El Tigre and the Ego
We don’t have any new mutants yet, but we do have a villain with some real powers. Issues 25 and 26 tell the story of El Tigre, an infamous treasure hunter who plundered tombs and riches across the world. He is in South America hunting for a treasure left behind by the Mayans. What he finds will grant him the power to become the all powerful Kukulcan, an ancient Mayan god. However, it will come with a price.
Meanwhile, things between Jean and Scott are heating up. The two of them continue to fawn over each other, and yet somehow no one is more of a little girl than Warren Worthington III. His jealousy and arrogance will cause him to do something that could tear the group apart. These issues are filled with drama and adventure, and I enjoyed them far more than most of the recent episodic revolving villains.
The story picks up with Charles and the X-Men driving Jean back to Metro College after their last adventure. They arrive to find the place in flames. Children are inside, and the team goes into action. The day is saved and mankind’s love/hate relationship with the X-Men gets further complicated. Weren’t these guys just holding Washington D.C. for ransom?
Driving back to the Xavier School, we see that Scott and Warren are both getting jealous over Jean’s new friends. The way they react to it says a lot about their personalities. Scott is as mopey and self-deprecating as ever. He is the leader of the X-Men, a superhero, but how does he handle a broken heart? His first reaction is to quit. For the second time. Warren takes the opposite approach, telling himself that there are many fish in the sea. The guy may be over-confident but it can sure come in handy. He seems to be able to shrug Jean off like she meant nothing, but he just might be keeping something bottled up.
Meanwhile, in South America, el Tigre and his two henchman, Ramon and Toloc, are searching for a lost treasure. Once they find it, el Tigre becomes focused on a mysterious object that promises to grant him the power of the gods. It allows him to harness the power of the sun and become the reincarnation of an ancient Mayan god. However, he has only found half of the amulet. It was severed and separated, destined to be remade. His quest is to find the other half of the amulet and join them. Only then will he become all powerful.
Back in the mansion, the Cerebro alarm starts going crazy. The Professor runs down the stairs in a hurry and oh no!
El Tigre and his henchman are in New York City, hot on the trail of the second amulet. It’s great how they so easily blend in with the local culture and dress, no? The X-Men are combing the city for anyone who looks suspicious, and of course they come up flat. No one suspicious here.
(Except maybe this guy.)
The X-Men finally catch up with these goons when they break into a museum where the amulet is encased in an exhibit. Beast, Cyclops, Angel, and Iceman, with greater number and the element of surprise, are somehow completely overwhelmed by Ramon and Toloc. Cyclops is even subdued by an elderly security guard. It’s all a little embarrassing, and one of them even points that out.
Their incompetence allows el Tigre to find the other half of the amulet and receive the full scope of its power. He transforms into Kukulcan, the feathered serpent god! Ramon and Toloc try to take this power for themselves, and are taught the error of their ways.
Having completed his business in New York, Kukulcan travels back to South America in a chariot of the gods, aka magic hamster ball. Charles begins to research Mayan culture in hopes of finding a clue to his whereabouts.
He employs the services of Jean Grey, who is attending a college with a much larger library. While there, she runs into none other than Cal Rankin. You may better remember him as the Mimic. He simulates the powers of nearby mutants, and he fought the X-Men in an earlier issue. He has no recollection of that earlier adventure. He knew their secret identities and the location of the school, but it was all erased. Or was it? Cal mentions that Jean looks familiar, and seems determined to figure out why.
She brings Xavier his books and their research brings them to the legend of Kukulcan. The team heads off to San Rico. As the plane is taking off, Scott finally makes a decision. He’s starting to sense that, gasp… Jean might kind of sort of like him! Having to leave her behind once again, his longing for her proves too much. As soon as they are back from this adventure, he is going to be honest with Jean. He is going to tell her how he feels. On a side note, whatever happened to the X-Plane?
Meanwhile, Kukulcan has been rebuilding the country as he wants it, making towers and roads. He is powerful enough that he can control the entire population of San Rico. They travel to the ancient city and start building an empire. The local militia instantly becomes his dedicated army.
The X-Men arive in San Rico and Angel instantly starts acting like a complete asshole towards Cyclops. He has some nasty line for everything Scott has to say. Even he notices his attitude and tries to apologize.
It doesn’t last long. They fall into a trap, and Angel has to be a total dick even as Cyclops is the one helping them escape. The guy just won’t stop. He doesn’t mean to be a poor man’s Hawkeye, whatever that means, but he can’t seem to stop himself. This is where his over-confidence isn’t as helpful.
Once the X-Men get close enough to Kukulcan, they attack head on. This turns out to be more of a challenge than they anticipated. Kukulcan has a sort of spider sense, and he counters every attack they throw at him. Kukulcan is so fast that he tricks Cyclops into firing his full blast directly at Angel, leaving him severely wounded.
Taking advantage of the distraction, Iceman and Beast concentrate on the tower that Kukulcan has built. It seems to be the source of all of his power, and their gamble pays off. The tower crashes into the earth, destroying Kukulcan and returning el Tigre to his prior form.
Everyone’s attention immediately turns to Angel, who still lies wounded. This is where we see the full extent of Warren’s selfishness and insecurity. In a final act of jealousy, sensing that Jean has feelings for Scott, Warren betrays his friend. He betrays the entire group when he lies about Scott, accusing him of intentionally trying to kill him. They walk home in silence, the weight of Warren’s pride and Scott’s accusal heavy on them all.