X-Men (1st series) #98

Issue Date: 
April 1976
Story Title: 
Merry Christmas, X-Men ...

Chris Claremont (writer), Dave Cockrum (penciler), Sam Grainger (inker), Joe Rosen (letterer), Janice Cohen (colorist), Marv Wolfman (editor)

Brief Description: 

It’s Christmas day, and Dr. Stephen Lang launches his Project Armageddon. The X-Men are downtown in New York, enjoying the festivities, when they are suddenly attacked by a few Sentinel units – new, improved models of the mutant-hunting robots. Some of them manage to capture Banshee, Wolverine and Marvel Girl and bring them back to their base. Near the Bahamas, Professor X is vacationing on the yacht of a good friend of his, Dr. Peter Corbeau. Seeing how Corbeau is in charge of a project on space mapping, Xavier confides in him the recurring dream he has, in the hopes Corbeau will recognize the binary system from his description. However, it is not a system Corbeau has ever charted. Suddenly, Xavier comes under attack by a Sentinel unit. Just then, he suffers a vision analogous to his nightmare and collapses, making it easier for the Sentinel to capture him. His yacht demolished by the Sentinel, Corbeau manages to swim back to shore and later comes to the mansion to reveal to the X-Men what happened. Curiously, Cerebro is unable to track down the captured X-Men, and Cyclops fears they may be dead. However, just then, Corbeau puts into context a remark made by the Sentinel that attacked Xavier and deduces the captives are held in outer space. In Lang’s orbital space station, Banshee, Wolverine and Marvel Girl, unaware of their location, manage to break free and exit the station, only to find themselves floating in outer space, without any suits.

Full Summary: 

Christmas in the Big Apple: a fairy kingdom this year, a magic land of light and color, of carols began in Saint Pat’s and spreading out among the Fifth Avenue crowds. The X-Men are downtown, mixed with the celebrating crowds. Former X-Man Marvel Girl relishes the snow. Can they believe it – a white Christmas! For the first time in years, New York’s got itself a real honest-to-goodness white Christmas! “Isn’t the snow beautiful, Ororo?” she asks her friend, a big, genuine smile plastered on her face. Storm admits it is in its way, but adds that she can’t help remembering that on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, the snow is… white.

“Oh brother… it’s Christmas!” Jean frowns at Ororo’s reply. There are times she thinks she’s as bad as Scott. Ororo should see what Jean has to go through to get Scott to let his hair down once in awhile. Very funny, little lady, Scott snaps. He thought all she had to do was smile. Anyway, he notices Kurt and Peter seem to be enjoying themselves. Jean wittily notes that Scott’s gift for understatement boggles the mind.

Indeed, Colossus and Nightcrawler are more than just having fun – they are audaciously and flirtatiously following around two young ladies. One of them, Betsy, cheerfully alerts her friend, Amanda, that they are being followed. “Betsy dear, do you hear me screaming for a cop?” Amanda glibly replies with a smile. Kurt, who thanks to his image inducer, looks like Errol Flynn, bids them farewell: “Auf wiedersehen, meine freunde…” The two girls carry on walking, pretending to be aloof to the boys’ flirting. “If you don’t hear from us again, don’t worry,” Kurt playfully adds and wishes them Merry Christmas.

Amused with Kurt and Peter’s courting, Banshee announces to the gang that, on that note, he and Moira will be moving on themselves. They’re to be showing each other the sights of New York. “What about you, Wolverine?” Jean enquires him of his plans. Smoking a cigarette, Wolverine moodily replies he has no use for Christmas. Jean wishes him to have a nice time, anyway, and leaves with Scott.

Entering the Rockefeller Center with Jean, Cyclops confides in her that Wolverine is a strange man. They’ve been together almost a year, and he’s still not sure he’ll work out. But then… he was sure about Alex and Lorna… and they tried to kill them. Jean urges him to stop it. It’s Christmas, and he’s been tearing himself apart over Alex for weeks. Can’t he just this once give it a rest… and kiss her. Seeing him hesitant, Jean further pushes him: “Didn’t you hear me, you big lug… I said… kiss me!” Almost forcefully, she grabs him and they passionately lock lips.

Jack Kirby and Stan Lee – the creators of the title – happen to be nearby and watch the kissing couple in surprise. Jack asks Stan if he knows who these two are – they never used to do that when Jack and Stan had the book. Stan dismisses them. “Ah Jack, you know these young kids… they got no respect.”

Taking off her coat to leave it in the wardrobe, Scott asks Jean if he ever told her that she was beautiful. “Not tonight,” Jean smiles, confident in her black cocktail dress. “Well, you are,” the smitten Scott replies. My turn, now, Jean says – and straightforwardly asks him if he loves her. Scott only momentarily hesitates, before he admits that yes, he loves her. Jean is glad.

The pair enters the restaurant where they made reservations. Suddenly, they hear something huge outside, tearing at the roof. Two gigantic robots – Sentinels – break into the room through the roof. Jean is shocked, recognizing them from their past encounter with the X-Men: it can’t be them! Not them! One of the Sentinels tells her to prepare to face her doom – for the Sentinels have returned! Its main mission programming requires the capture of mutant entities Cyclops and Marvel Girl. It assures them that resistance is useless: they are equipped to negate the powers of all X-Men!

Blasting the robot, Cyclops realizes it’s right; his eye beams aren’t even slowing it down. Maybe not, Jean concurs – but what if the Sentinel refers to the old X-Men, the ones who fought back in 1969? It could be that this ugly doesn’t know her telekinetic power’s a lot stronger now that it was then. Jean telekinetically lashes at one of the Sentinels. The robot falls back, as the mindblast throws it off-balance. “Beautiful move, Jean!” Cyclops commends his girlfriend. The Sentinel’s outside the building – now he can let it have it full power! As the Sentinel is hurled outside, Cyclops blasts it at full-force and altogether dismantles the unit.

The other Sentinel retaliates, though, and attacks Cyclops, blasting him, while seizing Jean in its fist. Jean is shocked to see Scott hit… the Sentinel’s blast… Scott didn’t stand a chance! “Terminal dysfunction recorded from Sentinel A7 – this unit forced to take extreme action against mutant Cyclops,” the Sentinel explains. Marvel Girl vows that if the robot has killed him, she’ll…

Before she utters another word, the Sentinel emits a gas from its fist and puts Jean into sleep. The Sentinel verifies that it has killed him – his power was too great for this unit to cope with alone. Flying away with the senseless Jean, the robot transmits a message back to base, reporting on its main mission. It is returning with captive Marvel Girl, via ultra-linear leap. Events at target-locus, Rockefeller Center, necessitated the termination of mutant life-entity, Cyclops.

However, the Sentinel is mistaken. Scott is still alive, clinging on the remains of the demolished floor. His whole body feels on fire. Unfortunately, the Sentinel’s lift-off shifts the wreckage upon which he’s clinging and throws Scott off the roof. Seeing a radio mast, the falling Scott grasps it… it’s his only hope… he only prays it holds, because if it doesn’t, it’s sixty stories to the street – and no Banshee to catch him as he falls. “It holds!” he screams, awash with adrenaline, dangling from the radio mast. But only by a thread. If he moves an inch, this whole mess will give way, so he decides to stay here and hold on. But for how long? he asks himself, perspiring in agony – how long?

Outside, a minute ago, people witnessed the collapse of the damaged Sentinel right on Radio City’s doorstep. Seeing the incoming wreckage, one of the passersby screams at people to run – everyone find some cover fast! It looks like the whole building’s coming down! Banshee, who is present among the witnesses, explains that that’s no building. Saints preserve them all – that’s a Sentinel! Telling himself it’s no time for subtlety, Sean switches into his costume. If the Sentinels are hunting mutants again, Scott and Jean are going to need all the help they can get.

Sean asks Moira and Storm to find Nightcrawler and Colossus and warn them – because if the Sentinels are back… Storm is puzzled: what is a Sentinel? Banshee dramatically replies that to a mutant, Sentinel’s another name for death and flies off. Wolverine forcefully holds onto his legs, urging him to wait – if there’s a fight brewing, then he’s going to be in it!

One of the passersby asks his friend if he heard this: the green guy – Banshee – said they were muties! Pointing at Storm, he also exclaims that this black chick is glowing like the sun! What’s going on here, anyway?! “More than you can ever know, human!” Ororo scores him off and also flies upward. If Banshee thinks she will remain away from the heart of the battle, he is mistaken!

Flying above, she suddenly spots Cyclops hanging from a radio mast – and he’s about to fall! Grabbing him, Ororo tells him not to be afraid – he is safe now. Scott is relieved; thank God the Sentinels didn’t get them all. “All?” Storm repeats. She does not understand. Scott explains that a bunch of them just nailed Banshee and Wolverine – they just plucked them off the sky and there wasn’t a thing Scott could do to stop it.

Holding her breath, Ororo asks him if these Sentinels… are they large, metallic robots? Scott is bemused by the question: of course they are. Why? “Oh, no,” Storm gasps as she looks behind his back. A Sentinel appears and mentions that the Sentinel A3 reported Cyclops’ life functions terminated – it seems A3 was an error. Said error will be corrected now, the Sentinel promises and blasts Scott. “No!” an exasperated Storm howls. The Sentinel explains that their programming is specific and binding: all who resist them must be destroyed. Ororo snaps back that she is Storm, and she will resist him and will not be destroyed! Her eyes glowing, energy crackling around her, she initiates her assault against the robot.

The Sentinel clarifies that it is programmed to deal with all mutant powers… this unit… Before it can proceed, the Sentinel, struck hard by Ororo’s wind assailment, gives out warning: wind velocity increasing… turbulence threatening systems overload… Ororo points out that it is only a machine – and how can a mere machine stand against the power of storm… the power of a rampaging hurricane?!

Below in the streets, a woman named Bonnie watches the breathtaking battle. She asks her companion, a man named Chris, to look up in the sky – doe she see it? Chris mumbles that he does, but he doesn’t believe it! A hurricane – a freaking hurricane floating seventy stories above Rockefeller Center!

In the eye of that hurricane, Storm rages, until an awestruck Cyclops approaches her and asks her to stop, before she destroys the entire city! Ororo complies: it is done. She assuages his fears: there was no need to worry. She has total control over her abilities. Nothing was harmed save the Sentinel. “So I see…” Scott admits, but if Professor X were here, he’s sure he’d…

“Good Lord, the Professor!” it suddenly occurs to him. Charles knows nothing about these new Sentinels – he’s got to be warned!

Down-time half a day and south a thousand miles
A private yacht, trolling the Bahamas’ outer islands: it’s here that Charles Xavier has come for his vacation. It’s here that he’s come to ask an old friend for help: Peter Corbeau, PhD, DSc, twice Nobel Prize-winner, and director of the UN’s Project Starcore. Currently, Charles has finished describing his nightmares to Corbeau, and is fishing in the ocean. Quite the specialist on the field of space studies, Peter notes that the binary system Charles described isn’t Mizar A, or Alsevar Prime, or Dunsinane. He tells Charles to face it: the Starcore’s charted over half the Milky Way… and Charles’ binary is nowhere to be found.

Dismayed, Professor X asks him if he’s sure. He might have missed something. Corbeau replies that Charles knows him better than that. He’s checked the program a dozen times. Blazes, he even ran a query through the Fantastic Four and Avengers charts. The result was the same: nothing. Corbeau tentatively suggests that Charles has been under a hell of a strain lately, more than any man can rightly stand. It could be that this binary of his isn’t real at all… it could be all in his mind. Disconcerted, Charles shuts his eyes and wonders if Corbeau is saying that he’s… insane. Corbeau hastens to clarify he thinks he’s just tired, that’s all. But he thinks Charles should seek professional help…

“What the…? A bite, man!” Corbeau suddenly enthuses, as it appears Xavier’s fishing pod has got something. That’s one way of putting it: as Xavier pulls, a Sentinel unit springs out of the ocean, announcing to Charles that it has come for him! Xavier is dumbfounded: a Sentinel! But that’s impossible… his mental defenses should have shielded him… but they haven’t! Still, Xavier vows that the Sentinel will find capturing him is another matter altogether! Gritting his teeth, he attacks the robot with a mindblast. The Sentinel cries out about the danger; mutant blast is penetrating its shields… this unit is unable to compensate in time… this unit is falling… And true to its word, the Sentinel collapses to the bottom of the ocean. Consider yourself lucky, Sentinel… that mindblast should have destroyed you, Charles muses. It seems that his dream must have sapped his powers far more than he’d thought. Turning to Peter, he tells him he’s done his best – the rest is up to Corbeau!

Corbeau has already got his yacht running. Charles has given them time – and with this little hydrofoil of Corbeau’s, time is all they need. Corbeau designed this baby himself. There’s nothing afloat that can catch her when she’s running – and right now, she’s running fine. He asks Charles to do them a favor though: watch out for their tin playmate while Corbeau calls in the Air Force.

But just then, the agonizing vision from Charles’ dream strikes again. Images… words never tasted… colors never smelt… worlds beyond imagining crashing together and dying… so many images… and through them all, a terrible, aching need… and a face…

Peter Corbeau radios for backup: “Mayday! Mayday! Any station…” Just then, Charles unleashes a primal, ferocious scream of suffering. Corbeau is bewildered by the scream – he realizes the poor sod’s gone totally round the bend. And just then, the Sentinel returns – only now it crashes right through the yacht, violently splitting it in half. “You cannot escape us, mutant!” the Sentinel roars.

The impact from the yacht’s destruction throws Corbeau deep underwater. He hasn’t much air in his lungs… he can’t tell how far to the surface… inside his lungs are starting to burn… Swimming frantically, he reaches the surface, almost out of breath. But what about Xavier? He wonders. He begins calling after him – in vain. Looking up, he sees the Sentinel departing with the senseless Charles. The robot reports its returning to base via ultra-linear leap – its sensors indicate solar radiation nearing its tolerance levels. Left alone amidst the wreckage of his yacht, Corbeau tells himself it looks bad. He’s two hundred miles from land, and if no one hears his mayday, it’s going to be one long swim…

Time-cut now: four days up the line, to 28 December 1975. A Sunday in New York. Except that this isn’t New York.

Banshee, Wolverine and Marvel Girl are inside a high-tech lab, all three of them shackled and variously probed and examined by several men in special costumes. Their captor, Dr. Stephen Lang, joins them. Will ye be lookin’ a’ that, Banshee mocks upon seeing the scientist – the head honcho, Dr. Stephen Lang himself, has come to pay them all a visit. Banshee sneers they are honored. Lang is glad to find him in such high spirits – his friends should learn from his example.

One of Lang’s underlings interjects and informs him that the solar radiation storms show no signs of abating. They’ll have to shut down Sentinel operations for the time being. “Understood, technician,” Lang responds. They’ll make do with the mutants they’ve got. The technician admits he doesn’t know – is this Wolverine a mutant? He wonders. He reveals to Lang that his readings are nothing like the others. Studying Wolverine’s face mask, Lang retorts that the Sentinels say he is – but mutant or not, whatever Wolverine is, he isn’t human. Hearing this, an exasperated Wolverine challenges him to keep it up, and he’ll… Lang coolly interrupts him: he’ll do nothing. Those Chromalloy shackles are unbreakable.

Marvel Girl wryly asks him where his swastika is – he doesn’t look dressed without it. Lang assures her he is no Nazi – just a man doing his duty. “Following orders, huh?” Jean scoffs. If you like, he replies, unperturbed by her comments. He clarifies that she – mutantkind – is the enemy. Lang is to find a way to destroy her. “Why start with the X-Men?” Marvel Girl wonders. Lang explains it’s because the X-Men have been the most effective mutant opposition to the Sentinels. Because, Cyclops and Xavier are the heart and the soul of the X-Men. Cut out the heart, and the body dies. Destroy the X-Men, and the Sentinels are unbeatable.

Jean finds him a sad, pathetic, screwed-up little man – does he think the X-Men are that easily beaten? “Yes!” Lang angrily snaps and slaps her hard across the face. “That tears it, bub!” Wolverine growls. Unsheathing his claws – claws ripping right out of the back of his hands – he destroys his manacles and breaks free. Lang can dump on him and Banshee all he likes, but when he beats on the lady, that’s when he answers to the Wolverine!

“Take him, you fools! He’s only one…” one of Lang’s men screeches – but then screams in pain as Wolverine claws him. Several men appear far and wide, seemingly to tackle him. Lang himself hastens to one of his Sentinels, unit T-20. He informs the robot that a mutant is loose and orders it to secure him – alive if it can, dead if it must! So that’s the name of the game, isn’t it? Wolverine puffs in contempt, upon hearing this. It’s fine with him, only this time he got his feet on the ground – and as he fights the Sentinel and tears it into pieces, he snarls that makes all the difference!

Leaving the now defunct Sentinel in shambles, Wolverine sees Lang’s remaining agents taking flight. Disappointed, he wonders where the fire is – he thought they wanted to roughhouse a bit. Wolverine himself sure could use the exercise. “No takers, huh?” he finally concedes defeat, seeing how everyone has run away from him – too bad. He thought these clowns had guts.

Wolverine sets his two companions free. Amazed, Banshee notes that Wolverine’s claws are a part of his… they… he didn’t know! Wolverine wonders why he should – it’s none of his business. Seeing Jean messing with her dress, he asks her what she’s doing. Jean explains she’s trying to tear her dress. Evening gowns weren’t designed for a running fight! “That all?” Wolverine remarks. This isn’t any trouble; all she’s got to do is… Before he finishes his phrase, he demonstrates what he meant to say and rips apart her dress with his hands. “Not so blasted sort!” a vexed Jean complains. Angry with her tattered, impromptu ‘miniskirt’, she “thanks” him! “Anytime, red,” Wolverine snickers.

As the three of them gather together to confer, Wolverine emphasizes that time’s wasting. He suggests they get out of here while they still have the chance. Not without Professor X, Marvel Girl strongly demurs. Pointing at Charles, who lays senseless in a pod in the same room, Sean agrees: they can’t leave Charles here. Wolverine rather impatiently asks Jean if she’s got a better idea. Xavier is crippled and unconscious – how are they going to carry him and fight?! Pointing her finger at him, Marvel Girl insists they find a way – is that clear?

Just then, a Sentinel storms into the room. Banshee observes that the point is a moot one, now – he’s afraid it’s out of their hands now. Attacking the robot with his sonic scream, Sean tells them he’s got this one. He instructs them to head out the other and promises to cover them. As they flee, Sean urges them to move it – the Sentinels are popping out of the woodwork!

Truer words were never spoken: the three mutants suddenly come across five Sentinels. “Oh Lordy,” Banshee spontaneously exclaims, before he encourages his companions to take them! He urges them to hit them with everything they’ve got before they can react – that’s their only hope! “Way to go, Irish!” Wolverine remarks and decapitates one of them with his claws. Assailing one of the units with her telekinesis, Jean notices there’s something wrong… their powers are chopping these Sentinels into bits… Hearing this, Wolverine suggests to her not to look a gift horse in the mouth…

“Hey!!” he then exclaims, taken aback by a Sentinel which grapples him into its fist. Wolverine mutters that the robot’s got his arms pinned… no leverage… can’t slash free… Marvel Girl realizes she’s got to be fast or Wolverine will be crushed. She focuses all her telekinetic power into a tight beam and mindblast and tries to fuse the Sentinel’s computer brain. Her stunt works and the Sentinel is stunned, releasing Wolverine. However, the defunct robot is toppling right for her… she has no time…

Seeing this, Banshee lunges at her and grabs her before she is squashed by the robot – he tells her to have no fear, Banshee’s here! Jean notices that he’s cutting it a little close again, isn’t he? Now is that any way to talk, Sean complains – he saved her, didn’t he? Flying toward Wolverine, he tells him to grab ahold – they’re busting out of here! And nothing between Heaven and Hell is going to stop them! Carrying both Jean and Wolverine, the flying Banshee powers through all of Lang’s agents, repelling them with his unbearable scream, until he breaks through the exit of the base. As he does, though, Banshee assumes an expression of horror.

Back at the mansion, Nightcrawler asks a pensive Cyclops if there’s anything. The absentminded Cyclops fails to register Kurt’s presence for a moment, before he explains he didn’t hear him coming. He reveals there’s nothing. Cerebro’s scanned the entire world twice over and there’s not a sign of them anywhere. No them, no defensive shields, no nothing. Kurt notices Scott has been working four days straight, with no rest, precious little food… He warns Scott that he’s burning himself out. Scott coldly assures him he knows what he’s doing. When he wants Nightcrawler’s advice, he’ll ask for it…

Suddenly, Cerebro flashes intruder alert. On the surveillance monitor, Cyclops and Nightcrawler watch someone coming over the back wall. Scott tells Kurt to stay here; he’s going to check. Kurt has other plans, though: he has already teleported to the intruder’s location. Studying the monitor more carefully, Scott sees the intruder’s face and recognizes him as a man he knows: Dr. Peter Corbeau, an old friend of the Professor’s.

Shortly, the freezing Corbeau is admitted into the mansion, and handed a blanket and a hot cup of coffee, as the X-Men gather around him. Cyclops introduces him to the team. Dr. Corbeau says he’s here to help them – and Scott has taken the liberty of briefing him on all that’s happened. The gist of it is, Cerebro can’t find the missing X-Men. Not even a residual trace. And the only way for that to happen, is for Jean and the others… to be dead. Brooding, Scott admits he doesn’t accept it – but what other choice have they? It’s like they’ve vanished off the face of the Earth…

“That’s it!” Corbeau suddenly has an epiphany, making a connection in his mind. That’s why that Sentinel was so worried about solar flares. Doesn’t Cyclops see it? The missing X-Men are not on the Earth at all!

At that moment, Banshee, Wolverine and Marvel Girl, all terrified, float in outer space without any space suits, right outside Lang’s orbital station.

Characters Involved: 

Marvel Girl (former X-Man)
Moira MacTaggert

Dr Peter Corbeau

Dr. Stephen Lang
Various Sentinels Mark III

Amanda Sefton
Elizabeth “Betsy” Wilford
Bonnie Wilford, Chris Claremont, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee (real-life artists)
Nick Fury, Contessa (all SHIELD)
(in Professor X’s vision/ daydream)

Story Notes: 

First appearance of Amanda Sefton and Elizabeth “Betsy” Wilford. Although superficially a normal woman, Amanda’s true nature will be revealed in Uncanny X-Men Annual #4. Betsy’s surname was obviously inspired by the maiden name of Claremont’s then wife, Bonnie Wilford.

Banshee grabbed Cyclops before the latter was splattered on the ground in X-Men (1st series) #95.

The X-Men battled the brainwashed Havok and Polaris in the previous issue.

Peter Corbeau first appeared in Incredible Hulk #148.

The face Xavier almost sees in his vision belongs to the alien princess Lilandra, as revealed in X-Men (1st series) #104.

There are cameos by several real-life artists in this issue. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the creators of the title, make an appearance, as do regular writer Chris Claremont with his then wife, colorist Bonnie Wilford. Lee and Kirby’s inside-joke about the kiss of Scott and Jean refers to how these two were never shown kissing on-panel during Lee and Kirby’s run in the 1960s – or until Claremont’s X-Men (1st series) #94, for that matter.

Nick Fury and Contessa Valentina de Fontaine of SHIELD also make cameo appearances in the first page.

First appearance of the Sentinels Mark III – the third generation of the Sentinels. The X-Men had last battled Sentinels in X-Men (1st series) #59.

The technician’s query over Wolverine being a mutant or not alludes to the first origin intended by Roy Thomas for Wolverine – namely, that he was not a mutant, but an actual wolverine who had evolved into human form, thanks to the High Evolutionary’s experiments. The idea survives in this brief reference, but was otherwise nixed.

With this issue, it is revealed that Wolverine’s claws are not a part of his costume, but comprise part of his mutant abilities and extend out of his body. Additionally, this is the first time that Wolverine is seen without his mask one.

First time Wolverine calls Jean “red” – a nickname he will regularly use for her.

“Auf wiedersehen, meine freunde“ is German for “goodbye, my friends.”

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