Mon, 24 May 2010
Welcome back, X-fans, to the second installment of the X-Men blog. Today, we'll be looking at The X-Men 2, which introduces to us the Vanisher, and I have a confession to make about this book right up front. I had the trade paperback Marvel Masterworks of the first ten issues of this series when I was a kid, maybe 12-ish. I didn't read it too many times because it wasn't what I was expecting, and I just didn't enjoy the stories a whole lot at the time. (Give me Ditko Spider-Man over Kirby X-Men any day, was my thought at the time...and still kinda is, but not to such an extreme.) And somehow, I didn't get how the Vanisher's power worked. It's right there in the script, and we'll see it in a minute, but I just didn't get how someone's power could be to vanish, but then he wasn't still touchable. I remember specifically going into this story for rereads and thinking, "Ok, this time, I'm gonna figure out how ths guy works." In my mind, I was thinking he was like a male villain Invisible Girl, when actually, he's more like Nightcrawler. Ah, well, so I was a little retarded. Weren't we all?
No? Just me? Well, fine, nobody likes you anyway.
...ahem. SO! The X-Men 2. That's what we're talking about. The cover is fun, and if you didn't already know these characters, it'd seem kinda surprising, even laughable (though not in a derogatory way). How can a guy in a wheelchair take on this supervillain, who is "unbeatable"? Cuz after all, "Nothing can stop the Vanisher!"
Open it up, and what an awesome splash page. Very dynamic. Very exciting. Where are these guys running off to? And... wait... Marvel Girl, what are you doing? Why do you have both feet out in front of you when you're running? Oh, oh, are you jumping, maybe? Jumping over the ice? You look kinda dumb doing it. But the rest of you guys? Y'all are awesome.
(page 1-4) The X-Men are hurrying to "answer an urgent mental summons from their mysterious leader, Professor X". They start together, but they take separate routes home. The Beast does some sign hopping and wall crawling before hopping a train. The Angel is attacked by horny teengirls but is saved by Marvel Girl, so he picks her up and flies her away. Cyclops and Iceman are just walking down the street when they see a construction site where a wall is about to collapse on the workers, so Cyclops blasts it to powder. The constructions workers thank them, and they leave, hitching a ride with an ice cream truck to the mansion.
Notable scripting error at the bottom of page 2, where the Angel says "Dr. X" instead of "Professor X". That reminds me of a story of a filmmakers shindig in England in 1963. Sydney Newman was there and was talking to Sean Connery. Connery was talking about his upcoming role in "Dr. No", and Sydney got so dismayed because he had a new children's drama coming on the BBC in a few weeks called "Doctor Who", and he was afraid people would get the names confused. And though I know some people did, I think Newman was safe for the most part.
Ok, so when they got the mental summons, they were all together in the city. But they immediately split and went their separate ways in order to get back to the school. I'm trying to decide if this makes sense or is silly. How'd they get in the city in the first place, and why are they in costume? Some unwritten adventure against evil, maybe? But if they all came on the train, maybe they should all take the train back. It seems the Angel has the right idea, assuming his flight speed is pretty fast, and the Beast does the most logical thing (though a bit flamboyantly), but Cyclops and Iceman just decide to walk it? It's a good thing that icecream truck came along....or something.
Marvel Girl's powers are kinda weak if she can only move what she can physically carry. That's not exactly gonna help her in fights, is it?
Iceman's powers are kinda cool here. He basically works some quickfreeze magic on the gloves, like liquid nitrogen. Though in my head, the glove doesn't become ice cubes, merely superfreezes and breaks apart. Good thing you didn't superfreeze his flesh there, Bobby.
(page 4-7) Professor X calls the X-Men before him in the mansion. Cyclops and Iceman start to apologize for being late, but Xavier cuts them off, saying he followed all their progress mentally and needs no explanations. By way of "throught projections" on a wall, he shows them "the newest menace to mankind", the Vanisher, who had robbed a bank earlier that day. The Vanisher had asked police directions to the bank so that he could rob it. Playing along, thinking he is crazy, and planning to nab him as soon as the crime is done, the police escort him to the bank. He pulls a gun while inside, takes the money, and then vanishes before he can be caught, leaving the police baffled. Iceman reacts to this by exclaiming they'll handle him and showing off his "machine-gun ice pellets", which makes everyone else dive for cover. Marvel Girl uses her telekinesis to propel the pellets back at Iceman, who hides behind a shield. The professor calls a halt to the antics, says that he believes the Vanisher is a mutant, and that it's time for specialized training in the Danger Room.
So, I don't think we ever see Xavier do a home movie thought projection again. I'm gonna interpret this as his causing everyone else's brain to see these images, rather than actually projecting them slideshow style.
Haha! Iceman got a demerit! I think I may keep track of these...
The Vanisher scene is just...weird. So, the cops give him crap for wearing a costume, but decide to go along with his robbing the bank. I have a hard time thinking someone could walk up to a cop and say, "I'd like to rob the bank. Can you show me where it is?" and not get some immediate retribution. Then it shows him with the gun on the next page. If wearing a costume isn't illegal, and stating intention to rob a bank isn't illegal, pulling a weapon certainly is. They should have belted that guy immediately, gotten him from behind, and cuffed him. Sure, he may have vanished at that point, but not with all the money.
Yay Danger Room! First mention of the name, although conceivably that's where they were training last issue as well. But actually the script makes it sound like the Danger Room is a special training place separate from where they usually work. Let's see what happens.
(page 7-10) The Angel is asked to catch a high-speed missile as if it were the Vanisher, but he isn't fast enough. The Beast dodges some metal hands, only to fall into a pit. But it is narrow enough that he is able to slap his hands on the sides to stop himself from falling. He then pushes against the walls to propel himself out. Marvel Girl catches him and sets him down gently.
So, Lee and Kirby seem to have drastically altered their interpretation of Professor X already. Xavier is speaking aloud throughout these scenes. His only thought transmissions were when the X-Men weren't in the room with him. This makes more sense to me. Also he seems to have gained control of his arms, throwing switches, gesticulating while talking, and even lighting a pipe.
(page 10,11) The Vanisher pops up in the Pentagon, teases a general and his aide that he plans to steal some continental defense plans, then pops out again. His activities are reported in the paper, so lots of gantster thug types flock to him.
Can I take this moment to talk about how horribly retarded the Vanisher's outfit is? I have soooo many problems with it. The material seems to be some sort of crinkled taffeta or something. Then there's the poofy hood. WTF! Who wears a poofy hood? It's not just a hooded cloak thing, which might be cool. But no, it's like a stiff poofy hood that surrounds his head and stands out for several inches to either side! Blargh! And. And! It's pink. Pink with a purple cape and gloves. And a black snakey thing going down the middle. Gaawwd, that's awful. I have always hated the Vanisher's look here. One of the worst-dressed villains in comic history. If you know of worse, comment below, with links to pics if you have any.
But there it is on page 11. The explanation of the Vanisher's powers: "I have the ability to teleport myself to any place I can think of...at unimaginable speed!" And for some reason, I never got it as a kid. Sure, I understand now, but I don't know when it clicked. The first time I read this as an adult a couple years back? Or earlier than that? I don't know.
The Vanisher refers to himself as a member of Homo superior. Magneto used that term last issue, though I didn't comment on it. How do all the evil mutants know this is what they're called? Is there a newsletter you subscribe to? Any way I can get a copy?
The Vanisher doesn't say *why* he wants the plans, only that his next move after the theft will be the theft will be the most DARING move in the history of crime. Hmmm... Maybe he'll give them to the Chameleon to pass on to his Commie buddies. Continental defense plans ---> ??? ---> profit
(page 12-13) The X-Men are still training for the oncoming confrontation. Marvel Girl is lifting a very large, heavy ball, but her telekinetic powers start to give out while the ball is above her, so Cyclops blasts it. Iceman gets envious of Marvel Girl's gratitude. Professor X mentally calls Fred Duncan with the F.B.I. Department of Special Affairs and gets the lowdown on the Vanisher, so he and the X-Men head for Washington, D.C.
Some interesting bits of X-Men mythology are brought in here that are later abandoned with no explanation. I'm talking about Xavier's contacts in the FBI. No explanation is given here for their origin. The reader might presume last issue's save at Cape Citadel gave Professor X some superhero cred with the authorities. In actuality, his relationship with Duncan predates the X-Men and we'll be coming back to it when we get into the "Origins of the X-Men" backups about 30 issues down the road.
And I'm sorry, but Marvel Girl, if you know you can't lift heavy things very easily, then why did you move the stupid ball over your head? Usually when I'm having difficulty lifting something, the last thing I do is carry it in a way that it could crush my skull.
So did Iceman hit puberty since last issue? Cuz now all of a sudden, he feels left out when Jean is expressing her gratitude for Cyclops' save. Maybe he caught Cyclops calling her "gorgeous" earlier while he was doing his stupid machine-gun ice pellet stunt. (Which, by the way, was kinda out of character for Slim, according to later developments of his character.) Now as Cyclops saves the day and is a little flirty with Jean, Iceman decides he needs an ice horse thrown at him.
So Xavier can send thought messages out, but can't receive without assistance. He's given Fred Duncan some sort of forehead strap that will let him send thoughts back to Xavier from Washington. I like how Xavier hears of the Vanisher's threats to steal the continental defense plans, and he says "I suspected that might be his next move". Really? You heard he robbed a bank and you suspected that the Pentagon was his next stop? That's some awesome logic there.
There's a new vehicle being used for the trip to Washington. A McDonnell XV-1 Convertiplane, which looks like a helicopter that might also have water applications. I don't think the Blackbird comes in until Claremont.
(page 14-17) The Vanisher pops into the Pentagon and takes the oh so important continental defense plans, and pops out again. He continues to reappear and disappear on his way out, frustrating the guards. The X-Men meet him on the steps. Each of the team gets in at least one shot, and the plans are recovered, but only temporarily. And the Vanisher ultimate pops out again, plans in hand. This, of course, makes everyone think the X-Men are useless.
The Vanisher's powers are used to good effect throughout this issue. He just enjoys tantalizing everyone, which is awesome. I'm not gonna forgive his fashion choice, but he knows how to be villainous.
And the X-Men made a valiant attempt here. I can't fault their efforts. The only thing I think they could have done is huddle over the briefcase like a football once they'd captured it, so he couldn't reach it.
The reaction of the public is typical of New York public in Lee's writing at this time. The team fails, so everyone hates them. But you know, I think that's pretty typical of people. I present the LOST finale as example. Some of those who didn't get every detail answered to their satisfaction accuse the writers of base incompetence across the board. So, yeah, I'd say Lee got it spot on. (Don't argue with me on Lost. If that doesn't describe you, fine. That's why I said "some".)
(page 17-19) The X-Men are watching the news when the announcement comes across that the Vanisher is demanding ten million dollars in exchange for the plans. The X-Men begin to deride each other until Xavier calls them to attention and says he'll be entering the game now.
Ok, so now we know that the Vanisher had more of a plan than we got from Magneto last issue. Magneto captured a military base very nicely, but we have no idea what he was going to do next. The Vanisher stole some crucial plans, and he's holding them hostage for ten million dollars. That's smart. He gets points. In fact, I'll give him ten million points. Add that to the negative infinity he has for his costume choice, aaaaand he's still in the red.
Xavier gives some coaching here, which is good. Cuz really, I thought the X-Men fared pretty well against some guy who can just teleport at the blink of an eye. And the Vanisher really didn't give them much time to react. Good job, X man.
(page 19-22) The final act has Professor X calls the White House (presumably Agent Duncan again) to make them aware of his plan, and the X-Men arrive on the Capitol Hill to confront the Vanisher and his gang of thugs. Taunts are thrown before the X-Men part to reveal a simple man in a wheelchair behind them. The Vanisher forgets how to control his power and then forgets his entire identity due to the professor's mental attack, but everyone else in attendance is oblivious to this (excepting the X-Men, of course). The mutant teens round up the gangsters in short order, and the militia is flabbergasted to find a wheelchair-bound civilian in attendance. The heroes offer to escort him from the scene.
In retrospect, it seems kinda amazing that Stan Lee would have pulled this card as quickly and easily as he did. Theoretically, every single menace the X-Men face could be defeated by Professor X's mental attack, barring some plot device granting immunity. Regardless, it does work here, and it's a rather unusual form of attack in that there is absolutely no evidence of anything happening. Perhaps the only real way to beat someone who can vanish from his captors' hands at will.
Punnage from superheroes while they're battling thugs is always funny. Right?
Professor X's closing remarks are a bit trite, though. "Always remember, my X-Men!.. The greatest power on Earth is the magnificent power we all of us possess...the power of the HUMAN BRAIN!" Well, that's all well and good, Teach, if you have a super-powerful mutant brain. Otherwise, my brain is much better at beating Minesweeper than Mutant Menaces.
And this brings us to the end of the second issue of The X-Men. Please comment below with your feelings on the book and/or my review. Next issue, the Blob! See you there!
Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 9:15pm EDT