In fact that dress WAS designed for Thor

Taivas Palaa Cover
X-Men special: Taivas Palaa: Cover

The first ever X-Men album was published in Finland in fall 1985.  The album is titled “Taivas palaa” (lit. Heaven On Fire) and it consists of just one story. With only 32 pages + covers the album could just as well have been a normal magazine, and based on the fact that the pages have huge margins the only difference to magazine size is that the comic is printed on larger pages, has thick covers and better paper than in the normal comic magazines. The album also costs twice as much as a normal Ryhmä-X magazine. So, one would think, to justify the extra cost this story must be so profound they had to give it special attention, right?

Wrong! aka The plot

Taivas Palaa Akon being nice
Here Akon asks Storm to help him - nicely.

It’s actually a sort of a miracle they were able to stretch the story as long as 32 pages. First some kind of a barbarian appears in New York and goes looking for Thor, who isn’t in the Avengers building. Since that was a dead end he goes to the X-Men Mansion, fights the X-Men, and kidnaps Storm. Then the X-Men follow Storm to the barbarians’ homeworld, and fight, fight, fight. Then Nightcrawler finds Storm, who has changed into “a more cozy” outfit. He alerts the rest of the X-Men. When all the X-Men are in one place the barbarians tell the barbarians’ homeworld is ruined unless Storm saves it, but the strain will kill her. She’s willing to die, but with the help of the rest of the X-Men they manage to save the world and keep Storm alive. The end.

Logic, where did it disappear?

I can understand the X-Men stories are filled with fight scenes because people want to see them use their special mutant powers and there is no better way to do that than to show them in battle. If they didn’t fight, they could be just anybody, right? But still, I’d hope there was at least some believable excuse for them to engage in battle.

In fact, in the very beginning of the story the X-Men are in the Danger room practicing and using their powers. Jolly good. No complaints about that. But after the battle, Storm, who panicked mid-practice and is now upset about her losing control, goes to her upstairs garden. There Arkon the Magnificent (fin. “Arkon Suurenmoinen”) – what a silly name – attacks Storm, which leads to him battling everyone in the team. In the end he shoots an arrow at Storm, which transfers her to Arkon’s homeworld. Arkon, acting like a barbarian, though according to Wikipedia is the ruler of his people,  uses his barbarian brain and ensues in battle instead of just shooting the arrow at Storm right in the beginning. Geez!

Taivas Palaa Akon trying peaceful negotiations
In this caption you see Arkon trying the peaceful solution, ie. threatening to kill the X-Men if they interfere with him kidnapping Storm.
Taivas Palaa The Vizier
Here we see a vizier pondering why their peaceful negations always fail. Hint: don't send Arkon to negotiate.

Then later when the X-Men have found their way to Arkon’s homeworld, a local vizier riding to a castle where Storm is held, thinks: “I had hoped we didn’t have to do this. That we could have received help without battle. / But we didn’t succeed in peace.” Wait, when did they try a peaceful solution? Or was that the part when Arkon went knocking on the Avengers’ door? Quite lame attempt because the next time we saw him trying to “ask” for help he was holding Storm by the throat and telling the other X-Men to stay out of his way or he’d kill them. Nice job. Later on page 26 Arkon explains his actions. He said he couldn’t take the risk the X-Men would refuse him. Well, if he was going to fight them anyway then why not ask and if refused then fight them. It seems Arkon needs to learn some diplomacy. What an idiot.

The legacy of the album

The most saddening part of this was that this story got its own album. I would have rather seen some really good story receive its own publication. Now it seems they just came up with an idea to put up an album and just chose any story. And I’m quite sure this is one of those stories which would have never been published otherwise but had originally been dropped out because it’s not as high standard as the rest of the stories published in Ryhmä-X magazine.

The story was written by Chris Claremont and it’s always sad to see a very good writer put out something like this. Then again, no matter how good you are you have to fail sometimes. It’s only human.

Taivas Palaa Storm's new clothes
These were originally designed for Thor.

Then again, I have a hard time forgiving the fact that in this album Wolverine, who usually speaks like all the other members of the team, is suddenly given a goofy tone. And with that I refer to Goofy (fin. “Hessu Hopo”), who is the only Disney character in Finland who doesn’t speak literary language but spoken language. The spoken language makes him sound bit more silly than the rest of the crew. And you can bet when Wolverine starts to speak like Goofy amongst literary language speakers he sounds like a hillybilly. Not my Wolverine! Well, that’s probably not thanks to mr. Claremont, but thanks to Mail-Man, who does the translations also for the magazines.

BUT then there is one occasion where Wolverine starts to show off his bad side once again. On page25 he tells  Ororo, who has asked the X-Men to leave: “Not without you, babe.” Babe? Are you sure about that, Wolverine? Well, it must be that hot outfit the barbarians had made for Ororo that got his head spinning.

Why do they always make new outfits for the women? Couldn’t she save the world in her normal wear? Or maybe that outfit was designed for Thor as he was supposed to come to their aid in the first place. I doubt he would have been as willing to change into that.

Memorable it was

I must admit I had to read the album twice to be able to write this post. That’s how memorable the story was to me. I read the story about a week ago and when I picked it up to write this story I realised I had no recollection of its plot and had to read it again. I hope you see the tragic in this. I will never be able to regain those 20 minutes I spent on reading this again. Note that I also fell asleep in the middle of the story and therefore lost also one hour sleeping. I’m not impressed.

Taivas Palaa Xavier
At the end of the album there was also this datasheet of Charles Xavier. Most of it tells his story, but in the end they list his special mutant powers. In between listing his psychic powers it also says: "Xavierilla on myös erittäin korkea moraali." (eng. "Xavier also has very high morals.") Well, quite a power it is.

Christmas the X-Men style: bruises, murder, and one destroyed mansion

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Cover
Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Cover

In Ryhmä-X 11/1985 the X-Men – or rather just Kitty – face an alien monster in a Christmas special (notice, this was published in December in Finland). The alien from a race called N’garai in a story called “Demon” (orig. Uncanny X-Men # 143) is a clear tribute to Ridley Scott‘s Alien, but it’s not the only scary thing to happen in the story. Just take a look here…

The Plot

The story is very simple. In some earlier story, not published in Finland to my knowledge, the X-Men had fought an alien race called N’garai from an alien dimension. Storm had blocked their entry to Earth, but one of them manages to escape and goes on rampage near the Xavier Mansion. Christmas is only a day away and the X-Men have left the Mansion to celebrate the occasion with their families. Only Kitty is left in the Mansion alone.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 N'garai crashes the mansion
N'garai crashes the mansion in hunt for Kitty.

Of course the alien attacks the Mansion when she’s there alone and a battle for survival begins. Kitty’s ability to slide through objects comes handy, but it’s not good against the creature, as it’s able to hurt her even though she is in her insubstantial form. Kitty has to use all her wit to survive the alien and in the progress the creature pretty much destroys half the Mansion. When Kitty notices the creature is hurt by fire, she uses her newly learned ability to operate the Blackbird and lures the monster to her just when she starts the Blackbird engines, destroying not only the monster but also the hangar. When Xavier and Ororo/Storm return with Kitty’s parents, they find her in festive spirits and the whole place in ruins.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 N'garai vs Kitty
Kitty waits for the N'garai demon to get closer before she hit's the Blackbird engines on.

Even though the story is very different from the Alien movie, there are similarities. First of all it’s a survival battle of a lone woman against a superior opponent. But the most direct reference to the movies comes when Kitty lures the beast to the Blackbird hangar. It has the same intensity and same images as the Alien end scene where Ripley has found out she has an alien in her space shuttle and she has managed to put the space suit on, just waiting for the right moment to open the airlock and shoot the creature into dead space and finally fry it with the burners.

Alien, the movie: Ripley
Scene from Alien, the movie.

If you’ve seen the movie you know the the way the camera follows Ripley in her space suit as she tries to calm herself down and tries to see from her limited space where the alien has gone. Kitty experiences the same as she waits for the monster to get close enough to her to start the Blackbird engines.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 N'garai vs. Alien
Click on thumbnail to see the full scene.

The N’garai also bring to my mind a later invention, the  brood (fin. “Niljahirviö”) of the 90s, a monster which infects it’s host turning them into brood monsters. The only thing I remember about them is that one of them got Wolverine, but his unique healing mutant powers prevented the brood from taking him over. But I’ll return to that when I get that far in my X-Men magazines.

He didn’t blush, he bruised

Even though the story was very much just about survival, there were these little details which really puzzled me. First of all, the cover has one detail I can’t ignore. The flashlight light looks really weird. It looks more of like a yellow toxic cloud than a beam of light. I understand the problem, though, it’s damn hard to draw light if you try to do it more realistically than as just a triangle of light.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Plastic tree
Plastic tree? She wants a plastic tree over a real one? Does not compute.

On page 6 we are shown the monster’s first victims. A young couple are on their way to woods to get their Christmas tree. The man is pulling a hesitant woman forward. She says: “Douglas, you are a hopeless romantic.” Douglas answers: “So what? / Ellie, this is our first Christmas together. We have years to get our own plastic tree. / I want this one to be REAL.” Wait. Are you saying the woman insists on getting a plastic tree rather than a real one? Wow, times have truly changed! I remember my aunt had a plastic tree for Christmas in the early 80s, but now we all get a real tree for Christmas.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Mistletoe insident
Nightcrawler steals a kiss from Mariko under the mistletoe. Wolverine reacts like an enraged caveman and tries to slash him into pieces. Mariko, I hope you never get into arguments with Wolverine with his temper.

On page 8 there are two weird things happening. The most obvious one being the reaction Wolverine has when Nightcrawler goes on to kiss Wolverine’s date Mariko Yashida under a mistle toe. This being a tradition we Finnish people, thank the gods, don’t have. I would have found this extremely distressing as a teenager if all sorts of weird relatives and people would have come to my face waving one of those leaves. Anyway, Wolverine has the same reaction to Kurt kissing Mariko than I would probably have had had someone tried to give me a kiss on the same pretense. But since Wolverine has those lethal claws his reaction is bit overboard as he tries to cut Kurt into a pile of sliced meat. Luckily he has good reflexes and moves away just in time. It takes Colossus and Xavier to calm him down.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Kitty's clothes
Kitty wearing something undescribable. I think the Golden girls used to wear something like this.
Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Wolverine's clothes
Wolverine and Mariko dressed up like my grandarents. I suppose this was hip and cool back in 1981.

And then the other thing, the clothes. Just take a look at Wolverine’s, Mariko’s, and especially Kitty’s clothes. This story was published originally in 1981 and the sad part is this was trendy back then. Ugh. That style gives me headache.

But wait, Kurt’s kiss isn’t the only one to cause weird reactions. You see, Kitty has an obvious crush on Colossus and vice versa, but of course, since he is older, he hasn’t made it as obvious as Kitty. She tries to lighten the mood after Wolverine’s murdering rage, and gives Peter a kiss under a mistle toe. One would think he would blush, but no. Instead his face turns to many shades of violet like after a good beating. Wow, that must have been a potent peck. As Kurt says it, he was lucky she kissed him only on the temple or she would have knocked him out. ;)

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Bruises from a kiss
Kitty should take it easy on Colossus. Just one peck and his face gets bruised.

The two other stories

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Thor's hair
Wait, doesn't Sue Richards hold her hair like that? Also reminds me of some Ancient Egyptian Middle Kingdom female statues. Just add cow ears and you have Hathor.

In the last few Ryhmä-X magazines there were no secondary stories, but in this one there are not one but two stories.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Wonder Man as Mister Muscle
Wonder Man as Mr Muscles performing at a children's show. Classy.

In the first story the Avengers are shown doing whatever they do after saving the world. It seems they go goofing around. Some go for picnic, some to TV shows as freaks to children’s TV.

I have almost no recollection on what happened in the story, and it’s not surprising as it’s missing a point. There really is no story there. But, in the end two things happen almost in secret. First some kind of a robot comes and kills Wasp and then Tony Stark/Iron Man finds out someone has been stealing chemicals from the Avenger’s laboratory or from Stark Enterprises.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Wasp dies
In Hank Pym's lab, Wasp is killed by a robot. Or at least we are let to believe she's dead. Maybe she was just beamed to another dimension or something.
Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Moral of the story
Moral of the story: all problems can be solved by beating them up in a group.

In the second short story the butler for Avengers, Edwin Jarvis, goes to visit his mom and finds out the neighbourhood is tormented by a bully. After finding out all the people running businesses or living on the street are afraid of the bully, Jarvis decides to face him in a valiant battle. To everyone’s surprise he is revealed to be a boxing champion for R.A.F (British Royal Air Force) and having taken some tips from the Avengers he beats the bully. But when the bully takes out a knife everyone following the match start throwing the bully with rotten tomates, beath him with brooms, and drive him away from town. Well, how nice. The only way to stop bullying is if everyone decides to stand against the bully together. I can stand behind that. But what I don’t sign is the method he is stopped with. Instead of beating him up to stop him, I would have rather seen a different approach. How about call the cops and let them arrest him.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Well done, Jarvis!
After they have beaten up their bully, it's time for final words: 1) Jarvis: "Wonderful! I can't thank you enough." Man #1: "No, we are the ones thanking you." Man #2: "Correct. You showed us you have to stand up for yourself." 2) Jarvis: "Exactly, you should never give up. / But now, I think it's already dinner time!" Narrator: "Well done, Jarvis!" Yes, Jarvis, well done teaching our kids to use violence!
Ryhmä-X 11/1985 N'garai
Christmas is almost here. So with this image from the Christmas special, remember to keep it cool in the crowded stores bying gifts for your loved ones and remember to relax.

In this magazine and in the previous one there was an advertisement for an X-Men special album called “Taivas palaa” (lit. Heaven on fire). It’s one of the first X-Men albums I ever bought and I had no idea it was this old until now that I saw the advertisements. Well, ain’t that nice. :) Until next time, over and out.