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July 19, 2014

Ye Olde School Café: X-Men Classic #63 (Uncanny X-Men #159)

 

Hello and welcome to another edition of Ye Olde School Café! This time around we’ll be taking a look at a story that has always been on my radar, and when you look at the creative team involved, you’d be crazy not to investigate this issue! In 1982, the world of the X-Men was in full swing, and under the creative control of Chris Claremont, the team would gain heights never dreamed of just a few short years earlier.

This story had a few new faces to X-Men (Byrne had left by now to do Fantastic Four, and Cockrum would do some fill-ins), as far as creators would go, and when the book was reprinted almost a decade later, in X-Men Classic #63, we were once again shown the brilliance of Bill Sienkiewicz and Bob Wiacek (pencils and inks, respectively), as they illustrated the story by Claremont. There are plenty of people that know the X-men have fought Dracula, but didn’t read it or even see it. Another great aspect to this reprint series is the fantastic new covers. This was special, from the team of Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell! If you’re looking for a good scary story, well, look no further….

 

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The story begins with Nightcrawler teleporting in, right in front of a fashion model named Harmony Young. She’s the roommate of Misty Knight, and the X-Men have an open invitation from Misty to crash there when the need arises. Over in the New Mexico desert, Alex Summers and Lorna Dane are having Alex’s family over for some down time (Cyclops and Corsair). But the real story is back in New York City, where Kitty is meeting with her parents, and phones the other X-Men to talk with Storm. They thought Storm was with her, but Kitty tells them that she left hours ago, and no one has heard from her since. In a panic, the team begins to scour the city for Storm, who is lying in an alleyway, bleeding from a wound to her neck.

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The X-Men get a phone call from a local hospital, informing them that Ororo is there, and that she’s been injured. Colossus and Wolverine rush to the hospital, and find out that she’s been attacked. The doctor tells them that she’s been through a traumatic experience, and they want to keep her for a few days for observation. As they enter her room, though, Storm seems fine and tells them that she won’t be staying for a few days, and wishes to go home. The doctor seems angry, but cannot keep her against her will, so they depart.

The next evening, Storm is being looked after by the team, and is readying for bed. The team leaves, and she has an uneasy look on her face as she tries to fall to sleep. She wakes up, sweating, and looking like she’s in a daze. She opens the window and speaks to someone, but it appears that no one is even in the room. The next morning, Kitty arrives back at the apartment, and Wolverine tells her that Storm isn’t doing very well. Kitty bursts into the room and flings open the drapes. Storm cries out to shut them, because the sunlight hurts. Kitty sits down to talk with her, and then a ray of sunlight peeks through the drapes and reflects on Kitty’s Star of David necklace. Storm shrieks, and Kitty notices, but passes it off as just coincidence. She begs Storm to open up to her, but then Storm violently pushes her away. Kitty runs through the door, sobbing, and Wolverine and Colossus can’t understand what’s going on.

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Later in the evening, Storm once again thrusts open her window, revealing in full view the lord of darkness himself, Dracula, and he has Storm completely in this thrall. He means to make her his queen, but the X-Men will have something to say about this before all’s said and done. Kitty (dressed like Indiana Jones) crashes the party and pulls out a cross. It has no effect on Dracula, so he begins to throttle the youth. His hand gets burned on her necklace, though, so he and Storm retreat to the skies.

Kitty then informs the rest of the team about what happened, and they are having a hard time believing her at first. She does, however, convince them to search for Storm, and the hunt is on. As they find where Dracula and Storm are hiding, Wolverine can sense something is wrong, and he’s right. Dracula appears and summons wolves and rodents to attack them. Nightcrawler attempts the direct route, but is greeted with a right cross that knocks him silly. Next, Colossus and Wolverine try a “fastball special,” but Dracula turns into mist, and Wolverine hits the ground like a ton of bricks. Colossus thinks he can get the better of Dracula physically, but soon finds out that his power, vaunted as it is, cannot stand up to the king of vampires, and he gets tossed aside like a child.

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Wolverine recovers from his bout with Dracula, and believes he knows how to stop him, so he uses his claws to form a cross. Dracula laughs it off, because the cross (or any holy symbol) must have the faith of the person who brandishes it for it to be effective. Nightcrawler then uses two tree branches to do the same trick, and of course, being a devout Catholic, it works this time, and Dracula is forced to flee. Inside the mansion that’s nearby, Kitty is searching for Storm, and eventually finds her. She’s still totally under Dracula’s control, and actually beats Kitty down. She then appears by Dracula’s side, and he commands her to kill her friends. This is his mistake, though, as it is enough to snap her out of his control, and attack him with a bolt of lightning. Dracula then retreats, but Storm chases him.

In a nearby street, Dracula grabs a hostage, and tells Storm that if she doesn’t relent, he’ll kill the girl. Storm drops the stake she was carrying, and tells him that she’ll not go after him. He relinquishes the girl, and tells Storm that he only wanted her to be his equal, and not just some petty slave, because she is his equal in his opinion, and he won’t continue to fight her. He flies off in bat-form, and Storm wishes to go after him, but he threatens that the gloves will be off if she does, so she reconsiders the threat and stays put.

Well, that’s it for this one! Another great Dracula vs. the X-Men story wasn’t too far off in the history of the team, and that one was even more visceral if you can believe it! The art by the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz really drove home the script by Claremont, and put quite an exclamation point on this book! See you next time!

Billy Dunleavy
billy@comicattack.net

 

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