X-Men (1st series) #116

Issue Date: 
December 1978
Story Title: 
To Save the Savage Land

Chris Claremont (co-plotter, scripter), John Byrne (co-plotter, penciler), Terry Austin (inker), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Glynis Wein (colorist), Roger Stern (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Ka-Zar leads the X-Men to Garokk’s City of the Sun God, which is inadvertently affecting the ecological balance of the Savage Land. They are attacked by airborne warriors and Cyclops, Colossus, Banshee and Ka-Zar are taken captive. Wolverine leads a rescue party to the city and they infiltrate the recently created structure, discovering their friends being held in the center of a huge arena. Colossus is consumed by flames, but remains defiant in the face of death. Nightcrawler suddenly teleports next to Cyclops, who frees Piotr. Soon the whole team acts like one and free one another whilst Cyclops heads after Garokk, who flees to the roof of the city’s dome. There, the two men battle, but their efforts begin to destroy the fragile city and it starts to collapse. The X-Men and Ka-Zar help evacuate the place, as Cyclops and Garokk find their battle interrupted when the domed roof crumbles. They fall but Banshee saves Cyclops from certain death. Storm attempts to recover Garokk, but her claustrophobia prevents her from reaching him. She emerges from the destruction safely, but all too alone. Later, Ka-Zar and Karl Lykos wish the X-Men well and they depart the Savage Land, only to be caught up in a fearsome gale.

Full Summary: 

Ka-Zar and the X-Men journey to the top of a high ridge, beyond which is the place they seek. During their journey, it has become colder, the winds turned bitterer and it snowed twice today. It takes an effort for them to remember that, just days ago, this had been part of a verdant prehistoric jungle. Ka-Zar points and tells them that, there, beyond the ridge, lies their thrice-accursed destination. “Behold, my friends, the city of the Sun God!”

The sight that greets the X-Men is incredible, considering that the entire city had been created in such a short time. It is a domed city with four equidistant towers pointing skywards. Ka-Zar’s voice is thick with pain and fury. He and Tongah’s Fall People had fought bitterly to prevent the city’s construction, but they had failed. That failure may have doomed the Savage Land. Garokk and his priestess, Zaladane, had set out to build a great metropolis, wherein all the myriad races inhabiting the Savage Land could learn to live together. Any who resisted this ‘new order’ would, regrettably, be slain. Somehow, the city’s creation upset the delicate ecological balance that, over eons, had kept the Antarctic icecap at bay. Now, for the first time, the Savage Land knows winter. If the balance is not corrected, the winter will last forever.

Storm points out that Garokk’s deeds will destroy the very land he wished to save. When Cyclops asks Ka-Zar how he could have built so much so fast, Ka-Zar replies that, when you are a god, all things are possible. Suddenly, a harpoon lands beside Cyclops and a voice from above calls for them to halt and, in the name of the most high, surrender. They look up to see one of the Sun People’s warriors sitting astride a pterosaur, accompanied by some friends of his on their own steeds. Storm immediately takes to the air and calls for Banshee to do likewise. On the ground, they are at the warrior’s mercy.

Nightcrawler knows that Ororo is still too weak from Sauron’s attack to fight effectively and tells Colossus to hold the fort while he gives Storm a helping hand. He teleports right in front of one of the warriors and smashes him in the face with a solid left cross. Cyclops stands and fires his optic blasts, whilst commanding the X-Men to cover the back of whoever’s next to them. Unfortunately, nobody is watching his and another warrior swoops towards him and hits him clean on the back of the skull with his bolas. Ka-Zar reacts too late to save him and the pterosaur grabs him by the shoulders and carries the unconscious leader high into the air.

Colossus tries using his strength to topple another rider, but Wolverine’s warning for him to watch the creature’s tail comes too late, as it wraps its prehensile tail around Piotr’s body and lifts him helplessly off the ground. Banshee sweeps around to help out but doesn’t hear another two warriors arriving, because of the noise his sonic scream makes when flying. He is bundled into the net and the two warriors use his body to knock Ka-Zar off balance, allowing another rider to have his pterosaur collect him too.

Nightcrawler bamfs back to the ground to join Wolverine and Storm. As quickly as the battle began, it ends. The Sun People fly back towards the city, with their four captives awaiting Zaladane’s clutches. Wolverine reckons they’ll return with reinforcements but Storm thinks not. The pterosaurs are gliders and they will be unable to make headway against the winds she is establishing around the peaks. Too bad she couldn’t have done that during the fight to knock ‘em down, says Wolverine. He says that they’re going into the city to bust their buddies free, unless there are any objections. Kurt says there are none from him but points to Zabu, Ka-Zar’s Sabretooth Tiger. “Don’t worry,” replies Wolverine, “I’ll handle the pussy cat.”

Wolverine approaches Zabu and tells him he knows he wants to help rescue his pal but he can’t. Zabu snarls at him but Wolverine adds that they’ve gotta be sneaky down there and Zabu is as conspicuous as a Mack truck. He puts his arms around Zabu’s powerful shoulders and tells him that Tongah doesn’t know what’s happening. He thinks the X-Men are on their way home. He asks Zabu to head for the village and bring Tongah and his warriors back, pronto! The tiger sprints away into the distance and Wolverine tells Kurt that the cat has more smarts than some people he knows. Kurt asks him if he was really talking to the tiger. “Yup,” he replies. Storm adds that there truly is more to him than meets the eye. “At my size baby, that ain’t hard,” he quips. With time a-wasting, they scramble down the cliff and head towards the city.

Soon, they come across a sentry guarding the city. They have to take him out quietly and Kurt offers to teleport over there. Wolverine replies that it’s too risky; one shout and they’ll finish them. This is his kinda caper and he uses stealth to get right behind the guard. One snikt later and the guard is no longer a problem. Storm closes her eyes and Kurt is amazed at Wolverine’s ability to use violence in such a natural way. Storm compares him to the great cats on the Veldt. When he strikes, there is no mercy in him.

Wolverine calls for them to follow and the three X-Men head inside. The stench is almost overpowering but Wolverine points out that even a perfect city has to throw its garbage somewhere. He turns to them both and points ahead. He was hoping to pick up Cyke’s or Banshee’s scent, but his nose isn’t worth diddley amongst this muck. He tells Nightcrawler to scout ahead and bamf back if he spots trouble. Suddenly, a velociraptor sinks its teeth into his pointing hand, drawing blood. Wolverine orders the others to stay back, saying Rover here has teeth like razor blades and claws to match. It’s too bad for him that he also has some pretty sharp claws. He extends his claws just enough to put the creature out of action and withdraws his arm from its jaws.

Storm is concerned for him but he tells her that he heals real fast and the critter hasn’t yet been born that can break his bones. Kurt notices three members of the creature’s pack heading straight for them, so Storm steps up and takes the plate instead of Wolverine. She points out that these tunnels are similar to those within Valhalla Mountain. Like the soldiers they faced there, she doubts these creatures can withstand a flash flood. She creates a strong tide of water, which easily lifts the creatures and whisks them far away.

The trio continue to make their way through the city’s lower tunnels. Storm looks around at the mess this part of the city is in and asks, “For this, the Petrified Man is willing to sacrifice the Savage Land? He is insane!” Wolverine asks her to cheer up. This is just the low-rent district. Things improve further on. Although the city gets cleaner as they progress, it doesn’t get better. Nightcrawler points out that he’s seen prisons with more personality and warmth. Wolverine has likewise and wonders where everybody is. They haven’t passed a soul since that first guard. “Ask, my friend, and ye shall be answered,” replies Kurt as they arrive at an opening.

They peer down into a vast arena, which dwarfs any stadium ever built by man. Looked over by a massive stone face with glowing eyes, a dais stands in the center, surrounded by tier after jam-packed tier of Savage Land peoples. The dais is so far away that the figures in the middle of it are almost invisible. A fire burns in the center, the smoke from which leaves a black trail skywards.

They’ve found their teammates and Ka-Zar but, if Wolverine were to attempt to get there on foot or Storm by air, they’d be skragged before they got ten feet. Wolverine asks Nightcrawler if he can teleport that far in one shot. Kurt thinks to himself that he’s never attempted such a distance and he could be left as weak as a kitten. However, he is made of strong stuff and replies “Watch me!”

At that moment, in the center of the arena, Garokk and Zaladane look on, as their captives stand helpless as Colossus is being burnt alive. Garokk, now wearing a red robe with feathers, similar to Zaladane’s, informs them that their executions will serve as an object lesson to those less enlightened members of his community. He will brook no transgressions of his law of peace. Colossus is defiant. Even in his steel form, he is unable to break the vibranium bonds that shackle him to the column behind him but he replies that law of butchery would be more honest.

Garokk asks how much longer his armored form can withstand the awesome heat from the magma pit. Piotr knows he is right. His body is already glowing red-hot. He cannot feel pain yet but it will come. He wonders whether he will melt. Cyclops hears Piotr struggle but, like Banshee and Ka- Zar, he is strapped to a column. He is witnessing another X-Man dying and is helpless to prevent it.

Out of nowhere, a flash of brimstone heralds the arrival of Nightcrawler, who whips off a piece of cloth which prevented Scott from seeing. He quickly aims at Piotr’s feet and smashes the pillar behind him with one blast. Colossus leaps clear of the flames and warns Garokk that he will not stop until he has brought an end to his reign of terror.

Cyclops then frees up Banshee’s scream by blasting away his gag, which Sean utilizes to good effect on their guards. Storm, meanwhile, brings in Wolverine from above; the X-Men are back in business. Unfortunately, Cyclops realizes that everyone’s forgotten about him and Ka-Zar, and they’re sitting ducks tied to the columns. He calls for Storm to cut him loose and she fires an electric bolt at his shackles, which releases him. He asks her to do the same for Ka-Zar, while he heads after Garokk. They’ve turned the place into a madhouse and Zaladane’s warriors don’t know what’s hit them. While Scott wonders why Garokk is fleeing but Garokk mentally curses that he has expended too much energy building his metropolis and the effort has left him no stronger than a normal human. He needs to re-energize himself.

He heads through a door, which slams shut behind him, but Cyclops simply blasts the door into pieces and follows the Petrified Man up a staircase, towards the roof. Scott is surprised at his sprightliness and, despite himself being in poor shape, he nevertheless continues to chase Garokk. By the time they hit the roof, Garokk has opened up a sizeable lead and Cyclops knows he’s too far away to attempt an optic blast. From what Ka-Zar has told him, the city is built over the geothermal heat-sink that warms the Savage Land. It acts like the seal on a gigantic pressure cooker. Garokk stops and Cyke wonders what he’s doing. Garokk’s body begins to glow and Scott realizes that he’s soaking up raw energy like a sponge. Garokk informs him that, in attacking him, he has sown the wind. Now, he shall reap the whirlwind. He is the personification of forces that were ancient before the human race was born. He has seen death and suffering to make God himself despair and swears to see it ended.

With that, Garokk unleashes his own version of an optic blast, which Cyclops instinctively counters. The force hits Scott like a sledgehammer and he has to parry his beam exactly. The slightest slip might blow him off the dome. The battle rages like a conflagration, as each man probes his opponent for weaknesses. Cyclops draws his strength from within but Garokk takes his from the metropolis’ massive generators. The question soon becomes, which will reach his upper limit first?

The X-Men, including Colossus, who has begun to cool down, hear the sound above them, like thunder in the mountains. Ka-Zar says it is Garokk’s doing and asks if the madman seeks to destroy them. Storm swoops down and tells Banshee that the walls are crumbling. He calls for the same drill as in Magneto’s lab. They’ll use his sonic bolts and Storm’s lightning bolts to punch an escape route through the city. He calls for Wolverine and the rest to get everyone moving.

Cyclops, meanwhile, tells Garokk that their battle is shattering the city’s fragility, just as the city ruins the Savage Land’s ecology. Suddenly, with the rumble of crumbling masonry and an almost human scream of steel, tortured beyond endurance, the dome collapses under them and they begin to fall. The thermal shaft beneath them drops a mile underground, as if to the center of the Earth. Cyclops is quite altruistic, as he falls, hoping the others got out okay. As he prepares for the worst, Banshee suddenly grabs him and swings him back towards daylight. Storm, meanwhile, spots Garokk and drops further and further in the hope of catching him. She reaches out a hand as she descends and calls for Garokk to grab hold of it. However, as the shaft gets darker, her claustrophobia overwhelms her and she screams and halts her descent. In that instant, there is no Ororo; there is only a child whose private horror is the fear of dying alone, buried in the dark.

Meanwhile, on the surface, the crew make it out alive, as the city begins to collapse in itself behind them. Cyclops suddenly realizes that Storm’s still inside but, as he speaks, she hightails it out, narrowly missing being caught be the falling structure. She lands a fair distance away from them and Wolverine stops Banshee from going over to her. He asks why and Wolverine points out that she went after Garokk and came up empty handed. Whatever happened down there, he figures she’d rather work it out on her own.

(Two weeks later)

The great river has thawed and the X-Men prepare to leave aboard a makeshift raft. Ka-Zar says that the next month will be difficult but he thinks all will be well. He thanks the team for their help. Cyclops replies that he wishes they could stay and do more but, with Magneto possibly on the loose, they just can’t. Nightcrawler watches Wolverine and Zabu saying their farewells and is again astonished that Wolverine can be so intimate with such a wild creature. Karl Lykos shakes Scott’s hand. The world believes him dead and he wants to leave it at that. Scott understands and hopes he finds what he’s looking for.

Then, with a blast from Scott’s eyes, the raft is pushed away from its mooring and the X-Men begin their journey back to normality. It isn’t long before they are on the open sea. Ororo soon senses a storm and advises that they should go back. Cyclops, steering the raft, replies that they can’t if they wanted to. The current’s got them. Before they know it, their frail craft is swept out of the shelter of the great cavern and into the raging fury of one of the worst winter gales to hit the Drake Passage, south of Cape Horn, in over two hundred years.

Characters Involved: 

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



The Sun People



Karl Lykos

Story Notes: 

Valhalla Mountain is in Colorado, home of NORAD and the scene of John Proudstar’s death in X-Men (1st series) #95.

The authors appear to have taken some creative license in giving the pterosaurs such prehensile tails.

Issue Information: 
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