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Friday, February 12, 2010

X-amining X-Men 32

"Beware the Juggernaut, My Son!"
May 1967

In Brief: Juggernaut returns!

Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Werner Roth
Inker: John Tartaglione
Lettering: Artie Simek
Catered by: Honest Irv

Plot: The X-Men are attending a surprise birthday party for Bobby at the Coffee-A-Go-Go thrown by Zelda when a motorcycle gang attacks. Using their powers surreptitiously to keep their identities hidden, the X-Men manage to chase off the gang. Meanwhile, Professor X has completed his secret experiments and is ready to try and separate his step brother Cain from the power of Juggernaut. The process is interrupted when Juggernaut mysteriously awakens, which knocks Xavier unconscious and seemingly transfers Xavier's telepathy to Juggernaut.

After saying goodnight to their dates, the X-Men return home to find the mansion dark and Cerebro smashed. Juggernaut attacks and, with the aid of Professor X's telepathy, easily defeats the team. Determined to bury the team alive in the mansion's basement, Juggernaut is contacted telepathically by the leader of Factor Three, who claims to have revived him earlier and entreats the villain to board a plan to Europe to join Factor Three. After Juggernaut leaves, the X-Men awaken but are unable to revive a comatose Xavier.

Firsts and Other Notables: The X-Men are celebrating Iceman's 18th birthday as the issue opens.

Though there is no official declaration of such, from this point forward Scott and Jean are essentially a couple. A flashback in Uncanny X-Men #138 will flesh out the moonlight walk in this issue, retroactively giving their relationship a proper beginning.

The first of the classic Lee/Kirby X-Men villains returns in the form of Juggernaut.

A Work in Progress: The mystery of the forbidden basement door: solved! After the police departed with the defeated Juggernaut back in issue #13, Xavier had him transferred to the mansion and kept hidden, in a comatose state, while  Xavier worked out a way to purge his brother of the Juggernaut's power. Incidentally, while the failure of Xavier's device to remove Juggernaut's powers is blamed on Factor Three, he never tries again...


Factor Three resurfaces, working remotely to bring Juggernaut into their fold and seemingly knocking Xavier out of the picture in the process.


Xavier is effectively written out of the book for the next several issues, between being unconscious and then a prisoner of Factor Three.

Ah, the Silver Age: The Greenwich Village stuff is never better than this issue, with bikers storming Coffee-A-Go-Go and Bernard the Poet getting mocked for having rhyming lyrics. It's sheer lunacy, and absolutely brilliant.


Cyclops refers to the motorcycle gang as "refugees from a Brando film", aka "The Wild One". 


For some reason, Juggernaut pulls a Magneto, attacking the X-Men indirectly via booby traps and whatnot, including the old "lever that turns the staircase into a slide" chestnut.


"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!": Step-brother or not, keeping Juggernaut, one of the X-Men's toughest adversaries to date, secretly locked in the basement for months was kind of a jerk move on Xavier's part.

Young Love: Warren attends Bobby's party with Candy Southern.


Scott and Jean dance together at the party, both worrying about the other. 


Later, they spend a romantic moonlight stroll dealing with Scott's angst about his power (whatta smoothie, right ladies?), but it does mark the beginning of their romantic relationship.

 

Iceman gets a goodnight kiss from Zelda.


For Sale: Shamed by your English?


Teebore's Take: Comparing long form comics to pop music, acclaimed comic scribe Grant Morrison said that when he wrote X-Men he felt inclined to play certain "riffs", that is, to put his own spin on stories from the well-regarded and influential Chris Claremont/Dave Cockrum/John Byrne runs. Using that analogy, Roy Thomas, in this issue, riffs for the first time one of the core X-Men melodies laid down by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby by incorporating Juggernaut into the original Factor Three melody he is creating (other Lee/Kirby stories that get riffed most often through the years are Magneto, the Savage Land, aliens, and the Sentinels; just about every long term X-Men writer does a riff on one or more of those stories at some point).

As a result, this is one of the better issues of Thomas' run thus far. While as long in page count as previous issues, the story flies by, and little seems padded or tedious. There's a nice balance of action, characterization and retrospective Silver Age goofiness. While this run is more remembered for Thomas' apparent desire to be writing any other comic book aside from X-Men, his second, more widely acclaimed, run, with artist Neal Adams, will riff extensively on the work of Lee and Kirby. Those Thomas/Adams riffs will then inspire the early work of Chris Claremont and his collaborators, Dave Cockrum and John Byrne. This issue, then, serves as an enjoyable look at things to come as well as being a well done story in its own right.

13 comments:

  1. Thanks Portugal, and your crazy beer site that I hope isn't spam!

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  2. Great post, Teebore! I should ask you - I'm in a graphic novel group and next month we're doing a character study of Wolverine. Any recommendations on what I should read?

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  3. I love these - I have no idea who the hell anyone is (except for Scott and Jean - I'm a total shipper Bwaha! I actually dislike Scott. Is that OK or is this a big, you know, offense in the world of X-Men? Who is Scott when he isn't Scott again? Angel? I know Skin Colored Eyes Jean is Marvel Girl)
    The door is finally solved - after many thought bubbles were devoted to it! Who the hell is the biker gang? Why are they attacking a coffee house - worse - a coffee house birthday party!?
    I am now going to address all groups with "Hey, Agents!"

    Ahhh! He's CYCLOPS! Hence the cool shades! These are so fantastic and you manage to do a thorough and funny review each time. Keep 'em coming!

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  4. Ashlie: If I may cut in... I would say that must-reads include X-Men [1st series] #109, which introduces Weapon Alpha, and #120-121, which bring in Alpha Flight, all by Chris Claremont & John Byrne; Claremont & Frank Miller's Wolverine miniseries; and maybe Barry Windsor-Smith's Weapon X. All can be found in collected editions. I still have yet to read Origin, but that was certainly a landmark. Aside from the early Claremont/Byrne stuff (and some Claremont & Dave Cockrum issues from before that, like #98, where we find out his claws are part of him), my favorite Wolverine arc is probably Claremont & Paul Smith's run leading up to X-Men #175.

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  5. Thanks, Blam, I'll be sure to check those out! I'll have to read through some of your archives to find more suggestions! I have Origin, although I made the mistake of reading it just prior to going to see the X-Men: Wolverine movie...

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  6. Teebore: Nice writeup! I've been to the blog a few times and keep meaning to kick back 'n' read some stuff but, y'know, with all the snow we've been getting...

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  7. I'll have to read through some of your archives to find more suggestions!
    Hmm... I don't think I have anything on Wolverine on the blog beyond a post on co-creator Len Wein's house fire last year. One long-postponed project of mine is another blog to house old articles and interviews. I could send you a piece from about 10 years back on the "New" X-Men's 25th anniversary, but (A) it's 10 years old, (B) the focus is on even longer ago, and (C) you can probably find much more in-depth, up-to-date supplementary material on Wolverine all over the web.

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  8. A topic for discussion, though: Marvel's PTB wanted to keep Wolverine's history so shrouded in mystery for so long — even from himself — that bits of it kept piling up, often contradictory, until it was clear that even if he was really old it was impossible for all this stuff to have actually happened, so on top of his periodic amnesia they had to explain that he'd had false memories implanted as well.

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  9. @Ashlie: I certainly can't disagree with any of Blam's recommendations.

    I'll just add that the Claremont/Miller Wolverine mini series from the early 80s (titled, in book form, just Wolverine, I believe) is the definitive Wolverine story.

    I also adore the two part Wolverine story in Uncanny X-Men 172-173 (which Blam also mentioned). It's collected as part of the From the Ashes trade, which should still be in print.

    @Joan: The biker gang (the Satan's Saints, apparently) attacked the coffee house because earlier their leader asked out Zelda and she turned him down. So they crashed the party to get back at her.

    The 60s were a crazy time...

    As for the X-Men:

    Scott=Cyclops, whines about his eye beam

    Jean=Marvel Girl, of the Skin Colored Eyes

    Warren=Angel, blond with wings, had a thing for Jean, now dating Candy Southern

    Hank=Beast, big hands, big feet big vocabulary

    Bobby=Iceman, just turned 18, kind of a screwball

    Hope that helps; I usually try to refer to them by codename when they're doing super hero stuff, and by their real names when talking about relationships n'stuff.

    Oh, as for liking Cyclops...well, he's MY favorite character, but I can't blame you for not liking him based on what you've seen so far. He'll get a lot cooler once we get out of the 60s. And I don't think you'd be ostracized by most X-Men fans for not liking him.

    @Blam: Thanks! And no worries; I know how tough that snow can be. :)

    As for your topic of discussion, I think that's certainly true. I know that it was Larry Hama, in his run on Wolverine's series, that introduced the idea of false memories, and it was Hama, I believe, that later floated the idea that Wolverine's healing factor was actually responsible for some of the memory loss, "healing" painful memories and making it easier for him to live 100+ years.

    Hama's Wolverine run started just after Claremont left, IIRC, and that's about the time that all the various hints and possible origins really started to pile up.

    Of course, the story goes that years later, Quesada and Jemas decided to publish Origin because they were afraid the X-Men movies would tell the definitive Wolverine origin story before the comics did.

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  10. I like how it takes 106 issues after Scott and Jean get together to give them a "proper beginning."

    Oh, and I also like how Juggernaut is determined to bury them alive. Ummm...wouldn't squishing their heads while they are all unconscious be easier...and more effective?

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  11. also i bet their heads would pop like grapes.
    GRAPES!

    man, if you're shamed for years over a mistake you made in english, you've got some serious self esteem issues.

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  12. @Dr. Bitz: To be fair, 28 of those 106 issues were reprints. Still...

    As for Juggernaut, yeah, his head wasn't really in it. Why kill them decisively when you could kill them in such a way that might enable them to survive, then not even follow through with that? I mean sure, Factor Three told him to go steal a plane and join them in Europe, but I'm pretty sure he could have killed the X-Men THEN stolen the plane...

    @Falen: I'm starting to think most of the ads in these comics are aimed at stupid kids (x-ray specs, sea monkeys) or adults with poor self-esteem (Improve your English! Graduate high school!).

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