X-Men Annual (1st series) #3

Issue Date: 
August 1979
Story Title: 
A Fire in the Sky

Chris Claremont (writer), George Perez & Terry Austin (artists), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Glynis Wein (colorist), Roger Stern (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

A Danger Room exercise is botched due to Storm’s carelessness and she later admits to Cyclops she isn’t sure what purpose being an X-Man serves. A little bit later, she is attacked by Arkon, who has been led to her after he found the hero he sought – Thor – cannot be reached. Storm fights him and so soon do all the X-Men, but then Arkon hurls a lightning bolt at Storm seemingly disintegrating her. The other X-Men overwhelm him and Cyclops figures out that Storm was teleported away, not killed. He uses Arkon’s bolts to teleport them to Arkon’s world as well and, very quickly, they are in a battle. Nightcrawler steals away and tricks an unwilling Storm into revealing her whereabouts. Arkon finally reveals why he abducted Storm. Ptolemaeus has energy rings instead of a sun. Those energy rings failed once before but were restored by a machine built by Iron Man and powered by Thor. The machine broke down. They have managed to repair it, but need to repower it with lightning. Problem being that kind of power would probably mean Storm’s death. Cyclops orders Wolverine and Nightcrawler to retune the device, so it accepts his optic blast energy instead. He uses Storm’s lightning to refuel his optic blast and then manage to reenergize the machine. The X-Men and Arkon part as friends.

Full Summary: 

It’s a normal summer morning in Manhattan when suddenly there is a flash of light and, in front of the amazed citizens stands a tall armed barbarian warrior, Arkon the Magnificent. He ignores the onlookers as he walks with certain step towards his destination. Twice has he journeyed to Earth, once to destroy, once to conquer, he thinks. Now, though it shrivels his soul to do so, he has come to beg.

At Avengers Mansion, their butler Jarvis is already up and about. He opens the door to get the newspapers and in front of him finds Arkon, who tells him he would speak with Thor. If he values his mangy life, he must take Arkon to him without delay. First, Jarvis is flabbergasted, then he manages to stutter that Thor is not there. He is in no mood to be trifled with, Arkon snarls and grabs Jarvis by the lapels. Jarvis manages to utter that none of the Avengers are there.

Has he come so far to fail? Arkon rants. He orders Jarvis to summon the god of Thunder or he will snap Jarvis’ neck. But he can’t, Jarvis replies desperately. Thor is no longer a fulltime Avenger. He is gone on a personal mission. They have no way of contacting him!

That moment, the Grand Vizier of Arkon’s world contacts him mentally and Akron informs him of what he has learned. Their world is doomed! The Vizier replies that there is one other Earthling whose power may yet save them. He transfers her image to Arkon’s mind as well as how to find her. And Arkon drops Jarvis add leaves on his way to find a certain elemental mutant…

Under Cyclops’ orders, the X-Men are training in the Danger Room. Their job: to trash the robot that’s currently trying to trash Colossus. The robot reflects Colossus’ attack. Cyclops chides him that raw strength isn’t always the answer. He should think before he acts. He knows how to fight, Peter protests. He knows how to smash, Cyke shoots back. If he wanted that in an X-Man, he’d have hired the Hulk!

Sean Cassidy in the observation booth reminds them they’d still better do something about the robot. He notes that Cyclops is not giving the team orders, only advice. Sean presses a button and high-speed fans suddenly come to life, trapping Storm in mid-air. Wolverine tries to pull her out, but metal tentacles pop from the floor and drag him away from Storm.

Helpless, Storm is about to panic. Cyclops shouts at her to calm herself and relax. She can find a way out of the trap. But he realizes she can’t hear him. He orders Banshee to shut down the Danger Room, but too late.

Lightning flares from Storm’s outstretched hands, shattering her prison in the blink of an eye and then things start to really get out of hand. Transported by the gust of wind, a fan blade almost decapitates Banshee. Downstairs, the system is out of control, hitting the team with all it has.

Scott shouts at Sean to shut down the Danger Room. He can’t! Sean cries back. The controls are all shot to blazes. They will have to use the emergency switch inside the room itself!

The emergency switch is next to the door, only twenty feet away from Cyclops. He realizes he’d have a better chance of survival jogging blindfolded though a minefield. And if that switch gets knocked out of commission before they can get to it, they’ve pretty much had it.

Cyclops frees Wolverine from the tentacles with his optic blast. Colossus tosses his robot foe at Wolverine, who cuts the robot apart.

Still evading the traps, Storm shouts at Cyclops she’s sorry. Later, he orders her. What’s important now is getting to the cut-off switch.

Nightcrawler dares not teleport but tries to use his wallcrawling talent to find an alternative route to the switch. But the wall produces an oil slick. Combined with the blast from behind Kurt is pushed across the wall. Colossus catches him and leaves him in a corner that’s as safe as possible. He runs towards the control panel. Suddenly, a part of the floor springs up with him and he is used as a bullet against the others.

While the others scatter, Wolverine announces this is his kinda roughhouse. They should do it more often. Figures, Scott thinks. They are about to be pulverized and Wolverine is having the time of his life.

Scott now finds himself at a good angle. He orders Storm to climb out of the way and his blast hits the button. The show’s over and the Danger Room is totaled.

Waking up, Kurt complains about his aching head. Is he dead? Is this purgatory? Merely the Danger Room, Peter replies. He was joking, Kurt explains. Storm asks how the others are, and Wolverine sulks because he was just hitting his stride.

Sean enters and Colossus asks what they should do now. Make sure all the fires are out, Cyclops decides the systems are shut down, then everyone take the day off to rest. The clean-up can wait until tomorrow.

Storm tells them she’ll join them later. She’d prefer to be alone. Colossus is concerned, but Scott asks him to help Banshee. He’ll handle this. Cyclops runs after her and asks her to wait. She asks him not to yell. She knows she acted wrong and almost destroyed them all.

As he replaces his visor with his glasses, he explains he just wants to talk. Why did she panic? Her claustrophobia? A little perhaps, she admits. Has he ever questioned his life as an X-Man? Is this the life he dreamed about when he was young? Not quite, Scott admits. She was happy in Kenya, Storm states. She used her powers to help people. As an X-Man, all she ever seem to do is fight.

Their skills are needed, Scott points out. Needed so much they must forever deny themselves normal lives? Ororo asks. He doesn’t know, Scott admits. He wishes he had some easy answer for them both. Just the same he’d like to help. If something troubles her… Please come to him, tell him. Don’t hold it in. He of all people knows this doesn’t work. They are a team. If they don’t trust each other, they are finished.

Storm enters her attic and takes off her cape and tiara. She muses that Scott is full of surprises. He’s more confident these days, more open to the team, more aware of their feelings. She likes the change. She loves her fellow X-Men, but sometimes she does not like being an X-Man. Life was simpler in her African home… and saner.

As she begins to tend to her plants, she is unaware that above her, looking though the skylight is a stranger, Arkon, who has finally found his prey. A moment later, he grabs her by the throat. Arkon commands her to be silent and she will not be hurt. He is Arkon and she is coming with him. Storm’s reply to that is a miniature hurricane, leaving her plants untouched, while hurling Arkon across the length of the room.

Downstairs in the living room, Scott wishes Professor X was there or Jean was still alive. They’d be better able to help Storm than he. He’s got a lot of nerve giving Storm advice. He barely understands the inside of his own head.

Sean notices the thunder above and figures Ororo must be watering her plants. He’s never heard it so loud before, Scott notes. He’d better get up there and have her scale things down before her squall damages the house.

Suddenly, Arkon falls though the ceiling. Instantly, he is back on his feet and warns them off. His mission is urgent, his need desperate. If they get in his way, they will pay the price in blood. Cyclops recognizes him as Arkon. He saw him on TV years ago. He came to destroy the Earth but the Avengers stopped him.

He fires his optic blasts at Arkon and Arkon is pummeled out of the living room window into the swimming pool, much to the surprise of Peter Rasputin. At first, he is about to offer Arkon a hand but Cyclops runs outside and orders him to armor up. That clown’s an intruder who may have attacked Storm. Colossus changes to his armored form. Unimpressed, Arkon gets out of the pool and hits Colossus, who hits back with more strength.

What a blow, Arkon admits. It seems he has his work cut out for him that day. He would not wish it otherwise!

All the X-Men including Storm are ready to attack now. Storm demands he lay down his weapons. There is no need to fight, they can talk. Arkon answers to no one, least of all a woman! he shoots back. Colossus warns the others that despite his blow this stranger seems unhurt. He is no ordinary man. He is no man at all! Arkon remarks. He is an Imperion!

Considering Colossus his most dangerous foe, he throws a red lighting bolt a him, which takes the young Russian out. Wolverine slashes at him, destroying Arkon’s shield, a feat the Imperion believed was impossible.

As he draws another lightning bolt, Cyclops fires an optic blast at his hand. He notes the energy backlash doesn’t faze Arkon. Nightcrawler throttles him with his tail and orders Cyke to get him. Angrily, Akron throws Nightcrawler at Cyclops, calling him a misanthropic fool!

Storm warns Arkon he is not the only one who can hurl lightning and he throws a golden lightning bolt at her. One instant Storm is there. The next she isn’t.

Horrified, believing her dead, the X-Men attack with even more rage. In particular Colossus, who smashes him down with a tree. Cyclops intervenes, stopping Peter.

Nightcrawler checks on Arkon, remarking his bones must be nearly as strong as Wolverine’s. Nothing’s broken and he’s conscious. Not for long, Wolverine snarls. Arkon tells him to do his worst. He has done his duty to his people and his world. He’s prepared to die!

Why did he come here? Cyclops asks. Why attack the X-Men? What did he wants with Storm? Arkon refuses to answer to the questions. Cyclops threatens to leave him to Wolverine’s tender mercies.

Arkon retorts he is bluffing. He has faced Cyclops’ kind and coward’s code of ethics before. They will not harm a fallen foe. It is a bluff, isn’t it? Sean whispers to Scott. Of course, Scott whispers back. Does Wolverine know that? Sean asks. Cyclops orders Logan not to hurt Arkon.

He asks Nightcrawer to hand him Arkon’s quiver of lightning bolts. He remembers from the news tape that Arkon hurled a golden bolt at some nuclear scientists who disappeared. He threw red and black bolts at the X-Men, but the only golden bolt he threw was at Storm. And she disappeared. According to the Avengers, those physicists had been teleported to Arkon’s world. Perhaps the same happened to Storm.

Care to comment? Wolverine asks the sweating Arkon who says nothing. They are going after her, Cyclops decides and asks Sean to hold the fort. If they haven’t returned by morning, notify the Avengers and the F.F. He takes a lightning bolt for each of them and throws them. Instantly, the entire group disappears.

The X-Men and Arkon reappear in a huge exotic hall full of barbarian warriors. He sure hopes they speak English, Cyclops states. He introduces himself and states Arkon is their prisoner. They’ll exchange him for the woman he kidnapped.

The Warlord turns to a wizened man on a throne, the Vizier, asking him what they should do. The Vizier replies the female is their salvation. They cannot give her up. And they will not give her up! Arkon shouts. He orders his warriors to attack. Wolverine strikes him but too late, as the warrior horde attacks and the X-Men are in for a fight.

Cyclops, Colossus and Wolverine go for it, only Nightcrawler doesn’t seem to be part of the fray. The Warlord leads the Vizier away, suggesting he get to the temple and complete his spells as quickly as possible.

Sword in hand, the Warlock returns to the fray while the Vizier rushes down an ancient secret corridor that will take him out of Arkon’s palace, unaware that the last X-Man is following him.

Meanwhile, Wolverine points out an exit. To buy them some running room, Cyclops drops a supporting pillar, causing a cave-in and an opportunity for the three to make a run for it, following Wolverine who has picked up a weak trace of Storm’s.

Back in the palace, the Warlord remarks that in spite of extensive damage the casualties are remarkably light. Arkon, stemming up the pillar, explains that apart from Wolverine the X-Men do not believe in killing. Cyclops placed his shot well. This way is completely blocked. The Warlord suggests the secret passages.

The X-Men find themselves outside the palace and from the frying pan in the fire, as an entire army expects them outside. Once more the battle is joined while the Vizier rids towards his goal on a strange animal.

He ought to be used to the darkness now, he thinks, but it still terrifies him. The Earthers call it “night” and accept it as part of the natural order of things. He hates it. He yearns for the eternal, all-embracing light.

Nighcrawler still secretly follows. He didn’t want to leave the others, even though he is not much good in that kind of king-sized donnybrook, but Cyke said he had the best chances of finding Storm. He just hopes that he’s doing the right think, stalking the old man who’s heading for some kind of mountain top fortress.

Inside the fortress, the Vizier is expected by a young bondswoman, his apprentice Sashia. She asks what the lights in the city are and he explains the X-Men have come to save their comrade. They must begin at once! Sashia understands. Has she given Sashia any trouble? he asks. None, she accepts her fate with the courage of an Imperion. Must she die? He fears so, he sighs.

Not if Nightcrawler can help it, the X-Man grimly vows in silence. He doesn’t see many guards about. He is surprised to see Storm dressed in an exotic regal outfit and apparently not held against her will at all.

When told it is time, she is accepting and promises she will do what must be done. Though it will most likely cost her life? The Vizier asks. It is her life to give, she replies. How can they ever thank her? he asks taking her hand. If he and his people live, that will be thanks enough Ororo replies.

Kurt can’t believe what he is hearing. Storm’s helping her captors, not resisting at all. But why? It sounds like they are about to start with whatever they have planned, so there’s not time to alert the others. He has to find another way. He teleports, grabs Storm’s cape, teleports next to Storm and covers her head with the cape. Storm’s surprise and fear of confinement do the trick. Lightning flares, alerting the other X-Men, even as her winds push Kurt away.

Colossus rustles up some transport, namely a riding dragon courtesy of a flying cavalry that attacked him. He drags Wolverine and Cyclops, whose optic blasts are almost depleted aboard. No sun in the sky means no solar energy to replenish his energy. They reach the citadel where Storm is whistling up a lightning storm. She warns them back. The tempest is almost out of her control. What should they do? Colossus asks Scott. Land, he replies.

They’ve come to take her home, he tells Storm, but she refuses. She has pledged her word to these people. She will not leave. Wolverine suggests Cyke better talk fast. Here comes the welcome wagon and they don’t look too pleased to see them. Why, Cyclops demands. She can’t explain, she replies, there is no time. Just trust her and go! Not without her, Wolverine insists.

No, Arkon tells them. If they take her, they condemn his world to death. Cyclops tries to sound casual, making Arkon believe that they are still at peak strength. He demands the whole story. Hesitatingly, Arkon begins.

He explains that this world’s light comes not from a single celestial source but from huge energy rings orbiting the planet. They have ever lived in the light of that eternal day. But then as their most ancient prophecies had foretold the rings began to disintegrate. Within a year, they were no more. For the first time since creation, his warrior race faced darkness and eventual extinction.

His vizier discovered a way to save them, but it required the destruction of the X-Men’s world. The Avengers made the act unnecessary when Iron Man crated a device that when charged with lightning summoned by Thor, god of thunder, restored their life-giving energy rings.

For a time, all was well until weeks ago when, without warning, they were once again plunged into darkness. Although the vizier managed to repair the device, they could not recharge it. That, it seemed, required the power of a god.

Worse, the vizier learned that if the fire rings aren’t re-energized within a specific time frame – that is almost ended, they will decay beyond the point of no return.

Originally, he sought out Thor, but he proved unavailable. So he chose Storm instead, Cyke finishes. Perhaps he should have asked for the X-Men’s aid, Arkon admits, but that is not an Imperion’s way. And he could not risk being refused. Their need for Storm is imperative.

Colossus, in the meantime, has found Nightcrawer who was hurled away by Storm’s winds. Cyclops orders Wolverine and Nightcrawler to take a look at the device and see if they can reset it, so it’ll absorb optic blasts instead of lightning. Logan warns him. He’s a tinkerer. Sophisticated electronics is way outta his league. He knows, but there’s no one who can do it. Beautiful, Wolverine mutters as he and Kurt get to work. If this sucker blows up in Summers’ face, don’t say he didn’t warn him. Unglaublich, Kurt exclaims. Whoever built this, was a genius! Yeah? Logan asks. If he was so hot, how come it broke?

Scott tells Storm that alone this could kill her. But together the two of them might just pull it off. Scott orders Colossus to ground Storm so that none of her power is wasted. When she is ready, summon the lightning. Go for broke! Call down as much as she can stand and hold it within her as long as possible!

Ororo complies and minutes pass. Both Colossus and Storm glow like human stars and the heat is melting the platform beneath them. Now! Cyclops bellows and Storm directs her lightning at Cyclops. Try as he might, he cannot hold back a scream as his mutant metabolism desperately tries to absorb the raw energy and convert it into the power behind his optic blasts. But Cyclops’ system is genetically geared to absorb solar energy, not lightning. It’s like a high performance engine primed for high-octane premium gas suddenly forced to run on low-octane regular. It runs rough, it may even explode. The same holds for Cyclops. Even Arkon is impressed by his courage.

Kurt finds his fingers too large to fit the access panels. Wolverine tells him to stop complaining and just tell him what to do and prove Banshee wasn’t wasting his time teaching Kurt electronics. The two focus on their work while the glowing Cyclops tells them to hurry. He can’t hold out much longer!

They’re done! Kurt shouts and Wolverine orders Cyclops to let her rip. Cyclops lets loose his optic blasts – white instead of red - and it crosses the few feet space separating Cyclops from the device, establishing the final link in this arcane circuit. Storm calls down more lightning, greater and greater bolts, the energy flowing from her to Cyclops, from him to the machine until flesh and bone and steel can stand no more. The X-Men, the temple, the mountain all disappear within a giant cone of fire.

From that cone a second energy beam, so powerful that Cyclops’ Herculanean effort pales to insignificance in comparison, rips up through the atmosphere. And like a line of falling dominoes, the energy spheres flare once more to life. The fire-ring burns once more. The world will live.

But the first flood of jubilation quickly passes to be replaced by dread as the warriors search for the Arkon. They ride to the temple.

They find the mountain in rubble, but Arkon and the X-Men, the Vizier and his retainers alive.

After a traditional round of feasting and royal celebrations Arkon addresses his people and promises the X-Men eternal friendship. Cyclops announces it’s time they were leaving. Arkon understands but wishes they’d reconsider. With warriors like them at his side, they could conquer a universe! Conquest really isn’t the X-Men’s line of work, Cyclops states apologetically. Wouldn’t he like to be the first barbarian who wears horn-rimmed glasses? Storm suggests.

Arkon teleports them home, but finds it a pity they refused his offer. It would have been a glorious war. Farewell, until they meet again.

Characters Involved: 

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


Sashia (the vizier’s apprentice)

Warriors of Ptolemaeus

Jarvis (the Avengers’ butler)

Story Notes: 

The story takes place between Uncanny X-Men # 124 & 125.

At the moment, the X-Men still believe Phoenix and Beast have perished in Uncanny X-Men #113.

Arkon tried to destroy Earth to save his own world in Avengers (1st series) #75-76.

Arkon calls Nightcrawler a “misanthrope,” apparently meaning it as an insult like “freak.” However, actually the term means someone who doesn’t like other people.

The X-Men meet Arkon again in Annual #5.

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