Chris and Reggie’s Cosmic Treadmill, Episode #144
Uncanny X-Men #287 (April, 1992)
“Bishop to King’s Five!”
Story – Jim Lee & Scott Lobdell
Pencils – John Romita, Jr.
Inks – Chris Ivy, Bill Sienkiewicz, Bob Wiacek, Scott Williams, & Dan Panosian
Colors – Gina Going & Joe Rosas
Letters – Tom Orzechowski
Edits – Bob Harras
Chief – Tom DeFalco
Cover Price: $1.25
Today we’re going to revisit a(nother) very special episode of Chris and Reggie’s Cosmic Treadmill. This was the second installment of, what I’d planned to be, our “X-Men Mysteries” box-set. Here we give Uncanny X-Men #287 from 1992 the full “Treadmill treatment”… as well as go down the rabbit hole for the X-Mystery that was born in this very issue: Who is… the X-Traitor?!
This was an episode that I wanted to do from the very start. This was when I was coming up in the comics fandom… and, I was completely taken all of the mysteries in the X-Books: Who was Cable? What was Wolverine’s origin? Who were “The Twelve”? What was Gambit’s story? What was Rogue’s real name? Who was the otha Summers brotha? And, of course… who was the X-Traitor?
It didn’t take me long to realize that long-dangling subplots and mysteries were just the X-Men’s style when it came to “doing business” and telling a story… and, I absolutely loved it. This is the sort of thing we really don’t get all that much anymore. With the internet, and social media especially, folks are in such a rush to be the one to “break” a story… or, perhaps more accurately… spoil a story. Bunch of jackasses online… don’t care about ruining things for everyone else, so long as everybody knows they were “first”. Privileged information just doesn’t stay that way all that long.
In order to fully embrace the “magic” of this era… I approached the creation of this episode in a sort of unique way. I decided that I would use no digital resources. I wanted to “discover” all of this information the same way I did back in the long ago… from physical media.
And so, over the course of two weeks… I tore up a few rooms of my house looking for every shred of paper that hinted at the X-Traitor subplot. Fan theories, discussion in magazines, discussion in letters pages… anything! It was so much damn fun I can hardly put it into words. Of course, this “mystery” has been solved for the better part of a quarter-century at this point (though I won’t spoil it here in case anyone doesn’t know and wants to listen to the episode), so it’s not like I was… ya know, actually “putting the pieces together” or anything. I was just re-experiencing what the fan-of-the-day thought about the whole thing.
This was a lot of fun for me to put together for a lot of reasons, including the fact that… Reggie wasn’t a Marvel guy. So, a lot of this was brand-new information for him. So, it was really cool to see how someone who wasn’t following the X-Books back in the 90’s “received” this whole story thread.
For those unaware… the X-Traitor storyline kicked off with a strange few pages in, duh, Uncanny X-Men #287. Bishop, Malcolm, and Randall happened across a video message from a distressed Jean Grey.
And, for a long while… that’s all we really had. Bishop would meet a man called the “Witness” who looked a whole heckuva lot like the X-Man, Gambit… but wasn’t… or was he? Well, no… he wasn’t. It’s pretty weird…
Now, this whole thing could have just been forgotten about… never referenced again, dismissed as something that happened in an “alternate future”, but… that’s not how X-Fans work. Over the course of the next several months, folks would submit questions via the letters page inquiring about who this X-Traitor might be. Marvel Editors… wily scamps that they are… printed the letters, but really didn’t address the question… at least not in a serious way. Infuriating to the fanbase… but, it kept the concept of the X-Traitor fresh in peoples’ minds.
It wouldn’t take long for the folks at Wizard to ask their readers who they thought the X-Traitor might be… and the answers they got were, well… pretty weird, don’t you think?
The X-Traitor storyline would kind of fall out of “freshness” as the months… and years rolled on, taking a backseat to mysteries such as the Third Summers Brother, why Wolverine still had claws after he had the Adamantium nyoinked off his skeleton, and just who or what Onslaught was (hmm…). But, it never really “went away”.
Another bit from a Wizard Magazine (#58 – June, 1996)… where they wrote a piece regarding some at the time still-dangling X-Men mysteries. The question of the identity of the X-Traitor is at the very top of the list! Check out their hot-take… if you dare (click to make ’em bigger)!
The identity would finally be revealed later on that very year… with a callback to those strange few pages in Uncanny X-Men #287. From the [REDACTED] script-book:
Here we’d finally get to see Jean Grey’s distress call… without static interference, which revealed that the X-Traitor was, in fact… well… if you already know… then you know. If not, why not give the episode a listen?