X-Men (1st series) #128

Issue Date: 
December 1979
Story Title: 
The action of the tiger

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: 

The reality-warping Proteus has Moira MacTaggert captive, and the X-Men have to tread carefully not to injure her, while taking the fight to her son. Proteus makes use of the fact that there are civilians to protect, to keep the X-Men at bay. Through teamwork, however, they manage to save everyone. Cyclops has an idea about how to stop Proteus. As he, Colossus and Banshee head in his direction, Storm leads the attack by creating a pea-soup fog around their foe. Unfortunately, Proteus manages to get a psychic fix on her, and encases her in amber. Wolverine saves her by slicing through it, but it leaves him open to attack. As Proteus is about to strike, Banshee shoots him in the shoulder, but is dropped down a pit that is created beneath him for his trouble. Although Nightcrawler saves him, it takes both of them out of the fight. Phoenix is next to attack but, despite the ferocity of her attack, Proteus resists. He eventually overcomes her by making her believe she is dead. Wolverine is up next, and he strikes Proteus in the chest with his claws. The villain is vulnerable to metal, so Logan’s attack hurts. Before he recovers, Havok and Cyclops attack from either side, pummelling Joe MacTaggert’s decaying body with huge amounts of energy. Again, Proteus resists and dissolves, leaving the two brothers to strike each other. Proteus heads off after his mother, whom Wolverine is taking to safety. He retrieves her, leaving Wolverine to fall to his death. Luckily, Scott uses pulsed beams to slow his fall, and his adamantium-laced body survives the experience. As Proteus prepares to take Moira’s body as his host, Colossus appears, and hurls Proteus against a wall. His body crumbles, leaving only an energy form in its place. Colossus transforms into his steel form and strikes. The impact of his metallic body on Proteus causes a massive short circuit, and his molecules are spread to the far corners of the Earth. Moira is relieved, but also a little numb. She loved both Kevin and Joe, and feels unnecessarily guilty for the part she played in this tragedy. She and Sean hug each other, as a painful chapter in Moira’s life closes forever.

Full Summary: 


Scotland’s impressive capital city is in turmoil. Proteus smiles the smile of a man with a twisted soul. He warps reality around him, causing the city to twist, bend and writhe to his every whim. Proteus inhabits the body of Moira’s husband, Joe MacTaggert, and he holds Moira captive to hold off the X-Men. Moira pleads with her son to let the innocents be, but Proteus wishes to teach them a lesson.

Not far away, the X-Men have their hands full saving bystanders who are caught in this maelstrom. Terrified and confused, they are helpless, but relieved as the X-Men use all their abilities to remove them from danger. Proteus even transforms a storefront into a swarm of bees, which sting anything that moves. Storm’s low temperature wind disperses them, but all this activity is doing nothing to stop the cause of all the commotion.

All the X-Men pitch in to watch each other’s backs and, when Polaris rescues Wolverine, for the first time he is thankful to be running from a scrap. There appears to be no rhyme or reasons to Proteus’ actions. He’s waited half his life for this moment, and he means to enjoy himself.


For ten years, the only world Kevin MacTaggert knew was a holding cell in Moira’s Muir Island Research Center. He’d still be there if a battle between Magneto and the X-Men hadn’t breached the vanadium steel walls and esoteric energy fields that kept him a prisoner. When he finally emerged, Magneto, the X-Men and all Moira’s other mutant patients had long gone. Without the cell’s energy fields to sustain him, Kevin soon began to burn out his own natural body.

Time passed, and Mutant X, as he was now known, remained alone, yet somehow he survived. One day, Angus MacWhirter arrived to pay off an old grudge against the X-Men. He planned to blow up Moira’s lab, but by then, Proteus was ravenous. MacWhirter never had a chance and his body was taken as a new host. Kevin absorbed the man’s memories when he possessed his body, and so he found MacWhirter’s minor electronics skills were enough to reprogram the lab’s main computer. This made the computer show that his cell was sealed tight, when in fact it was wide open. This covered his escape.

Before he could slip off the island, though, Moira returned with friends. Proteus decided to ‘feed’ once more before he left. He would possess the most powerful mutant present: Jean Grey. But, as he closed in on his unsuspecting prey, Moira found a gold tooth lying on the ground, right in front of Mutant X’s cell. She checked the cell, and found the shrivelled body of her son.

At that moment, Proteus made his move against Phoenix and, even though he took her by surprise, his nascent powers proved no match for her. He barely escaped with his life. Attempting to possess Lorna Dane and failing, Proteus finally succeeded in seizing one of Jamie Madrox’s dupes. From Muir Island, he eventually made his way to Scotland and became more and more confident with each new body he possessed. There was a big, wide world in front of him, and he wanted to rule it.


Moira pleads with her son to stop, but he isn’t interested. He warps Moira’s reality, transforming her into something akin to an anteater. He then taunts her, claiming that, although she left his father, she won’t do the same to him. She is his, mind, body and soul, and she won’t like the alternative.

Edinburgh’s streets are packed with terrified people who have no idea what is going on around them. With everything back to normal, Colossus asks Scott what’s happening, and Scott reasons that maybe Proteus’s powers only work against one target at a time. Cyclops wants to handle the crowd, and calls for Colossus and Banshee to help him. Banshee, however, is more concerned with Moira, presuming that Proteus must have stopped using his power on Edinburgh to use it on her instead. Scott calls for him to wait, but Sean is tired of waiting.

Sean is angry that Cyclops seems prepared to let the woman he loves die. Scott says he hopes it doesn’t come to that. But, he adds, in stopping Proteus, he’ll sacrifice his own life, Sean’s life; every X-Man’s life if he has to. Sean is furious, but Scott manages to calm him down through his cogent reasoning that Proteus sees them just like they see cows. They’re his food, and either the X-Men stop him, or no one does. By the time the authorities react, Proteus will be too powerful to beat.

Scott has a plan. He reminds his two companions that Proteus has two weaknesses. One is metal, and the other is his constant need for fresh host bodies. They must make him burn out his present body, while denying him an opportunity to grab himself a new one. They head in Proteus’s direction with haste.

Phoenix acts as a psychic switchboard, and puts Scott in telepathic contact with the rest of the X-Men. He tells each of them what they must do. Storm leads off the attack. She creates a pea-soup fog, as Proteus needs visual contact with his victims for his reality warps to be effective. The plan is for Wolverine and Nightcrawler to get Moira away from him, but Proteus manages to get a psychic fix on Storm, and he warps her cloak around her as if it were liquid. In the blink of an eye, Storm finds herself frozen within a pillar of amber.

Wolverine quickly recognizes the danger she faces of suffocation. With pinpoint precision, he slices his adamantium blades through the amber, freeing Storm, but leaving himself wide open to Proteus. Indeed, Proteus comes in for the attack, but a bullet thumps into his shoulder, courtesy of former Interpol agent, Banshee who is handy with a gun. He cannot stand by and see his friends murdered. Proteus warns him that he should have finished him with the first shot, as he won’t live to try a second time. He opens the ground beneath Sean, who drops like a stone into the pit. The moment he drops, the pit is closed behind him.

Scott knows that Proteus thinks they won’t be able to rescue Banshee, but he’s wrong. Scott smashes the ground at full strength with his optic blast, and reopens the pit entrance. Nightcrawler then leaps into the pit to retrieve him but, as he climbs out, Proteus retaliates without warning, and the rock surrounds them. Kurt’s reaction is born as much of panic as rational thought, as he teleports to safety high above the street. The strain almost kills them both. Luckily, Polaris is on hand to gently guide them down to Earth using her magnetic powers.

Banshee is out cold and Kurt is in pretty rough shape himself. Ororo then appears, and Piotr tells her she shouldn’t be on her feet. She replies that, as long as she is able to help, she will. With Proteus now gone, the X-Men regroup. Scott’s plan has worked, in part, as Proteus has headed away from the busy city center and into the now-evacuated West Princes Street gardens at the base of Castle Rock. He is heading for Edinburgh Castle, but he doesn’t make it. A psychic mind-blast stops him at the very foot of the cliff.

In his confusion, he drops Moira and sees Phoenix appear overhead. She wants payback for him ambushing her on Muir Island, and he hardly has time to react as she attacks. Again and again she lashes out with a ferocity that shocks Moira. Proteus is brought to his knees by this onslaught, but he’s not giving up. The X-Men have arrived and Wolverine marvels at Jeannie’s actions, but Proteus soon stops her assault by making her believe she has been dead and buried for a year. She reels from this horror, and Wolverine leaps from his hiding place and slashes at Proteus, still inhabiting Joe MacTaggert’s body, severely wounding him. “I’ll see you dead before I let you hurt her again,” Wolverine cries.

Cyclops cannot think about Jean’s scream as he heads towards Proteus. There’s a job to be done. He calls for Wolverine to get Moira to safety. Wolverine notes this, and thinks he wasn’t kidding about them being expendable. Jean’s zapped and he isn’t even batting an eyelash! Havok’s thoughts back up his brother’s actions, but it isn’t the time for this. It’s time to attack. Standing on either side of Proteus, Havok unleashes his cosmic energy bolts, whilst Cyclops pummels him with his optic beam. Amazingly, Proteus remains standing.

Suddenly, the crazed Proteus dissolves himself, leaving the Summers brothers energies to hit each other. Luckily, their bodies are able to absorb most of their respective powers, or they’d both be wasted. Proteus takes off on a liquid slide of Earth, Iceman-style. He’s going after Moira, who is being taken to safety by Wolverine. Joe MacTaggert’s body is beginning to look the worse for wear, and Proteus is burning his flesh quickly, due to all the action. Without a physical host, he’ll discorporate, literally cease to exist.

He plans to use his mother as a new host. As Wolverine climbs the rock towards the castle, Proteus affects gravity around them and slides by, grabbing Moira from him, leaving Wolverine to fall helplessly. Colossus looks on in shock. Cyclops knows that even Wolverine may not be able to survive the fall, unless… Standing beneath his falling comrade, Cyclops uses pulsed optic blasts to slow Logan’s descent. Each pulse hits him hard, but the trick works, and Logan reaches the ground battered and bruised, but alive. Scott knows that stunt would have killed a normal person, but Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton means he survives. Scott orders Colossus to the castle. He knows what to do.

Atop Edinburgh Castle, Proteus is about to take Moira’s life for his own. Moira asks him who’s next after her. Death after endless death will follow, without thought or care or mercy till there’s no one left alive on Earth to save him. Is that what the future holds? Proteus replies that Moira should have drowned him at birth, like an unwanted pet. He knows she loves him, and tried to save him, but he never wanted her salvation. Even as a child he knew he had the power! He could hardly wait for the first chance to use it. He explains that an act of hatred and violence created him and shaped him into what he is today. Out of that creation will comes humanity’s destruction and, of course, Moira’s too.

Suddenly, Proteus is grabbed from behind as Colossus, in his human form, throws him away as casually as someone might toss away a baseball. Proteus is sent crashing headlong into an ancient stone wall. Colossus only meant to stun his opponent into unconsciousness, but his body shatters into powder upon impact. With the body crumpled at its feet, Proteus’s real state is revealed, a featureless human-shaped energy form.

Piotr remembers that Cyclops said that, in this state, Proteus will be both at his most vulnerable, and his most dangerous. He will be desperate to steal another host body, and Piotr must not let him. As he approaches Proteus, the air around him explodes into flame, hounding him like a thing alive. At the same time, Proteus attacks on a psychic level. Calling forth memories that have haunted him since childhood, of the fateful day his cosmonaut brother Mikhail died in a launch pad fire, Proteus seeks to hurt Piotr as much, and in as many ways as possible.

Piotr hears Proteus laughing inside his mind. He isn’t beaten yet, though. He tells Proteus that he enjoys causing pain and death. “Before I met you, I never understood… evil, but you are evil, Proteus. But, you have made a fatal mistake. You toyed with me when you should have slain me, allowing me the time to change from Peter Rasputin, to Colossus.” Now in his steel form, Colossus takes the opportunity to thrust his arms Proteus. It’s like grabbing millions of live wires, as Colossus smashes his organic steel fists into the heart of Proteus’s energy form.

This is only the beginning of Piotr’s ordeal. Colossus’s dense molecular structure totally disrupts the delicately balanced energy matrices that make up the rogue mutant. In a sense, he short-circuits Proteus, scattering every fabric of the villain’s being, every scrap of consciousness to the four corners of the Earth. The pyrotechnics light up the evening sky for miles.

Cyclops and Wolverine see the lightshow from the foot of the cliff. Wolverine prays Petey isn’t dead. He’s got few enough sparring partners as it is. Scott asks Jean if she’s strong enough to fly them to the castle, and she says she’ll give it a try. With surprising ease, considering she could barely stand a few moments ago, Phoenix reaches out with her telekinetic power and flies the two men, and Havok, up to the castle ramparts.

They arrive to find Piotr comforting Moira, cradling her in his huge arms. Jean can find only residual traces of Proteus, and Piotr tells them they need not worry. He did what he had to do and knows Proteus was truly evil, yet he mourns his passing. He has no words of comfort for Moira, only his strength. He asks Moira not to hold back her tears; he will not rust.

Wolverine tells his partner he’s proud of him. Moira is led away by Cyclops as the rest of the team arrive. She informs Scott that she loved both Kevin and Joe, but now they’re gone, a part of her is glad, and the rest is numb. Perhaps, she thinks, a merciful God will pardon her part in this tragedy, but she will not forgive herself. Sean asks if she’s well, and they embrace with all the passion of lovers half their age.

In that embrace, and the love it represents, lies the beginning of a natural process of healing. Eventually, it will restore the bloom to her cheeks, the laughter to her voice. When that happens, the X-Men’s battle here today can finally, truly, be called a victory.

Characters Involved: 

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

Havok and Polaris (former X-Men)

Moira MacTaggert

Proteus (as Joe MacTaggert)

Terrified Edinburgh residents

(in flashback)

Colossus, Phoenix, Wolverine (both X-Men)

Havok (former X-Man)


Proteus (in several guises)

Angus MacWhirter

Dr. Moira MacTaggert

Jamie Madrox

Story Notes: 

Magneto fought the X-Men on Muir Island in X-Men (1st series) #104.

Sean Cassidy was an Interpol agent long before he became the costumed Banshee.

Mikhail Rasputin, though mentioned here, didn’t make his first appearance until Uncanny X-Men #284. His ‘death’ was staged by the Russian authorities to keep the fact he is a mutant a secret from the United States.

Proteus next appeared in Uncanny X-Men Annual #15 in the Kings of Pain crossover.

While it is not clear, it seems that the title of the issue "The Action of the Tiger" comes from Act I Scene I from Shakespeare's "King Henry the Fifth." Starting the play, the narrating Chorus says the line:

"But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger"

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