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Friday, April 16, 2010

X-amining X-Men #39

"The Fateful Finale!"
December 1967

In a nutshell: The X-Men foil Factor Three's plot to take over the world.  

Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Don Heck, Werner Roth (backup)
Inker: Vince Colletta, John Verpoorten (backup)
Letterer: Artie Simek, Al Kurzrock (backup)

Plot (Main Story)
At the missile base, Cyclops and Iceman battle the newly-arrived Mastermind and Unus, ultimately destroying the base's air filtration system so that Factor Three can't use it to disperse sleep gas. Behind the Iron Curtain, Marvel Girl, Angel and Beast manage to escape from their cell and locate the suitcase bomb intended to kill the communist officials. Blob tries to stop them, but Angel manages to get the bomb high into the air just as it explodes.



Using the coordinates programmed into the Magno-Disks, the X-Men reconvene at Factor Three's new base, where they face off against their old foes. Changeling, disguised as Professor X, interrupts them, and openly questions Mutant Master's motives. Frustrated, Mutant Master orders his androids to destroy everyone. The X-Men and Factor Three fight alongside each other against the androids until Banshee, released during the melee, uses his sonic scream to destroy all the robots. In the process, he inadvertently destroys Mutant Master's costume, revealing him to be a green, tentacled alien. Having failed in his mission to wipe out all life on Earth, Mutant Master commits suicide. The X-Men, reunited with Professor X, warily part from the remaining Factor Three mutants, and return home, where Marvel Girl surprises them all with new costumes.

Plot (Backup) "Lonely Are the Hunted!"
After accidentally destroying a crane, Scott runs from an angry mob, hopping aboard a freight train box car. Meanwhile, Professor X comes across his FBI file. When he contacts the orphanage where Scott lives, he is told Scott is missing. Realizing Scott is the boy he saw on TV, Xavier digs into his past and meets with the optometrist who reported Scott to the FBI after fitting him with ruby quartz glasses that eased his eye- and headaches. Later, Scott gets off the box car and encounters a group of hobos that try to mug him. His glasses get knocked off in the scuffle, and Scott must once again flee. He comes across a shack and a mental voice compelling him to enter, where he encounters a man who introduces himself as a fellow mutant.   

Firsts and Other Notables
Mutant Master is revealed to be an alien intent on destroying all life on the planet; all the "power to mutants" rhetoric was just a ruse to get his henchmen to unknowingly help him carry out his plain of destruction. He basically looks like an octopus with eyes.


Factor Three disbands, though its members will pop up again in various ways.

The X-Men receive new, individual costumes (not just variations on their existing costumes, like last time; Beast even makes a joke to that effect) secretly created by Jean after Professor X asked her. Professor X says the X-Men have proven themselves time and again, and deserve to look like individuals (the costumes were designed by Ross Andru during his brief, two issue run as the book's artist) .


Of the lot, Angel's costume is the most ridiculous looking, Marvel Girl's, being a mini-dress, is the most a product of its time, and Cyclops will hang onto his costume the longest, wearing it until appearing in "X-Factor" in 1986. In fact, this costume is, for many, the definitive Cyclops look (and it's my favorite). 

A Work in Progress
After figuring out what Mutant Master is really after, Changeling impersonates Professor X, questioning Mutant Master's true motives in order to get the rest of the team to betray him as well. This slight turn for good inspires the later retcon involving his character.

Beast speaks Russian. 

It's confirmed in the backup that Scott's power has no effect on him, which is why he doesn't blow off his eyelids, or, when's trying to contain his optic blast, his hands.  

Later stories reveal that the orphanage in which Scott grew up was in Omaha, Nebraska, but the backup story in this issue suggests it's either near New York City or Washington (the story isn't clear about where it's taking place).

Also, later stories establish that Mr. Sinister is the one who makes the connection between ruby quartz and Scott's power; it's unclear if the optometrist in this story is supposed to be, retroactively, a disguised Mr. Sinister, or a legitimate doctor unknowingly helping Sinister justify Scott's glasses.

Ah, the Silver Age
Angel compares himself to Juan Marichal, a baseball pitcher from the 60s who retired in 1975.


Marvel Girl's new costume is a mini-dress. Also, she made the costumes, because she is a girl.

After fighting alongside them again Mutant Master, he X-Men let the remaining members of Factor Three go, despite their past crimes, including very recently working together to ignite a nuclear war.


Scott spends the entire backup story, running from mobs, hopping freight trains, hanging with hobos, wearing a sweater and a bow tie.


The Awesome and Terrible Power of CyclopsNo Cyclops story would be complete without his glasses getting accidentally knocked off. To be fair though, Scott does have it pretty rough; even the hobos picked on him.


For Sale
Spidey joins Doc Ock?!? Say it ain't so!


It's in the Mail
Here, Stan dodges a question regarding the "white eyes" of the masked X-Men.


Teebore's Take
The long running Factor Three story comes to a close. The art in this issue is, well, not very good, but the story wraps up well enough. Changeling's defection adds a unique wrinkle (even if his motivations for doing so are glossed over; he may have stood up when the entire planet was threatened, but he was still okay with killing all the humans so long as mutants were left in charge of the ashes). The moral (mutants, both good and bad, working together against a common enemy) gets a bit heavy handed, but is certainly more apropos to an X-Men story than many of Thomas' other ventures on the book. A success, then, though still very much a product of its time, both in terms of style and content, with the inherent flaws thereof. Thus, the Factor Three story is an often and easily overlooked success.

9 comments:

  1. I've played some video games where I do a long side quest or something and the reward is a new costume for my character. I usually respond to such a lame reward for wasting my time and effort with two middle fingers pointed squarely in the direction of my video game console. My taunts generally go ignored.

    Also, have you ever stopped to think about the fact that "Scott's power has no effect on him" and realized that it makes no sense whatsoever?

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  2. Yeah if I was the X-Men, I'd be pissed.

    "We just staved off a global nuclear holocaust, and our reward is...new costumes?"

    Professor X could have at least had Jean bake them a pie or something...

    Also, have you ever stopped to think about the fact that "Scott's power has no effect on him" and realized that it makes no sense whatsoever?

    Yes, and it doesn't make any sense. You know what makes even less sense? The fact his power has no effect on his brother, and vice versa.

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  3. did...did stan lee call that fan "pussycat"? What an a-hole.

    I used to hate that costume of Scott's, but after many a year it has finally grown on me.

    And seriously, i think the public should worry less about the mutant threat and more about the hobo threat

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  4. did...did stan lee call that fan "pussycat"?

    Hey, it was the swinging sixties, chick pea! Don't be too harsh on ol' Stan the Man.

    i think the public should worry less about the mutant threat and more about the hobo threat

    You know, you're probably right, there do seem to be a lot of threatening hobos in Marvel comics of this era (even after Namor got his memory back and stopped being one).

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  5. The first X-Men comic I ever bought was #87, which reprinted this issue's main story and cover.

    I was sure that, contrary to what you said in the last review, the reprint-era issues included the backups, because I knew I'd seen this chapter of the Cyclops "origin" — and not just in an Essential TPB — but a trip to the GCD (www.comics.org) turned up that you were right and I read it in the 1979 Amazing Adventures series reprinting early X-Men stories.

    Falen: i think the public should worry less about the mutant threat and more about the hobo threat

    Paging John Hodgman!

    Teebore: Xavier digs into his past and meets with the optometrist who reported Scott to the FBI after fitting him with ruby quartz glasses

    Holy blue hannah, I love this sentence.

    Teebore: In fact, this costume is, for many, the definitive Cyclops look (and it's my favorite).

    Same here. As plain as it is, that's sort-of the point, and it was nice when the newer X-Men came along to have a costume that was a throwback to the original outfits, albeit minus the yellow down the front. The newer, cooler visor that Cockrum came up with was definitely an improvement, though.

    VW: squese — The secret language of huggers.

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  6. @Blam: The GCD is a GREAT resource, indeed. It, along with Marvel's X-Men index, has been tremendously helpful clarifying some of the finer points of who does what, when for these posts.

    Holy blue hannah, I love this sentence.

    You know, in hindsight, it was kind of a dick move for the doctor to report this kid, one who didn't do anything other than to need an unusual treatment, to the FBI. Does doctor/patient confidentiality extend to optometrists? Different times, I suppose.

    The newer, cooler visor that Cockrum came up with was definitely an improvement, though.

    Definitely.

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  7. The X-Men receive new, individual costumes...

    Aside from Iceman, natch. Maybe Jean didn't have time? (And yeah, I realise why he didn't get a costume).

    Beast speaks Russian.

    Has this been brought up since, or is it just for the sake of the plot?

    Also, later stories establish that Mr. Sinister is the one who makes the connection between ruby quartz and Scott's power; it's unclear if the optometrist in this story is supposed to be, retroactively, a disguised Mr. Sinister, or a legitimate doctor unknowingly helping Sinister justify Scott's glasses.

    I quite like the idea of Sinister spying on Scott when he was younger, and running all of those orphanage shenanigans. One of the reasons why I've always like him (although I do like Claremont's original plans for him, and wish that they had been implemented).

    Marvel Girl's new costume is a mini-dress. Also, she made the costumes, because she is a girl.

    Well, duh! If you're a man who makes costumes then you're obviously a dirty commie!

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  8. @Harry: Has this been brought up since, or is it just for the sake of the plot

    Not that I can recall (at least not notably), but the general idea that Beast knows a lot of languages certain has.

    I quite like the idea of Sinister spying on Scott when he was younger, and running all of those orphanage shenanigans. One of the reasons why I've always like him (although I do like Claremont's original plans for him, and wish that they had been implemented).

    Ditto to both.

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