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The X-Men Down Under: Celebrating the Beginning of the Australia Years

When I was a kid there were very few things I loved more than the X-Men. And of course it was the 80s run with Chris Claremont that served as the definitive era in my little nerdy eyes. It shipped twice monthly in those days, so every two weeks I’d take my 3 quarters and walk to the corner drug store where I’d grab the latest Uncanny off the spinner rack.

The story in the late 80s took the X-Men to Australia, which I’ve written about before, but I wanted to dig a little deeper into those first couple of issues of the X-Men Australia years. It’s a funky team lineup, new characters are introduced, new villains come to play, and the X-Men get a spankin’ new HQ, so there is a lot covered in only 22 pages worth of comic book.

The X-Men Down Under: Celebrating the Beginning of the Australia Years

uncanny_x-men_vol_1_229Uncanny X-Men #229 begins by introducing the Reavers who are robbing a bank. Readers immediately know these guys are bad news. They plunder, they torture, they kill without compunction. And in respect of the comic code, it’s not explicit, but rape is directly implied, so let’s just leave it at the Reavers being very, very bad dudes.

These bad dudes are cyborgs who operate out of a remote HQ in the Outback of Australia. (The Reavers are so interesting, we gave them their own post. Go here for more.) They hopped around the world robbing and terrorizing through the teleportational powers of a mutant named Gateway, whom the Reavers–through extortion–forced to work for them. (Gateway is another who was so interesting that we gave him his own post.)

The X-Men storm into town and commence kicking some Reaver butt. And while three Reavers escape (again, here’s more), most are now prisoners of the X-Men. As is typical of this era of the X-Men, this leads to an existential discussion of what to do with them, with Wolverine on the side of the best justice is killing them, with Storm on the side that the X-Men must be better than that.

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But what is clear is that the X-Men now have a brand new base of operations where they can operate as heroes who aren’t in the public eye, instead choosing hit and run tactics, teleporting to and fro with the help of Gateway, who is pleased to no longer be under the thumb of the Reavers. So let’s talk about this new HQ, then close by talking about the unique roster the X-Men had at this time.

Located in Cooterman’s Creek, Australia, this new base–that was once home of the Reavers–will serve as the X-Men HQ for a relatively short period of time comic-wise, but it was a very important era for the X-Men (more on that here). On the surface it looks like a remote town in the Australian Outback, with the most straight-forward comparison being a frontiers town from the American Wild West.

But although the Reavers were filthy pigs who trashed the surface buildings (requiring Storm to unleash a cleansing rain!), underneath was a sophisticated tech and communications hub. Underneath was also a series of caverns and a treasure vault because all good things come back to Dungeons and Dragons.

The lineup for the Australian years of the X-Men.
The lineup for the Australian years of the X-Men.

Now, the lineup:

  1. Storm is newly re-powered during this period and is leading the team.
  2. Wolverine is his typical self, being the best at what he does. The Reavers seeking revenge against Wolverine becomes a major plot point going forward.
  3. Colossus is the big metal muscle of the group. It is important to remind folks that everyone thinks the X-Men are dead at this point, including Magik, Colossus’ little sister who is with the New Mutants in this comic era.
  4. Rogue is additional muscle on the team. During this period she is still unable to touch others. It’s also important to note that this is pre-Gambit being introduced.
  5. Havok serves as the obligatory Summers on the team, always destined to somehow live in the shadow of Cyclops, who is with X-Factor in this period.
  6. Psylocke is the telepath on the group because, man, the X-Men have a monopoly on all the awesome telepaths. Here’s a profile of Psylocke.
  7. Dazzler is a reluctant team player, having typically operated best solo, but it’s during this period that she grows as both a character as well as in the mainstream consciousness of comic readers.
  8. Longshot serves as an important point of levity and innocence with the team. It is also this period that serves as the definitive Longshot for many comic book fans.
  9. Madelyne Pryor serves as the “Oracle” of the team, as she was a non-combatant who stayed at HQ in the tech center, helping to coordinate X-Men missions. Readers would also soon learn that Madelyne is a clone of Jean Grey and that her missing son would grow up to become Cable, but hoo boy, we don’t have space for that in this article.
Gateway, the X-Men's new teleporter.
Gateway, the X-Men’s new teleporter.

As you can see, it’s a funky lineup in many ways, offering some highly recognizable X-Men, while also having some creative choices for the team. And did it ever work! Chris Claremont told some great stories during this period.

Uncanny X-Men #229 is collected in the black and white Essential X-Men: Volume 8, and you can other get issues during this time from back issue bins, but your best bet is to binge it from Marvel Unlimited.

But Nerds on Earth has more if you are interested: What Made the X-Men Australia Years So Great | The Reavers | Spotlight on Gateway, the Aboriginal Mutant.