Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

X-amining X-Men #49

"Who Dares Defy...the Demi-Men?"
October 1968

In a Nutshell: The X-Men reform in response to Mesmero's summoning of a group of mutants to San Fransisco.

X-Tatically Presented by Stan Lee
X-Citingly Written by Arnold Drake
X-Huberantly Designed by Don Heck
X-Traordinarily Drawn by Werner Roth
X-Quistitely Inked by John Tartigalone
X-Ecrably Lettered by Herb Cooper, I. Watanabe (2nd Story)

Plot
Feeling nostalgic, Angel returns to the X-Mansion just as Cerebro detects a sudden large concentration of mutant energy. Angel telepathically alerts Marvel Girl, who spreads the word with the rest of the team. Meanwhile, Mesmero, a self-avowed pupil of Magneto, uses a Psyche-Generator created by Magneto to amplify his natural power of hypnotism in order to lure all the latent mutants in the country to his base in San Francisco.

 

One of those mutants is a woman named Lorna Dane. Iceman, now stationed in California along with Beast, prevents her from stepping into traffic in her dazed state. She doesn't remember how she came to California, so Iceman brings her back to his apartment, where the rest of the X-Men have gathered. They proceed to search the city for Mesmero while Beast works on a portable Cerebro unit. The other X-Men encounter a patrol of Mesmero's Elite Guard and fight them off. They return to Iceman's apartment just as Beast finishes the portable Cerebro and realize Lorna is, unknownst to her, a latent mutant. Iceman stays behind to guard her while the other X-Men leave to confront Mesmero. Just then, Mesmero and his guards attack Iceman.  Mesmero hynotizes Iceman into inaction before bowing before Lorna.

2nd Story: A Beast Is Born!
Beast's parents Norman and Edna McCoy, fall in love and get married. His father takes a job at a nuclear power plant and is forced to expose himself to high doses of radiation in order to prevent a meltdown. He survives, but Edna forces him to take a new job and the couple move away. A few years later, Edna gets pregnant and worries that the radiation Norman was exposed to might affect the baby. When Hank is born, however, he is healthy, though his hands and feet are disproportionately large and he's already quite strong.


Firsts and Other Notables
Lorna Dane, who will eventually join the X-Men as Polaris, makes her first appearance as one of the latent mutants affected by Mesmero. It will shortly be revealed that she has magnetic powers not unlike Magneto, but for now the only indication of her mutant nature is her green hair (which she usually dyes brown). Mesmero and the Demi-Men seek her out in this story because they believe her to be Magneto's daughter (the M-II, or M2, weapon), but by the end of the story, those claims will prove to be false. For the next 35 years or so, the official position is that Polaris is not Magneto's daughter and they simply share a unique powerset. Then Chuck Austen (considered by many to be one of the worst comic book writers, ever) had Polaris take a DNA test which proved she was Magneto's daughter after all.


Mesmero, a recurring but relatively minor villain, also appears for the first time. He has the mutant ability to hypnotize people. In this story, he claims to be a disciple of Magneto and is leading the Demi-Men, a group of like-minded followers (though the story never refers to them as such). He is hoping to swell the ranks of the group by bringing latent mutants into the fold.


Angel's backup story should have appeared following Iceman (as he was the third to join the team) but for whatever reason Beast's backup origin begins in this issue, before Angel's.

It's worth noting that Beast is the only one of the original X-Men whose mutation is linked to a specific event (his father's exposure to atomic radiation).

 A Work in Progress
The X-Men are officially back together as a team, as they come together to deal with the menace in San Fransisco with little fanfare.  Accordingly, the X-Men logo has returned, and the "rotating headline character" experiment has been dropped.

The term "latent mutant" is used for the first time, to describe someone who is a mutant but whose mutant power hasn't manifested itself yet. 

Marvel Girl is seen using her telekinesis to fly, which is a bit outside her abilities at this point.

Hank and Bobby are "working" as skydivers.


Ah, the Silver Age
Angel gets out his purple crayon to color his prose.


Later, Angel compares himself to Nancy Drew. 


As the power plant comes dangerously close to a meltdown, it's decided to withhold a public warning to prevent a panic.


Young Love
Iceman is smitten with Lorna Dane; no word on what his previous girlfriend, Zelda, who last appeared just two issues ago, thinks about that. 

For Sale
Plastic pillows? That just doesn't seem right...


Teebore's Take
Well, it's not groundbreaking or awe-inspiring, but at least it's the X-Men again, and it's a fair sight better than the dreck of the last two issues and the general meandering of the last several. This issue kicks off a four part story that, between the introduction of Polaris and Mesmero (as well the work of the artist who fills in on the next two issues, but more on him later) is arguably the most significant long-term X-Men story since Factor Three. This issue on its own is a bit dicey, as the plot mechanics required to move the X-Men through the story are largely ignored (no real explanation is given for Angel's return to the mansion; the X-Men leave, get in a fight with some Demi-Men, return to the apartment, then leave again, and little attempt is made to disguise that the excursion was just an excuse for some obligatory fighting). It's clear Arnold Drake (either of his own volition or at editorial's behest) is mostly concerned with getting things back to normal: a team of X-Men fighting evil mutants. In that regard, he can be forgiven for rushing things along. 

10 comments:

  1. Any reason Mesmero hypnotized just the latent mutants and not EVERY mutant?

    And how did Magneto become Polaris' dad? Does Magneto just sleep around a lot?

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Dr. Bitz: Any reason Mesmero hypnotized just the latent mutants and not EVERY mutant?

    Nope.

    And you can't even say it's because non-latent mutants are more resistant to his power, since he hypnotized Iceman with ease.

    The real reason, I think, is...look over there!

    And how did Magneto become Polaris' dad? Does Magneto just sleep around a lot?

    Apparently.

    Oddly enough, there's been little elaboration on the matter of Polaris' mother; in fact, very little of her life is known before Iceman stops her from stepping into traffic in this issue.

    We know her mother is different than Quicksilver's and Scarlet Witch's, as she's been referred to as their half sister (and their mother died shortly after their birth), so Magneto did sleep around to some extent.

    Which is one of the reasons (along with the general pointlessness of retconning 35 years of history and the lack of thought given to just how the retcon affects either chaacter's history) that the whole "Polaris really IS Magneto's daughter" bit is generally ignored or looked down on.

    ReplyDelete

  3. the work of the artist who fills in on the next two issues, but more on him later

    He drew this issue's cover, too — although even with his giant signature it's not nearly as noticeable a change as will come next month.

    VW: cedowis — How Elmo pronounces the last name of witty siblings Amy and David.

    ReplyDelete

  4. PS: I just left comments on the last two X-Men posts. I'm not saying they're worth letting through (although they're more substantive than the above), just letting you know they're there since I don't know how obvious Blogger makes it that you have comments on old posts waiting to be "moderated". 8^)

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Blam: He drew this issue's cover, too — although even with his giant signature it's not nearly as noticeable a change as will come next month.

    Good point! And the change is indeed striking. It really makes the regular art that follows it pale in comparison. But more on that when the time comes.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I would like to know more about chuck austen and other f*ck ups he contributed to

    ReplyDelete

  7. Austen seems to be pretty darn polarizing. He's also had a surprisingly varied career in comics as both writer and artist.

    I first saw his work in the 1980s when, as Chuck Beckum, he drew some of Alan Moore's Miracleman at Eclipse and then, after taking his mother's name, disappointed legions of Zot! fans by handling the art on a two-issue run — not because he was bad, just because he wasn't Scott McCloud, who needed a break. He then wrote and drew the creator-owned series Strips, which was X-rated but from what I recall rather sweet, followed by (seriously) pencils on an issue of Disney's The Little Mermaid. Diverse, right?

    Except that things got even more idiosyncratic when he wrote and produced computer-modeled art for Marvel's experimental weekly War Machine in 2001. I didn't like it, although I don't recall if it's just that the art was muddy or I didn't care for the writing; soon after, he started doing scripts and/or illustrations for various other Marvel titles, just as I had to drop out of comics. So I wasn't there for his infamous runs on X-Men — which I hadn't read for years anyway — or anything else. All I know is that there was some profound, incredulous reaction to it that I wouldn't have believed had it not been for his subsequent work on DC's Justice League and Action Comics, read by me in collected form after I got back into the game; he either ignored or glibly rehashed certain character points in pretty unappealing ways.

    VW: solegr — A lone noise from an angry dog.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Falen: I would like to know more about chuck austen and other f*ck ups he contributed to

    Blam covered his career and writing tics better than I could have, but here's a few specific items from his Uncanny run that were...less well received (and, assuming I live that long, we'll cover some of these in more detail when X-aminations reaches that point):

    The whole "Polaris IS Magneto's daughter thing" (aside from coming out of nowhere) kicked off a character arc where Lorna behaved wildly out-of-character.

    He established that Angel's blood had healing properties, something that's been widely ignored since.

    More divisive was his establishment of a relationship between Angel (charitably in his late 20s/early 30s) and Husk, Cannonball's younger sister (who, again being charitable was, at most, 19).

    He wrote a tedious story that revealed Nightcrawler's father to be a demon that looks like Nightcrawler from the dimension through which Nightcrawler travels when he teleports. Also, that demon was Satan (get it? Cuz Nightcrawler's religious but also the son of Satan!). It was a story that was lambasted less for the revelations (no one really cared) and more because it was poorly paced, boring and obvious.

    Then there was the issue where, in the wake of the crucifixion and death of some of the school's younger students (including Skin from Generation X) Husk and Jubilee visited the cemetery and talked about their sexual fantasies.

    He also did a story which retold Romeo and Juliet with one of Cannonball's brothers as Romeo and a girl from an anti-mutant family as Juliet. It wasn't bad, per se, but kinda boring and rather pointless.

    I didn't hate EVERYTHING he did (there was a subplot involving the school nurse falling in love with a then-comatose Havok that was kinda interesting, at least until it converged with and contributed to the whole "Polaris goes crazy" plot) but Austen's run is definitely one of Uncanny's lower points.

    @Blam: he either ignored or glibly rehashed certain character points in pretty unappealing ways.

    Yeah, that's Austen's work in a nutshell, and the main reason he's so reviled.

    ReplyDelete
  9. @Teebore: He wrote a tedious story that revealed Nightcrawler's father to be a demon that looks like Nightcrawler from the dimension through which Nightcrawler travels when he teleports. Also, that demon was Satan (get it? Cuz Nightcrawler's religious but also the son of Satan!). It was a story that was lambasted less for the revelations (no one really cared) and more because it was poorly paced, boring and obvious.

    This. This is the reason why I am never going to read Austen's run, as well as why I despise him. From what I hear, that arc also had exploding communion wafers. *Facepalms*

    Oh, and Teebore, you forgot to mention that he had She-Hulk sleep with Juggernaut.

    ReplyDelete
  10. @Harry: Oh, and Teebore, you forgot to mention that he had She-Hulk sleep with Juggernaut.

    That was one of few things Austen did that I didn't mind (and Dan Slott got some good mileage out of it in his She-Hulk series). In fact, Austen's handling of Juggernaut in general was pretty much the only redeeming element of his run, for me. I really liked the idea of Juggernaut trying to reform, and wish it would have lasted longer (though it did outlast Austen, which is saying something).

    ReplyDelete

Comment. Please. Love it? Hate it? Am mildly indifferent to it? Let us know!