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Friday, September 25, 2009

X-amining X-Men #23

"To Save a City!"
August 1966

Edited in Ecstasy by Stan Lee!
Written in Rapture by Roy Thomas!
Drawn in Delight by Werner Roth! 
Delineated in Depth by Dick Ayers!
Lettered in a Lawn Chair by Artie Simek!

Plot: Count Nefaria explains to the captured X-Men that they will help him, because either way, they'll be blamed for what's about to happen. He proceeds to create an impenetrable crystalline dome around Washington DC. While civilian and military authorities try in vain to free the city, Nefaria sends images of the X-Men to a special session of Congress and demands one hundred million dollars in order to free the city, or else the crystals of the dome will absorb all the oxygen in the city. Meanwhile, Professor X is working on a secret new invention when he's contacted for help by the army.

 Just then, the X-Men manage to break free of their bonds and receive telepathic orders from Professor X. They confront Count Nefaria and pretend to join him. The group is sent to DC to retrieve the ransom money. Meanwhile, Nefaria's super-villain lieutenants plot to take the money for themselves. The X-Men arrive at DC and retrieve the ransom money, fighting off some cops and an angry mob in the process. They meet up with Nefaria's lieutenants and tussle over the ransom, with Unicorn betraying his fellow villains. The army shows up and a three way battle breaks out between the X-Men, the army and the super-villains. Marvel Girl manages to slip away with the ransom while a mysterious masked man enters Nefaria's hideout.

As Marvel Girl prepares to hand over the money, the mysterious stranger shuts down Nefaria equipment as Marvel Girl telekinetically holds Nefaria at bay. The other X-Men arrive while Nefaria escapes to a waiting boat with the money. The stranger reveals himself as Professor X, using his new invention to walk. He also reveals that the money Nefaria has is a telepathic illusion; the real ransom is still in the room with them, and the coast guard will be apprehending Count Nefaria and the Unicorn shortly. Finally, he gives Jean a letter which arrived for her earlier in the day, a letter which, according to Jean, means that she must leave the X-Men...FOREVER! 

Firsts and Other Notables: Werner Roth is credited for his pencil work under his real name for the first time (instead of Jay Gavin).

This issue marks the first of several "Professor X can walk!" storylines. More on that shortly. 

A Work in Progress: Professor X has been creating a new set of braces that enable him to walk. He's been working on them  for several months, despite the fact that just last issue he was bemoaning that he'd never walk again. These braces will actually pop up from time to time in the issues leading up to Professor Xavier's "death", but are more or less forgotten after his return to the book and haven't really been mentioned since (frankly, I had forgotten all about them until re-reading this issue, and I consider my X-Men Nerd Fu to be fairly strong).

The reputation of the X-Men takes another beating, as the general public is basically left thinking the X-men were in cahoots with Nefaria. 

Ah, the Silver Age: Some legislators wonder if the dome around Washington is a Communist plot.

It takes Congress less than three hours (the deadline Nefaria gave them) to assemble the one hundred million dollar ransom, and they don't appear to debate the issue at all. 

The Scarecrow name drops Alfred Hitchcock and alludes to "The Birds."

Professor X is referred to as a "cold fish" by a bellhop. He also smokes a mean pipe.


Professor X allows Nefaria to escape so that he can be captured later by the Coast Guard. I'm no professor, but couldn't Xavier have just apprehended the villain himself? He took the time to telepathically fool Nefaria into leaving without the ransom...why not just telepathically convince him not to leave in the first place?

Build up your Vocabulary with Beast: Plebeian 
\pli-ˈbē-ən\. Noun. One of the common people.

As in, "driven to the scene in a common milk truck? How plebeian."

 "Professor Xavier is a Jerk!": Professor X is working an invention so precisely he's turned off his telepathy so as not to be bothered by the X-Men...but forgets to unplug the phone.

Young Love: Upon reuniting with Marvel Girl, Cyclops is, of course, overly enthusiastic that she's okay.

Human/Mutant Relations: It's been a few issues since we last had an angry mob, so one forms here when a group of people see the X-Men fleeing with the ransom money. They proceed to hurl bricks at the mutants. At least this time they have a legitimate reason to think the X-Men deserve swift mob justice.

Bullpen Bulletins: Quit holding out on the Thing!

Teebore's Take: As promised on the cover, this issue is more or less your standard Silver Age slugfest, with a padded plot (the X-Men fight civilians, then villains, then the army, then more villains) and a reasonable wrap up of the villainous plot du jour. It's noteworthy only for the introduction of the leg braces that enable Professor X to walk once again.

I've written before about the problems inherent to a mobile Professor X. Essentially, he's so powerful that his physical handicap offers the only legitimate explanation for why the X-Men exist in the first place, instead of Xavier just going around and telepathically solving all their problems (especially in the Silver Age, when Xavier REALLY didn't mind effing with peoples heads). Even then, it's a flimsy pretense, but it's better than nothing.

The other problem these new braces represent is that they're another piece of Marvel pseduo-science that should drastically alter the world. Marvel, especially back in the sixties, liked to pride itself on being "the world right outside your door", telling stories that, aside from the fantastic characters with super powers, existed in a world very close to the readers' own (as opposed DC Comics, with its fictional cities). Introducing something like paralysis-ending leg braces further destabilizes the "real world" feel to Marvel Comics. After all, if Professor X can whip up something like this, then shouldn't paralysis as we know it be extinct in the Marvel Universe? In which case, the Marvel Universe is one step further removed from the "real" universe.


  1. What about the letter to Jean? She has to leave??? But Scott will be crushed! Hurry and post a review of the next issue. I can't handle the suspense. I need to know that it all works out for the best! Oh wait, it's the Silver Age. Never mind.

    (I'm not being mean, I enjoy the melodrama of it all!)

  2. I thought about discussing the letter further in this post, but then decided it best to leave it for the next one. After all, the cliffhanger worked back then: why mess with success?

    Needless to say, the situation is not nearly as dire as the melodrama would suggest, and no matter what, Scott will be crushed.

  3. So captivated was I by their "clever" play on the word "nefarious" that I never really noticed until now that you're right: sticking that "a" on the end really does make it a girl's name.

    "Nefario" would have been less girly and more consistent with the style of the time. Although, let's be honest here: in the world of Otto Octavius, Count Nefarious would have worked just fine. :)


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