made of metal even Colossus cannot break. Storm offers to help. Wolverine is doubtful: is Colossus can’t break them, what does Storm think she can do? Yet, much to everyone’s surprise, Storm expertly and instantly pries the manacles open. In her time, she was the best lockpick in all Cairo – but they’ll talk of that later, after they rescue their friends.

Meanwhile, at the very top of the castle, Black Tom and Juggernaut, the latter carrying a senseless Banshee, arrive at their destination. Black Tom points at a door: if they go through that, they’ll be out on the castle’s battlements. Marko wonders why they brought Banshee up here. Does Black Tom plan to throw him off? “If it comes to that,” Black Tom assents. But first, they’re going to try talking.

“Hear me, X-Men!” Black Tom roars, catching the X-Men’s attention below. Tom announces they have Banshee there with them. If the X-Men want him back alive, they’ll have to come up and get him. The have five minutes until they start sending Sean down… a piece at a time.

Storm realizes it’s a trap. “No kiddin’, lady,” Wolverine agrees. But so long as they got Irish prisoner, they’re holding all the aces. Colossus wonders about Nightcrawler. They cannot just stand there and watch. Storm resolutely flies in the air and declares that, if Black Tom wishes them to fight for Banshee’s freedom, then fight they shall, as only the X-Men can. “You dumb broad – come back here!” Wolverine calls after her. She goes charging up there alone, she’ll get herself killed! For crying out loud, how are they supposed to follow her?

Colossus grabs him: he told Wolverine to never call Storm a ‘broad’ again! “Happy landings, tovarisch,” he wishes and hurls him all the way up, using a special fastball move. It’s a pity there’s no one left to throw Colossus. He’s afraid he’ll have to climb this wall the hard way. “Hard way is right,” Juggernaut scoffs; climbing the wall like that makes Colossus a sitting duck a blind man couldn’t miss!

Energy blasters built into the castle’s turrets open fire at the high-flying Ororo. If it hadn’t been for her hours of training in the Danger Room, these beams would have burned her to a crisp! Meanwhile, Juggernaut keeps throwing rocks down at Colossus, wondering aloud what it will take to kill the mutant. Watching this, Storm realizes that Peter’s in more trouble than he will admit. However, she dares not aid him until she silences these blasters with her lightning bolts. The fury of Storm’s attack twists weather patterns for miles around, creating in an instant the worst Atlantic gale in living memory.

In another part of the castle, Wolverine curses Colossus’ stupidity: Piotr threw him so hard, he landed on the wrong side of the flamin’ castle! How does he expect him to get in on the fight, for crying out… Padraic intervenes: “I think I c’n help ye there, Mr. Logan.” Wolverine is dumbfounded: who the blazes is this little man and how does he know Logan’s name? Padraic introduces himself and explains that little people like him know a lot of things. Wolverine snorts that he doesn’t believe in leprechauns. “Suit yerself,” Padraic talks back – maybe leprechauns don’t believe in talking wolverines, either. Now, is Wolverine coming with him, or not?

Juggernaut hurls a rock at Storm, but misses her. Black Tom observes she’s fast. However, the battle computers are beginning to compensate. They’ll soon have her pinned in a crossfire and that will be the end of it. Nearby, strapped, with a metallic gag dampening his sonic screams, Banshee furiously thinks that Tom would crow a different tune if only Sean himself were loose. But he is not, and now he has to stand and watch as Tom murders his friends.

Just then, Nightcrawler shows up and sets him free. Kurt has Sean’s leprechaun friends to thank for showing him the way up. Black Tom instantly spots them and warns Juggernaut that the ‘blue goblin’ freed Banshee. He urges Cain to stop them before…

“Too late,” Sean growls after he removes his sonic gag. He vows that Tom will not make him his prisoner again! Seeing Juggernaut about to attack them, Kurt warns Sean. Banshee tells him not to worry: Juggernaut can’t charge them if he’s got no floor under him! The floor gives way due to Banshee’s sonic scream. As he falls through, Juggernaut snaps that Banshee’s a fool if he thinks a mere fall can stop him; all the X-Men have done is to put off their deaths for the time it will take Cain to climb those stairs! Then Juggernaut is not to climb the stairs, Colossus retorts, as he, Storm, and Wolverine confront him at the top of the stairs. Wolverine believes Marco owes them a rematch. Juggernaut is incredulous: what makes them think it will end any differently than their first battle? They’ve just signed their death warrants!

Banshee heads to the stars, intent on attacking Juggernaut. That’s the spirit, Black Tom thinks; Sean is to play the hero and thus rush blithely into Tom’s trap. Having grabbed a double axe, he strikes at Banshee but narrowly misses him. “I may be old but I’m not stupid!” Banshee roars. He grabs a sword hanging from the wall; he now has a weapon of his own! “Excellent,” Tom grunts. As their mutant powers cancel each other out, it’s only fitting that they fight their final duel as warriors should: man-to-man, blade-to-blade; a duel that can have but one ending! With that, he strikes at Banshee, who screams in pain.

Seeing Sean momentarily distracted by the sight of Juggernaut fighting the X-Men, Tom tears Banshee’s sword to pieces. Banshee’s concern for his companions is touching; so typical of him, but so costly, Tom scoffs and bids him farewell as he is about to visit his axe upon his cousin. Only one chance, Sean thinks and kicks him over the parapet. “You madman, what are you doing?! You’ll send us both over the edge!” Tom screams a moment before he falls over. Banshee disagrees as he remains hanging by the battlement. He only wishes it didn’t have to end like this.

“TOM!” Juggernaut screams as he sees his buddy thrown over. “Out of my way, you costumed clowns!” he roars and tosses the X-Men aside. “Hold on, Tom! I’m coming!” Marco shouts and jumps over the parapet, while cursing the X-Men: Tom was the only friend he’s ever had, and they killed him! He vows he’ll make them pay! In an instant, he’s gone, swallowed up by the surf, almost as if he had never been.

Storm commands the forces of weather: “Wind and wave, sea and storm… hear my words, and begone!” The X-Men search all that day, but no trace of the villains’ bodies is ever found.

Somewhere, a man dressed in a red armor and horned helmet, Juggernaut and Tom’s employer, is seated in front of numerous monitors, communicating with his employer, a strange-looking man. Appearing on the monitor, the strange-looking man insists he will brook no more failures. Princess Neramani is due to reach Earth in a matter of weeks. Whatever happens after that, she must not contact the X-Men! The red-clad man promises to his liege this will not happen. He now has an ally worth of his name, the X-Men’s oldest, deadliest foe. Xavier and his students will be dead before they’ve even realized they’re under attack!

Characters Involved: 

Banshee, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men)

Black Tom Cassidy

Eamon O’ Donnell
Donel O’Pagraigh, Kelson, Padraic and other nameless leprechauns

Erik the Red II/ Davan Shakari

On monitor:
D’Ken Neramani

Story Notes: 

First mention of ‘Logan’ as Wolverine’s real name. Years later, the 2001 Origin limited series will establish Wolverine’s birth name as ‘James Howlett,’ with ‘Logan’ revealed to be a nickname.

Padraic’s remark about “talking wolverines” may very well be a jab at Wolverine’s original intended origin. Co-creator Len Wein intended him to be an actual wolverine, evolved to humanoid form by the High Evolutionary.

First full appearance of D’Ken. He was previously unseen, spying on the X-Men through a monitor in X-Men (1st series) #97. Erik the Red was also last seen in that issue.

First mention of the Neramani family name. “Princess Neramani” of course refers to Lilandra, who has been appearing to Xavier in visions ever since X-Men (1st series) #97.

First mention of Storm’s lock-picking skills.

The X-Men’s “oldest, deadliest foe” is of course Magneto, who is going to appear next issue.

The leprechauns have made very few appearances over the years, next appearing together with Eamon in Marvel Comics Presents (1st series) #43 (1990) and Uncanny X-Men: First Class #8 (2010). Eamon also appears in Generation X (1st series) #8-9 (1995) and X-Force (1st series) #31 (1994).

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