Review: X-Men #123

X-Men #123 cover
Cover by Terry Austin

X-Men #123
Published and © by Marvel, July 1979

Title: “Listen – Stop Me If You’ve Heard It – But This One Will Kill You!”
Synopsis: Captured by the villainous Arcade, the X-Men wake to find themselves fighting for their lives in Murderworld!

Writer (plot): Chris Claremont and John Byrne
Writer (script): Claremont
Penciler: Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin

Review: In hindsight, it’s easy to see this story’s shortcomings. Arcade is a B-list Joker. The construction of Murderworld seems implausible. And a full third of this issue is dedicated to each X-Man being captured without a single mutant putting up a fight. But Little Me is having none of that, demanding the suspension of disbelief necessary to enjoy this thrill ride like it’s still 1979. Chris Claremont makes the X-Men feel like real people, and those people are in palpable danger. The superbly crafted art from John Byrne and Terry Austin further ground this issue in a sense of reality. 

Grade: A-

Second opinion: “(A) rarity, a poor issue of this title. … It’s an entertaining 17 pages, but it isn’t a story on its own, by any means.” – Martin Lock, BEM #24, July 1979 … “The Murderworld shenanigans feature Claremont and Byrne at their action-movie best.” – Jason Powell, “The Best There Is at What He Does: Examining Chris Claremont’s X-Men,” 2016 … “Into a serious comics series a little camp must fall, one for supposes.” – Jim Johnson, The Comics Buyer’s Guide to the X-Men (Comics Buyer’s Guide Presents), 2003

Cool factor: The use of extreme horizontal panels with thick borders for Arcade’s control-room scenes are a subtle-but-sophisticated storytelling technique.

Notable: Guest appearances by Spider-Man and Colleen Wing.
Collector’s note: According to the Grand Comics Database, there is a 12p British variant of this issue. … According to MyComicShop.com, there is also a Mark Jewelers variant.

Character quotable: “Arcade proudly welcomes you to Murderworld – were nobody ever survives!” – Arcade, proprietor

Editor’s note: This review was written May 29, 2022.

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