Chris Claremont/Dave Cockrum 1976
It’s kind of funny that superheroes can’t go on a vacation without something terrible happening. Either they get attacked by something or they just happen upon some evil plot and have to put their rest on hold and deal with it. This time the X-Men need to take some time off while Jean recovers, so they go off to Ireland so that Banshee can settle some matters at his family’s estate. Of course they run into something they weren’t expecting. This isn’t just a coincidence though, they were lured here by some sinister enemy that will not leave them alone.
This time the vacation is initiated when Professor Xavier puts the X-Men on hold. In a moment of serendipity Banshee checks his mail and sees a letter from his solicitor back in Ireland telling him to come there at once. He suggests that the team go with him on the errand and everyone seems to like the idea. What could go wrong on a nice trip to the Emerald Isle? The trip over there is without incident. The X-Men take civilian transit this time. Which makes sense since their jet was destroyed a few issues ago when Thunderbird died. They arrive at Banshee’s castle and get ready for dinner. Nightcrawler makes a show of messing around with his image inducer and how it can make him look like just about anyone. On the way to dinner a huge trapdoor opens in the hallway and everyone falls down into the dungeon. On the way down they have the presence of mind to change into their superhero-costumes, because that’s important. In the dungeon they find Banshee’s cousin Black Tom Cassidy and their old foe Juggernaut.
This is the first appearance of Tom Cassidy, though a lot of history about him is mentioned or implied. From the way they talk it seems like he and Juggernaut have been good friends for a while. Tom claims to be a mutant, but his power is a little odd. The only thing he seems to be able to do is shoot some kind of energy bolt out of his shillelagh. For years I always thought it was just a magic stick or something. That would seem to make more sense. Apparently his power was later clarified to say that he has some kind of affinity with wood and uses it as a conduit for energy transference. This is really stretching the bounds of credulity. Furthermore, he and Banshee mention being immune to each other’s powers. I guess that would make a little sense if their powers were similar, but they’re awfully specific. That means that Tom is immune to directed sound waves and Sean is immune to energy catalyzed through cellulose. The only way you’d be able to swing it is if their powers had a certain psionic component that shut off when directed at one another. I really shouldn’t try and think about it too much.
I’m not going to bother saying much about the fight between the X-Men and Juggernaut. He literally wipes the floor with them. Part of what makes it so easy for him is that Storm is reduced to catatonia by her claustrophobia when the X-Men are sealed up inside the depths of the castle. Just like when she fought the N’Garai, she gets another flashback to when she was buried alive as a child. This time it’s much more detailed, showing her life for several years after. It is mentioned that she became a master thief at a young age. Nightcrawler was initially defeated in the fight, but his body is overlooked when it falls into a shadow and seems to vanish. This is a new power he seems to have, the ability to be invisible while in a shadow. His body is found by a group of leprechauns who carry his to safety and nurse him back to health. Meanwhile, the rest of the X-Men are tied up with fancy manacles designed to counteract each of their powers. Tom’s plan is to cause them great amounts of pain so as to trigger the psychic link Xavier has to his students and lure the Professor to the castle to kill him.
That psychic link was already activated when Storm went into a panic. Xavier is very much aware of what is happening in the castle, and he commands Cyclops to go and help them. Surprisingly, Scott refuses. He says that his duty is to stay be Jean’s side, and he wouldn’t be able to get their fast enough to make a difference anyway. This is true, even in the fastest jet it would still take several hours, and the X-Men’s own jet was recently destroyed. Xavier is having none of this insubordination though. He lashes out at Scott with more vicious anger than I can ever recall him using. This outburst could be explained by the tremendous amount of stress Xavier has been under. Before it can go further he has another one of his hallucinations. I’ll talk more about those next time.
Back at the castle, Nightcrawler is still recuperating with the leprechauns and they tell him about how Black Tom took over. He was aided by a man wearing red armor: Eric The Red. Earlier Tom hinted that someone helped him and Juggernaut get out of prison, (though I’m not sure what prison could have held Juggernaut, maybe Tom was just talking about himself) and gave him enough money to take over the castle and turn it into a deathtrap. The full extent of this renovation will be revealed later. While talking with the leprechauns Nightcrawler learns more about his new shadow power.
The leprechauns show Nightcrawler where the X-Men are being held and he overhears Tom’s plot about luring Xavier there to be killed. He decides to trick time by using his image inducer to make himself look like Xavier. We’ve already seen that the device can be used to make him look like anyone he chooses. But this is the first time that he uses it for a tactical advantage instead of just concealment. The plow works well enough. Juggernaut goes into a rage and tries to attack his step-brother Xavier. Tom is a little confused about how Xavier is able to jump about the room like an acrobat, but his warnings go unheeded. Eventually Juggernaut destroys a wall exposing the room to the open air. This give Storm a chance to free the others with a small tempest. Tom and Juggernaut flee with Banshee still tied up and Nightcrawler runs after them.
Colossus is unable to get Wolverine out of his restraints, but Storm opens them with ease thanks to her training as a thief. She flies off and leave the two of them to follow. There’s a silly moment here where Colossus is fed up with Wolverine’s attitude and throws him over the wall. I wonder what brought this on. It seems a bit out of character. This is before Wolverine’s metal skeleton was established. How could colossus know that Wolverine would land safely? As it happens he lands on the other side of the castle and has to be lead back to the fight by a leprechaun. This is where the exchange I talked about the other day occurs.
When Storm gets to the top of the castle she’s attacked by a bunch of “energy blasters”, which would have killed her if not for her training in the danger room, she thinks. Nightcrawler frees banshee while Tom is shooting at Storm, and Colossus and Wolverine catch up. But now the X-Men are in the same position they were in at when they were first captured. Somehow they have to defeat Juggernaut, who just too powerful to be harmed by any of their powers. In the past the only way to beat him was with some kind of psychic attack, but Jean and the Professor aren’t there.
The solution to this presents itself as Banshee and Tom duel on the battlements. Banshee loses his sword, but manages to throw Tom off of the wall and into the sea. Seeing his only friend fall into the water, Juggernaut jumps in after him. In a lot of ways it seems like Black Tom was added into the story as a catylist. He was an enemy for Banshee and a way to explore that man’s history. Juggernaut is literally just a brute, and therefore has a rather narrow range of things he can do. Having Tom there as well added a more intellectual menace. The two work quite well together. In the end Tom provided the only way that the X-Men could defeat Juggernaut. In the past he has been shown to have only one thing in the world that drives him: destroying Xavier. But now we see that he’s just as much of a human being as the rest of them. He could have followed through with the plan and subdued the X-Men and drawn Xavier into the trap. But no, once he sees Tom in danger he doesn’t hesitate for a second. His love for his best friend means more to him than getting back at his step-brother.
The story ends with Eric The Red talking to someone. It turns out that he’s not the puppet master he appeared to be. The other man tells him the a “Princess Neramani” is closing in on earth and that she must not contact the X-Men. Eric promises that they will be dealt with shortly, and refers to the other man as “my liege”. Very soon we’ll finally find out who he is and what his plans are.