Appearing in "When Strikes a Gladiator!"
- 🢐 Punisher 🢒 (Cameo)
- Unnamed man dressed as Santa Claus.
- Unnamed redhead woman, employee of a toy store. Implied to be romantically interested in Cannonball.
- Unnamed driver of a horse-drawn vehicle.
- Bob Harras
- Jean-Luc LeBeau (Mentioned)
- Professor Xavier (Mentioned)
- Magneto (Mentioned)
- Onslaught (Mentioned)
- Graydon Creed (Mentioned)
- X-Factor (Mentioned)
- Warren Worthington III (Mentioned)
- Betsy Braddock (Mentioned)
- Iceman (Mentioned)
- William Drake (Mentioned)
- Lucinda Guthrie (Earth-616) (Mentioned)
- Thomas Zebulon Guthrie (Mentioned)
- Josh Guthrie (Mentioned)
- Jed Guthrie (Mentioned)
- Joelle Guthrie (Mentioned)
- Paige Guthrie (Mentioned)
- Imperial Guard (Mentioned)
- Cyclops (Mentioned)
- Fantastic Four (Mentioned)
- Z'nox (Mentioned)
- Lilandra Neramani (Mentioned)
- Image Inducer
- Transit Spheres.
Synopsis for "When Strikes a Gladiator!"
It’s Christmas time and the X-Men are out celebrating on the streets of Manhattan. The group includes Beast, Bishop, Cannonball, Gambit, Joseph, Rogue, and Trish Tilby. Beast is in his human form, thanks to his Image Inducer.
It starts snowing and Hank McCoy, in a verbose way, predicts that they are going to have a white Christmas. Rogue does not understand what he means and asks for an English translation, which Cannonball provides. Hank then points that its Christmas Eve (December 24), and they have all decided to escape the yoke of being mutants and X-Men. In that spirit, he invites everyone to join him and Tish in having dinner.
Gambit is the first to to deny the invitation, claiming to have other plans. Rogue protests that she hoped to have dinner with Gambit. He answers that his father taught him that "three's a crowd". He is referring to the ongoing love triangle between himself, Rogue, and Joseph. He then steps away. Rogue seems pissed, but Joseph intervenes and says the two of them also have other plans. He snatches Rogue away, though it is clear that this is the first time she hears of these plans. He hires a horse-drawn vehicle to take them to their destination.
Bishop is the next to turn down Hank's invitation. He claims that recent events have left him a bit tired, and that he was looking forward to spending the evening alone. He promises to see them all back at the Mansion. He then smiles and steps away. Only Cannonball is left, and Hank expects an answer from him. Sam says that he would love to join Hank and Trish for dinner. But he first has to do some Christmas shopping, buying gifts for his brothers and sisters. Sam pulls out a huge list of items he wants to buy for them, and says he hopes to finish his shopping "right quick". He hopes to finish in about five minutes and promises to meet the couple at the restaurant. Hank pretends to agree to the meeting in five minutes, while whispering to Trish that they are unlikely to ever see Sam again.
The next scene follows Cannonball and his thoughts. Sam is thinking that its only because he is so much into the Christmas spirit that he does not feel depressed. The year that is ending was not a banner year for mutants. He thinks of the depressing events of the year. Professor Xavier went insane, Magneto joined the X-Men (he means Joseph), and Onslaught practically destroyed the world. Most of the world's heroes are dead and gone, killed fighting Onslaught. Two weeks after Onslaught, Graydon Creed was assassinated in front of X-Factor and the whole American nation. Warren Worthington III and Betsy Braddock also went through transformations, and Iceman quit the team in an attempt to bond with his father.
While lost in his thoughts, Cannonball bypasses the Punisher, who is walking the street in full costume. He notices, however, a man dressed as Santa Claus. The man is begging for money to buy food. Sam drops "Mr. Claus" a few coins and the man thanks him. He wishes Sam a happy new year for himself and his people. Sam smiles and replies that "Santa" should believe him that it can only get better than the last one.
He starts thinking that he should not complain. He sincerely misses his his mother, and his siblings Josh, Jed, Joelle, Paige. He even misses his deceased father. But the X-Men are also family to him, adoptive but special. With the exception of all the people who are regularly trying to kill him, Sam feels that he is living a charmed life.
Sam walks into a toy store and finds a chaotic scene with rampaging children and parents desperately trying to put them under control. He tries to stay calm and thinks of the situation as a Danger Room with kids. A redhead woman, apparently working at the toy store, approaches Sam and offers to help him out. He asks her for the first item on his list, but she replies that it was sold out, three months ago (in September). She starts flirting with him, and seems romantically interested in the X-Man. Sam remains oblivious to her intentions.
Suddenly the store fills with bright red light and a spherical object appears. The customers, adults and children, think its some kind of toy store display and are delighted. Cannonball however recognizes the object as a teleportation portal and feels concerned. A flying form emerges from the portal and flies right at him and the woman. Sam grabs the woman and uses his powers to get her to safety. The form attacks him in mid-flight. He falls down with his passenger. The woman seems to be safe but unconscious. Cannonball gets the first close look of the stranger and recognizes Gladiator and Imperial Guard. Gladiator also recognizes Cannonball and says he came in search of the X-Men. He says that, for the time being, Cannonball would do as their representative.
The scene shifts to Rogue and Joseph. She is smiling and seems to be having a good time. But points out that Joseph is using his magnetic powers in a non-discreet way and that Cyclops would have both their heads for enjoying themselves like this. Joseph points that Cyclops is not there to see them. The next panel reveals what are they talking about. Joseph's powers keep their horse-drawn vehicle, driver, and passengers flying high above New York City.
The driver starts a conversation with his passengers. He figures the two of them are mutants. He enjoys the flight and does not wish it to end yet. He says he has been following the news reports on the mutants and has reached his own conclusions about them. He thinks that most mutants are trying their best to live their own lives and often go out of their way to protect normal humans. He feels honored to have mutant heroes in his vehicle. Rogue appreciates the sentiment. Joseph asks the driver to drop them off at the World Trade Center.
The scene shifts to the building of 387 Park Avenue South, where Marvel Comics holds its offices. In his office, Bob Harras keeps working in his computer. It is already the night of Christmas Eve and his wife Anne calls him to tell him to stop working and return to their home. He is frustrated and tells her that he would love to come home but he can not. He is working on books that should be shipping in three days and some are not ready for publication yet. He complains that "Scott" (Scott Lobdell) and "Joe" (Joe Madureira) have not even started on their next issue. He tries to end the phone conversation by telling Anne to kiss their boys goodnight. At this moment, Bob sees the flying horse-drawn vehicle pass in front of his window. He decides he has been working too hard and has started seeing things. He tells his wife that he is coming home after all. He ends the conversation, takes a final look out of the window, and leaves the office.
The scene shifts back to Cannonball and Gladiator. Cannonball escapes the grasp of Gladiator, blasts the Gladiator's face with his energy, and tells the "sir" (as he calls him) to back off. Gladiator is in disbelief that the X-Man wants to challenge him. Cannonball starts attacking, though his thoughts reveal that he considers Gladiator to outclass him. He has read Xavier's files on Gladiator. They mention that Gladiator once took on the entire Fantastic Four and won. But Cannonball feels that he has to protect New Yorkers from the alien.
Cannonball quickly takes their fight outside the toy store and away from innocent bystanders. He thinks that this was the first lesson Professor X ever taught him, right in the very first day of school. To always lead the fight away from bystanders. Cannonball has grabbed his opponent and leads him crashing in and out of a building. He is actually surprised that Gladiator has yet to react, and thinks he might be winning this fight. At this point, Gladiator does react. He stops the flight of both of them in mid-air. They are standing still. Cannonball can't believe that someone could stop him in mid-blast and claims that this is not possible. Kallark smiles and informs him that what is "impossible" is only a matter of perspective.
Cannonball starts pushing at his opponent but can't move Gladiator at all. They are still standing still. He asks whether the harder he pushes, the harder Gladiator pushes. Gladiator confirms it and asks Cannonball to surrender. In response, Sam grabs Kallark and redirects their momentum. They start falling from the sky at great speed. Sam informs Kallark that he is using "physics" against him. He them informs him that what he is doing as they fall towards a construction sight is called "praying". They land with a ear-shattering "kaboom".
The scene shifts to the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Joseph and Rogue are standing at the top of one of the Towers. They are alone. Joseph confesses that he has spend several days working on a surprise for her. He denies it is a Christmas present, it is more of a gift for the woman who has showed him so much kindness. The gift consists of the interior webbing of the Z'Noxx Chamber, formerly located in the X-Men's Mansion. Joseph explains that he dismantled it and transported it there. He also modified the equipment to allow it to function in an open-air environment.
Joseph explains that Xavier was more brilliant that everyone suspects. The Chamber was created to both augment Xavier's mental powers and to hide him from the psionic detection of the Z'nox. It functions as a big filter that can be used in either direction. He continues by pointing that her powers work by allowing her to absorb other beings' memories, feelings, and entire essence. But to do this she has to reach the target's mind. But the Chamber will shield Joseph's mind and make it unreachable to her powers. Allowing them to contact each other without any danger.
He tells Rogue to close her eyes and asks her to trust him. She is afraid to grasp at false hopes again and be disappointed once more. But she does close her eyes and waits for his touch. He gives her a chaste kiss on the forehead. To her surprise, it works. They touched without her powers working. She is at a loss for words. Joseph hugs her and wishes her "merry Christmas".
The scene shifts back to Cannonball and Gladiator, both unharmed from their fall. Gladiator says he came to seek Cannonball and his "mongrel brethren" for a particular reason. That reason did not involve Gladiator suffering affronts by the mongrels. Cannonball blames Gladiator for starting the fight. He the flies after Sam and manages to tie him up in metal. Cannonball is surprised at how fast Gladiator can be and Kallark claims to be faster than the young mutant. Cannonball expands his kinetic field and easily breaks his metal bonds.
The two opponents exchange threats, with Kallark claiming that he will send Sam to the center of the Sun. He prepares to deliver a punch that will supposedly send Sam to outer space. Sam is worried because the records on Gladiator said that the man can do anything he sets his mind to. However, Sam gets to thinking about other information about Kallark and how his power works. He recalls a theory that all this power is fueled by Kallark's confidence. Even his super-human invulnerability is psionically enforced. He decides to use this element of Kallark's powers against him.
He uses his own power to survive the punch and then asks Gladiator if that was supposed to be his best shot. Gladiator's confidence is clearly shaken. He confirms that this was his most powerful blow and yet Sam lives. He says that this is not possible. In an ironic echo of Kallark's previous statement, Sam replies: "impossible is a matter of perspective". He then uses his own fists to deliver a mighty blown to the weakened Gladiator, sending the alien flying towards the ground. Gladiator lands with a deafening sound. At this moment, someone congratulates the apparently victorious Cannonball.
A surprised Sam turns and sees that the one congratulating him is the Beast (with his Image Inducer deactivated). Trish Tilby, Bishop, and Gambit also stand nearby. Beast figures how Cannonball managed the seemingly impossible. All the kinetic energy from Gladiator's killer blow was absorbed by Sam and redirected to Sam's force field. He was not aware, however, that this move was part of Sam's repertoire. Sam admits he was improvising and using his powers in new ways. He asks how long they have been observing the fight, and Beast claims they had just arrived in time to witness its final stage. Gambit compliments Sam on waiting for the exact instant that Gladiator's confidence was shaken and then delivering the "coup de grace".
Bishop does not share in the celebratory mood. He thinks something was strange about this fight. He points that the X-Men have fought Gladiator and his companions before, but it seems out of character for Kallark to attack without provocation. Sam points that Bishop can ask the alien himself, as they observe Kallark rising from the ground. Debris start flying around.
Beast instructs Trish to use him as a shield. He hopes his strength will be enough to protect her from the flying debris. The piece of debris heading for them stops in mid-air without making contact with them. Beast is surprised but then notices that Joseph has arrived and is magnetically lifting the metallic debris. Rogue has arrived with Joseph and explains that they could hear the battle at a great distance. They came as fast as they could.
Since Gladiator is not attacking but kneeling, Rogue safely approaches him. She asks him about his motivations. He confesses that he was responsible for the fight. He wanted to contact them quickly and ask them for a favor. He informs them that the Shi'ar Empire is in grave danger and Majestrix Lilandra has forbidden him to interfere. They are to go in his stead. Rogue says that the X-Men will be happy to help Lilandra, so they will have to contact additional members.
Gladiator says that they don't have the time to contact reinforcements. He lifts five small, glowing spheres. The spheres fly from his hands towards the X-Men. He explains that they are transit spheres. Beast figures they are teleportation devices. The X-Men have no time to react, as the spheres reach and teleport Bishop, Gambit, Rogue, Joseph, Beast and Trish Tilby. Cannonball is left behind.
Cannonball fears that Gladiator has just hurt his friends and threatens to attack again. Kallark tells the "child" to stand back. He explains that the X-Men have been teleported to the royal Cruiser of the Imperial Guard. They are already en route to the heart of the most dire conflict the Shi'ar have ever faced. Cannonball then asks why was he left behind. Gladiator admits he did in on purpose due to Sam's young age. Sending such a youth into danger would be dishonorable. He then claims that if the 6 X-Men are not successful, the Shi'ar Empire will fall and the rest of the universe will follow. The story ends.
- This is a Christmas themed issue, and a homage to X-Men Vol 1 98.
- According to this issue, Cannonball has four siblings. While the number of Guthrie siblings has been inconsistently portrayed over the years, various issues count 9 siblings for Cannonball.
- The sibling called Josh Guthrie in this issue is actually called Joshua Guthrie. He is also nicknamed "Jay".
- The sibling called Jed Guthrie in this issue is called Jebediah Guthrie. He is also nicknamed "Jeb".
- Joelle and Paige Guthrie are correctly identified.
- Elizabeth Guthrie is not mentioned in this issue. While never a major character, there are various contradictory clues about Elizabeth's age. She has been called both a younger and an older sister to Cannonball, and once mentioned as older than Paige.
- Melody Guthrie is not mentioned in this issue. While she has had a few earlier appearances, Melody would not be properly named and fleshed out until 2004.
- Lewis Guthrie is not mentioned in this issue. Lewis has been implied to be the twin brother of Cissie. Though he has made various minor appearances, Lewis did not play any significant role in a story until 2007.
- Cissie Guthrie is not mentioned in this issue. Cissie has been implied to be the twin sister of Lewis. She made various previous appearances, though she would not be properly named until 2007.
- The 9th and last Guthrie sibling has remained unnamed and is an elusive character. In X-Men Vol 2 48 (January, 1996), Cannonball first mentions that he has 9 siblings. Various later issues have went with this number of Guthrie siblings but never identified who this last sibling was supposed to be. A few fansites assume she is a girl and identify her with various unnamed depictions of Guthrie girls, particularly when a girl is depicted as too young to be one of the other Guthrie girls. However this is a fan theory, not canon.
- The issue consistently spells Z'nox as "Z'Noxx".
- Gladiator apparently mistakes Trish Tilby for an X-Man and recruits her for a dangerous spacefaring mission. She will serve as a member of this spacefaring group of X-Men for the next several issues.
- The X-Men which depart in this issue serve as a spacefaring team for the next several issues. Their storyline concludes in Uncanny X-Men Vol 1 350 (December, 1997). All eventually rejoin the other X-Men on Earth, except for Bishop who stays in space. He returns to Earth in X-Men Vol 2 92 (September, 1999).
- This is the last issue to feature Cannonball as a cast member of this title for a while. He appears briefly in Uncanny X-Men Vol 1 342 (March, 1997) and then joins the cast of X-Men Vol 2, which follows the adventures of the X-Men who stayed on Earth. He does not regularly appear in Uncanny X-Men until the other X-Men return to Earth.
- Gladiator next appears in Imperial Guard Vol 1 1 (January, 1997).
- This is supposed to be a spotlight issue for Cannonball and has him defeat a powerhouse like Gladiator, and using his powers in new ways. This partly resolves a long-running subplot about Sam feeling too young and insecure around the other X-Men. However the issue ends with him being treated as too young to fight. By this point Sam was himself a veteran of several conflicts.
- The fight between Cannonball and Gladiator is the major action scene of the issue and gets much attention from the creative team of Scott Lobdell and Joe Madureira. However several online reviews have pointed that it is largely irrelevant to the plot. It has no real motivation and derives from a mutual misunderstanding of intentions. The key points of the plot are much simpler. Gladiator arrives on Earth to deliver a message to the X-Men, then contacts the X-Men and fulfills his mission. The fight has no effect on this mission other than delaying it for a while.
- The issue devotes time to some personal moments for Cannonball, Joseph, and Rogue, who collectively share most of the key pages and dialogue, as well as the characterization spotlight. The rest of the cast has little dialogue and appears in few pages.
- If Gladiator thinks that sending underage soldiers to war is dishonorable, one has to wonder how he views Professor Xavier. Xavier has made a career out of training teenagers to be soldiers for his cause and sending them to battle.
- The issue marks one of the relatively few times Rogue touches another human being and nothing painful or traumatic happens to either of them. It is something of a change of pace for the character.
- The kiss between Joseph and Rogue is a chaste kiss on the forehead, rather than on the lips. However it seems rather suitable for what seems to be the first date of two characters rather inexperienced in romance. A few online commentaries point that it shows mutual gentleness and compassion, rather than sexual passion. Favorable reviews tend to appreciate the emotions depicted in the scene and its romantic implications.
- The issue advances the characterization of Joseph. He is portrayed as a romantic partner who thinks about the needs of his lover and devotes considerable time to taking care of them. He also masters the technological secrets of the Z'nox Chamber in ways that even Xavier could not. Pointing that he has inherited the original Magneto's mastery of technology. Fans of the character consider the issue a highlight of his career with the X-Men.
- Originally priced at $1.95 US and $2.75 Canada.
- Ads in this issue included : [inside front cover] 'The Incredible Hulk' Edios, Scud, (2 page ad) Tobal No. 1, 'Contra Legacy of War' Konami, (2 page ad) Rocket Jockey, Virtual On, Virtua Cop 2, Deadpool, (2 page feature) Bullpen Bulletins, (3 page feature) Thunderbolts Preview, X-Man, Subscribe today!, [inside back cover] Bedlam, [back cover] Scream.
- Joseph asks a cabbie to drop them off at the World Trade Center. Since the comic was done in 1997, it hadn't been destroyed yet.
- Gladiator and Cannonball are featured on the cover of this issue.
- The term "yoke", the wooden beam that ties working animals, is misspelled "yolk" in this issue. Yolk is part of an egg.