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A 1982 X-Men storyline by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith taking place between Uncanny X-Men #161 and 167. It features the X-Men’s conflict with a sadistic race of alien parasites known as the Brood. If The Dark Phoenix Saga is the most iconic cosmic X-Men story, this one comes in at a near second.

Much has changed for the X-Men recently, with the team (Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Wolverine and Kitty Pryde) relocating to a remote Atlantean base raised from the depths by their arch-enemy Magneto, being branded as public enemies after infiltrating the Pentagon alongside Carol Danvers, Storm being briefly transformed into a vampire by Dracula and then all of them getting pulled into Limbo in a fight that has left Colossus’ little sister Illyana Rasputin aged seven years and somehow corrupted by the demon.

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None of this compares, however to their most recent conflict with the Shi’ar Empire, in which Deathbird attempted to usurp her sister Lilandra’s throne. Aiding her in this attempted coup were a previously unseen race of insectoid alien parasites known as the Brood. The X-Men were successful in stopping Deathbird’s coup but the Broods’ readings of their unique mutant physiology has left them craving the heroes as potential test subjects. Even worse, Charles Xavier was thrown into a coma after straining his abilities to project his consciousness across the reaches of space with a strange alien figure haunting his thoughts. After weeks spent in his coma, Xavier awakes seemingly unharmed but still weak from the ordeal. Lilandra invites the X-Men and Carol Danvers to her star-cruiser to celebrate the professor’s recovery and their sudden good fortune.

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And then the Brood attack.

What follows is a Space Opera in the vein of Star Wars and Alien, with the X-Men on the run from the sadistic Brood looking to turn them into unstoppable weapons in service to their monstrous Queen. The X-Men are forced to face their mortality on a scale since unheard of, debate the merits of their super-heroic code of Thou Shalt Not Kill and decide to confront their fate as a family.

The storyline is notable for featuring the last work by artist Dave Cockrum on the main Uncanny X-Men series after reinvisioning the entire corner of the Marvel Universe in Giant-Size X-Men #1. Naturally, his last issue (164) sees him introducing yet another iconic character redesign: Binary. He is followed in artist duties by Paul Smith in #165, who would go on to have a hugely successful run as the regular series artist. Claremont introduces many longstanding concepts to the series such as Lockheed the Dragon, the solidification of Kitty Pryde and Colossus’ relationship and the Broods’ status as The Dreaded on the cosmic scale. Most importantly, the events of the X-Men’s capture at the hands of the Brood leaves Professor X despondent and wondering what the purpose of the Xavier Institute is anymore. This leads to him recruiting the third major class of mutant teens to the academy whose spin-off series begins during the events of this story: New Mutants.


The Brood Saga contains examples of:

  • The '80s: Released in 1982, at the height of popularity and taking cues from several Space Opera and sci-fi franchises such as Star Wars and Alien. The Shi’ar garb given to the X-Men by Lilandra at the start of the story are very much 1980s Space Opera with flowing bell-bottoms and high collars. The massive amounts of Clothing Damage dolled out through the story leave the costumes in utter ruin.
  • Author Appeal: Christ Claremont’s penchant for beautiful women developing godlike powers continues after The Dark Phoenix Saga and Storm’s brief flirtation with it in their fight with Doctor Doom by having Carol Danvers become Binary. Unlike the previous two examples, however Carol is in full control of her mental faculties at all times despite becoming so powerful she’s passed Mar-Vell’s cosmic awareness into a level of physical oneness with the universe previously unseen.
    • Not to mention Claremont’s choice to have Storm’s Dying as Yourself moment take place in the nude.
  • Back for the Dead: Fang, the Imperial Guardsman constantly stacked up against Wolverine in conflict and a member of the group that sided with Deathbird in her coup is implanted with a Brood embryo and turned into one of their warriors in a painful transformation sequence that tells Logan and the audience what awaits the X-Men.
  • Body Horror: The hatching of a Brood egg is largely unpleasant for the host due to their mind being tricked into thinking that everything is fine. It’s only when the process reaches its end stage that their body convulses into horrible pain, their skin begins to smoke from the strain and their limbs contort into the insectoid form of the Brood.
    • Logan’s transformation is especially painful due to the adamantium coating his bones repelling the process and his healing factor working overtime to flush it from his system. Though he repels the incubation process his skin is left in a strange half-way point between human and alien, with grotesque scales left across his body throughout the story.
  • Callback:
    • Colossus mentions the team’s ordeal with Belasco and how it left Illyana aged seven years in the blink of an eye. When Xavier tries to confront Illyana on what happened to her in Limbo she only gives him vague answers about the “neat things” that she can do now.
    • Moira tells Charles that Reed Richards has brought a young mutant named Xi’an Coy Manh (Karma) to her attention, with the girl first appearing in Marvel Team-Up #100 where she was involved in a conflict involving Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.
    • When Storm merges her consciousness with the infant Acanti she astral projects her image to the X-Men in several forms. The appearances she shifts between include her vampire state from when she was bitten by Dracula, her primitive clothes from the team’s time in the Savage Land, her childhood form from when she was a pickpocket in Cairo, her elder form that was trapped in Limbo and finally her classic uniform.
    • Gladiator arrives warning Lilandra that Reed Richards has restored Galactus to full health, events that happened in Fantastic Four.
  • Celestial Body: Carol’s transformation into Binary leaves her with glowing, deep-red skin and fiery corona emanating from her skin, likening her to a red giant star.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Gabrielle Haller appears for the first time in Xavier’s flashback in #161. Gabrielle’s relationship with Xavier begins in this issue, setting up the imminent arrival of their son David, who will serve as a major player in New Mutants.
  • Cool Starship: Lilandra’s pleasure craft, the Z’reee Sh’ar and the Starjammer, as always. The Brood’s living ships are most decidedly ''not'' this.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The fight between the X-Men and New Mutants is completely loaded in the older mutants’ favor. Unfortunately, the Brood-infected Xavier arrives to turn the tide.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to previous cosmic storylines involving the X-Men. Though The Dark Phoenix Saga featured higher stakes than any other story before (maybe even in the Marvel Universe in general) and saw the Dark Phoenix extinguish five billion lives in an instant before committing suicide to save her friends, the Brood Saga ups the Body Horror and Mind Rape tropes to create a story far darker than anything the X-Men had faced before. When a story features fourteen-year-old Kitty Pryde killing an enemy in self-defense you know things have gotten darker for Marvel’s merry mutants.
  • Darkest Hour: #165. After Logan has revealed that the X-Men are all going to die thanks to the Brood embryos growing within them they each take turns contemplating their impending demise. Storm (who nearly fully succumbs to the embryo) instead chooses to die as herself and launch her body into open space to kill herself and the Brood. Kurt chooses to pray silently and has a conversation with Logan about their personal beliefs, with the former pitying the latter for choosing to forgo any belief after his experiences in the Army. Kitty has terrible dreams of her funeral and becomes enraged when Piotr tries to joke through the pain but both reveal their fear and share a passionate kiss thinking they’ll both soon be dead. Curiously, Scott is the only one who doesn’t seem too broken up by their impending doom. This is because he’s already been taken over by the Brood embryo and is acting as the mole within the X-Men.
  • Disney Death: Storm tries to commit suicide to kill herself and the Brood growing within her system by exiting her spacecraft in the middle of space. She’s revealed to be alive at the end of the issue, having merged her consciousness with that of the infant Acanti.
  • Dying as Yourself: Storm feels her consciousness slipping away as the Brood embryo nears the end of its gestation. Conflicted about taking what she perceives to be an innocent life, Storm decides to kill both herself and the embryo by exiting her spacecraft and letting herself die with her mind and body intact in the vacuum of space. She gets better.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Lockheed appears briefly in 166, with Kitty thinking he dies along with the rest of the Brood World when it’s destroyed. He returns alive and well later to become Kitty’s constant companion over the years.
  • Explosive Decompression: Said word-for-word by Cyclops when Binary bursts through their ship’s walls to go on her Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Brood. Downplayed in that Colossus is able to use his metal form to block the opening long enough to give them the time to seal it up. Several X-Men find themselves in the vacuum of space throughout the story and the effects are shown relatively realistic by the standards of comic books.
  • Expy: The Brood are essentially intelligent, speaking versions of Xenomorphs. This isn’t the first time Claremont has taken cues from the Alien franchise, with Kitty Pryde (herself designed to resemble an adolescent Sigourney Weaver by John Byrne) running for her life from a Xenomorph knock-off in #143.
  • Fingore: Magneto crushes Strucker’s Satan Claw, which grants him incredible strength but is made of metal in the flashback of #161. Unfortunately for Strucker he’s wearing the Satan Claw at the moment Magneto decides to twist it into a veritable ball of twine.
  • First Kiss: After dozens of issues of flirtations (and the potential marriage shown in Days of Future Past) Kitty and Colossus finally speak their mutual feelings of attraction to one another just as they think they’re about to die in space.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The events leading to the New Mutants formation are foreshadowed throughout the event. The first time comes when Xavier shares a meal with Illyana Rasputin (who would go on to become the Sixth Ranger of the initial team), commenting on how empty the school seems without the X-Men. Later he is brooding in his study when Moira arrives with word from Reed Richards about the discovery of a young mutant named Karma. By the time the X-Men return at the story’s conclusion the New Mutants have been formed and are living at the school.
    • During the aforementioned scene where Charles initially refuses taking in Karma, Moira attempts to snap him out of his funk by suggesting that they instead refer her to Emma Frost and Magneto, both firmly established as enemies of the X-Men. Though it’s done to wake Charles up to the X-Institute’s necessity both of the figures suggested go on to serve as headmasters of the school at certain points after landing on the side of good in the Heel–Face Revolving Door.
    • Cyclops begins acting erratic midway through the story, constantly undermining Wolverine’s plans and losing his focus in battle despite being the most composed of any of the X-Men. Logan even internally notes that he’s reverted to the original sniping both had grown out of and has become a liability. It is shown that one of the X-Men has already been taken by the Brood, with Cyclops shortly thereafter revealed to be said mole working within the group.
  • Hammer Space: Corsair’s pistols operate this way, being activated by gems on his gloves that summon them out of thin air.
  • Heroic BSoD: The X-Men suffer this at several levels once they learn that they are doomed to die and excruciating death and become hosts for the Brood that range from Angst? What Angst? to Dying as Yourself. Xavier’s suffering of this on Earth is what leads Moira to telling him about new young mutants in need of his assistance, spurring him to form the New Mutants.
  • Hero of Another Story: The story periodically returns to Earth to see how Xavier and the others left behind are coping with the X-Men’s disappearance. The scenes shown lay the seeds for the formation of the New Mutants with the first few issues of their series taking place during the events of this story. The X-Men and New Mutants meet for the first time in the final chapter of this story.
  • Kill It with Fire: This is Lockheed’s preferred method of dispatching Brood.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: The X-Men burst into the X-Mansion to stop the Brood-infected Xavier. The New Mutants have only recently joined the school and, not recognizing the X-Men at first, attempt to defend it.
  • Mercy Kill: Logan’s instincts tell him to do this to Kitty when he senses the Brood egg within her, but he has enough control to leave her and the others be while he investigates the Brood. After nearly transforming into a Brood himself, he promises to put his friends out of their misery and wreak bloody vengeance on the Brood for what they have done.
    • Carol puts one of the Acanti out of its misery after it has been mortally injured by the Brood.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Logan decides to keep the information about his friends being infected until they have escaped the Broods’ advances and everyone has become sufficiently freaked out about whatever is going on between their bodies such as Kitty’s resistance to cosmic radiation and Storm’s sudden illness. Had he told them earlier Storm may not have had her Freak Out and left on a scout ship and Carol wouldn’t have left on her Roaring Rampage of Revenge (she had just turned into Binary) and punched a hole through the ship’s wall, nearly causing everyone on board to be sucked into space.
  • The Nose Knows: All of the X-Men have been tricked into thinking they are being recognized by the Shi’ar for saving their empress, Lilandra. Only Wolverine, who’s animalistic senses override his higher thought processes tell him the truth that they’ve been captured and corrupted by the Brood.
  • The Reveal:
    • 165. Storm is alive and has merged with the Acanti’s mind.
    • 166. Scott is the X-Man who’s been fully overtaken by his Brood egg and betrays the X-Men to the queen.
    • 166. There’s one more person infected by the Brood Queen’s embryo: Charles Xavier.
    • 167. Not only has Xavier had his mind implanted in a clone body. He can walk.
    • 167. Now that there are students of an appropriate age at the institute Kitty must leave the X-Men and join the New Mutants.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Fang, an Imperial Guardsman who assisted Deathbird in her attempted coup is brought before the Brood as the warrior-egg implanted in his body nears hatching. Logan (who is the X-Men at this point capable of seeing through the Brood’s illusions) can’t help but privately smirk at the traitor receiving such a grizzly fate.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Carol (having just turned into Binary) goes on one when Logan reveals they’ve all be implanted by a Brood embryo and have little time left. Unfortunately for the X-Men she bursts out of the spaceshift they’re currently traveling in and exposes them to the vacuum of space.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Gladiator defies Deathbird’s status as majestrix to help restore Lilandra to her throne once more.
  • Space Whale: The Acanti, formerly intelligent whales the size of cities that serve as the lobotomies slave vessels of the Brood. Freeing them from their enslavement (along with the X-Men’s impending doom) is what leads them to launching an attack on the Brood base at the story’s climax.
  • Team Pet: Lockheed appears here for the first time, though it’ll be a bit before he permanently takes on this role.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Confronted so many times throughout the story that it could almost be considered the overarching theme. The X-Men have always had a more complicated relationship with killing their enemies than other heroes, and the Brood Saga is the moment when they’re forced to make the hard choice between remaining honorable and surviving. Wolverine takes down the most Brood during the story and encourages his allies to do so as well and former soldiers like Carol Danvers and Corsair have no compunctions about using lethal force (with the latter even leaving Havok and Polaris behind when they could have been a huge help because he didn’t want them corrupted. Every member of the team except for Nightcrawler and Colossus (both of whom had killed enemies in the past when faced with no other option) are forced to make a decision involving killing the Brood. Kitty chooses to save herself when cornered into by a Brood by forcing it out of an airlock. Storm loses control of her lightning in space and decimates a Brood fleet and later has to come to terms with killing the Brood embryo growing within her. Cyclops remains the most steadfast in not using lethal force, but even he steps up to put down Xavier when he’s almost fully taken over by a Brood Queen. Him staying his hand at the end is what allows the X-Men to have enough time to place Xavier’s mind in a clone body.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Kitty gets cornered by a Brood while Nightcrawler is left floating out the vacuum of space. Though she’s never killed before she decides to save herself and her friend, going intangible and blowing the lock to send the Brood to its doom.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: The first signs of Illyana’s corruption at the hands of Belasco are shown in her brief scene with Xavier back on Earth. He finds that he can no longer pierce her thoughts and she gives a devilish smirk stating that she can now do “neat things” since her ordeal. This is further explored in New Mutants and Magik.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Logan pulls off Scott’s visor to reveal he has been fully corrupted by the Brood Queen’s embryo.
    • Professor Xavier stands, his clone body able to walk after fifteen years spent wheelchair-bound.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: #161 sees Xavier struggling to purge the alien presence from his mind, flashing back to his time spent in Israel some twenty years before and serving as a psychiatrist helping Holocaust survivors. It is hear he meets two vastly important figures in his life for the first time. The first is Gabrielle Haller, a Dacau survivor and the eventual mother of his child. The second is Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto, who has been serving as a volunteer at the facility to help his fellow survivors. They battle Baron Von Strucker and HYDRA and part ways with the future Magneto vowing to wage war on humankind.
  • Zombie Infectee: Being implanted with a Brood embryo is treated like this, though the part of the trope involving the infected telling no one is inverted as Logan purges his egg from his system only to keep the information from the X-Men, Carol Danvers and Lilandra until the worst possible moment.
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