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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

X-amining X-Men #59

"Do or Die, Baby!"
August 1969

In a nutshell
Cyclops uses logic to defeat the Sentinels. 

Editor: Stan Lee
Scripter: Roy Thomas
Artist: Neal Adams
Embellisher: Tom Palmer 
Letterer: Sam Rosen

Plot
Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Beast approach the Sentinel's base by air. They are shot down, but survive, and continue on to the base. Inside, Judge Chalmers explains to Larry that after his mutant power of clairvoyance manifested itself, his father created a medallion that would block his power, and, eventually fearing other mutants would discover his secret, created the Sentinels to hunt them down. The Sentinels insist on following the last order they received from Larry when he was human: kill all mutants. In the meantime, they place Larry alongside the other mutant captives. Meanwhile, the X-Men enter the base and discover a just-arrived and captured Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Toad. The X-Men switch places with the three, allowing them to surprise the Sentinels who prepare to counter Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch's and Toad's powers rather than the X-Men's.


Back in the control room, Larry is able to get Chalmers to deactivate the control device in Havok's costume, but his cell continues to cut him off from cosmic energy. The X-Men reach the control room. Cyclops blasts the captives free, but a Sentinel fires a burst of energy at him. Chalmers intercepts it, and Havok blasts the Sentinel. After harming a human, the Sentinels stand down to re-evaluate their programming, and Cyclops makes them realize that, logically, in order to protect humanity from mutants, they must destroy the source of mutation on Earth: the sun. Just as all the Sentinels blast off for the sun, Havok feels his power building and runs away from the others. He releases a burst of energy and injures himself. Elsewhere, Dr. Karl Lykos receives a phone call from the X-Men, and tells them to bring Alex to him.  

Firsts and Other Notables
Future X-Men writer Chris Claremont gets his first credit on the book, retroactively, for plot assist. Apparently, he came up with the "Sentinels fly into the sun" idea.

Larry Trask is revealed to have precognitive abilities (the story refers to him as "clairvoyant", but that doesn't really fit with predicting his mother's death). When he was a child, his father created a medallion that blocked his powers, and according to Chalmers, created the Sentinels to hunt down mutants so no other mutant would learn of and reveal his son's true nature (which is a fairly significant retcon that has gone largely ignored). After Bolivar Trask died, family friend Chalmers continued to protect Larry and supported his Sentinel initiative.  


Karl Lykos makes his first appearance in the final panels of the book. More on him next issue.


A Work in Progress
Mastermind, Blob and Unus were all captured by the Sentinels between last issue and this one, and Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Toad are seen being apprehended on a view screen before arriving at the base. 


As the X-Men are infiltrating the Sentinel base, much is made, via dialogue, of a disturbance in another part of the base which draws the Sentinels away from the X-Men. No one, including the X-Men, Sentinels and Trask, know what's causing it, and the story never reveals it.

Build up your Vocabulary with Beast
Aphoristic: adj. Of, relating to, or resembling an aphorism.
Aphorism: 1. A tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion; an adage. 2. A brief statement of a principle.

As in, "in the aphoristic nick, Miss Grey."


The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops Havok
Havok blasts a Sentinel, saving Cyclops, then proceeds to freak out, run down a hall, explode, and bury himself in rubble. 


For Sale
Man, I wish these were around when I was a kid. Not necessarily for Matchbox cars, but I could have used them for tons of stuff.


Roy Thomas on plotting with Neal Adams
"From the beginning, Neal and I plotted the stories together, and I let him run with a lot of it, since he wanted to and I was writing several other comics each month. My feeling was that, if you get someone who's enthusiastic and has a good story sense, why should I care if it's 'my story' or 'Neal's story' because - in the end - it's our story. If Neal had something he wanted to do or he had an idea, I'd be more likely to try to find a reason to go with that."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p27 

Teebore's Take
The Sentinel story wraps up with a classic (if dated) resolution, using the Sentinels logical brains against them and sending them off to destroy the source of all mutation. It's not the most intelligent action for the Sentinels to take, and in this day and age, we give our killer robots a lot more credit, but this is very much in the mold of robot stories of the time: undone by their unwavering, logical robot brains.

In addition to all the artistic innovations, something else that is becoming clear in this run is the way each story flows into the next. Chris Claremont will later be known for peppering his stories with ongoing subplots and narrative threads that help make each issue feel like another chapter in an ongoing story, even as more defined two or three-issues stories start and end. We're not quite at a Claremontian level of inner-connectedness yet, but for the first time in the book's history, the stories are flowing nicely from one to the other: the Living Pharaoh story leads into the Sentinels, the Sentinel story comes to a close but Alex gets injured, leading into the next story, etc. In this way, it's not just the improved art that makes these X-Men issues feel ahead of their time.  

11 comments:

Falen (Sarah Ahiers) said...

damn you logical robut brains!

"Sentence fragment IS a sentence fragement"

Teebore said...

@Falen: damn you logical robut brains!

That's how we get them!

Anne said...

wasn't that a bit of a risk, sending the sentinels to the sun? what if they successfully destroyed it?! the joke's on you then, Cyclops (could you imagine his angst if that happened?!)

does that matchbox car display case actually have like sliding clear panels? cuz that looks awesome

Teebore said...

what if they successfully destroyed it?! the joke's on you then, Cyclops

Ha! Good point. Boy, there would have been egg on his face if they'd succeeded.

could you imagine his angst if that happened?!

I'm pretty sure the sheer weight of it would have compressed Earth into a black hole.

does that matchbox car display case actually have like sliding clear panels?

It's hard to tell, but I think so.

Seriously, those cases are awesome. I want some now, let alone when I was a kid.

Blam said...


My cousin Paul had those plastic cases for his Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars — or something a lot like them — when we were kids, passed down to his brother. They adhered to or were screwed into the wall above his bed. And they didn't have sliding clear panels that I remember, but they were just deep enough to keep the cars from falling out too easily if the cases were jostled while you were taking other cars in or out.

They were more-or-less as awesome as you're thinking.

Oddly enough, Paul's brother was first in the family to get the modern-day, adult equivalent: "invisible bookshelves" (which you can also use for stacking towels and stuff). I still don't have any myself, but I covet them, and one day they shall be put to great use.

VW: peeste — Julio Iglesias in a bad mood.

Teebore said...

@Blam: They were more-or-less as awesome as you're thinking.

Aw, now I wish I'd had them even more! But good to know they were a legitimate product, unlike lots of the other comic book ads.

"invisible bookshelves" (which you can also use for stacking towels and stuff). I still don't have any myself, but I covet them, and one day they shall be put to great use.

Yeah, I want some of those too.

Nathan Adler said...

The strange dangler from this issue, where the Sentinels detect a mutant presence on one side of their mutant base, that everyone assumes is Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Beast, but then it turns out that the Cyclops trio was on the opposite side of the mountain.

That mutant presence was never accounted for.

This has never been explained, in 40 freakin' years!

Teebore said...

@Nathan Adler: That mutant presence was never accounted for.

This has never been explained, in 40 freakin' years!


It is kind of mind-boggling that in all this time, no one has gone back and resolved that little dangling plot.

Nathan Adler said...

Claremont started his run weaving stories off of old plots such as Eric the Red, so it's strange he never addressed this one given he was such a fan of the run.

Who'd of thought there was an X-Men dangler older than Claremont's earliest, hey;)

Teebore said...

@Nathan: Who'd of thought there was an X-Men dangler older than Claremont's earliest, hey;)

I really do get a kick out of that fact. :)

Harry Sewalski said...

...in this day and age, we give our killer robots a lot more credit, but this is very much in the mold of robot stories of the time: undone by their unwavering, logical robot brains.

See also: the Living Brain from Amazing Spider-Man #8. Possibly one of the most realistic robotic villains in all of fiction, if not the most boring.