Amazing Spider-Man Classics (x-men blog)
The X-Men Blog -- Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1

This is going to be a very brief post about a very brief appearance, but you can't accuse me of not being a completist.

We discussed this book in depth and at length on episode 12 of Amazing Spider-Man Classics with Michael Bailey.  It's one of my favorite Spider-Man books of this era, and the episode was a lot of fun.  But here are the salient points for our X-Men discussion.

Peter Parker's aunt May and girlfriend Betty Brant have been kidnapped by six of Spider-Man's chief villains, referring to themselves collectively as the Sinister Six, hence the name of the story "The Sinister Six!"  This was done because Spider-Man had rescued Betty Brant a couple times in recent history, and when Betty was captured, May was in her company, so May got to go along for the ride.

The Vulture is one of these baddies.  He goes to the Daily Bugle and orders publisher J. Jonah Jameson to print a notice on where to meet up and rescue the women.  Jonah agrees to print the notice but, knowing the edition won't hit for several hours, also makes a phone call to the Fantastic Four to see if they can help find Spider-Man.  They don't know so they call the Avengers.  When there's no luck there, the Human Torch writes a fiery message in the sky to get Spider-Man's attention.

And that's where we come in.  Essentially, these phone calls are all excuses to get Marvel's various superheroes some page time, to get readers over to their books.  And next up in the line of advertisements is the X-Men.  Johnny's fiery message is visible from Xavier's school.  During a training session in the Danger Room, the Angel notices the message out the window.  Professor Xavier says it doesn't concern the X-Men and to continue training.  And that's basically it.

Now, there's not a whole lot to be done with this, but there are just a couple things that jump out at me.  First, I had always been under the impression that the mansion is quite a distance from the City.  It's always described as being "in Westchester County", but in my head, I always translated that as upstate somewhere.  And I was rather gobsmacked that they'd be able to see this message from so far away.  Not being a native to New York, I had to look that up, and turns out that Westchester County does also include New York City.  To say they're in Westchester County, to me, is basically saying they're near the City to the north, but not in it.  So I guess it's not that far away, and they could conceivably see the message, though it'd be much smaller and closer to the horizon than it appears in the art here.

Also, later in the series, the question of whether Spider-Man is a mutant will become kinda important to a couple issues of The X-Men.  We'll be talking about those on the show and here, as we hit them.  But I just want to point out that Xavier doesn't give the notion a thought at this point.  Seeing as how we just moved heaven and earth to contact Namor, I think Xavier might have done something if someone had given him cause to think about Spider-Man, and he had suspected Spider-Man of being a mutant.

 

But anyway, not much else to say.  Later in the issue, the X-Men appear again, but they turn out to just be robots built by Mysterio, so I'm not gonna worry about that.  Next up is The X-Men 7, where the Blob returns and we see the (wait for it) BROTHERHOOD OF EVIL MUTANTS!!!  ....AGAIN!!!  So we'll see you next time.  As always, please leave comments below, or send an email if you'd like to receive a response in an email segment on Amazing Spider-Man Classics.

Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 12:06pm EST

The X-Men Blog -- The X-Men 6

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

The X-Men Blog -- The Fantastic Four 28

Where, oh where, has the summer gone?  I tell you, I thought I would have no problem getting this blog all caught up to be in sync with the Spidey podcast by summer's end.  But here we are with the butt-end of August staring us in the face, and I'm still several months behind.  Ah, well.  I'm trying.  And hopefully, you're reading.

Today's fare is another crossover book.  Around this time, I guess Marvel decided that their flagship title would be a good place to showcase their two new superteams, and so The Fantastic Four played host to both the Avengers (in issue 26) and the X-Men (in issue 28).  It is, of course, the second of these that interests us today.

The Fantastic Four 28 was published in the off-month between The X-Men 5 and 6, as the comic is still bi-monthly at this point.  The cover features the two teams in the grip of the Mad Thinker's Awesome Android.  And I have to say, that cover doesn't do a whole lot for me.  The art on the people looks good.  There are some good poses as the X-Men and FF don't know whether to help each other or kill each other.  But the Android is this big blob of gray.  And it just throws the whole thing off for me.  Also, the captions advertise that our villains this month will be the Mad Thinker, the Puppet Master, and the Awesome Android, common enough antagonists for the FF at this time.  The lack of an X-Men villain makes me think this will be primarily an FF-centric story, but I'm sure we'll get plenty of mutant madness along the way.  (Also, admittedly, there just aren't many X-Men villains to speak of at this point.)

The opening splash page is dominated by the title at the top: "We Have to Fight the X-Men!"  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is silver age Marvel.  So if superheroes from two titles are going to meet, there's going to be trouble.  The image here is rather pedestrian, I have to say.  The Thing is carrying a statue of himself, freshly sculpted by girlfriend Alicia Masters, who is walking beside him.  Reed and Susan are...erm...reading a newspaper.  ...right.  The Torch is the only guy doing anything interesting by flying around in flames, but then he loses points for sounding like an idiot: "Hi, sis! What are you and Reed looking at? The FUNNIES are in the other section!"  Johnny.  Just...just go away.

(pages 1-2) Everyone talks about how cool the X-Men are and the Thing hurts Alicia's feelings.

Short, sweet opening scene.  Stan's talking up how cool the X-Men are by describing how famous they've become and listing off their awesome villains.  Johnny pipes up, bragging how he and Iceman beat the Barracude a few months back.  Johnny, I wouldn't brag about that if I were you.  And then the Thing mentions how much better Alicia's work is than the Puppet Master's.  Then he's all, "Oh man, I forgot he was your stepfather."  Really, Ben?  You forgot your girlfriend's only parent??  That's pretty lame of you.  And it's even lamer of Alicia to let him get away with such a crummy story.

(pages 2-6) The Puppet Master arrives at the Mad Thinker's hideout.  He doesn't want to team up, but the Mad Thinker points out that not teaming up is dumb, so he agrees to team up.  The Puppet Master makes a clay statue of Professor X and uses it to take over his mind.  He then has the Professor order the X-Men to trap and destroy the Fantastic Four, because they allegedly are plotting world domination.

Okay, this story is not exactly starting out well.  We're only six pages in, and I already have sooo many problems.

First, the Mad Thinker is annoying.  The very notion that someone could plan out all the variables of life to predict exactly when things would be happening, down to the second (sometimes the fraction of a second) is just bad.  It's an annoying idea for a villain because it tries to be real-worldly and completely fails.

Next, the Puppet Master shows up so that he can refuse to help.  If I got a request for a super-villain team-up that I wanted to refuse, I'm pretty sure I'd just not go.  Then it's basically, "I don't want to join you."  "But see how AWESOME I am!"  "Wow!  You're even AWESOMEr than I thought.  Okay, I'll join you and your AWESOMEness."

Not only does the Mad Thinker posit he is able to deduce what the leader of the X-Men looks like based on publicly available information about the X-Men.  But the likeness he fashions is a COMPLETELY FEATURELESS HEAD!!!  Oh, let's see, I think I know what he looks like.  So I'll make a human head without an effing face!

Oh but it gets better.  Then the Puppet Master makes a statue that also has no face, but he gives it clothes.  Couldn't the Mad Thinker have done that?  Supposedly, the power here is not in the Puppet Master but in the clay, and if you don't need his awesome sculpting skills to make a lifelike face, then why is he there in the first place??

And then!  (No, I'm not done.)  This faceless approximation of humanity actually works on Xavier.  But isn't strong enough, so the Thinker says to add a precise amount of clay to the statue.  Now, if you have worked with clay, you know that adding clay to a sculpture means you have to RESCULPT IT! out of the new lump of clay!  Probably would have been a thousand jizzes easier to do if he had said, "Here's the amount of clay you'll need.  Use all of it."  Right?

Sigh...  And let's not forget that when Xavier says to DESTROY the Fantastic Four, the X-Men are okay with it.  Sure there's some cursory protest, but they quickly accede to the Professor's insane commands, as we see in the next scene.

(pages 6-12) The X-Men pay a visit to the Baxter Building.  After socializing with the FF, Cyclops requests Reed's help with "an alien space ship sighted on a remote mesa west of here".  Reed respectfully declines.  Cyclops was expecting this as the Thinker had predicted it, so he attacks.  In the other room, a similar interaction happens between Jean Grey and the Thing, and Jean accidentally breaks the Thing statue.  When Sue tries to enter the fray, the Angel and Iceman subdue her and bind her with ice.  The fight continues and the result is that the X-Men leave with Susan as captive, and the rest of the FF prepare to follow with Reed convinced the X-Men's motives are noble.

You know, if I'd made this plan, I would have removed the "socialize" part of the plan.  You get into the building on their good graces and immediately get the drop on the FF.

That aside, once they're in and following their plan in separate rooms, I sure am glad that Cyclops and Jean were able to attack at the same time without communication between them.  It would have sucked if Reed had agreed to help and Jean had attacked the Thing, or vice versa.  Oh wait, that's right, the Thinker knew this would all happen as it did.

The Invisible Woman got force fields at some point.  It wasn't super early, but it wasn't that long either.  I can't remember if she has them by this point.  If so, then her not using them is a terrible use of her power set in the story.  If she doesn't, then this scene proves why she was the most useless member of the team until she got them.

Wait.  Back the truck up.  Did Ben actually threaten to SPANK Jean Grey?  And it wasn't just an idle threat.  No, he actually grabs the girl and puts her under his arm, butt out front ready for the swats.  Oh, this reminds me of a similar event in The Wheel of Time, and Leigh Butler's excellent tirade about it on Tor's website.  If I could just borrow a salient bit: "I just want to say that there is a difference between FIGHTING, and goddamn SPANKING. The latter is something you do to a recalcitrant child, not an adult human being you supposedly regard as an equal."  Yeah, she basically says it all.

And finally, Reed's supposedly altruistic approach to the whole thing.  "Oh, I just wish I knew their motives."  Reed.  They came into your house and assaulted you in your living room.  I know this is an action comic book, but still.  It doesn't matter what someone's motives are when they assault you in your own house.  That makes them criminals.  You hear that, X-Men?  You've just become evil.

I seriously have the feeling that if Xavier told them to jump off a bridge, they'd do it.

(pages 13-22) The showdown occurs on the mesa Cyclops mentioned earlier.  The X-Men arrive with Susan Storm and await further mental orders from Professor X.  Susan realizes they don't know what they're doing.  Xavier commands them telepathically to subdue the Fantastic Four when they arrive, which happens almost immediately.  Fighting ensues, but the mesa seems to have been rigged to trap the FF.  A hole opens below Ben.  A revolving reel device catches Reed and wraps him around it (like that girl's hair in the one of the Saw movies).  And two missiles launch from a hidden launcher, wrapping the Torch and Susan in elastic straightjackets.  Once they're all down, the Thinker and Puppet Master emerge from a hidden doorway, revealing their control over Xavier.  The Puppet Master then uses his puppet to make Xavier put the X-Men to sleep telepathically.  The Beast has enough wits about him to react before losing consciousness, knocking the puppet from the Master's hand and crushing it beneath his feet.  The rest of the FF extricate themselves from their traps and both teams together take on the Thinker's Awesome Android.  With the Xavier puppet destroyed, the Professor recovers and mentally halts the Android's brain.  The bad guys get away, and the two superteams part on good terms.

Well, the ending wasn't as crazy as the rest of the story.  A bit contrived perhaps, but not so full of plot holes I could strain my macaroni through it before adding the milk, butter, and cheese sauce mix (mmmm).  I had completely forgotten the Android's ability to mimic superpowers.  It's been a very long time since I read a story with him in it.  I thought it was just big and strong, so that was actually a refreshing surprise.

So, the Thinker knew from the start, I guess, that the X-Men wouldn't be able to take out the Four, so he had this whole plateau dug out and rigged with traps.  I bet if I tried I could think of several more efficient ways of luring the FF to that plateau that wouldn't involve another superteam getting in the way and destroying the magic puppet.

I find it interesting that the puppet was smashed.  In the first Puppet Master story, the story ended with the puppet falling off a table and breaking, with the story strongly implying that the same had happened to the Puppet Master himself.  But it makes sense for them to retract that kind of device.  Otherwise the puppets, once formed, could never be destroyed for fear of killing their victims.  Of course, it might not have killed the professor because IT DIDN'T EFFING LOOK LIKE HIM!

ahem

My last critique would be that Androids are governed by printed circuits, not by a mind.  I don't like when telepaths are meant to be able to influence machinery.  It doesn't make sense, and it bothered me here.

 

Well, this issue was a bit wonky, I have to say.  It could be that I'm not a big fan of the Mad Thinker.  Like, at all.  And while I think the Puppet Master is a good concept, there were so many problems here with the execution of his character.  Donovan likes to say the FF are jerks, and while that wasn't a dominant theme to this story, there were definitely a couple of jerky moments (Thing, I'm looking at you and your treatments of Alicia and Jean).

But hopefully the issue served its purpose in pulling people over to the main comic, increasing sales for Lee's and Kirby's good works being done there.  And we shall be returning to those stories in short order, bringing a bit of the FF world with us as we go.  Next time, The X-Men Blog will see Namor, The First Mutant, join the ranks of the Brotherhood in The X-Men 6.  See you there.

Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 1:40am EST

The X-Men Blog -- The X-Men 5

 

I spent all weekend reading comics.  Gearing up for the next recording sessions for Amazing Spider-Man Classics (one of which is now past, which means yes, new episodes ARE on the way), catching up on reviews for spidermancrawlspace.com (soon to be posted), and now it's time for another entry in The X-Men Blog.  ...and THEN I'll do my Spanish homework and housework.

The last time that we were in an actual issue of The X-Men, the Professor had lost his powers in an explosion.  We took a sidetrip to a book published in the meantime and saw Iceman playing on a boat with the Torch.  Now we're back to the main book to see how it all works out.

I find the cover very interesting.  Usually when someone is trapped, the camera is outside showing lots of interesting things, and you can see the person through a little window or some such.  Here it's the opposite.  We're inside the Angel's cell with him, looking out through a window at the Brotherhood and the attacking X-Men.  Nice job, Mr. Kirby!  Too bad the colorist STILL doesn't know what color Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are supposed to be.  Ah, well...

ACTION!! SURPRISES! SUSPENSE! All in the magnificent MARVEL MANNER!!  See the most unusual teen-agers of all tie at their fighting best, when they learn: "The Angel is Trapped!"  Magneto and his Evil Mutants, more dangerous than ever, STRIKE AGAIN!

Open to the splash page and YIKES! it looks like Cyclops is seriously about to kill me.  He's right there big in the foreground looking straight at the reader, and he is NOT happy.  The other X-Men are forlorn, but it looks like the Angel and Beast are the only ones moving.  Everyone else is just posing for the camera.  We again have our banner, "X-MEN the most unusual teen-agers of all time!"  It was there last issue too, but I forgot to mention it.  It's in a caption box in the top corner, though.  And the title is given here as "Trapped: One X-Man!"

What's funny is that Stan Lee says the readers were instantly fascinated by Magneto's group of evil mutants.  Even with the bimonthly publishing schedule, how could he possibly know that?  I'm pretty sure the copy for this book had to be written before the last issue hit the stands.  Who knows, though?  Maybe I'm wrong. (Yeah, like that ever happens!)

(pages 1-6) The X-Men arrive home from their outing in issue 4.  They put the Professor to bed so he can rest from his ordeal.  Jean Grey's parents show up for an unexpected visit.  During a tour, Cyclops gets trapped in the Danger Room and has to shoot stuff.  The Greys leave, driving past Mastermind, who is prowling the area, trying to locate the X-Men.

Iceman seems to have lost his boots since the last book.  Not sure what happened to those, but I recall letters complaining about it.  Personally, I think he looks better without them.  They're like little elvish twinkle toe shoes.

I'm not sure, but wouldn't it make sense that the Professor might have a concussion or something bad?  Shouldn't they take him to the hospital?  I'm pretty sure my mama told me that if I ever threw myself in front of an explosion to protect my mutant students, that I should seek medical attention.  And I think the movies say that if you have a concussion, you shouldn't be allowed to sleep.  So the kids fail several different ways here.

Each hero gets a panel to sorta sum up his character in a sentence or two, while changing clothes.  They like to play up the angst of Scott and Hank, and the free youth of Bobby and Warren.

Something confuses me here.  It seems that Jean's parents have absolutely no understanding of her mutant abilities.  Does that make sense?  I know later it'll be retconned that the early onset of her powers was highly traumatic and of course her parents know, but even though that story hasn't been told yet, surely they would know SOMEthing, right?  I have a hard time believing a girl would develop telepathy in a vacuum.

Speaking of her parents, I hope you enjoyed this moment with them.  You won't see them again for about 100 issues.

I find it interesting that simply closing the Danger Room door with someone inside activates a pre-determined automatic series of deadly attacks.  Interesting in an "OH MY GOD WHAT WERE YOU THINKING PROFESSOR XAVIER??" kind of way.

(pages 6-9) Mastermind reports in and Magneto commands his return.  Quicksilver retrieves him in a magnetically-controlled craft, and they then fly up to an orbiting asteroid that has been developed by Magneto into a life-supporting habitat called Asteroid M.  Toad annoys both of them when they arrive, so he gets slapped around.  Magneto then begins formulating plans for their next attack, and his strategy will involve the snivelling Toad.

God, I hate Toad.  I'm so glad they made him devious and more animalistic in the first movie even if his powers still kinda suck.  Basically, he jumps, and he's a toadie to Magneto.  And he has the social skills of a manic jackrabbit.

Quicksilver suggests leaving the X-Men behind.  Is this cuz he doesn't agree with the violence?  Cuz they're fellow mutants?  Or cuz, as he says, they don't seem to be a threat?  Somehow, I don't the character is nearly as complex inside as I'm trying to give him credit for being.

ASTEROID M!!  Yay!  What is more awesome than having a hollowed-out asteroid as your headquarters?  IN SPACE!!  It's nice to know that his Atlantic island fortress had a back-up facility.  I always liked Asteroid M.  This is the first time we see it, but it's retconned later that he's had it up there since just before bringing Q&SW into the Brotherhood.

(pages 9-11)  Bobby invites Scott to watch a track meet with them but has the door slammed in his face for his troubles.  Jean wheels the Professor into the TV room, and all the teen (except Scott) watch the program as event after event is won by a prodigiously leaping athlete.  The competitor's leaps are so extraordinary that the crowd is upset that it's a fake.  The X-Men decide to rush over and help him.

Ok, for all you chronology nuts out there, I'm going to squeeze Strange Tales 120 in right here.  Sometime between getting home at the beginning of the book and now, Iceman went on his cruise with the Torch.  The Official Index to the Marvel Universe suggests that that tale coincides with this one somehow, and so that's how I'm gonna run with it.  The caption "Not long afterwards" means long enough for Bobby to go on a cruise to try and get laid, and fighting pirates.  This makes Scott's strong reaction to him a little bit more believable because he's off gallavanting around and living a normal life while the Professor is ill.  The track meet was just the final straw.

You know and I know this is the Toad.  How the X-Men don't know is a bit beyond me.  Yes, they only met him the once.  And possibly the context of an everyday track meet has thrown them off, but still.

It annoys me how the Beast is silently bemoaning Xavier's loss of brilliance, how his "brain is now merely that of a normal human's".  Very racist of him.

(pages 11-17) The X-Men arrive at the race track in time to rescue the athlete.  They get on a subway to head presumably back toward Westchester, but on the way, the Beast deduces their new companion is the Toad in disguise.  Once they reach Grand Central Terminal, the Toad bounds away, the rest of the Brotherhood shows up, and fighting ensues.  The upshot is that the Angel is bound in iron bars and captured by the Brotherhood, while the X-Men regain possession of the Toad.  The Brotherhood, with the Angel, board a magnetic ship and ascend to the asteroid, where Magneto tortures the Angel to learn the location of X-Men HQ and Professor X.

I'm having a really hard time with the track meet scene.  Ok.  So, the school is in Westchester county, but not in the city.  But somehow they manage to make it to the racetrack in time to save the Toad from a mob that was beginning their attack live on television while they were at school.  That to me seems rather impossible.  Especially because heading back up, they make a big deal about having to take the subway and how they're attracting the commuters' attention.  And THEN, wherever the race was located, they have to make a train change in Grand Central Terminal before heading north.  So, getting to the race should have taken a good long while, not the 30 seconds it seemed to take.  And if they could get there in 30 seconds, why couldn't they get BACK to school in 30 seconds?  Oh.  Wait.  I just saw at the bottom of page 11, they came in a car.  ....okay.  So they drove from the school to the race, which is located in some area where they can't take a direct train north to the school but have to detour through Manhattan.  That doesn't seem to make my question any easier.  Sigh.  Stan and Jack, these guys LIVE IN NEW YORK!  They should know better than this!

Love how Magneto just casually dismantles the famous clock in the train station and uses it as a weapon.  Pity the fool who has to put that sonuvabitch back together.

I don't know whether to say the X-Men perform pretty pitifully here, or that Stan and Jack have crafted a team that is pretty evenly matched with our merry mutants.  None of their fights has had a clear winner yet.

Poor Toad.  Left behind by his beloved master, who secretly hates him.

The Scarlet Witch is very bothered by Magneto's violence.  She seriously needs to get out of that place.

This form of torture is physically painless but mentally gruelling.  All LOSTies are familiar with a similar torture method used by the Others on their misbehaving members, such as the boy who was dating Alex.  The fact that the Angel went through hours of this and was then up for action in the next scene is nothing short of astonishing.

(pages 17-24) The X-Men can't take the Toad home cuz it'll reveal their location, but their dilemma is solved for them as the Toad slips into a trance where he must return home.  He pulls out a device and uses it to call a magno-ship.  The X-Men all follow him aboard to go up to the asteroid.  Fighting ensues immediately, with Magneto using a magnetic intensifier to expand his power so he can control all metal in the entire asteroid.  The Angel is rescued.  Q&SW may hate Magneto, but they also help to fend of Cyclops and the other X-Men from attacking him.  Magneto throws Cyclops into an airlock that breaks apart from the rest of the facility as the asteroid begins to break up.  Iceman forms an ice tunnel through space, so the Angel can fly to the other section and save Cyclops.  The asteroid continues to break up, but the X-Men use a magno-ship to return to the surface.  The ship then flies back up automatically, presumably to save the Brotherhood.  The X-Men return to school to give the Professor their report, only to find that he followed the whole thing mentally.  He didn't regain his powers, though.  He actually never lost them and was just pretending the whole time.  And now that the X-Men have succeeded in a mission with no help from the Professor, they've passed their finals and are no longer trainees.

Ok, final action sequence.  Few things to discuss.  Firstly, why the hell did the Toad go into a trance?  Plotwise, I can see it gives the opportunity for the X-Men to accompany him if he isn't conscious of events.  But it's never explained why it happened.  And I'm pretty sure it never happens again.  Very weird.

Mastermind needs to stick to illusions of bodily malfunction.  Those seem to be the most effective.  When he creates false surroundings, like attacking monsters, if the X-Men know he's around, they just ignore the illusions.

Magneto needs magnetic intensifiers a lot.  He must not be as powerful as he likes everyone to think he is.

Ok.  So, you're gonna use an ice tunnel through space to link two facilities and then casually fly from one to the other?  There's no air, remember?  How will you breathe?  Against what will your wings be pushing to propel you?  Another example of the days before manned space flight when the common Joe just didn't. understand. space. AT ALL.

Professor X.  WHAT THE FUCK!!  Seriously, dude, that was some messed up shit you just pulled.  You pretended to be all hurt and let your students, your family, get all worked up and worried about you, and you were just fine the whole time?  And you KNOW Scott's gotta be pissed about this.  He was so upset about the Professor.  His line "But...WHY, sir?" has gotta be filled with so much shock and anger.  Crazy bald son of a bitch.  You think you're so clever with your pipe.  Oughtta smack you.

 

And joy of joys, we have a letters page!!  This month, the number of magazines carrying letters pages went from two (Amazing Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four) to five (adding The X-Men, The Avengers, and Sgt. Fury).  It's called "Let's Visit the X-Men".  Let's see if anyone had anything interesting to say...

The talk seems to be largely in regard to the third issue, but I know I've read letters about the first issue or two, so maybe those were printed in The Fantastic Four.  That letters column ran letters from all the Marvel books, not just in regard to the FF's issues.

Overall, though, not a lot of note is said.  Many favorable reviews, especially to the addition of individual personality traits in the third issue.  Mary Ann McClain does ask, though, how the Professor got the teens together in the first place.  They promise to explain eventually.  Poor Mary Ann will have to wait a couple years, though, for the Origins of the X-Men backup feature.

 

And that pretty much sums us up for this issue.  The X-Men is still bi-monthly at this point, and in the month between this issue and the next, they guest-starred in an issue of The Fantastic Four, so we'll talk about that next time.  As always, please comment below.  You'll notice all the spam is gone as I've switched on some moderation filters.  So, your comment won't appear immediately, but it will eventually, and I love to read feedback.  Or write an email and we'll read it on the podcast.  Thanks for reading!

 

Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 9:33am EST

The X-Men Blog -- Strange Tales 120

We will have to wait until next time to find out what's going to happen with Professor Xavier's loss of powers because between The X-Men 4 and 5, Iceman was guest-featured in the Human Torch strip in Strange Tales 120.  And since we here at The X-Men Blog go more for publishing order than chronology, you'll have to suffer just as all the kids suffered in the winter of 1964 when these books hit the stands.

The gimmick is beyond obvious here.  Fire meets Ice, right?  And two teen superheroes fighting then teaming up, always a good idea with the kiddies.  The Torch had teamed up with Spider-Man in the summer of 1963 to, presumably, much acclaim (and then they had tussled a few months later in Amazing Spider-Man 8).  Putting the flaming queen ...er, teen... in with a superhero of such a convenient power-set probably seemed a natural.  Plus, I'm sure it'd drum up awareness of The X-Men, if they weren't selling as well as Stan or Marty would like.

At this time, Strange Tales was running the Human Torch in the lead (14 pages in this ish), then a Doctor Strange story (9 pages here), with either the first or second half of a text story taking one page somewhere in the book.  I've read VERY little Doctor Strange, and it doesn't concern our mutant heroes today anyway, so theoretically this post might be shorter as I won't be looking at anything but the Torch story.  Speaking of, let's dive right in.

We have Kirby art on the cover, but with a different inker (George Roussos) compared to his work on The X-Men (which is inked by Paul Reinmann).  I'm not much of a connoisseur of inkers, able to name inkers by looking at their work, but I can usually tell the difference between two inkers when laid side-by-side, especially if the penciller is the same.  Pretty cool picture, though, with Torch and Iceman defending some cruise-goers against pirates (yarrrrh!).

Open up to the splash page and we see the fantastic, exciting portrayal of JOHNNY STORM READING A NEWSPAPER!!!!  Um, right...  Now it's Kirby with Dick Ayers.  Ayers was the usual penciller and inker for the Torch strip at this time.  I guess Kirby came on cuz he was the resident X-Men artist.  In any case, whether it's Ayers' inking or Kirby on an off-day, the FF just look weird.  And no, it's not the best composition.

"The Torch Meets the Iceman!"  I like how there's the note: "Iceman's guest appearance through courtesy of X-MEN magazine!"  I'm pretty sure Lee thought he was being clever here, cuz of course both magazines are owned by the same people.  And you know what?  The clever works.

(pages 1-2) Johnny is reading a paper spotlighting the X-Men's recent tussle with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  Iceman is being touted as "a frozen version of the Human Torch".  Johnny is a bit peeved but blows it off and heads for a date with Doris on a cruise.

Reed mentions that no one knows the X-Men's secret identities, so it'll be hard for Johnny to meet the Iceman.  I'm guessing the logic is that they'd be hard to contact.  It'll be interesting to see how this is re-dressed in a few issues when the X-Men go to the Richards' engagement party.

The Thing lifts a heavy thing and complains about it.  So this is Tuesday.

You know, Torch makes a simple comment that is provided to help anyone unfamiliar with the X-Men to understand the story.  As mutants, "they were all born with their power, instead of getting it accidentally" like the FF did.  I'm thinking that at this point, Lee hadn't worked out the idea that the powers manifest with adolescence.  He has made similar remarks before, and I may have even commented on them before and am just not remembering, but we may owe the adolescence idea to Roy Thomas and his "Origins" back-up feature.

Johnny muses aloud about being on a boat at night with his girlfriend under the stars.  And Susan murmurs how her little brother sure is growing up.  Come on, girl!  This guy is gonna be visiting colleges in a very short while.  You should have wised up to his post-pubescent pretension before now!

(pages 2-5)  At the Professor's school in Westchester county, Iceman is beat to asking Jean on a date by Warren, so at the Professor's suggestion, he decides to go into the city on his own.  He has an advertisement pamphlet for a cruise around the city but arrives at the dock moments too late.  Icing up, he creates a frozen pole vault and lunges himself onto the boat.  Once there, he defrosts and begins making time with the first chicky he catches alone.  Sadly for him, this is Doris Evans, Johnny's own girlfriend, who returns just then with some sodas.  Bobby takes a hint but freezes Johnny's soda as he leaves.

The plot kinda flies in these shorter stories, so I have several things I want to grab here.

First, the change in Bobby's character is kinda amusing here.  In issue 1, he mocked the other boys' wolfish attentions to Jean.  Then by issue 3, he got pubes and decided girls were interesting.  And now, only one and a half issues later (publishing time), he's trying to ask out the one girl in the group but is so shy and always gets beaten to the punch by one of the other guys.  On the one hand, I can see a natural progression.  He realizes that girls can be a good thing, so he wants to date one.  I get that.  But these are feelings that should be wrestled by a 12-14 year old.  Bobby has never seemed that young.  But since he definitely IS younger than the other X-Men, shouldn't he realize that Jean might be out of his league just by age if for no other reason?  I mean, the Professor should be giving his young teens some guidance in the ways of romance if they're going to be spending every day with him from puberty onward.  (And I mean that in the least creepy way possible....although the creepy implications are fun to laugh at.)

So, Bobby gets to the dock a second too late.  And instead of running to the end of the dock and pole vaulting over, he takes the time to undress, skates to the end of the dock on ice, and THEN makes the frozen pole vault.  (We're going to leave aside the fact that pole vaults only work because they're flexible, which ice isn't.)  Bit of a time waster if you ask me, AND it necessitates getting dressed again while hidden on the deck of a boat full of people, but hey it gets us some more icy guest star action, so it's all good, right? Riiiiight...

Poor Bobby.  He's spent the last few months of his life living with three other teen boys, a professor, and an unattainable older woman.  He finally gets some time with other teenagers, and the first girl he meets is the Human Torch's girlfriend.  I'd imagine that he has the flirtation skills of a heated desert rock, but she seems to only shun him because she's taken, not because he comes off as creepy.  So that's good.  Good trick with the frozen soda, too.  (See? He CAN use his powers without frosting up all over, so why didn't he do that to get onto the boat?)

(pages 5-14) Bobby shoulders past a couple thugs, who then break into the radio room and smash all the equipment.  The ship is then boarded by the Barracuda and a bunch of pirates (yarrrrh!), who start robbing all the passengers of their belongings at gunpoint.  But when they come to Johnny Storm, he fights back with fireballs.  Johnny gets Doris and his dress clothes off to safety before returning as the Human Torch, followed shortly by the Iceman, who frosted up while in hiding.  They both go on the attack, but both get stalled, and in the process, the Barracuda sets fire to the deck.  Iceman recovers and douses the fire.  The Torch also get his flame going again in time to corral all the pirates (yarrrrh!) except the Barracuda, who gets to a launch boat with Doris as a hostage and shield.  But he runs aground on an iceberg that rises out of the water, pedestal-like.  Torch flies by and grabs his girl and promises the Barracuda the police would be back for him.  Iceman ducks out, making frozen platforms in the water to walk home.  And Johnny and Doris continue to enjoy their romantic cruise.  Awwww...

So, the action kinda came out of nowhere and didn't stop until the last page of the story, which is kinda good for these half-length-ish tales.  You don't have a whole lot of space to mess around.

Now if you're a listener to Amazing Spider-Man Classics, you've heard Josh Bertone talk about how the Torch had a secret identity in these Strange Tales stories.  I honestly haven't read very many of them, but I've seen occasional inklings of the same.  But here, such a notion is blown out of the water.  Johnny is very obviously throwing fireballs at the pirates (yarrrrh!) in front of everyone.  So much for the secret identity, which wasn't secret anyway cuz everyone knows he's the Torch and was just humoring him.

Trapping the Iceman in a block of ice seems like a redundancy somehow...

Ok, I'm not sure of the exact physics of gasoline melting through snow.  But I'm pretty sure it's not because of some intense hidden heat.  It probably has something to do with the fact that it's liquid and therefore efficiently conducts the heat that it has by virtue of not being frozen.  The line that it melted the snow off his foot so quickly it burned him is just silly science at large again.

While making big snowballs and throwing them at the flames looks good in art, wouldn't it have been better just to make an ice sheet over the fire, taking its heat and oxygen simultaneously, and therefore dousing it?

There are of course closing lines that drench us with irony.  Doris wonders if Iceman has a girlfriend, and Johnny figures sure he must have dozens.  Cuz superpowers automatically make the opposite sex bend over backward for you.  Which is why you never have problems with Doris, Johnny.

And then Johnny snuggles up next to Doris.  Which reminds me.  Bobby, why'd you leave???  This would have been the perfect time to find some poor honey who didn't have anyone to comfort her and make your move, son!  Sigh...  No skills in the ways of love, what'd I tell you?

Now, you may be asking yourself, "Self, how long do I have to wait before I get to see the Barracuda again?  He was so friggin awesome!!!"  Alas, poor soul, the Barracuda, or Captain Barracuda as he would come to be known, will only get brought back three more times, and you can find those issues listed here.

 

Well, folks, that brings us to the close of another fun-filled X-Men adventure.  You know, we didn't see the Professor use any powers here.  I wonder if this issue could fit between issues 4 and 5, where it was published.  We'll check that out when we get to issue 5 next time.  In the meantime, as always, please comment below, or if you have a comment/question you'd like addressed on the air, send in an email and we'll read it on Amazing Spider-Man Classics.  I'm out!

Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 1:00am EST

The X-Men Blog -- The X-Men 4

Just got through geeking out about all the goodness coming out of San Diego Comic-Con.  The Avengers movies excitement is bleeding through the Intertubes and getting on my mousepad.  So I guess that means it's time for another entry in The X-Men Blog.

Today is another milestone, as they all are actually right now, cuz every issue is someone's first appearance.  But this is a great time for early Marvel as they started experimenting with continued stories in a lot of their titles this month.  As discussed in Amazing Spider-Man Classics episode 8, Spider-Man fought Doctor Octopus the first of two times in a row.  The Fantastic Four begin a two-part battle with the Thing.  The Black Widow returns to torment Iron Man for the first of two stories.  And the X-Men come face-to-face for the first time with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, which will also lead into next issue's story.

So, speaking of the Brotherhood, let's dive right in, shall we?

The cover is the classic Kirby trope of having a bunch of large antagonists looming menacingly over tiny versions of our heroes.  I hadn't realized just how often he did this until I saw a recent issue of Dark Avengers (#7) with a similar cover, and I thought "Hey, that reminds me of another cover I saw."  So I started browsing cover galleries at comicbookdb.com and wouldn't you know it, this design is used over and over and OVER and OVER again!!  Not just by Kirby either, though he liked it a lot.  I dare you to go browse through some of the first hundred Fantastic Four covers.  I bet you spot at least ten of these.  But anyways, I don't want to sound like I'm dogging on the design, cuz I'm not.  It's very effective.  That's why he used it a lot.  And back to our own cover for today, we see "the return of the dreaded Magneto!" He's back from the first issue, bringing some friends with him this time as "At last!! The X-Men come face-to-face with 'the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants' "!

Interesting side note about the Brotherhood.  Stan Lee said once recently that, although the readers and maybe the heroes referred to these guys as "evil" mutants, he didn't actually put that word in Magneto's mouth.  He wanted to portray a villain who believed his cause was right and just and proper for his people, albeit pursuing highly misguided methods.  So I'll be curious as we go through these early X-Men books to see whether Magneto uses the word "evil".

But I'm not done with the cover yet.  This here is what the Brotherhood would look like if they were on awkwardfamilyphotos.com.  Quicksilver is in his later hero color of blue, and the Scarlet Witch looks like she's going by the name Verdant Witch today.  Looks like someone gave the cover colorist the wrong instructions.

So we open up.  And wow, this splash page is so much better than what we've had so far.  Dynamic action flying off the page right at the reader.  This here is the way to start a story.  Though Jack Kirby has always had a good reputation as an artist, and though he's been in the business over 20 years by this point, I don't feel his previous opening splashes in this book have been a fraction as good.

(pages 1-4) The book opens on the familiar scene of the Danger Room as the Beast runs through some obstacles.  He's doing well, having lasted longer than ever before, but he grabs a rope to swing over some water, and the rope turns out to be a piece of paper that snaps under his weight, dropping him in the splash.  Next is the Iceman, who succumbs to a heat vent that melts off his snowy covering.  The Angel becomes the Assman when he picks up Bobby and hangs him on a hook by his shorts.  Professor X has Marvel Girl get Bobby down telekinetically and then open a box, removing the contents.  It's a birthday cake!

A few things here.  Iceman is still a walking snowman in appearance, wearing nothing but boots and shorts.  The shorts are under the snow, but the boots are visible.  So when he de-ices, he's not exactly presentable in public beyond a swimming pool or weight room.  So when Angel hangs him out to dry, I get kinda ticked off at him.  There's absolutely no way that should be acceptable behavior.  It's rude and risks Bobby falling out of his shorts, becoming even more indecent and possibly getting hurt in the process.  Warren is definitely not my friend here.

Secondly, the birthday cake is to celebrate one year since the school opened.  I think I said in a previous post that we didn't really know how long the other X-Men had been training before Marvel Girl joined.  At this point in Marvel's history, they would often reference past events as being as far back as the actual issues were on the release schedule.  So, since issue 1 was six months earlier (the books being bimonthly at this point), that would put the X-Men's inception (which I choose to identify with Cyclops' recruitment) at six months before Jean Grey joined the team.

Also, Cyclops is sweet by using his force beam to cut Jeannie a slice of cake.  She thinks it's endearing.  They're so cute.  Too bad it's gonna be 30 more issues before they finally hook up.

(pages 4-6) We are introduced to four new villains.  The Toad, Mastermind, the Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver are sitting at dinner, detesting each other's company.  Mastermind makes an ass of himself with the Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver slugs him for being rude to his sister.  The Toad threatens to tell tales to their Leader, and they all wonder where their Leader is.

I guess we're not supposed to know who the Leader is.  Except that he was on the cover, so...  Y'know, I've always wondered about that trope with older comics.  The internal story acts like something's a surprise, when in fact it was given away on the cover or opening splash.  Kinda silly.  Ah well.

Here it is, folks.  The first appearance of the Scarlet Witch.  Possibly the greatest impactor on the modern Marvel Universe's status quo, being responsible for both Avengers Disassembled and House of M, the effects of which are still being felt today.

And her brother, Quicksilver, who runs fast and is full of himself.

Mastermind is a pretty cool power set wrapped around a pretty obnoxious personality.  The first time he impressed me was the Dark Phoenix / Black Queen storyline in 1980.

The Toad is just that, a toadie to his Leader, who is SPOILER Magneto.

One other bit of note is that there seems to be confusion in Lee's early understanding of how Wanda's power was to work.  Pietro warns her not to point because that always causes something bad to happen, but Wanda replies that she would only use a little of her power against Mastermind.  So maybe Stan Lee isn't confused, but Quicksilver is, cuz he evidently thinks she can't control herself, but she thinks she can.  Ah well.

(pages 6,7) Magneto invades a large shipping line, takes control of an armed ex-convoy freighter, and takes it out to sea, controlling all operations via his magnetic powers.  The Angel is out on a long-range test flight and sees the freighter, notes that it's unmanned, and heads home.  He tells the Professor about it, who gets a hunch that not all is as it seems.

The vast, detailed extent of Magneto's powers is illuminated here, as he controls all the moving parts of a freighter's engine with his power.  I also think it's interesting the Angel's training includes distance flight.  It makes total sense, but I wouldn't have considered it.  (I also like Jean Grey in a lab coat here.  Somehow, loosely draping garments on a sexy form are very enticing.)

(pages 8,9) Magneto arrives on what we now see is an island fortress, where the rest of the Brotherhood is staying.  Toad immediately tells on the other mutants for bickering.  Magneto yells at Mastermind and is about to do the same to Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, when Pietro threatens to leave.  Magneto reminds them that they are in his debt because he saved Wanda from being killed by a fearful village mob.  And so they prepare to launch their first attack in world conquest.

The extent of Magneto's connection to the Mutant Siblings (as I shall now call them) is one of those cool bits of Marvel's history.  It's of course well-known and one of the first things you learn if you look for information on Quicksilver or the Scarlet Witch, but it won't be invented for YEARS after this point.  We don't know why Magneto happened along in time to save the Witch.  We DO know, however, that the Mutant Siblings are from the heart of eastern Europe and therefore (logically) should have an accent to their English, but of course this is never done when they're used in animation.

I will also take this moment to say that Marvel (especially and specifically Stan Lee) often gets credited for developing "superheroes with problems", but it's also worth noting that this villain team is similarly crafted.  There is bickering among them, which might not have been too unusual.  But you have two members (Q and SW) who don't even seem to want to be there.  Now, I doubt Lee planned to have them defect to the other side over a year later (as we joke on the show, Lee was very obviously making this up as he went with very little planning ahead for his stories), but that's definitely an organic extension of the characters as they were first created.  And I like that.  Making personable heroes is cool.  Making personable villains that grow and change over time is also cool.

And by the way, I think I want to include Q and SW in this blog, even when they go off to the Avengers.  If you have an opinion on whether you like that idea, tell me in the comments.

(pages 9-11) Days later, Professor Xavier reads of Santo Marco (a small South American country, fictitious of course) being attacked by a lone freighter.  He sends out a thought summons "RED ALERT" to all the X-Men, who come to his study, only to overhear him in mental communication with Magneto.  Mags and the Prof argue briefly before Magnetos swears eternal enmity between them, and Xavier vows to stop him.

"INCREDIBLE! One lone freighter attacking an entire South American nation! Who would DARE?? Who, except for the ones in hiding -- THE EVIL MUTANTS!!"  Classic example of insular storytelling.  I realize it's a common trope of the comics, but really this is a shared universe, right?  Hasn't Xavier realized there are other villains out there who could be responsible?  I mean, Spider-Man has fought...well, at this point we're on issue 10, so um...Electro? no...Doctor Octopus? ... no, hates Spider-Man but is in jail and not really the world-dominating type...  Oh, but I bet you the Fantastic Four have some villains...  let's see... Hate Monger died... Mole Man wants to conquer the surface world, but a freighter isn't really his style.  Same with Namor.  Dr. Doom seems more focused on hating Reed than taking over the world, and though I can see him enjoying being a global despot, again a lone freighter against a South American nation seems unlike him.  ... Hmmm...  Thor's villains suck at this point.  Same with Iron Man's.  Well.  Crap...  I guess Xavier is fully justified in his crazy leap to conclusions here.  Well no, I take that back.  There's all the NON-supervillain stuff in the world that could easily be behind an international attack.  So it's still a crazy leap in logic.

What's another crazy leap is Xavier's power set here.  He was able to tell, over a distance of at least 2000 miles, that someone was trying to contact him mentally.  And then, after he made contact, he took someone else's thoughts and amplified them from where he was sitting, apparently to allow the free-floating full-torso vaporous apparition conversation on the "mental plane".  This is the same guy who in a not-too-distant issue won't be able to talk to his students across town unless they have Jean (if I recall correctly).

I also think it's funny that when Cyclops and the Iceman are running past Warren still changing out of civvies, that Stan Lee could have put anything in that panel for dialog, and he chose to make Warren look like a lazy bastard.

Oh, and I'm rationalizing the Professor's vocal muttering while in communication with Magneto as a voluntary choice to keep the X-Men informed on his half of the conversation because it's already been well-established that his telepathic communications are silent.

(pages 11-13) The final setup scenes before the big battle.  Magneto finishes shelling the area around Santo Marco's capital.  He invades with a massive army, created by Mastermind's illusion, the size of which intimidates the populace into surrender without a shot being fired.  Once installed as dictator, Magneto recruits an actual army from among the populace.  The borders are closed and roadways guarded, but the guards admit representatives from Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters "on a good will trip from America" so "they can be fooled into thinking Magneto is a kind and beloved ruler".  Magneto is settling into his new role as despot when he mentally detects the proximity of Xavier and therefore the X-Men.  He prepares a trap for them while Xavier simultaneously prepares a plan for attack.

It's scenes like the invasion that make me wonder about the exact nature of plot planning between Lee and Kirby.  Did Kirby intend that all the soldiers after the initial invasion would be real, or still illusions provided by Mastermind?  One group looks identical to the other.

I guess I'm confused about what "closed borders" mean.  Cuz if they're closed, how are random tourists from America allowed into the country?  I don't get it.

At first, I was extremely confused by Magneto's reaction here.  "The mental emanations of their leader are so strong that I feel them in my brain!!"  Cuz Magneto has no innate telepathic powers.  But then Xavier says, "There is no need for further delay! Magneto must have detected our presence by now!"  So, Xavier was deliberately teasing Mags's brains.  That might not have been the wisest move, but at least the plot makes sense.

As usual, we'll be summing up the final fight scene in one go, cuz the details worth noting will be fewer.

(pages 13-23) The Beast attacks some guards on a turret but is repelled by the Toad and Mastermind.  The Angel likewise knocks out some soldiers before being attacked by Quicksilver, but the Angel dodges Pietro long enough to steer him into a wall.  The Scarlet Witch enters then and believes the Angel to have harmed her brother, so Wanda casts a hex that pulls a wall down on Warren's head.  They take the Angel captive to Magneto, and they are then attacked by Cyclops.  He wards them off successfully but loses consciousness from the strain.  The Iceman arrives, unties the Angel, and then uses ice to revive Cyclops.  They pursue the bad guys but are met by flying weapons, controlled by Marvel Girl who is coming from the other direction with the Beast.  They thought Cyclops and gang were the baddies.  Realizing they have accomplished a whole lot of nothing, they then run from a river of burning oil, but Professor X wheels through the flames, demonstrating that it's only an illusion.  Magneto sets two bombs to explode, one a simple detonation for the X-Men, the other a nuclear bomb to take out all of Santo Marco should the first fail.  They escape.  The X-Men trigger the first bomb, but Xavier throws himself into the way of the blast, taking all the force and falling unconscious.  Magneto sets the other to go off, but Quicksilver races back and disables the nuke.  The bad guys get away, and Xavier awakes to tell the X-Men that he is now without his mutant abilities.

So I guess I never realized, but the Scarlet Witch's red head dress isn't just a face-frame.  It is actually a wrap around her entire head, with her hair sticking out the top of what is essentially a shapely tube on her head with a face hole.  Weird.  Me no likey.

Everyone gets a good moment to show his powers in this sequence, except Magneto really.  But he got to drive that freighter earlier, so that's cool.  Now, though, all he does is set bombs.  Maybe he activated the nuke magnetically?

We do get to see Pietro's misgivings at murdering human beings.  Further confirmation that he and his sister don't really belong with Magneto.

And the little cliffhanger ending.  Xavier is now powerless.  Gasp!  Will the X-Men be able to make it without him?  On the one hand, it's kinda a clever plot device to show the heroes don't need their mentor but can make it as a self-supportive team.  But on the other, it also seems like that plot device is a bit too convenient and could actually be manipulation on the Professor's part.  But surely not, right?  We'll have to see next time.

Well, as I said, this is a two-parter.  The Brotherhood is back next issue for more fun and games, but before we get there, we have a detour to make next time.  See you then, and don't forget to comment below.  I love to know when people are reading!

Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 1:16am EST

The X-Men Blog -- The X-Men 3

Sorry for the delays, folks.  This project is still in progress.  I promise.

So today on the X-Men Blob, we're going to be taking a look at the Blog's first appearance in The X-Men 3.

...see what I did there?  I'm so clever!

So, we have another awesome Lee/Kirby issue to look at today.  You know, I give these books a hard time because it's fun.  But you have to know I love them.  There are so many things created in these issues -- characters and plot tropes -- that forge the way for some of the greatest storytelling in comics history.

If you look at the cover, you'll notice a couple minor changes.  The logo for "The X-Men" has changed just slightly, with a shrinking of the definite article and the addition of the Angel flying across the top.  This is a nice addition because the corner icon only includes Marvel Girl, Cyclops, and Iceman.  It's nice to have another character represented in the trade dress.  (I've never used that term "trade dress" before.  Does it work there?)  Also, the slogan "The Stranges Super-Heroes of All!" is reworded and moved to the inside, so the opening splash reads "The Most Unusual Teen-Agers of All Time!"  And it's a good thing they are because today they're up against "the Blob, one of the strangest foes of all!"

(page 1-5) Open to the first page, and our tale begins, as usual, right on the opening splash.  Cyclops is doing a training exercise that gives place to a romp between the boys.  Jean does an exercise and then Xavier senses the presence of a new mutant.  The X-Men all go change to civvies and head out to find the mutant.

Lee had gotten some criticism that his X-Men didn't have much personality and that some of them seemed like cheap knockoffs of other characters (i.e., Iceman of the Torch, and the Beast of the Thing).  So Scott (who has a name now besides "Slim") takes on his morose "oh if only my eyes weren't so deadly" character, and his secret unspoken love for Jean.  And he's not alone in the love for Jean bit.  Bobby hit puberty sometime since the first issue, and he and the Beast race for the chance to escort Jean on the mutant hunt.  Even the Professor has a thought about his deep secret love for Jean, a notion that was evidently abandoned, brought up again only rarely and only after many, many years.  But of course, it's Warren, now being played as the arrogant rich showoff type, who wins the getting-ready race and rides off with Jean in the passenger seat of his Rolls.  The other X-Man to get a change is Hank, now the bookworm with a penchant for verbiage.  (We find out much later that this is an act to get attention, but that's waaay down the road, and probably not part of Lee's intention here.)

Jean has got to be uncomfortable living in a house full of men and boys whose favorite passtime seems to be trying to get in her pants.  I can't imagine what that's like for a girl.  Obviously, that's partly due to differences in sexual wiring, cuz I know if the genders were reversed, and I were the object of affections, you wouldn't hear me complaining.  At least, not until I'd banged each one several times.

Xavier's secret love for Jean is a bit beyond creepy, isn't it?  There's really no way to make that unbad.  I'm sooo glad it was (almost) never mentioned again.

Speaking of Xavier, since when does he have the ability to automatically sense mutants nearby?  ...well, I guess since now.  This is only the third issue and there is no Cerebro yet.  Maybe we can justify it by saying that the circus just came close enough for his brain to react.

I have to admit, I grew rather tiresome of the Cyclops-Jean "romantic tension" (for lack of a better word).  It starts here, and it doesn't end for several years, and it's just annoying after a while.

 

(page 5-12) All the heroes go out hunting.  Some think they find the mysterious mutant, but those turn out to be false alarms. Meanwhile Scott Summers, the X-Man known as Cyclops, makes his way to a nearby carnival, where he finds an overweight man called the Blob.  After a mental confirmation from the Professor, Scott investigates the attraction.  A gang of roughs can't move him.  Bullets bounce off his thick hide.  Cuz, you know, he's a mutant and stuff.  Cyclops, the Angel, and Marvel Girl convince him to come back to the school.  There, the Professor tests the extent of his powers and offers him a place on the team, but the Blob refuses.  The Professor is outraged.  The X-Men try to subdue the Blob by force so the Professor can wipe his memory of their headquarters, but the Blob gets away.

Now I want to be clear on this point.  The Blob is all but coerced into going to the school.  Cyclops tries bullying and when that doesn't work, the Angel takes advantage of Jean's good looks.  It's only Blob's groin reaction that gets him to follow the X-Men back to their place.  He didn't want to go.  And so, when he gets there, and he doesn't want to join the team, the Professor is outraged and surprised why?  I realize this is only the third issue and so we're expected to allow the Professor to make this mistake once, but let's use our heads here.  Xavier should have realized what was going on here from the start.  The fact that he didn't was a big error in judgment on his part.  One I hope we never see again.

(page 12-13) The Blog returns to the circus via the sewers, takes over, and starts getting the carnies together as his thugs.

First things first.  The sewers?  Really?  That's the best way to travel back to the circus?  I guess, since he thought he was being followed, but I think I'd avoid poop water at all costs.

Second.  I'm thinking I should be offended on the behalf of carnival workers that the Blob was able to just get them all to go into crime for him.  Surely the majority of the people could have decided to get out while the getting was good?

And finally, here's "homo superior" again.  You know, I guess I'm gonna go with the idea that Magneto made some sort of worldwide television broadcast while he was trying to take over Cape Citadel before, where he would have used that term.  And now, through news media and such, it's entered the common lexicon.  Cuz that could explain where all these random mutant baddies are picking up the term.  In this particular case, I guess it'd also be possible that Xavier used it back at the mansion, but I get the feeling so far that it might not be a phrase the Prof likes all that much.

(page 13-24) The Angel does some reconnaissance at the carnival and is almost shot down for his troubles.  He reports back to Professor X, who is building an electronic mass influencer, to amplify his own mental powers over a crowd and erase all their memories of the Professor's school once they've attacked it.  While the Angel alerts the rest of the team, the attack comes!  Marvel Girl opens the front door telekinetically so they can rush in, and Cyclops is standing ready to blast them back out again.  The tightrope walkers throw a line in through the window but are faced down by the Beast as they try to walk across.  Hank then has to take down a gorilla while the Angel is faced with a lariat-wielder and a pair of human cannonballs, who take him down.  Cyclops blasts an elephant and its rider into the dirt, but Iceman is subdued by fur coat-wearing thugs.  The rest of the X-Men are taken down one by one through various means, and the Blog leads the carnie gang into the mansion.  However, as Xavier realizes he is in danger, he mentally coaches Marvel Girl in her telekinesis.  She undoes her blindfold and mentally manipulates a knife from the carnival equipment to cut her own bonds.  She then frees the others, and they all rush the mansion and go on the offensive once again.  This gives the Professor the opportunity to use his device in close proximity to the Blog and his thugs, wiping their short-term memories of all knowledge of the X-Men's HQ and relationship to Professor Xavier.  They then rush back to the carnival to avoid losing their jobs, and the day is safe once again.

This is basically the closing fight, and I don't really have a whole lot to say about it.  Each member of the team gets a chance to shine before being taken down.  No one is overcome too easily, and it's a pretty solid fight.

I still think, though, that this whole thing could potentially have been avoided if Cyclops had approached the Blob in costume and been a bit more genteel about the whole thing, getting the Blob's opinion of the idea before bringing him back to the mansion.  

It's probably worth mentioning that this is our first indication of Professor X's penchant for psycho-electronic tinkering.  Here we see his "electronic mass amplifier".  This same talent will later produce Cerebro, the mutant-finding computer.

Overall, I guess this isn't one of my favorite issues.  Though I applaud Stan for giving each of the different members of the team a bit more personality, the actual story here doesn't really grab me.  I'm definitely looking forward to getting into the drama involved with the Brotherhood of Mutants next issue.

 

Well, that brings us to a close.  I hope to have the next one up in a much more timely manner.  Trying to juggle my various comic-related projects and commitments has become a more-involved task in recent weeks, but I'm determined to try.  Thanks for reading, and please comment below!

Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 3:43pm EST

For those who don't know, I recently was graciously chosen to be the reviewer of all Spider-Man miniseries on the Spider-Man Crawl Space.  Problem is, I am behind on my current Spidey reading, so I've been working hard to catch up.  So between that and reading books required for my two podcasts (Amazing Spider-Man Classics and Teenage Wasteland: An Ultimate Spider-Man Podcast), I simply haven't had the chance to write up anymore X-Men reviews.  You have my apologies for the delays.  This blog is not going away.  Once I get caught up on my Spidey reading and reviewing, I'll be returning to it with full gusto.  So wish me luck, and be visiting the Crawl Space to watch for my reviews there.

Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 9:24pm EST

The X-Men Blog -- The Avengers 3

Super-short post today.  The Avengers 3 had a series of cameos, hitting all of Marvel's title superheroes of the time, that weren't actually featured in The Avengers (except Dr. Strange, but he was a new character, and I'm not entirely sure they realized yet that he would be part of the shared universe they were building).

I talked about this issue briefly on ASM Classics, but in case you missed that or don't remember, basically what happened was this.  The Hulk got peeved at the rest of the team last issue because of, basically, trust issues.  So he leapt away in a fit of Cartman ("Screw you guys, I'm going home!").  And now, the rest of the Avengers have decided it's not okay for the Hulk to just be out there doing Hulky things.  He needs to be watched and reined in.  So they want to track him down, but they don't know how.  Iron Man decides to use a Stark-invented Image Projector to project his image to various places to converse with other superheroes and see if he can get their help.  He hits up the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man before landing on the X-Men in their mansion.  Xavier is a bit pissed that someone has just barged in and interrupted their training.  Iron Man points out that he had met the Angel recently, who had made the X-Men available to assist if Iron Man needed it.  So he asks for notice of any sightings of the Hulk.  Xavier agrees and asks that he leave.  And the rest of the book is focused on the Avengers plot with no involvement of the X-Men.

Not a whole helluva lot to say here, but there are some points worth bringing forward.  First, how does Iron Man know all these places to visit?  I can see the Baxter Building for the FF.  That's supposed to be common knowledge.  But how did he pinpoint Spider-Man so easily, and how did he know to go to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters to find the X-Men?  Xavier's ties to the X-Men are supposed to be secret.  And for that matter, why isn't Iron Man using the secret wavelength used only by the X-Men and other specially licensed crime-fighting organizations used by Cyclops in Tales of Suspense 49 to contact the Avengers?  It's not like it's not the same guy writing all these books.  The idea came from his head, so he should have been able to reuse it.  (Or maybe the problem is too many ideas coming from his head, and this one wasn't important enough to remember...?)

And Xavier doesn't even seem bothered that he's been seen training the X-Men, who are in costume by the way, so it's definitely clear that he's training the X-Men.  Again, last month, Xavier talked to Iron Man telepathically, but didn't identify himself, and the point was made pretty clear that he was keeping his identity secret from Iron Man.

On the other hand, the fact that the Avengers, these heroes who've been doing this for quite some time now, decide the X-Men are worth contacting is pretty cool.  I have to wonder if Iron Man would have thought so, had he not encountered them last month?

 

But really, that's it.  There's not much else to this scene; it only takes up three panels.  In future, this is about the extent of what I'll do for cameo and minor appearances.  Sum up the parts of the story that need to be known, tell the X-Men's part, and talk about it.  Next post, I'm really gonna do the Blob.  Then three more posts, and I'll be caught up to Amazing Spider-Man Classics.  This is gonna work out nicely!

Comment below!  Or else!

Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 2:34am EST

The X-Men Blog -- Tales of Suspense 49

Today on the X-Men Blog we are taking our first detour away from our main title, The X-Men, and catching a guest-star appearance of the Angel in Tales of Suspense 49.  For those who don't know, Tales of Suspense was an anthology book that Marvel had been publishing since 1958.  The first issue featured such suspenseful (hehe!) tales as "I Dared to Explore the Unknown Emptiness!" and "Prisoner of the Satellites".  But with superheroes on the rise again in Marvel's repertoire, Stan Lee decided in late 1963 to test a new idea as the lead strip in Tales of Suspense.  Six months earlier, he'd done the same with Thor in Journey into Mystery and the Ant Man in Tales to Astonish.  Now, we had the Iron Man, an excellent example of a superhero with a pretty cool gimmick and intriguing origin, whose stories ended up being very uneven in quality.  With the rise of Iron Man popularity since 2008, I think it's important to point out that if you take a look at his whole history, the character has seldom been good and only rarely been great.  But this was 1963.  Everything Marvel did turned to gold, and so people were reading Tales of Suspense because, even though it wasn't as awesome as The Fantastic Four or Amazing Spider-Man, many found it more interesting than the other companies' books.

So, history lesson over.  The punchline is that Marvel wanted to use the popularity of Tales of Suspense to promote their new book The X-Men.  (One might wonder if it weren't the reverse, with the Angel's apperance meant to increase Tales of Suspense sales, but when Stan Lee was writing this book, the first issue of the X-Men hadn't even hit stands yet.)  Hence, we have issue 49 of that book with Iron Man going up against the Angel.

I find the cover kinda amusing.  Here, the Angel has just walloped Iron Man, who is now falling, presumably to his doom.  Can you imagine this happening in the next Iron Man film?  A guy with wings, clocking armor-clad Robert Downey?  He'd bust his hand!

Open up to the opening splash, and the change from Kirby cover to Ditko interiors is a little jarring.  It's the same concept but different execution, and frankly I prefer the cover, no offense to Mr. Ditko.  We get a sales advertisement for The X-Men on both, and the splash also mentions The Avengers, which had debuted at the same time as The X-Men.

Our title is "The New Iron Man Meets the Angel!"  Notice the word "new".  Last month had debuted Tony Stark's new streamlined red-trimmed costume.  Obviously, Lee and Ditko are still excited about this.

(page 2-4) The Angel is flying over a Stark factory, on his way to wherever, when Iron Man looks up and sees him.  Iron Man tries to warn the Angel away because there's about to be a nuclear explosion, but the Angel thinks he's saying, "Hi!"  So he goes down to be friendly and they're both caught in the blast.  This has the effect of turning the Angel EVIL, so when Iron Man's power gives out, the Angel does nothing to save him.  Iron Man is only able to land safely because of magnetic repellers in his ass.  He goes off to his lab to recharge.

So here we have another excellent example of retarded uses of radiation as a comic plot device.  Instead of KILLING HIM!!, as radiation ought to do... or even turning him into a mutated hulk or something, the effects of vicinity to an atomic explosion are ... basically an attitude adjustment.  And a tendency to rant about EVIL MUTANTS, which is gonna get really annoying here in a minute.  And the topper here is that Iron Man says the effects are "just as he suspected".  How was vilifying radiation in your plans, Tony?

Also, why the hell is there an atomic explosion going on in the Stark factory?  That's definitely not a good thing!  Maybe there's some story there about a meltdown that Stark couldn't stop, so he just evacuated everyone as Iron Man, and now he's about to get out of there himself.

And someone help me out here.  I haven't read a lot of Iron Man.  Most of the recent Fraction stuff, and his first 60 or so stories in Tales of Suspense, and that's it.  But I never got the impression that he was able to withstand an atomic explosion.  Is this just Lee and Ditko neglecting the impact of what nuclear blasts really do?  Or is this an ability that manifests again later, when storytelling is a bit less ignorant of this sort of thing?

If there's one thing that a bad guy can do that will turn me off is rant about how EVIL he is, which is what the Angel starts to do here.  A believable villain is going to believe he's doing something for a legitimate reason.  Maybe the reason is as simple as self-gain at the expense of the rest of the world, but it's a reason.  No person honestly thinks of himself as "evil".  And so when the Angel gets on this kick, I sigh.

Oh, and gotta love the days when Stark was always having to get back to his Lantern to charge his ring, right?

(page 5-8) At Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, the Angel is telling the other X-Men that he's leaving.  They first try to talk him out out of it, then they try to fight him down until the Professor can get there, but the Angel gets away.  (During this, cut away for two panels to show Tony removing his armor.)  Xavier arrives and tries to mentally call the Angel back, but A is having none of it.  Xavier is dismayed that he has failed, but decides they must stop the Angel and orders Cyclops to contact the Avengers.

Some random thoughts here.  The Beast says that the Angel was one of the first X-Men and that they two started together.  This will be contradicted later by the "Origins of the X-Men" backup stories.  The first two X-Men were Cyclops and Iceman, and if you're only talking about a group of five, not being in the top two makes you not one of the first.

If we're gonna view this story partly as an advertisement for The X-Men, then I say giving each of the members a chance to show his powers is a pretty good idea.  Too bad the Angel bests each of his teammates without trying.

We see the rants about the evil mutants.  I'll show you what I mean:

"We're the good mutants! Haw...big deal! I'm gonna find the bad ones...the ones that wanna rule the Earth! The ones we're supposed to fight! ...and I'm gonna join up with them! That's where the action is!"

"But now the fun's over! The next time we meet, I'll be fighting on the side of the other mutants.. the ones who want to destroy mankind!"

"You don't scare me anymore, mister! The only ones I'll be taking orders from, from now on, are the other mutants...those you call the evil ones!"

And Professor X doesn't help:

"But before we make any such decision, we must finish the job at hand! We must stop the Angel! For if he joins the evil mutants, bringing with him his X-Men training, we may find they are too powerful even for us to challenge!"

So yeah.  Lots of evil mutant rants.  Very annoying.

Xavier is kinda touching with his worrying about his ability as a teacher if the Angel could have gone this far off the rails.  Evidently, there's nothing in the Angel's thoughts the Professor saw to indicate this is an artificially-induced state of mind.

(page 8,9) The call goes out to the Avengers.  But everyone's too busy to answer but Tony.

This is a short scene, but I thought it worth mentioning by itself.  For those who don't know the early Avengers chronology, the Hulk was a part of the team for the end of the first issue and most of the second.  He took off at the end of the second issue because he didn't feel he had the trust of the rest of the team.  And that issue had hit a month earlier.  So I'm not sure why he's included here.  Maybe Lee didn't realize exactly where the Hulk's role on the team was headed when he wrote this.  Actually that seems very likely.  You know and I know that the Hulk didn't rejoin the team, but that doesn't mean Stan knew that would be the outcome at this time.

Thor is being Don Blake.  I wonder how that's going to work in the movie.  That's the part of the movie I'm most curious about -- how they're going to integrate the mortal identity into the swords 'n' sorcery tale they're spinning.

Hank Pym is out with his teenage sidekick, being a dirty old man.

And that leaves good old Tony Stark.  We also see some cute Happy/Pepper banter here.  The early versions of these characters crack me up.  Soooo different to who they will become later.  Well, Happy's dead now, and Pepper's practically a cyborg, so...

Iron Man's armor is so cute here.  The yellow parts seem to be basically a fine wire mesh.  They just fold down like cloth sleeves, but pop into place with magnets in the joints.  Very clever.  Very 60s! but very clever.

Another interesing point.  The narration says that Cyclops is using "a secret wavelength used only by the X-Men and other specially licensed crime-fighting organizations".  Sooo, the X-Men are licensed here?  I mean, we know that Xavier has a contact in the FBI, but we also know that's kept on the down low.  The mutants were allowed to help with the Vanisher problem, so maybe they've made contacts with someone.  But I really have to think that if the various superteams had a special wavelength like this, they would use it more often to communicate and have parties and not get into fights every time they meet, y'know?

(page 10-18) The last half of the story is basically one act.  The Angel explodes some TNT in the air, and some more near a cruiseboat, and soe more near a bridge, trying to get the attention of the evil mutants, but it doesn't work because the evil mutants see that it's the Angel doing this and suspect a trap.  Iron Man shows on the scene and convinces the police to hold off their efforts until he's had a chance to bring down the Angel.  They tussle in the air, and Iron Man gets locked in a hangar but gets free.  Then Iron Man carries the Angel high up into the air until his transistors cut out.  As the Angel sees Iron Man falling to his death, his brain kicks in and he saves Iron Man.  Then Angel is normal again so he goes back to the X-Men and everyone is happy.

So, if I wanted to get the attention of evil mutants, I'm not sure exploding TNT in various places would be the best way.  It's not exactly very communicative.  And you're just as likely to attract the attention of the authorities, or any number of other good and bad guys.  The funny thing is that the narration tells us he actually does succeed in getting the attention of some certain "evil mutants" somewhere but that they know who the Angel is, so they don't come out because they think there's a trap.

I just wanna mention at this point that we *will* be meeting the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants shortly, in The X-Men 4.  It's obvious as blood writing on the wall that Stan Lee is playing with the ideas that will lead to that group's introduction.  He's a little too blatant about it, and it's the sort of foreshadowing you'd expect to see in The X-Men, not in another book's guest feature.

I don't have a lot to say about the actual fight, so skipping to the final air scene, Iron Man is retarded.  He gets the notion that this state of mind of the Angel is reversible.  And further, that his falling to his doom is going to be the trigger to snap the Angel back to his normal self.  I'm so glad he knew that would work, because obviously it worked so well for him back on page 4, right?  I mean, I guess....since Iron Man says the explosion was the result of a test, I guess we can say by some crazy comic book Stan Lee logic that Tony knew more about the nature of the blast than I've been giving him credit for so far...as far as its effects and their durability and reversibility.  I guess.  But I don't really want to.

Also, does Iron Man have some of the absolute weakest armor at this point, or what?  I mean, he just recharged before this fight, and tussling with the Angel was enough to drain his power?  Really?  Wow, I hope you don't have to fight Ultimo tomorrow or anything, Iron Man.

More adorable Xavier with his "So I did not fail! My X-Men training program is successful!"  It's so nice to feel validated, isn't it?  You keep training mutant children to fight bad guys, ok?

Iron Man makes the comment to the Angel that they might fight side-by-side someday rather than as enemies.  And I wanted to be all cool and clever and say, "As a matter of fact, yes! And it happens in such and such issue!"  Only I have no idea when they fight together for the first time.  There are some stories coming up that have them both in the story, but not fighting together or against each other as far as I know.  I don't know when their first team-up is.

So, that basically wraps up this issue.  There are a couple more stories, one with the Watcher and a text story.  You might think you want to know about them, but I promise they're not worth your time.

 

So, that's it!  I think I mentioned last time that The X-Men 3 is coming up soon, with the Blob, but I actually have one other I want to do first.  So we're gonna hit The Avengers 3 for a short post, and then I'll have The X-Men 3 coverage.  See you then!  Please leave a comment below if you read!  (My ego needs feeding.)

 

Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 8:06pm EST