Friday, August 27, 2010
X-amining X-Men #50
In a Nutshell: The X-Men battle Mesmero as Lorna's power is activated.
Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Arnold Drake
Artist: Jim Steranko, Werner Roth (2nd Story)
Inker: John Tartigalone, John Verpoorten (2nd Story)
Letterer: Herb Cooper
Hypnotized by Mesmero, Iceman and Lorna Dane are taken to Mutant City, Mesmero's headquarters, hidden in the desert. Iceman is imprisoned while Lorna is is placed into a Mutant Energy Stimulator in order to activate her latent mutant powers. Back in San Fransisco, the other X-Men locate Mesmero's mansion base and swiftly gain the upper hand against a group of Elite Guard stationed there. But when Marvel Girl receives a telepathic call for help from Iceman, she tells the other X-Men to throw the fight so that they'll be taken to where Iceman is being held. Quickly knocked out by gas, the X-Men are captured and taken to Mutant City.
They arrive just as Lorna emerges from the Stimulator, crackling with energy, and hailed by Mesmero as the M-II weapon, Magneto's daughter, queen of all mutants. Marvel Girl frees Iceman and the X-Men attack Mesmero, who orders Lorna to blast them with her power. Instead, she turns on him, and attacks him and his henchmen with waves of magnetic force. The X-Men and Lorna flee, but are stopped when the metallic floor beneath them uproots itself, and Magneto emerges from the shadows.
2nd Story: This Boy-This Bombshell!
As Hank grows up, his strength and agility becomes more and more obvious to his family. As a freshman, he's recruited by the football coach. Thanks to his abilities, Hank leads the team to victory after victory as its star player. On the night of the big game, three thieves rob the ticket booth, but are cornered by the police. They flee across the football field and Hank takes action, knocking them out in front of the crowd and the TV audience. Elsewhere, the villianous el Conquistador sees Hank's exploits and is thrilled to have discovered the final tool needed for his master plan.
Firsts and Other Notables
Jim Steranko fills in on art, and he's easily the most dynamic artist to work on the book since Jack Kirby left (and arguably, the most dynamic in the book's history to this point). More well known for his work with Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD and his brief stint on Captain America, Steranko was one of the Silver Age's greatest innovators, being one of the first artists to work the principals of surrealism and graphic design into comic art (also, when he was younger, Steranko was an escape artist, a career which inspired the DC character Mister Miracle as well the Escapist in Michael Chabon's excellent novel The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay). Here, Steranko throws the Marvel house style out the window, replacing it with striking page layouts and backgrounds.
The Silver Age logo is replaced with the now-classic logo (designed by Steranko). It is the logo most closely associated with the book, and will be used for decades to come.
Magneto returns (but not really). Issue #58 will reveal this Magneto to be a robot. Furthermore, the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #7, in its entry for Starr Saxon, the Machinesmith, establishes that Saxon is responsible for creating the robot Magneto and using it to hoodwink Mesmero into doing Saxon's bidding (for some reason).
In the backup story, ZZ-list villain el Conquistador makes his first appearance, a one panel cameo in which he goes unnamed. More on him next time.
A Work in Progress
Lorna's mutant power is activated and she allies herself with the X-Men (though it will be a bit before she takes the name Polaris).
Arnold Drake seems to think telepathy works like a telephone switchboard, as this is the second issue in a row in which a non-telepathic X-Man telepathically calls Marvel Girl for help.
Ah, the Silver Age
Once again, Marvel Girl defeats an opponent by using his cape against him.
The men robbing the ticket office are wearing suits and ski masks, and use gas and grenades.
I'm still not sure what this is, but it sure sounds trippy.
The plot of this issue isn't any livelier than the last (Lorna's power gets turned on, the X-Men fight, then Magneto shows up) but it stands head and shoulders above its predecessor thanks to the Steranko art. I can only imagine what someone reading this issue in 1968 thought when they opened it up, expecting the serviceable and workmanlike art of Heck and Roth only to get Sterankoed right in the face instead. While Steranko's dynamic art is energetic enough on its own, it's made even more so coming on the heels of the general malaise that had infected the book in previous months. The re-assembling of the team in a traditional X-adventure last issue brought new verve to the book then, and Steranko adds to that here. While this issue and the next (Steranko fills in once more) represent the book's post-Kirby artistic high water mark thus far, thankfully it won't be too much longer before that mark is surpassed.