Friday, April 28, 2006

"Juggernaut's back in town!"
Uncanny X-Men #194 When: June 1985
Why: Chris Claremont How: John Romita Jr.

The story so far...
Recovery from battle with the Hellions is cut short.
When news reports make their way to the X-Mansion, hailing the return of the Juggernaut; Colossus, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Rogue and Phoenix must ready themselves for battle.

Little do they realise, the Juggernaut will not be their greatest enemy this day. Anti-mutant forces from the future have sent their agent of death into the timestream, and he is also about to reemerge.

Tale of the tape...
Quite a formidable collection of X-Men are the subject of our update this week. Not just members of the day, but also an unlikely individual who would join the team some twenty years later - the Juggernaut.

Strength: 6 (Invincible)
Stamina: 7 (Unstoppable)

On paper it's tough to find anyone who can topple the Juggernaut.
He is the irresistible force and the immovable object, all rolled in to one giant, rust coloured package. This guy has given the very best a run for their money; the Hulk, the X-Men, Thor and even the New Warriors.

Nimrod, of course, is no slouch.
As the ultimate Sentinel from the future his skills are specially designed to combat all potential mutant threat. This includes incredible strength, regenerative abilities, and various other special skills.

Strength: 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: 4 (Tactician)
Stamina: 7 (Unstoppable)
Energy Powers: 5 (Lasers)

One on one it might be a close fight. If Juggernaut and Nimrod were to face off in a fight to the finish, it might even never have a decisive conclusion.
Of course, when you factor in the combined talents of Wolverine, Colossus, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Rachel Summers and Kitty Pryde, suddenly you start to tip the scales.

On paper; even a machine as indomitable as the Nimrod cannot possibly match up to the might of those X-Men combined. I could not in good conscience suggest otherwise.

What went down...
The X-Men split up into teams of two to monitor the actions of Cain Marko, aka. the Juggernaut.
Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers monitor his civilian actions inside the First United National Bank of New York, wherein rather mundane transactions occur.

Outside on a rooftop nearby, Nightcrawler, accompanied by Rogue, gives the order to leave Juggernaut be if his motivations are pure. An order motivated by fear, but supported by Wolverine, who coaches his partner, Colossus, on the virtues of avoiding violence whereever possible (Hah! My, how times change!).

The urban hum of mundanity would not last long, broken by a "ZAM!" that would signify the arrival of Nimrod: Sentinel of the Future!
The Sentinel recognises potential public threat in allowing criminals; Juggernaut, Shadowcat and Phoenix to remain at large. Each are adjudged "enemies of humanity." The penalty for which, apparently, is death.

Juggernaut takes the brunt of Nimrod's blast and bursts out of his civilian clothing, while Rachel Summers uses her telekinetic abilities to shield both Kitty Pryde and herself from the attack.
As Juggernaut dons his conveniently foldable helmet, Pryde phases Summers into the bank vault below ground. There, she leaves Phoenix to grapple with the panicking citizens, whose frantic thoughts invade her psychic mind.

Nimrod continues to fire energy blasts at the lumbering Juggernaut. Strategically the Sentinel sends Juggernaut hurtling out of the bank, out into a nearby construction yard, where he seeks to pacify the magically powered villain without probable civilian casualty.

Juggernaut survives impact, disintigration beams, and 1.37 kilotons of steel I-beams, before the X-Men arrive.

The dielmma facing the X-Men is one most perplexing. Do they aid in the arrest of one of their oldest foes, or do they challenge the mechanical mutant hunter from the future? Their answer is swift.
Nightcrawler teleports himself and Colossus closer to the situation, where Nimrod is able to extrapolate their destination and incapacitate them with more energy blasts.

Wolverine leaps into action, calling upon the aid of Rogue for a fastball special!
Unfortunately Nimrod's personal force field is one of the few substances known that can repel the assault of razor sharp adamantium claws. Wolverine is flung back - knocked out cold by the impact.

Nimrod refocuses his attentions on the Juggernaut by knocking his protective helmet away, leaving only the psychic shielding of his skullcap. The calculating Sentinel stuns the Juggernaut with a tight-beam, ultra-high frequency sonic blast. The pain is said to render Juggernaut unable to think, much less act.

Act, Kitty Pryde does, trying to revive her fallen comrades.
She's able to phase her way through a plasma bolt, before reaching into the Sentinel to discover whether it contains mere man, or mechanics that she can disrupt.
Though her answer is the latter, she finds herself unable to make an impact. Nimrod's energy field deflects the phasing mutant, and impacts her with a nerveshock that renders her body impotent.
The intervention of the flying Rogue saves Kitty Pryde from further reprisal.

Rachel Summers; unable to communicate telepathically due to Nimrod's psionic inhibitor field, uses her head for a physical offense. She places telekinetic shields over the unconscious X-Men and attempts to dump the pile of I-beams, previously used against Juggernaut, on Nimrod.

While the Sentinel is forced to battle his way free of the steel, Rogue thinks fast, emlpoying her ability to absorb the powers of others to combine the might of the unconscious X-Men.
Sucking up the powers of Colossus and Nightcrawler, the Southern belle's skin turns to steel, while her hair and face shade to a familiar blue.

She teleports behind the Sentinel as it emerges from the rubble, bringing down a thunderous blow with one of the I-beams.
The attack continues as she grapples with Nimrod's arm and uses Nightcrawler's talent in an offensive fashion, teleporting the arm away from the machine's center.

With the machine vulnerable, and her own strength combining with Colossus' to keep her on her feet, Rogue seizes the opportunity to strike. Plunging her fist into the heart of the beast, she shatters Nimrod into pieces.

Nimrod pulls his compotents together, but he is too damaged to fight-on. Nimrod disappears in a flash of light to function to fight another day.

The bruised and battered Juggernaut staggers to his feet. Though ungrateful, both he and Rogue silently agree to allow the other to leave.

The hammer...
All hail Rogue, and her punk-rock eighties hair style!

I didn't personally invest in the X-Men until the 1990 Annual, which featured a story that crossed over with the Fantastic Four. It's safe to say I was more than a little late to the mutant parade, and in times current, I'm again somewhat anti-mutant.
This decade around, however, I would put my absence down to distain for the mismanagment of the product, rather than ignorance.

That said, during the nineteen ninties I was able to familiarize myself with these unique and interesting characters. As a fan of the cartoon series, and comics in general, I was aware of Nimrod, and got a kick out of this simple little story.
I don't know how obscure it is in the scheme of things, but it struck me as a fun inclusion for Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

Obviously it features the unmistakable flavour of X-Men legend, Chris Claremont, but it also carries the charms of an underdeveloped John Romita Jr.
As a man who has since made his mark on X-Men, Iron Man, Punisher and Spider-man with such a unique style, it's fun to see this filtered version of the man. Particularly where some images hint at the squarer beats, and liney details that would become his trademark.

It's also fun to reflect on the twenty-year gap between this issue, that sees the X-Men and Juggernaut teaming up, and the ultimate association the characters would have. For those unaware, Juggernaut is currently a member of the Excalibur team, but formerly made the switch from villain to hero under the watchful eye of the much maligned, Chuck Austen.

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 3
Additional stats:
Rogue - Critical strike (Nimrod)
Juggernaut - Assist
Rachel Summers - Assist
Wolverine - Assist
Nightcrawler - Assist
Colossus - Assist
Shadowcat - Assist

NEXT FIGHT: After the monthly punch-up, stay tuned for Marvel vs DC action as Spider-man takes on Superboy in a battle of the clones!

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