Mon, 4 October 2010
Hello again, X-Fans. I hope you're enjoying this blog, when it's available. School's been kicking my butt this semester, so progress has been slow, but let's see what we can get done today.
We're looking at an issue that struck me a bit oddly the first time I read it. Issue 6 of The X-Men is entitled "Sub-Mariner Joins the Evil Mutants!" and I didn't know a whole lot about Sub-Mariner when I first read this, at least little past his appearances in the first ten issues of The Fantastic Four. Since then, my knowledge of Marvel's universe has vastly increased, but even still Sub-Mariner remains one of those characters who just isn't so high on my radar. He was, of course, one of Marvel's leading heroes in the Golden Age, along with the Human Torch and Captain America, and Marvel tried to revive him along with those two in the 1950s, to little success. But ever since he began reviving his superhero line again, Stan has been trying to bring attention to Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, including him as a regular villain in The Fantastic Four and having him show up randomly in other stories as well. So I guess it was only a matter of time before the X-Men fought him. This would not be a frequent event, though, and to my knowledge, the character's recent resurgence and inclusion in the X-branch of the Marvel Universe is an exception to how the character has been handled over the decades.
But enough about the Sub-Mariner, for now. Let's look at the book! On the Jack Kirby cover, we see the title emblazoned over the Sub-Mariner, flying on his cute little ankle wings toward the X-Men cowering in the foreground. We're told this is a "Special Guest Star Issue". I am not entirely sure to whom this is intended to refer. On the one hand, Sub-Mariner seems the obvious choice, but in the bottom right corner, it also says "Also Featuring: Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch!" Now, the art has the entire Brotherhood depicted, but we're having our attention drawn to the mutant twins. I guess letter-writers were starting to pull them out as favorites. Note: Scarlet Witch has her correct color scheme now, but Quicksilver is still blue.
Oh! One thing I forgot to mention last time is that Marvel Girl's look has changed. She has lost her cowl look in favor of a mask that lets her hair show. The basic spiked shape of this mask will remain with the character's look for decades, though other details of her costume will of course change many times.
Open up to the splash page. We have our now-usual banner in the top left corner "X-MEN: The Most Unusual Teen-Agers of All Time..." and the title "Sub-Mariner! joins The Evil Mutants", and the credits are "Written with the flair of Stan Lee, drawn with the air of Jack Kirby, inked with the care of Chic Stone, lettered on a dare by S. Rosen". The picture itself has an exciting dinner going on. It's just Xavier's students around a table, but there is so much going on in this image that it definitely conveys a level of excitement to draw you in. Good job, Jack Kirby!
(pages 1-2) We open at dinner. The cook has the day off, so Jean has helped out by cooking. Scott good-naturedly zaps Hank's hand for reaching across the table. Warren thinks about how good it is to see Scott smile. Bobby uses his ice powers to make pie a la mode. But Jean snatches it away telekinetically when he picks it up to eat without a fork. The professor is reading a newspaper article about the Sub-Mariner and muses about whether he may be a mutant, determining that there is now no time to waste. Sub-Mariner must be found before he can join Magneto.
So, this is a rather domestic scene, which is an important part of the X-Men at this time. They're basically in a boarding school, so it'd be remiss to never see them just hanging out having a meal. Warren reinforces Scott's morosity by pointing out how his smile is the exception to the rule. But here's one thing that gets me. Bobby says he's going to use his icing powers to make pie a la mode. Now, Bobby has hypothermic powers. He sucks heat out of his environment, causing the moisture to freeze. Ice and snow are NOT ice cream. He hasn't made pie a la mode, he's made snow cone pie. This doesn't sound appealling to me AT ALL!
There's some rather obvious dialogue here to bring new readers up to speed. I do believe, though, that this is the first time we've seen the term "Homo superior" applied to mutants by one of the heroes. It'd be interesting to know how Xavier felt about that term, coming from Magneto and being applied to all mutants. Though, of course, with all the retconned history we learn over the years since this, it's entirely possible that Xavier had been using the term well before the first issue.
The sudden interest in Sub-Mariner is very contrived. It comes out of nowhere and for no apparent reason becomes Xavier's driving motivation of the day. What's even more contrived is that Magneto gets the same idea at the same time.
(pages 2-4) Magneto is obsessed with finding Sub-Mariner before the X-Men do. The Toad doesn't think they'll be able to subdue him because he's so powerful. Magneto boasts of his power and fancy guns, and when Cyclops suddenly appears, Magneto lets off a blast that goes through Cyclops and narrowly misses Mastermind. Quicksilver dashes to make sure it doesn't hit his sister and is able to outrace the beam and hurl her to safety. Cyclops was, of course, one of Mastermind's illusions and after knocking him over with a magnetic blast, Magneto remembers the Sub-Mariner and sends out his astral form to find the mutant sea-prince.
Again, why is finding Sub-Mariner so important all of a sudden, to two different groups separately? Out of nowhere. Don't like it. Also, Xavier wondered if Namor might be a mutant, but Magneto seems convinced of it without having even met the man.
This is, by the way, on the hidden mid-Atlantic island base that we saw two issues ago. Nothing happened to it before except that the X-Men chased the Brotherhood away. They spent the next issue working out of their space asteroid. Now they're back on their island.
Magneto boasts of his power and then whips out a gun. See, the cool thing about being Magneto is that you don't even need a weapon. We don't see him brandish one very often.
I can't wait until Scarlet Witch grows a backbone. She's pretty useless right now, and frankly, it's kinda annoying.
Magneto has "brain power second only to that of Professor X". We didn't know this before. Though we've seen him on the astral plane in a previous issue, it wasn't under his own power. Xavier helped him remotely, though that didn't make much sense at the time. Learning here that he has the power to project his consciousness unassisted helps explain that previous scene.
(pages 4-7) Our merry mutants are in costumes for training. Xavier excuses himself, leaving the training session in Cyclops' hands. He then sends out his own astral form to find Namor. Exploring the ocean depths, he senses the proximity of an evil presence. Deciding this must be Magneto, he runs away. Magneto passes through and finds Namor's base. Namor is in a rage over being spurned recently by Susan Storm and defeated by the Fantastic Four. Magneto decides that he's too angry to approach, so he finds a greedy servant and commands him to pass along a message to Namor, promising that in exchange the servant can be made ruler of Atlantis.
The cool thing about this very brief training session is that we see the first hints of Cyclops' future leadership of the team. With one brief exception, we never get any hints from Xavier that he ever intended anyone else to take leadership of the team until Cyclops first quits the team waaay down the road. Another element of Cyclops that comes out here is that he's "finally getting his power beam under his complete control". This is a problem that never comes across clearly. What problems he has controlling his eye beams beyond covering them with his visor, I'm not too sure.
I was going to give Xavier credit for being able to detect Magneto's presence before Magneto could do the reverse. But then, Random Guard in Namor's palace could also detect Magneto's aura of evil. So Xavier doesn't get extra points. I do have to wonder, though, at Magneto's astral form exuding this huge evil aura. It's an interesting notion.
We get a reference here to recent events in The Fantastic Four 27. For those who are interested, Namor has recently been abandoned by most of his subjects. He has only a few soldiers and servants remaining to him. And he's still pining away after Sue Storm at this point, so to get her to love him, he kidnapped her, but Reed dashed to the rescue, and he and the rest of the Four fought Namor and his minions until Sue told Namor that she really loves Reed, and that she isn't just kidding, and Dr. Strange whisked the FF away before Namor could kill them all in a fury. (Dr. Strange? Yes, Dr. Strange.)
So, I'm guessing this scene is something like five minutes later. Cuz Namor is still in the middle of his berserk fury rage over being spurned by Susan and defeated by the Four.
(pages 7-9) Xavier catches up the X-Men on Magneto's activities and tells them he has located Magneto's hidden island. They then set out to visit Magneto's island, where he is awaiting Namor's answer. But finding it proves less easy than they had thought.
Now, I was under the impression this was the same hidden island fortress that we saw two issues back. The island fortress the X-Men have already visited. So why is finding it again such a problem? Has Magneto made the island mobile somehow?
There's a funny scene with the Beast doing a stunt that goes wrong, so Marvel Girl grabs him mid-air telekinetically, and when he proves too heavy, the Iceman whips up a pile of snow (or is it a pile of ice cream?) to cushion his fall.
(pages 9-13) Namor's soldier conveys Magneto's message, an offer of alliance in battle against mankind, mentioning in the process that Magneto is a mutant "the same as you are!" Namor's response is "Why has that thought never occurred to me before??" and he agrees. So he hops in a sleek underwater racer, and goes to Magneto's island. Once there, he arrogantly ignores Magneto, so Magneto decides he just needs some titillation to gain his attention. He sends the Scarlet Witch to talk to him, but as she approaches she "carelessly makes a gesture" sending a hex at some machinery near Namor. That gets his attention, but before anything else can happen, the Angel attacks. Namor grabs him and physically hurls him from the island. Fortunately, his vector carries him toward the ship where the rest of the X-Men still are. Beast leaps to catch the Angel out of the air and Iceman gives them an ice chute to slide down to the deck. Angel reports the situation to Xavier, who commands to ready the attack.
Okay, I need to address this whole "Namor is a mutant" thing. Namor is a hybrid of human and Atlantean. This explains his ability to survive in both the ocean and out of water, or at least explains it as much as comic stuff ever gets explained. But since he's a hybrid, I never thought of him as a mutant. And when Magneto speculates along those lines in this story, I wrote him off as wrong. But Marvel has run with that ball in recent months, even publishing "Namor: The First Mutant". So I had to figure out how it was that they could say he's a mutant. Then it became oh so obvious. He has wings on his heels. Neither Atlanteans nor humans have wings on their heels. So that, along with possibly other characteristics unique to him, could definitely be considered a mutation, and a manifestation of the X-Gene. So there's that. I think it's handled a little half-handed in this book, but the philosophy over being or not being a mutant is rather undeveloped at this point in the X-history.
Namor deigns to visit Magneto to seek alliance, but when Namor arrives at the island, he wants nothing to do with Magneto. This is one of the reasons I really don't like Namor that much. He's so damn arrogant all the damn time. And Magneto's reaction doesn't really improve his standing in my eyes either. "Hmmm, Namor won't talk to me. I'll send a FEMALE to get his attention." And the sad thing is, it seems to work. Namor seems impressed by the Scarlet Witch. So much for Susan Storm...
I am having trouble wrapping my brain around Wanda's total lack of control of her powers at this point. I guess it could be a reason that young mutants should be trained in use of their powers. But the way it's worded, "Oh, no! I carelessly made a gesture! It will cause my hex power to operate!" So every time she flips her wrist, bad stuff happens? That's gotta suck to be her...
Namor grabbing the Angel in both hands and hauling him off the island in one throw... Classic.
(pages 13-18) Before the X-Men can attack, Magneto uses a giant magnet weapon on his island to send a blast that destroys the wooden ship the X-Men are on. Iceman creates an ice platform and all the X-Men (including the Professor) are able to walk across it to the island. After shrugging off an illusion from Mastermind, the team is attacked by Quicksilver, who is stopped in his tracks by a telekinetic lift in the air from Jean. The Scarlet Witch is worried about her brother, and Magneto insults her for her emotionalism. Namor decides that he cannot ally himself with a man who would speak thus to a female, so he and Magneto fight. Cyclops blasts them all with his beam, sending Magneto and the Brotherhood flying. Mastermind surrounds the X-Men in an illusory mist, and though they can't see, the X-Men are able to retaliate with the Iceman freezing up the room. Magneto flees with the Toad and Mastermind, but the Scarlet Witch stays behind to help her brother.
So, why the hell are the X-Men traveling on a wooden ship, with old-timey sails for motivation? That makes no sense. It also makes little sense how a magnetic blast would destroy wood. But ah well...
When Quicksilver attacks, Cyclops exclaims, "It's impossible! No one can attack with such blinding speed!" And Quicksilver replies that of course HE can, and I have to wonder if Cyclops just forgets things sometimes. This is, after all, their third encounter in a handful of days, it seems. You'd think he'd be fully cognizant of the fact that there's a speedster on the bad guys' team.
It's awesomely ridiculous that the driving wedge that forces apart the alliance between Namor and Magneto is not some power struggle or conflict of opinion on what the team should do. No. Namor refuses to ally with someone who would speak harshly to a woman. It's so NOT women's lib, it's hilarious.
Marvel Girl is able to hold Quicksilver in the air with no problem, but she couldn't hold the Beast earlier in the story. I guess that's Stan Lee's subtle way of calling Hank fat.
When Magneto leaves without the mutant twins, I got all excited that this would be where they finally break off from the Brotherhood and start becoming their own characters, but alas such is not to be.
(pages 18-22) Wanda demands that the X-Men free her brother. Namor backs her up, and fights back against the X-Men's attacks. Xavier intervenes in the violence, showing that Quicksilver has not been harmed. Namor exits in a rage at the futility of seeking allies among surface men and bemoaning the attractiveness of surface women. As Namor is walking across the island, Magneto uses his giant magnet weapon to throw Namor to the ground and begin to crush him. Namor breaks loose by thrashing his fists against the ground, pulverizing it and causing tremors that wreck the gigantic magnet. Namor dives back into the ocean. Magneto leaves with Mastermind and the Toad in one of his magnetic ships from last issue, snagging Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch magnetically as he goes. Jean is glad their prisoners escaped, because "that witch is much too attractive!"
And the story ends on a rather silly note.
There's a panel here where we see Scarlet Witch from the back, so that her head looks like a pink bowl of chocolate ice cream.
Magneto's gigantic magnet weapon seems rather redundant to me. He already has magnetic powers; why not use them? Or if this is an amplifier, why not say that? I don't think Magneto is the type to use other weapons when he is present at the situation himself.
Namor swims off to further Namor adventures. Quicksilver's and the Scarlet Witch's brief freedom from Magneto is abruptly ended. And Jean Grey's complete shallowness of character is brought to light for one of the first times. Of course, I shouldn't knock her too hard. It's really just typical of the way Stan Lee was writing women at this time.
NEXT ISSUE: A startling change occurs in the lives of the X-Men! What could it be? We'll have to see a couple of posts down the road.
Let's Visit the X-Men has four out of the five letters talking about Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, asking for more, for them to have their own series, for them to join the X-Men, etc. So no wonder the cover has their names featured. And the Special Announcements Section has two points worth mentioning: firstly, the editors acknowledge cries for The X-Men to go monthly but admit it hasn't done so cuz they don't have the time to do that many books; secondly, the state of Namor as a mutant or not is still being debated in the Bullpen at this point and they throw it open to the readers to see what they think. So that confusion wasn't just in my own head. Interesting.
Overall, not a great issue, despite some good moments. Several opportunities were lost due to storytelling tropes of the day. It would have been nice to see some exploration of how and why Namor is a mutant, but as we learned in the letters column, Stan Lee didn't know himself if that's the route he wanted to take. Up to now, Jean Grey has rarely shown herself to be as shallow as other Marvel girls of the time period (no pun intended); so her reaction to the Scarlet Witch's beauty seems a bit out of place. The whole reason for the plot was contrived. Magneto rarely used his own magnetism, instead relying on doohickeys. The mutant twins shone a little, though, so that's good. And this makes four out of six issues so far that have featured Magneto, and three of those with the Brotherhood. Time for a change of scenery next issue.
Well, that's it for another round. Sorry these are so few and far between. Next up will be a shortie as we look at the X-Men's role in the first Amazing Spider-Man Annual, then we'll be back for an in-depth look at issue 7 of The X-Men. Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment below, or write an email to hear a response on Amazing Spider-Man Classics.
Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 12:40am EST