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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

X-amining X-Men: The Hiatus Years #2

The Avengers 110-111, The Incredible Hulk 172, Captain America 172-175, Marvel Team-Up 23 and The Defenders 15-16.
April 1973-October 1974

The Avengers 110-111 by Steve Englehart and Don Heck
Incredible Hulk 172 by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe
Captain America 172-175 by Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema
Marvel Team-Up 23 by Lein Wein and Gil Kane
The Defenders 15-16 by Len Wein and Sal Buscema
(for full credits on each issue, please visit the Grand Comics Database)

Plot
The Avengers 110: The Avengers answer a distress call from the X-Men, who have been attacked by Magneto. The Avengers 111: The Avengers defeat Magneto, but Angel goes missing. The Incredible Hulk 172: In the wake of various mutant disappearances, The X-Men travel to the southwest to check on Havok and Lorna Dane. Discovering them misssing as well, they help Hulk defeat Juggernaut. Captain America 172: Captain America and the Falcon, on the trail of the Secret Empire, battle Banshee, believing him to be one of their agents. Captain America 173: Professor X, Cyclops and Marvel Girl (the other X-Men having disappeared) team-up with Captain America and the Falcon to take down the Secret Empire, whom Professor X believes is behind the mutant disappearances. Captain America 174: Cap and the Falcon infiltrate the Secret Empire, and alongside the X-Men, discover the missing mutants. Captain America 175: Captain America, the Falcon and the X-Men defeat the Secret Empire.

 

Marvel Team-Up 23: Iceman teams up with Human Torch to fight Equinox before the X-Men depart on a secret mission. The Defenders 15: With the X-Men away, Professor X asks the Defenders for help against Magneto and his newest incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The Defenders 16: Magneto reveals Alpha, the ultimate mutant, whom he has created. Professor X and the Defenders convince the rapidly evolving Alpha that Magneto is a villain, and Alpha reduces the Brotherhood to infancy.     

Firsts and Other Notables
Magneto (and the rest of the Brotherhood) are turned into babies, a resolution which fits the kooky and offbeat nature of The Defenders and sets up Magneto's next appearance in X-Men.


The X-Men depart for a secret mission in the wake of Marvel Team-Up 23. It's never been definitively determined what this was setting up, but as Len Wein wrote both that issue and Giant Size X-Men 1, it's possible this is setting up the events of that issue.

A Work in Progress
It's revealed that the costume Magneto gave Angel in the Savage Lane was slowly collecting his energy so that Magneto could wear the costume and be restored to full power.


Marvel Girl is drawn in Avengers 111 with brown hair, most likely to distinguish her from the red-haired Scarlet Witch and Black Widow who also appear in the issue. 

Havok and Lorna Dane, who were last seen returning to the X-Men in Incredible Hulk 150 apparently left the team and retired to the southwest before being captured by the Secret Empire.

Juggernaut escapes (again) from the Crimson Cosmos, his rapid aging in Amazing Adventures 16 revealed to have been a hoax perpetrated by the powers of that dimension.

Banshee's appearance in Captain America features his original "long face" look, the last such appearance.


Linda Donaldson, Beast's assistant/girlfriend/Secret Empire agent pops up again, her assignment monitoring Beast completed after he's captured behind the scenes. 

The various mutant disappearances that are peppered throughout these issues are traced to the Secret Empire, who kidnapped the mutants and harnessed them to a machine which used their mutant energy to power the Secret Empire's equipment. 


Throughout most of these issues, the X-Men appear in their original training uniforms with no explanation, until Steve Englehart drops a line of dialogue in Captain America saying the X-Men started wearing them again (though they'll be in their unique costumes in Giant Size X-Men 1). Not sure if the artists around this time had outdated model sheets for the X-Men, or if someone just liked the old uniforms better.

Magneto basically takes over the Mastermind/Blob/Unus Brotherhood from Amazing Adventures and adds Savage Land mutate Lorelei.  

That 70s Comic
The culmination of the Secret Empire saga in Captain America is one of the definitive Marvel stories of the 70s. It is heavily suggested that the leader of the Secret Empire is President Nixon, who kills himself rather than face a trial. This makes Captain America so disillusioned that he abandons his costumed identity for awhile. The story was reportedly inspired by the events of Watergate, and Captain America's crisis of faith in America is meant to evoke the American zeitgeist in the wake of those events.


Magneto makes an enthralled Scarlet Witch dance for him, which becomes retroactively even creepier when it's revealed she is his daughter. 


Teebore's Take
Steve Englehart continues to do the heavy lifting when it comes to keeping the X-Men around, working them (and mutants in general ) into his long running Secret Empire storyline. I'd be curious to know if this was done by editorial edict, or something Englehart chose to do on his own. The Secret Empire storyline has always been considered a very personal one and one which Englehart crafted more or less on his own, in which case it'd be interesting to know from where this seeming affinity for the X-Men came.

However, the biggest event in this chunk of issues will turn out to be the relatively ridiculous plotline involving Magneto and the Brotherhood being restored to infancy. This random and goofy event will, once Magneto is re-aged, create a sort of do-over for the character, allowing his origins to be explored free of any hassles brought on by Marvel's sliding timeline (because now the character will be younger). Chris Claremont, after restoring Magneto to adulthood, will see this opening and use it to great advantage. 

8 comments:

  1. This really ain't the X-Men's finest hour, is it ? Nearly all of those appearances involve them being defeated in flashback or behind the scenes...

    If you really want to be an absolute completist, one should mention SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL #5 (where Xavier phones the titular character to tell her he's worried about the Secret Empire) and ADVENTURE INTO FEAR #20 (where Morbius escapes from the X-Men's mansion while they are too busy dealing with the Secret Empire).

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  2. first - what...the...fuck is up with that whole scarlet witch dance thing? I feel kinda dirty after seeing that.
    Also, Banshee is hideous in that picture.
    Seeing the brotherhood as infants reminds me of the X-Babies. Ahhh, good time. Hilarious and stupid times, but still good.

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  3. John Byrne claims that the reason the X-Men appeared in the school uniforms during these years is because the main X-Men series (meaning issues 67-93, in this context) were reprinting the early adventures that had them in those costumes. So to avoid any "reader confusion" for people following both the X-Men reruns and the current stuff, the X-Men were drawn to match the reprints.

    I guess it sorta makes sense, but Byrne is often wrong with his "behind the scenes" tidbits -- especially the ones that he would've heard second hand.

    But this one could be true ... !

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  4. crap, sarah stole my comments. let me think...something she didn't say...
    i dislike when comics crossover into 'real' events or people

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  5. @JD: This really ain't the X-Men's finest hour, is it ?

    Yeah, it's really not. At best they're guest stars. At worst, they're batteries for the villains equipment. And not even the villain's world domination equipment. Just their vehicle.

    Thanks for mentioning Shanna the She-Devil and Adventure into Fear issues. I left them off the official rundown since I was having more trouble than it was worth tracking down those issues, but I meant to at least mention them at some point.

    @Falen: first - what...the...fuck is up with that whole scarlet witch dance thing? I feel kinda dirty after seeing that.

    You and me both. Further proof that the whole "Magneto is Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch's father" thing was a massive retcon.

    Seeing the brotherhood as infants reminds me of the X-Babies.

    Oh, the X-Babies. The horror, the horror!

    @Jason: I guess it sorta makes sense, but Byrne is often wrong with his "behind the scenes" tidbits -- especially the ones that he would've heard second hand.

    But this one could be true ... !


    It does make sense. And Steve Englehart is the kind of writer who, if it was an editorial edict, would have made a point to comment on it in the story, which he did.

    Like you, I've heard in several places that Byrne's recollections are suspect, but you're right: this one definitely sounds like it could be true. Thanks for bringing it up!

    @Anne: i dislike when comics crossover into 'real' events or people

    Ditto. The Secret Empire story handles it pretty well. It's not like it ever says "That was Nixon!" Just someone in high ranking-enough office to be in the White House.

    It's only when you understand the context of the story and the time in which it was written that the Nixon connection becomes more overt.

    But it bugs the crap out of me when super heroes talk to the president and it's whomever the then-current president is (which we'll unfortunately see a few times in X-Men eventually).

    I know it adds realism and blah blah but in an ongoing, shared universe it just dates things terribly. I'm firmly of the belief that comic book politicians should all be fake, even if they're also sly references to real politicians.

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  6. Intersting note about Cap #175, in Steve Englehart's own words from his website:

    "People often ask if Marvel hassled me for the political vibe in this series and others, and the honest answer is that they almost never did. It was a wonderful place to be creative. Here, I intended to say the President was Nixon, but wasn't sure if Marvel would allow it and so censored myself - probably unnecessarily."

    By the way, if you think John Byrne has an ego, you should peruse Englehart's site! He constantly (and almost insultingly casually) gives himself credit for so many things he believes were derived from his work, it's unbelievable!

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  7. @Matt: Here, I intended to say the President was Nixon, but wasn't sure if Marvel would allow it and so censored myself - probably unnecessarily.

    I actually *just* read something similar from Englehart in the foreword to the Marvel Masterworks hardcover that collected this batch of issues (I couldn't get ahold of it when I wrote this post, but I wish I had; there was some great stuff in that foreword).

    He basically said that back then, as long as you didn't write anything that would embarrass Marvel or trigger legal action, editorial didn't really care what you did (and obviously, as long as your stuff SOLD), but he thought being overt about Nixon MIGHT cross that line so he wrote it the way he did.

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  8. JD said ADVENTURE INTO FEAR #20 (where Morbius escapes from the X-Men's mansion while they are too busy dealing with the Secret Empire).

    This is why I love rabbit-holing on this site....I can find something new to add to my want list!!!

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