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Thursday, October 21, 2010

X-amining X-Men #57

"The Sentinels Live!"
June 1969

In a nutshell
The Sentinels return. 

Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Neal Adams
Inker: Tom Palmer 
Letterer: Sam Rosen

Plot
In Manhattan, Lorna Dane is abducted from her apartment by Sentinels. In Egypt, Iceman arrives with the authorities, who recognize the Pharaoh as noted archaeologist Professor Abdol. The Pharaoh claims Alex is a dangerous criminal while Cyclops tries to tell them the truth. When the authorities decide to arrest the X-Men, Alex, worried that he'll hurt someone with his overcharged powers, runs off into the desert, followed by the X-Men, who quickly dispatch the Egyptian police. Hiding inside a cave, Alex is captured by a Sentinel. Thinking of using Cerebro to try and find him, Cyclops attempts to contact Lorna to set it up for remote access, but finds only her empty, destroyed apartment. Worried about what happened to her, Iceman and Beast head back to America to investigate, leaving Cyclops, Angel and Marvel Girl to continue the search for Alex.


Back in New York, Iceman and Beast investigate Lorna's apartment, but are interrupted by the police, who attack the two mutants. Escaping, Iceman and Beast go to Cyclops' New York apartment and see a news report featuring Judge Chalmers announcing his study which proves mutants are a menace. Chalmers introduces Larry Trask, son of the Sentinel's creator Boliver Trask, who declares that the Sentinels live!

2nd Story: "The Female of the Species!"
The extent and uses of Marvel Girl's powers are discussed.


Firsts and Other Notables
The Sentinels return, and this issue is technically the first appearance of the Mark 2 Sentinels. 

Larry Trask, son of Sentinel creator Boliver Trask and the mastermind behind the Mark 2 Sentinels, also appears for the first time. He believes the X-Men are responsible for the death of his father, giving his general anti-mutant campaign a very personal motivation.


His ally in this is federal judge Robert Chalmers, also appearing for the first time, who will be revealed to be an old friend of the Trask family. Chalmers heads up the Federal Council on Mutant Activities, which makes it the first anti-mutant government organization to appear in the book.


This is the last issue to feature a regular backup, and the backup is written by former Marvel staffer Linda Fite, the only woman to write an X-Men story in the title's history. Marvel Girl doesn't get a full origin story, presumably because we saw her joining the team in issue #1, though Bizarre Adventures #27 will fill in some details of her pre-X-Men life.


One of the pages that is often used to illustrate the innovations and dynamism Neal Adams is bringing to the book occurs in this issue, the famous "Beast falling out the window" page:


A Work in Progress
The Pharaoh is given a real name (Professor Abdol) and a job as a noteworthy Egyptian archaeologist. Somehow, he managed to change out of his super-villain garb between issues, which helps sell his "I"m innocent and the X-Men are bad" story to the cops. 

Ah, the Silver Age
The Egyptian police ride camels, and Cyclops refers to them as "camel jockeys".

The Marvel Girl feature goes about as well as you could expect, given the times.


Young Love
It's established that Lorna and Iceman are still a couple, and Iceman freaks out when the X-Men discover her missing from her trashed apartment.


Human/Mutant Relations
The police attack Beast and Iceman because they're mutants, and of course, the reintroduction of the Sentinels is veiled in anti-mutant rhetoric.


The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
After Alex runs off into the desert, an angry Cyclops unleashes his optic blast on the Egyptian authorities.


The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops Alex Summers
Oh, the angst! The face-palming angst!


Little brother, bigger angst.


Roy Thomas on ending the backup stories
"Neal wanted to expand the lead story in each issue from fifteen to a full twenty-two pages. He wanted to drop the backup...I agreed to do it - in fact, I liked the idea - but we would probably have been in better shape if we had kept the lead to just three-quarters of the book. But there was just this irresistible temptation to get the entire book drawn by Neal." 

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p28

Teebore's Take
The Thomas/Adams run kicks into high gear with this issue, beginning their first riff on Lee/Kirby material by bringing back the Sentinels. And with the Sentinels comes a return of the one of the books core themes: prejudice. Aside from a few random asides from bystanders and cops, it's hard to believe X-Men has more or less ignored the concept of anti-mutant prejudice since the last go-round with the Sentinels back in issues #14-16. As a result, this story almost serves as a reintroduction to the idea of mutants as a persecuted minority feared and hated by the general public, and this time the idea doesn't fade into the background when the story ends, instead remaining a defining characteristic of the title to this day.

8 comments:

  1. it's so weird to think of X-Men without the prejudice.

    Awww, Alex needs a hug. I'll give him one.

    Also, marvel girl doing the housework with her powers makes me vomit in my mouth a little bit.

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  2. @Falen: it's so weird to think of X-Men without the prejudice.

    I know! Yet, that's pretty much been the book since Lee and Kirby left, and even then, it wasn't a huge deal aside from the Sentinel story.

    Awww, Alex needs a hug. I'll give him one.

    And then he'll obliterate you. And then cry about it.

    marvel girl doing the housework with her powers makes me vomit in my mouth a little bit.

    In the panel before that she was using her powers to bake a pie. No foolin', an apple pie.

    So, in order, she used her powers to:

    1. Bake a pie
    2. Clean the house
    3. Then fight bad guys.

    On the plus side, at least she's not married to Reed Richards.

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  3. man i can barely remember the Sentinels in the earlier issues- it feels like they're all new and badass, since they're changing the whole feeling of the book this time around. Also, the art and dialogue seems less silver-agey on the panels you showed.

    Why is Marvel Girl wearing her uniform during housework?

    Also, how does Beast get saved after getting hit out the window? (that was an awesome panel, btw)

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  4. After reading some interviews with the creators, I got the impression that, as is the case with the "Marvel Style," Adams was getting a ton of input into the plotting here as well. Do you think that helps account for the huge increase in quality over Thomas first run?

    It reminds me of Denny O'Neil's run on Amazing Spider-Man where the normal issues kind of suck, but the annuals he did with Frank Miller are just fantastic. Or as Jason points out on the Remarkable blog, how Claremont's writing improves with better artists. Or maybe they are just more inspired with better art?

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  5. @Anne: man i can barely remember the Sentinels in the earlier issues.

    Yeah, they're such a big part of the mythos now, it's hard to believe that before this story, they'd just appeared once before.

    Also, the art and dialogue seems less silver-agey on the panels you showed.

    It definitely is, especially the art.

    Why is Marvel Girl wearing her uniform during housework?

    Because she's using her powers, dur. ;)

    Also, how does Beast get saved after getting hit out the window?

    On the top right of the long "falling" panel, there's a chunk of ice behind Beast's head. Iceman basically makes him an ice pole to grab onto and slow his descent, then catches him on an ice slide.

    @Jeff: Do you think that helps account for the huge increase in quality over Thomas first run?

    Definitely. There's a quote from Thomas in the Comic Creators on X-Men that I'll be posting at some point that talks about how involved Neal Adams was in the plotting (even before he started drawing the book; he asked Thomas to bring the X-Men to Egypt in issue #55 simply because Egypt was more exciting a setting than a museum).

    From that and some other stuff I've read, it almost sounds like, especially towards the end of the run, Thomas was little more than a scripter, to the point where Adams got mad when Denny O'Neil had to fill-in for Thomas on issue #65 since Adams was used to Thomas' scripts by then.

    Compare this run to Thomas' earlier run, and the only explanations I can come up with to account for the sheer differences in both the quality and the types of stories (you know, ones relevant to the X-Men) is that Thomas had, by then, gotten some experience on other Marvel titles so he was no longer the rookie fanboy trying to shoehorn every idea he had for the Marvel Universe into an X-Men story, and Neal Adams (both in terms of plotting contributions and sheer energy on the page).

    It's probably a little of both, but I definitely think it swings more Adams' way.

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  6. i have to say, i'm loving these posts more and more, the further along we get

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  7. oh, but also, methinks there will be less funny stuff the further along we get. So it's kind of bittersweet

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  8. @Falen: i have to say, i'm loving these posts more and more, the further along we get

    Thanks! That's good to hear.

    oh, but also, methinks there will be less funny stuff the further along we get. So it's kind of bittersweet

    Oh, there'll still be funny stuff. Not as much, and different kinds of funny stuff, but trust me, you'll be laughing when Storm fits an entire soliloquy into the time between punches, or the umpteenth time Wolverine mentions he's the best there is at what he does.

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