The Worst Prison of All
Written by C. J. Henderson
Summary: While attending the Moslem festival of Achoura in Morocco, Xavier is attacked by the thralls of Gol-shentu, the Forgotten One. Xavier enters the Astral Plane to face Gol-shentu and discovers that he’s a psychic vampire that lives in-between dimensions. After focusing his powers, Xavier is able to pull Gol-shentu into the real world. Unprepared for life in three-dimensions, Gol-shentu evaporates. Xavier reflects on the being that retreated to shadow dimensions in order to avoid death and remains more determined to enjoy his life while there’s still time.
Continuity Notes: This story is set in-between Uncanny X-Men #110 (April 1978) and #111 (June 1978).
Review: Nothing particularly exciting here. One major problem is the villain, Gol-shentu, the Forgotten One. His name is hard to pronounce, he’s far too reminiscent of the Shadow King, and his motivation comes across as an excuse for the narrator to spell out the moral of the fable. There’s nothing wrong with a story about Xavier embracing life after the loss of his legs and realizing that every living thing must face his mortality, but there’s little to this story outside of the very obvious point it’s making. Also, if Xavier is going to star in a story about the importance of living life, I think his standard personality of the stoic, serious professor should probably be addressed in some way. If Xavier is someone with an incredible passion for life, it would seem to be buried deep under the surface, and the story would be well-served if the reader discovers why.
Written by Glenn Hauman
Summary: Carol Danvers interviews the Beast for NOW Magazine. He deflects any serious question with a joke.
Continuity Notes: Set during Beast’s stint with the Avengers, this story occurs right before Avengers #181 (March 1979).
I Love the ‘90s: The cover of NOW Magazine is dated September 1999.
Review: “Chasing Hairy” is very short, but it’s also a very accurate interpretation of how an interview with the Beast of the late ‘70s would read. Beast’s light-hearted, occasionally goofy personality from his Avengers days had largely disappeared by this point in continuity, even though Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern tried their best to revive it during his appearances in Avengers-related titles around this time. Perhaps that was Hauman’s inspiration (along with the internet campaign to have Beast rejoin the Avengers) to remind readers of the less serious, but no less intelligent interpretation of the character. I’m not going to say that the Beast evolved into a totally different character over the years, but the zany, manic sense of humor rarely appeared after Beast returned to the X-titles, and this story is a decent nostalgia piece for the people who remember those days.
One Night Only
Written by Scholly Fisch
Summary: Kitty Pryde takes Nightcrawler to the circus for his birthday. Nightcrawler discovers that one of the performers is his former high-rope partner Johanna. He spontaneously joins her performance, to the crowd’s delight. Later, the circus’ creative director offers Nightcrawler a job. To Kitty’s shock, he doesn’t decline. Meanwhile, the Blob and Unus the Untouchable invade the big top, after robbing the circus’ account manager. Kitty uses her powers to protect a frightened child, then penetrates Unus’ forcefield and knocks him unconscious. Nightcrawler tries to teleport the Blob far away from the crowd, but his massive build leaves Nightcrawler stranded in the Hudson River. Johanna arrives to rescue him. Nightcrawler expresses his appreciation, but tells Johanna that he now realizes he can’t reunite their act.
Continuity Notes: “One Night Only” is set shortly after Uncanny X-Men #153 (January 1982). Kitty’s codename is Sprite during this era.
Review: This is the kind of story that used to run in Marvel annuals in the ‘80s before they went crossover crazy. There’s nothing truly wrong with the plot of “One Night Only,” it’s just doomed as obvious “illusion of change.” Nightcrawler is tempted to rejoin the circus. Nightcrawler stops two evil mutants. Nightcrawler realizes he can’t go back to the circus. Scholly Fisch is able to make the cast likeable enough throughout the piece, so that alleviates some of the tedium. (And credit to Fisch for acknowledging Amanda Sefton’s part in Nightcrawler’s past and assuring the reader that Johanna isn’t supplanting her in continuity.) There’s a nice idea in here that the appeal of the circus is not only nostalgia for Nightcrawler, but it’s also a place where he can openly be himself and receive true recognition for his talents. The Blob and Unus are also well chosen as foes, given their own pasts with the circus. Ultimately, though, it’s a story that hinges on a conflict that you know is going nowhere, and the resolution is even more pat than I expected going in.