Rashad, “The Wisest Wizard”, Reviews X-Men From the Beginning
Being the resident X-Men fan this is going to be a bit longer and ramblier (that’s a word now)
When I was a kid I identified with the X-men as an outsider not only as a nerd or geek but as an person of color. I could relate to their struggles, their desire to simply be accepted. I literally prayed to have mutant powers. Not so I could use them to punish those who had wronged me but so that hopefully other mutants would appear and we could start our own academy and I could finally feel like I belonged somewhere. It didn’t happen and I gave up on religion shortly after but I still had comic books!
Like a fair amount of fans in our generation, I came to the X-men via X-Men: The Animated Series. Having already been a fan of comics but at my young age only ones based on cartoons (Muppet Babies, Simpsons, Transformers, Ren and Stimpy) I was delighted to discover a whole universe with a rich history. The Marvel Universe sucked me in and I have identified as a “Marvel Zombie” since childhood. I hung around with Spider-Man for a while (jokes!) but Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters was my home. I appreciated how they could go between having crazy adventures, fighting for their lives, and just hanging out at the mansion like one big happy family. I remember how great a day it was when I got all of the action figures of the main team of X-Men featured on the cartoon. It was a Sunday, my mom’s car overheated at the mall earlier that day. I watched Rookie of the Year on cable that afternoon and proudly lined all of the figures up on the coffee table. My collection only grew from there.
My mom would allow me to get one comic book a week back when they were still sold in grocery stores and book stores were more common; more often than not it was some variation of the X-Men. The Age of Apocalypse started around my eleventh birthday, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. She let me get two comics that week. I chose Amazing X-Men #1 and Astonishing X-Men #1. Not being able to keep up with everything, I pieced most of my X-Men knowledge together from whatever comics I read, the cartoon, novelizations, trading cards and action figure packaging. I can go on and on with other X-knowledge and related memories or tell you about how I used to hate Cyclops who is now my favorite character but I won’t. Over the years I was never able to keep up properly but between the library and spending what little money I had I was able to stay aware. Up until I became an adult and got a big boy job as soon as I paid off my car I did the responsible thing with my increased disposable income and set up a pull at my local comic shop. It should be unsurprising that at some point in my life I would attempt to read the entire series from #1. So, here we go.
So, in light of this sudden but inevitable betrayal, Trask depends on the X-men to defeat the Sentinels. Things then get a little silly with the Sentinels using a truth ray on Beast making him tell them his life story which they are incredibly interested in. This is the first time in a while that the X-Men’s mission has been clearly stated, “Protect mankind from evil mutants and any or all dangers that may befall” It has been pretty ambiguous for a while.
The rest of the team break in an fight their way through the Sentinels compound but are stopped before they make it too far. Then we have to wait until next issue to see what happens! Cliffhanger!
We’re getting to the good stuff now! These classic and perpetual mutant hunting robots come along with what I feel is finally some compelling storytelling. But before we get to that I would love for one of the other X-men to tell The Beast to shut up. He comes across as so pretentious. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I really don’t like him.
Anyways, Bolivar Trask is spewing anti-mutant sentiment on television and this is the first time we see this. Up until now people have just viewed mutants as a curiosity. Here is where the X-men go from “The most unusual teenagers of all time” to “Fighting to protect a world that fears and hates them”
Before their complete loss of innocence Professor X. grants them a vacation. We see that everyone is still crushing on Jean hardcore. Scott is falling for her but she’s just having a good time. Charles can identify with Scott’s loneliness and we can assume that maybe that’s why he took him under his wing.
After the kids are all gone the professor goes on TV to argue with Trask who introduces his mutant hunting Sentinels live on air. They then suddenly and inevitably betray him and the X-men have to stop living their lives to come clean up the mess.
For me, this is where the X-men start getting interesting. We have some layered storytelling. Romance! Social Commentary! Feelings! This was the most exciting issue yet and the first one where I actually looked forward to the next.
The Juggernaut is still attacking. Beast is still annoying.
Maybe I missed something but I’m really not clear on why The Juggernaut hates Professor X so much. Is it just petty jealousy or is he seriously insane?
Professor X uses his new “Mento-helmet” to boost his abilities to call for help and we get a couple of Marvel Universe cameos, The Teen Brigade, whatever the hell that is; Daredevil, or at least his alter ego Matt Murdock; and The Human Torch himself, Johnny Storm.
The Prof. compels The Human Torch to help him defeat the Juggernaut and instead of thanking him erases his memory.
So, jean has to stay with the professor for no real reason and then she plays nurse to the boys when they’re all injured. Charles tells the boys he has something for them when then recover and when they eagerly ask what it is he tells them it’s a broom for each of them because someone has to clean up the school. Professor X. is a dick and thus starts a long history of the school being attacked, destroyed and rebuilt. ‘Nuff Said (I think this is the first time we’ve seen that in an issue. A Marvel catch phrase for years to come)
Continuing right from where issue 11 ends. A dangerous someone is quickly approaching the school and the professor already knows who it is! Then why have Cerebro? Maybe I just don’t understand how it works. Either way he tells the X-men to prepare for this mysterious oncoming villain and the happily oblige, they would apparently do anything for him no questions asked. After they set their traps the professor decides to indulge them in the story of his past. We learn about his sad childhood in which his father was killed in an atomic blast and his mother remarried her ex-husband’s research partner, Kurt Marko, who also has a son, Cain Marko, who is the worst person ever. Young Charles’ powers are slowly developing making him incredibly intuitive and apparently judgmental. I would totally read a Young Xavier book where every story involves him standing in the background of every panel silently judging people. It would be an amazing read. Until he becomes a teenager where he apparently uses his superior mental abilities to excel at sports because isn’t that what we would all do if we were psychic?
Cain being the worst person ever tries to kill Charles at least twice that we see here. One time even dramatically driving his car off a cliff because it was the 60’s and that was a very practical form of murder back then. Charles saves them using his super brain powers and they end up fighting in the Korean war together where Cain deserts because, like I said, he is the worst. In his desertion he stumbles upon the lost tomb of Cyttorak. He touches the ruby which changes him and also causes the cave to collapse. That was the last time Charles saw him but now Cain is back as the unstoppable Juggernaut!
So, Professor X is using an “image beam” to identify a possible mutant. What happened to Cerebro? Did he just give up on it or does he just love building things like Professor Farnsworth? Either way it doesn’t work because whoever they are trying to view is too powerful. So, wait to waste your time and money Charles.
And then there was Beast. Does he really just jump and tumble around all the time? Because that’s annoying. Combine that with him constantly using big words (I feel like Stan Lee just discovered the thesaurus) so that people will know he’s smart and I’m starting to think that his mutation is actually ADHD. He’s also a condescending jerk; everything he says to his teammates sounds like a backhanded compliment. Cyclops saves him from being crushed to death and he ask him “How does it feel to be a human garbage disposal?” How about, thanks for saving my life?
Magneto is still megalomaniacal. When telling The Stranger why he should join him he says “Because I am — Power!!”
Then we start getting a bit more melodramatic. Apparently Jean is in love with Scott; thinking of him as her darling. Wanda loves her brother but she might also be attracted to Scott.
The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are abandoned by Magneto and decide they’re done with him and walk off with a “Someday we may return!” They might as well have written a panel that just said I don’t know what to do with these characters but I won’t kill them because we can probably use them later.
So, it turns out that The Stranger was an alien who collects mutations and he’s leaving, taking Magneto and Toad with him. The X-men are surprised but not exactly upset. Here we learned that Stan Lee really had no idea how to write a characters exit. The evil mutants either quit, were turned to stone or kidnapped. So long and good riddance apparently but there’s another threat right at their door…
Here we take our first trip to the savage land home to dinosaurs, other pre-historic beast and Ka-zar Lord of the jungle!
Jean gets kidnapped. I’m assuming because she is a woman and the X-men enlist Ka-zar’s help in getting their female back because she’s very important to the tribe being their only woman and all. How will they propagate the mutant gene without her? They of course fight first as is custom. Heroes must fight one another before fighting villains. It is the way. Anyways they fight some bad guys and yadda yadda happy ending.
I know I and coming off as pretty jaded at this point but it’s fun seeing where these tropes that I’m tired of originated and when characters were introduced and first interacted. Plus, starting with issue 8 the art goes from ok to amazing. These books become very pretty to look at.
The X-men meet the Avengers for the first time and of course they fight because that’s what superheroes do when they encounter one another. At least here it kind of makes sense because who the f are these weirdo masked teenagers running around? I know If I were Thor, Ironman, or Captain America my first instinct would be to beat the crap out of them for being different and in my way. Oh yeah, Giant-man i there too…and the Wasp.
What is up with Prof. X’s Super spelunking wheel chair?
Prof X. is on a mission to find Lucifer aka poor man’s magneto because his costume is almost the same but worse. Probably more important is that fact that Xavier is crippled because of Lucifer so this personal mission is more of a vendetta.
Once again the X-men save the day and let the bad guy go but tell him that he can never truly escape them. Mutants must have no concept of jail in their culture.
Unus the untouchable. Anus. There, I said it.
The most important thing that happens in this issue is that the art improves significantly.
The X-men graduate. So soon? Apparently six issues is all it takes to complete a prep school curriculum and by that I mean establish the world of the X-men. Now that they have graduated. These intrepid teens are fully fledged X-men and Professor X is ready to abandon them post haste. In his absence he has assigned Cyclops as the group leader. Surprising no one.
Scott’s first act as leader is to instill confidence in the group by telling them he didn’t want the job and was considering leaving because he fears his power (Which we will later learn is the reason he need’s his visor to control his beams because deep seated psychological issues are what the x-men are all about) but his sense of responsibility is easily manipulated by prof. x
Magneto’s List of Hideouts/Bases
- Island (Isle)
- Lonely Ramshackle Mansion
Either he’s running out of money or learning to be a bit more discreet.
Because I’m an idiot it took me this long to figure out that Wanda is the evil/mirror version of Jean. In that everyone is in love with her for no real reason other than her supposed beauty. I mean, I’m not completely stupid, I know that a woman’s worth comes from her looks and everything else is a bonus, e.g. mutant powers, ability to cook.
Early Magneto is megalomaniacal. Silly human concepts like loyalty mean nothing to him. He just wants people to fear and obey him. Where is the fun in that? Kirby draws crazy eyes like nobody’s business. I can only assume that Magneto’s helmet was designed to accentuate his crazy eye situation.
Say hello to Cerebro! Here it is, the psychic power enhancing, mutant detector is finally introduced. I’ve been wondering when it would show up. That can only mean that there are a ton of new mutants on the horizon.
Magneto goes to the carnival to find the Blob and again uses his psychic powers that I had no idea he had. Magneto throws the Blob, knocking the mental block prof x. put in place to block his memory of the x-men loose because either those are actual physical things or professor x.’s psychic powers are no match for good old fashioned brain trauma.
There’s a lot of random padding/filler
So, The Blob and X-men fight at Magneto’s behest. Magneto’s plan fails and he and the evil mutants escape in the Magna-Car patent pending . The Blob is pissed about being used and walks off into the sunset.
The X-men discuss how they will get home.
Special guest star The Sub-Mariner!
I am of the school of people who feel it is pronounced like the vehicle and not like a man of the sea
They’re still on this whole “Evil” mutants thing what a way to boil down social issues.
First page and this issue comes out swinging:
Mutants eat dinner too! They’re just like us!
Angel comments on how this is the first time he’s seen scott smile in months and it’s because he’s being a rule enforcing dick to beast. THIS is the cyclops I knew and hated since my childhood. Now I know it took almost 50 years to make him likeable. Beast responds by asking if it is “imperative that [Scott] resort to such drastic measures just to emphasize a point” and the answer is yes, the answer will always be yes.
Jean is in the kitchen because the cook had the day off. Two things wrong with this. The obvious one being that Jean, the only female is the one to cook because gender roles. The other being that they supposedly have a cook? WTF? I want to know more about this mysterious cook and other possible staff.
Apparently Iceman’s powers include not just the ability to manipulate ice but also cream, sugar, and vanilla extract, because he makes his own ice cream out of thin air.
Jean apparently is also a stickler for rules. No wonder she and Scott end up together.
I appreciate that for all of his creepiness, the professor takes the time to remind angel that despite having super powers, they are no better that regular humans.
Everyone wants the Sub-Mariner.
We take a couple of pages to remind of us of who the “Evil” mutants are and their abilities
Apparently Mags isn’t above using guns in addition to his powers.
And then it happened… I ignored it last time telling myself that the Professor was just reaching in to Magneto’s mind but apparently Magneto himself has psychic abilities “second only to that of Professor X” What the crap you guys? How is he so powerful? How long did he have this ability for? Why doesn’t he anymore? Is this one of those things that’s totally forgotten and never mentioned again after this issue. I’m not sure I’m strong enough for this.
We find The sub-mariner throwing a tantrum lamenting defeat at the hands of the fantastic four and unrequited love of sue storm
Prince Namor: The most emo man under the sea
So magneto has an Island now. Seems like a downgrade. He’s gone from a castle to an asteroid and now a island or as the like to call it isle. Why does magneto make everything he uses look like a u magnet. talk about branding.
What the hell are they on a pirate ship? is this the Xavier family yacht?
Namor realizes he’s a mutant and is totally ok with it.
The Sub-Mariner has a submarine because when you’re king of Atlantis, why swim everywhere?
- Fucking Wanda accidentally hexes something
- Namor respects women
- Magneto rules by fear alone
- Namor is unlucky in love
- Mags can’t handle rejection
The Return of the Evil Mutants!
You thought you’d have to wait to see these guys again but patience is for losers and the Brotherhood is anything but. Honestly, it’s cool, now we have an ongoing story line. Hooray continuity!
There’s some nice melodrama with the team lamenting the loss of Xavier’s abilities but then Marvel Girls parents show up and things get wacky. We learn some things about the school, Cyclops is a considerate badass, Jean’s parents leave. And then
HOLY CRAP, ASTEROID M!
“Screw castles, I want a space base on an asteroid.”
-Magneto, May 1964
Magneto’s enduring space fortress is introduced here. I had no idea this thing was that old. Once again proving how powerful Mags is. He traps an asteroid in orbit and constructs his base there. Also, he totally names is after himself and has magnet shaped space ships. He talks about himself in the third person a lot, surprising no one. I bet he calls punching someone giving them a dose of Vitamin M. Jokes!
So, they have an elaborate plan to find and infiltrate the x-men. It kind of works. They fight, whatever. The real issue here is at the very end. We get back to the school to discover that Professor X was only pretending to have lost his powers. Because “This is a school after all” and screw you kids I’m a manipulative jerk! You proven to me that you can think for yourselves which means I have to find new ways to destroy you mentally. Professor X is the enemy within.
Where it starts to sink in that writing “The Marvel Way” will drive the modern man insane. Everything that’s happening is explained. Either narrated in a caption or spoken in dialogue. There are words in every panel. EVERY. PANEL. It makes these things tedious reads. I remember really appreciating that as a kid as it felt like I got more bang for my buck but as an adult whose attention span has been ruined by the internet and who as at times has been tricked in to paying for comics with zero words in them. These things feel like they have been written by Tolstoy and Proust. Literature references!
What the hell is “Jig Time”? Is that like the time it takes you to do a frivolous little dance? I’m assuming it’s one of those old turns of phrase like “Two shakes of a lambs tail” That we modern folk will never truly understand.
I feel like this book is shouting, “Hey look these teens have powers!” I bet it was a novel thing in the 60’s, Teenagers with fantastic abilities. So they wanted to make sure you picked up on that fact.
Iceman is defeated by steam in the Danger Room. ™ The most dangerous room. © Which makes me realize how much weaker he is than his modern day self. His power is to freeze water, turn it in to ice, and he is defeated by hot water. Who knew it was that easy. You could probably just breathe on young Iceman and he’d be all “Oh no, my ice form!”
Angel is starting to get some characterization. He’s conceited and has wings. Good for him.
It’s cool to meet the Brotherhood of Evil mutants. Toad, Mastermind, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver, just hanging out and being pissed off at homo sapiens. I bet the thought process went something like this:
Stan Lee 1: After being introduced to a few individual bad mutants there should be a team to counter those goody two-shoes X-men and give them a run for their money.
Stan Lee 2 (because I bet he talks to himself): I got it! The Brotherhood of Mutants. How’s that for a team name?Stan Lee 1: How will people know they’re bad guys?
Stan Lee 2: They’re fighting the X-men, it’s pretty obvious.
Stan Lee 1: How about we put “evil” in the name just to drive the point home?
They go back and forth for a while on whether it should be “The Evil Brotherhood of Mutants” or “The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants” . At some point they agree that “The Evil Brotherhood of Evil Mutants of Evil” is just too much. Jack Kirby sheds a single tear.
Stan Lee 2: So, it’s decided “The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants” because mutants can be either X-men or Evil.
Stan Lee 1: Exactly!
Both: Self High Five!
Awesome guitar riff plays
Anyways… It may seem like I hate Stan Lee. I don’t, I’m just tired. Who I do hate is the Scarlet Witch and that’s ok because she’s a fictional character. Also, she’s “evil” if you need to be reminded. There’s a line about her shaking her hand and disasters happening. If only they knew how far that would go… Her whole existence is a disaster.”Hex” powers should not be a thing.
There’s a lot of jumping around this issue. Good thing there are caption boxes that say “Hey, the scene has changed. We’re here now”
Magneto is super powerful which is how he should be. Also, he’s the mysterious leader of the Brotherhood if you didn’t figure that out before the reveal.
This is the first time we see a conversation on the psychic plane. We’ll see that a ton more.
So, some stuff happens and there’s a castle with booby traps and nukes as evil, villain, bad guys are want to have. The X-men fight the Brotherhood, Mutant a Mutant. The Brotherhood get away but Prof X. is left powerless. Oh No!
Or as I call it, The one where the characters start to become who we know them as today. Cyclops fears his power (which is totally a thing for those less familiar), Beast is a non-violent bookworm, Iceman is still a goof ball, Everyone loves Jean, and Angel still has wings.
We meet The Blob this issue which is cool because I didn’t know he had been around so long. Oh, and Professor X is still creepy. At some point that changes. I think… Or maybe I just didn’t pick up on that as a kid.
Hello issue #2 where we still haven’t really gotten a feel for the characters or what we want them to be and by “we” I mean Stan Lee.
What was that bald guy again? Professor or Doctor ? Eh, Doctor sounds good enough. He’s a good guy right? Doctor Martin Luther X. Yeah, Let’s go with Doctor.
Apparently Marvel Girl has “Teleportation” powers because that’s what moving stuff with you mind is. What’s that? It’s Telekinesis? oh ok. Well, We’ve gone too far to fix it but I’ll use that word next time she does her mind moving trick. It’s not like it matters anyways because her real powers are to be a super hot red head and have everyone be in love with her because dames! am I right? She’s one fiery tomata! Oh wait, The Vanisher has teleportation powers. I knew I meant to use that word.
That’s what I imagine Stan Lee’s brain is like.
Moving on Professor Doctor X is totally scary and bossy. Telling the kids what to do and stalking them with his mental powers. You know who is not scary? The Vanisher. Some villain he is. Every time I see him I imagine him speaking in an old timey movie voice. I like that people don’t all hate and fear (which I believe are the first words in the ballad of mutant oppression) mutants yet.
Also, everything is superlative because adjectives make things more exciting especially when you use as many as you can in a row.
Here we meet the X-men for the first time. Introduced to each mutant and their power set as Professor Xavier puts them to task on various machines designed to test their abilities. I don’t know if it was common for adults to talk to adolescents like this in the 60′s but Professor X is kind of a jerk, he speaks, mostly telepathically, to the X-men as if he is a drill sergeant. There are very few statements he makes that aren’t commands. We also get to know their personalities a bit. Iceman is the youngest and kind of a goofball, Cyclops is the ultimate brown noser, Beast is kind of a jerk, and Angel has wings. I’m really curious to see Beast develop in to the nice guy, super genius he is today. My understanding of the X-men lead me to believe he was always that way and not the brutish creep he is in this issue.
Eventually, the Professor tells the boys that a new student will be joining them in their studies and not just any student but “A most attractive young lady”. Upon sight Cyclops refers to her as a “Real living doll” and I wonder if at some point in their relationship he says “I want to keep you this way forever” Perhaps during their wedding? Considering what I know of Cyclops and Jean’s history (Madelyne Pryor, Telepathic role-play sexy times with Emma) that statement is actually rather sad. So, Jean shows up and all the boys creep on her until she shows them that she is an empowered young woman and displays her telekinetic abilities. Also, did you know that the “X” in X-men doesn’t stand for Xavier but “EX-tra power” as in what mutants have? Some of us learned something today!
Then Magneto decides to take over a military base and is somehow super powerful and super goofy at the same time. He sends some missiles off course and sky writes a hostile takeover note. He’s more of a nuisance than a terrorist. It’s curious that the only people he actually tries to kill are the X-men. He never actually directly aims a weapon at any normal humans. Anyways, they fight, Mags gets away and the military is all “Thanks X-men but seriously Wtf is up with all these costumed weirdos” which I appreciate because I hate it when people in comic books act like this shit is normal.
On the technical side, Jack Kirby’s art is awesome. There’s not much else to say about it. He pretty much makes the story and then Stan Lee does his thing and puts words over the pictures sometimes simply explaining what’s happening, sometimes covering the action all together because who needs scripts? And that’s writing the Marvel way! My favorite example of this is panel 4 on page 15 as you can see, Magneto gets engulfed by his own bombastic statement.