In a Nutshell
The Mad Thinker & Puppet Master team-up to pit the Fantastic Four against the X-Men.
Written by: Stan Lee (the Leader!)
Drawn by: Jack Kirby (the King!)
Inked by: Chic Stone (the Master!)
Lettered by: Art Simek (the Letterer!)
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
As the Fantastic Four discuss a news report involving the X-Men, the Mad Thinker enlists the Puppet Master to take control of Professor X. Once under the Puppet Master's sway, Xavier sends the X-Men to attack the Fantastic Four, telling his students the FF are plotting world domination. After arriving at the Baxter Building, the X-Men pick a fight with the Fantastic Four in order to lead them to a plateau outside the city where the Thinker has set a series of booby traps. With the FF captured, the villains reveal themselves, and Puppet Master orders Xavier to make the X-Men sleep. But with his control spread over five individuals across miles, Beast is able to resist his control long enough to shatter the radioactive puppet used by the Puppet Master to control Xavier. With the FF having freed themselves, the Mad Thinker unleashes his Awesome Android, which overpowers both teams until Xavier is able to use his telepathy to shut the creature down. Though the villains escape in the confusion, the two teams part as friends, with Mr. Fantastic considering the X-Men worthy representatives of the day's youth.
Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the first meeting between the X-Men and the Fantastic Four in full (Iceman & Human Torch previously teamed up in Human Torch's half of Strange Tales). While the history between the two teams isn't quite as deep and interwoven as between the X-Men & Avengers (who share a publishing anniversary and, through the years, pass a handful of team members & adversaries back and forth amongst themselves), the two teams do cross paths in a few significant ways after this, including the X-Men vs. Fantastic Four miniseries, Wolverine's stint as one of the new Fantastic Four and his rivalry with Thing, their shared involvement in "Days of Future Present", and Storm's stint as a member of the team post-Civil War, amongst others.
It's not as germane to the X-Men, but this also marks the first team-up between the Mad Thinker and Puppet Master, a villain pairing that will stand the test of time.
The Chronology Corner
This story takes place between issues #5 and #6 of X-Men.
A Work in Progress
Reed notes that it’s amazing how quickly the X-Men have become famous, which doesn’t quite gel with the later depiction of the X-Men as more of an urban legend amongst the general populace.
There’s a great bit where the Thing asks who the X-Men have beat, anyways, and the rest of the team respond with a long list of their villains (though in Thing’s defense, four of them could just be listed under “Brotherhood if Evil Mutants”. Also, it’s said the defeated the Space Phantom, which isn’t true. Based on the order of villains listed, Stan likely meant the Vanisher, and confused him with the Space Phantom (whom the Avengers fought in their second issue).
The X-Men travel in this issue via jet copter, the same one the Juggernaut will later destroy in issue #32.
Lee seems to lose track of the plot at one point when Cyclops makes a reference to the Thinkers plan in his thoughts; at that point in the story, the X-Men believe they are acting simply at Professor X’s direction.
I love that the Thing is too busy admiring a statue of himself to investigate the X-Men’s (false) claim of an alien landing.
Thing’s statue is too heavy for Marvel Girl to suspend telekinetically.
Ah, the Silver Age
The Puppet Master’s schtick is that he can control whomever he sculpts using his special radioactive clay. But the resulting figure needs to resemble the desired target (ie he can’t just make a generic figure and say it’s a specific person). In this issue, the Mad Thinker, based solely on news reports, is able to describe Professor X in enough detail to the Puppet Master that he can craft a good enough likeness to meet whatever criteria governs the way his clay works.
Also, you know, radioactive clay.
*sigh* Invisible Girl is used as a hostage to assure the FF’s cooperation.
The FF are able to track the “vibration frequency” of the engine of the X-Men’s vehicle.
And now Human Torch & Invisible Girl have mesothelioma.
This panel of the FF and X-Men battling the Awesome Android, Mad Thinker and Pupper Master is just pure Silver Age goodness.
There’s a great example of the art telling a story when the X-Men meet the FF: earlier, it had been established that Iceman & Human Torch had met earlier. In the panel, the two are shown interacting, but because their past interaction had already been established, we’re spared based word balloons reiterating it.
"Professor Xavier is a jerk!"
The notion that the X-Men are so named due to their “Xtra” power (and not Xavier’s ego) is repeated here.
The "superhero misunderstanding fight", in which two or more heroes battle one another following some kind of misunderstanding in which one or both believes the other to be evil or ill-intentioned in some way, is a staple of Marvel's Silver Age, and this issue is a great entry in that proud (if eventually overused) pantheon in a number of ways. For one, it's just wall-to-wall Jack Kirby action. For another, it's packed with not just the FF and X-Men, but also, Silver Age staples like the Puppet Master and the Awesome Android. And for another, Stan Lee, to his credit, avoids some of the more obvious FF-on-X-Men matchups, like having the team's respective Girls fight one another, or a fire-meets-ice Iceman/Human Torch battle, or even a basic "strong guy" Thing/Beast contest between each team's brusier, such that the resulting battles (like Beast & Mr. Fantastic trying to out-vocabulary each other) are much more interesting.
The other interesting thing about this issue is how it presents the X-Men, in that, for the most part, they acquit themselves well. Often in these kinds of crossovers, the visiting character/team ends up playing second fiddle to the title characters. But here, the X-Men more or less hold their own against the FF before teamin up against the villains, and in the end it is Professor X, as he so often did early in the run of X-Men, who serves as the telepathic ex machina and saves the day, rather than the Fantastic Four. As much as anything, the creation of the Marvel Universe was a marketing ploy: by setting all the books in the same general area, the characters are capable of easily crossing over from book to book, turning any given issue of any series into a potential commercial for another. If, with this issue, Lee was simply trying to use the Fantastic Four - Marvel's flagship and most popular series of the time - to get some eyes on the still-nascent X-Men, he put their best foot forward in terms of presenting the X-Men in a positive light, at least in terms of their competency, theoretically making them more appealing to potential readers.
Next week, the X-Men encounter another venerable Marvel team in Avengers #53.