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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

X-amining X-Men #65

"Before I'd be Slave..."
February 1970

In a Nutshell
Professor X returns and helps the X-Men repel an alien attack.

Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Dennis O'Neil
Penciller: Neal Adams
Inker: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Jean Izzo

Plot
The X-Men return to the mansion and find Havok and Lorna waiting to brief them. Havok tells the X-Men of the alien Z'Nox, a compassionless race of aliens who live to destroy and conquer other worlds. They have developed technology which enables them to move their planet through space, and the planet is heading towards Earth, following a scout ship that recently landed at the South Pole. When the X-Men question how Havok learned all of this, he reveals a very much alive Professor X. Jean bursts into tears, thankful that she longer has to pretend that Xavier is dead.


Professor X explains that he discovered the impending Z'Nox invasion at the same time he was visited by a dying Changeling hoping to make amends for his criminal past. Needing seclusion to prepare a defense, Xavier had asked Changeling to take his place, and imbued him with a portion of his telepathic power. Of the X-Men, only Marvel Girl was let in on the secret so she could help Changeling maintain the ruse. After Changeling died in battle with Grotesk, Xavier continued his work. He proceeds to lead the X-Men in vigorous training sessions before sending them off against the Z'Nox scout ship. As the X-Men battle their way through the ship, Xavier telepathically reaches out and unites all the compassionate minds of the world, bringing together millions of minds into one. Lorna then transmits this energy to the X-Men who amplify it and, through Cyclops, blast the Z'Nox planet with concentrated compassion. In agony, the Z'Nox retreat just as Professor X collapses from the strain.

Firsts and Other Notables
It's the big Professor X retcon. Turns out ol' Chuck never died. Instead, it was Changeling who died at the hands of Grotesk in issue #42 while Professor X was in seclusion preparing a defense against the Z'Nox. Why he needed to be so secluded (to the point of making the X-Men believe he was dead) is never really made clear.


The Z'Nox appear for the first time. They're your generic world conquering aliens who thrive on conquest and fear compassion. Other than a retroactive follow-up to this story in John Byrne's "X-Men: The Hidden Years" series, they're rarely seen again.


This is Neal Adams last issue on the title. Denny O'Neil, a DC writer known largely for his groundbreaking runs on Batman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow with Neal Adams, fills in for Roy Thomas.

International espionage agency SHIELD is referenced (and the SHIELD helicarrier appears) in an X-Men comic for the first time. The Fantastic Four also make a cameo appearance as Professor X is gathering humanity's compassion.

A Work in Progress
Changeling's absence from amongst the mutants captured by the Sentinels in issues #57-59 is explained here as his having died as Professor X in issue #42.

The X-Men travel to the Z'Nox scout ship via rocketship.


Despite the Z'Nox scout ship (and the X-Men) being at the South Magentic Pole, Xavier tells Lorna to direct his mental energy to Death Valley for some reason.

Scott expresses some jealousy over Alex's leadership abilities, though it is Alex's jealousy of Scott that will come to define their relationship in years to come.

Remember Professor X's giant beam of love that was blasted into space; it will later be used to setup a plot after Chris Claremont takes over the book.

Ah, the Silver Age
Because it's a Marvel comic in the 60s, the X-Men can't just nicely come inside the mansion and hear what Havok and Lorna have to say, and a brief scuffle ensues.


Once again, the cobalt bomb is referenced as the be-all and end-all when it comes to destructive force.


After explaining how the Z'Nox planet coming into Earth's orbit would seriously mess things up, Havok tells the X-Men that the planet has just passed through Saturn's orbit on its way to Earth...which would mean Saturn should be pretty messed up too.


So Professor X gathers humanity's compassion into a single mind, then Lorna transmits that energy to Marvel Girl, who sends it to Havok, who boosts it and blasts his brother with it, so Cyclops can blast the energy into space at the Z'Nox homeworld while Iceman keeps him from overheating. That's physics as only comic books can do it.


"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!"
This is largely the issue which inspired this category, both for allowing the X-Men to believe he died for no good reason, and for letting Marvel Girl in on the secret then telling her she must lie to the other X-Men (including faking her grief over his "death") as well.


Young Love
Iceman grows concerned over the growing attraction between Alex and Lorna.


For SaleIt's a penny...in a bottle!


It's in the Mail
Both Doug Moench, future comic book writer best known as the creator of Moon Knight and his runs writing Batman, and Mark Verheiden, future comic book writer and TV/film writer/producer, have letters published in this issue.


Neal Adams on bring back Professor X
"I said, 'Roy, I think I have a story that will do it. I'm going to set it up when we free all the captured mutants getting out of their tubes and standing around. If you want to name them, you can name them. But the one character that's not going to be there is the Changeling. I'm not going to do it right away, but eventually we'll reveal that the Changeling was really the one who died instead of Professor X.' I'd figured out that Professor X had discovered this incredible plot to destroy the Earth, as a result of which he had to go into hiding for a year in order to try and stop it. Trouble is, he doesn't know how he can hide himself for a whole year. Coincidentally, the Changeling breaks in on him, and says, 'I've got cancer-I'm going to die. I've examined my life and it's been a terrible waste. I can't make up for all the crap I've done, but I'm coming to you to find out if there's anything I can do.' Professor X says, 'There is something you can do You can make yourself look like me...' Then Professor X brings Marvel Girl into it. He says, 'Look, the Changeling is going to die, but it's going to appear to be me that dies. Since he doesn't have my mental abilities, you are going to have to help him. If we want to save Earth, nobody can know I'm gone.'

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p52

Teebore's Take
This issue is mainly remembered for two reasons: the departure of Neal Adams and the Professor X retcon. Honestly, as retcons go, this one is pretty good. Other than the sheer coincidence of Changeling appearing at the same time that Professor X needed to go into hiding (and the aforementioned lack of any explanation for his secrecy) it fits within the established story well. While Thomas doesn't seem to have intended to bring Professor X back when he wrote him out in issue #42, Adams clearly gave it some thought when he came aboard and helped lay a bit of groundwork that makes the reveal seem more natural.

Retcon aside, the rest of the issue isn't half bad either. It's a bit dated, what with the X-Men essentially defeating the Z'Nox with love (and the whole "Professor X to Lorna to Marvel Girl to Havok to Cyclops while Iceman cools him down" routine is a bit dicey) but there's something charmingly Silver Age about the whole thing: the one dimensional villains, the team working together to achieve victory, a resolution that speaks (albeit hamfistedly) to the best in humanity. It would be a fitting end for the book's Silver Age run, and send it out on a relative high note, but unfortunately we've got one more to go...

11 comments:

  1. just reading about this stretches my believeability - i think it was the beam of comapssion that really tipped me over the edge. I mean, really?

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Falen: i think it was the beam of comapssion that really tipped me over the edge. I mean, really?

    It goes down a lot easier when you're reading it, as opposed to reading about it.

    It doesn't seem quite as ridiculous until you stop and think, "wait, did they just shoot those aliens with a love beam?"

    And I'm still not sure how Lorna can magnetically send telepathic thoughts to Marvel Girl, and how Havok can boost those thoughts with cosmic rays, and how Cyclops can shoot those thoughts as part of his optic blast...

    ReplyDelete
  3. It goes down a lot easier when you're reading it, as opposed to reading about it.

    I highly doubt that.

    You know, at first I thought about all the logistical problems of moving a planet. If we started to move Earth we wouldn't make it beyond the asteroid belt before everything died out.

    But then I saw the whole beam of compassion business and realized planet moving is the least of this issue's worries.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Dr. Bitz: You know, at first I thought about all the logistical problems of moving a planet.

    I've heard the mechanism the Z'Nox used to move their planet described elsewhere as a giant outboard motor, and that's about as sophisticated as it looks to be.

    Because the only problem with moving a planet can be solved by a big engine pushing it along...

    ReplyDelete
  5. While it's somewhat decently executed, the retcon in this issue is still ridiculous and makes Xavier a worse bastard than ever before.

    And the Z'Nox are terrible villains, boring and boringly defeated by the Care Bears.

    It does look great, because Neal Adams, but good art can only polish a turd so far.

    ReplyDelete
  6. While it's somewhat decently executed, the retcon in this issue is still ridiculous and makes Xavier a worse bastard than ever before.

    Absolutely. For all of the criticism some fans have for the way modern writers don't seem to know of any way to write Xavier except as a manipulative jerk (criticism which isn't entirely unfounded) it's worth remembering that those writers are merely picking up on seeds planted long, long ago.

    This retcon is exhibit A in the "Xavier is a jerk" case.

    And the Z'Nox are terrible villains, boring and boringly defeated by the Care Bears.


    Yeah, the Kree or Skrulls they're not.

    It does look great, because Neal Adams, but good art can only polish a turd so far.

    Relatively speaking, it's a turd, but I still think it can be enjoyed as a relic of the Silver Age (I mean, aliens pushing their planet through space defeated by a pseudo-science love beam? That's pretty damn Silver Age-y) in a way that other bad issues (say, issue #30, the Warlock issue, or #53, the Blastaar issue) can't.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Remember when the X-Men animated series started, and they had a character named Morph in the pilot? Then a few years later was the "Age of Apocalypse" storyline, and they had a character named Morph, who was said to be the AoA's version of Changeling? At the time I thought, "oh, it's pretty cool of them to retcon this animated series character into being the same guy as the Changeling who died back in the 1960's."

    Then, about two years ago, I read these Neal Adams issues for the first time, and in the panel where Changeling comes to Xavier, he looks exactly like Morph's character design from the cartoon! My mind was blown; my entire world rocked to its very core. Apparently the cartoon people used Changeling as the model for Morph first, then the comic people brought back Changeling in the AoA using his codename from the cartoon.

    This is a total tangent, but I thought it was interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Matt: This is a total tangent, but I thought it was interesting.

    Absolutely. And thanks for mentioning it; the whole "Changeling to Animated Morph to AoA Morph" transition is something I should have pointed out. I LOVE that the animated series (which I've always had a fondness for but had some shoddy, shoddy animation and voice acting) displayed that kind of attention to detail in making the animated Morph look like the Neal Adams Changeling.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I agree about the cartoon's animation -- trying to translate Jim Lee's art style to TV was not a good idea. But I actually liked a fair number of the voices. To this day, their Storm, Gambit, Beast, and especially Cyclops are the voices I hear in my head when I read those characters' dialogue in comics.

    (Although my head-Beast is slowly and involuntarily changing to sound like the guy who played him on Wolverine and the X-Men, as has already happened with my head-Wolverine. I could seriously go on for way, way too long about what cartoon voices I've cast as various comic book characters in my head...)

    ReplyDelete
  10. @Matt: But I actually liked a fair number of the voices. To this day, their Storm, Gambit, Beast, and especially Cyclops are the voices I hear in my head when I read those characters' dialogue in comics.

    Oh, I did too. "Voice acting" was probably the wrong term. Voice quality? I dunno. I meant that often the voices were badly dubbed, or obviously re-used, or didn't synch with the animation, etc. That kind of stuff.

    To this day I have a hard time NOT hearing the animated Professor X when I read him in a comic, and the animated Wolverine pops up in my head a lot too.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Too much Jubilee in those cartoons for me to enjoy. Jubilee is close to the watershed for me when it stopped being fun to read the X-Men. That and the Psylocke Asianification,

    I have great nostalgic affection for this issue, including the Rube Goldberg approach to love-beam mechanics.

    ReplyDelete

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