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Friday, September 17, 2010

X-amining X-Men #52

"Twilight of the Mutants!"
January 1969

In a nutshell: The X-Men defeat Magneto and Mesmero, and prove that Magneto isn't Lorna's father.

Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Arnold Drake
Penciller: Don Heck and Werner Roth
Inker: John Tartigalone, John Verpoorten (2nd story)
Lettering: Sam Rosen

Mesmero orders his guards to kill the captured Erik the Red, but Erik easily defeats them and then collapses the roof, trapping them. He then proceeds towards Magneto, but Lorna intervenes, reluctantly defending her father. But Erik tells Lorna he is there to join Magneto, not to slay him, and Magneto, still paralyzed, accepts his help.

Sometime later, Marvel Girl receives a telepathic alert from Cyclops that "Operation: Twilight" is in effect, and she summons Angel and Beast (Iceman is left out for fear of his conflicted loyalties). The three X-Men sneak into Mutant City and are spotted by Erik, who reveals himself to be Cyclops in disguise. They setup a trap to disable Mesmero and his guards, but Iceman arrives and accidentally triggers the trap. Mesmero discovers the team, and a battle breaks out between the X-Men and the guards. Iceman slips away and gives Lorna evidence that Magneto isn't her father. Grateful not to be bound to him, she uses her power to disable Mesmero and the guards. Fleeing, Magneto activates the base's self-destruct, but the X-Men and Lorna escape safely.

2nd Story: "The Crimes of the Conquistador!"
Using his captured parents as leverage, Conquistador orders Hank to steal an experimental miniature power plant from a government lab. At Xavier's school, Professor X uses the newly created Cerebro to pinpoint Hank's location. Meanwhile, with no other choice, Hank easily manages to steal the power plant and delivers it to Conquistador, demanding the release of his parent, as per their deal. However, Conquistador reneges, saying they will remain his captives until he has no further use for Hank.

Firsts and Other Notables
Erik the Red is revealed to be Cyclops in disguise. I believe his costume is supposed to redirect his optic blasts so that they emerge from his hands (Erik's illustrated power) rather than his eyes. No explanation of where or how Cyclops received this costume is given. Shortly after the "All New, All Different" relaunch of X-Men, alien Shi'ar agent Davan Shakari will use the Erik the Red costume and identity, as will Magneto, for some reason, many decades later during the trial of Gambit.

Between last issue and this one, Iceman visited Lorna's hometown and returned with affidavits proving Magneto wasn't her father (her parents died in an airplane crash, and her father's sister and her husband raised Lorna as their own). It's revealed that Magneto simply targeted her because of their shared powers, believing she would be loyal to him if she thought he was her father. Of course, over thirty years later, Chuck Austen will screw the pooch on this whole thing by having a genetic test reveal Lorna and Magneto are related after all.

A Work in Progress
There's some dicey plotting in this one, particularly when Mesmero attacks Beast with his "mutant energy". Either someone was attempting to give Mesmero a more offensive power, or someone simply forgot what his mutant power was.

Ah, the Silver Age
Cyclops isn't very good at bombastic super-villain dialogue.

Conquistador's desire for the mini power plant (so that he'll have more mobile power for his electronic weapons) seems downright laughable in our wireless age.

At one point, Cyclops calls Mesmero and his guards the worst threat to the world since the Bubonic plague, which seems to be overselling it a bit...

Young Love
Lorna and Bobby are essentially a couple from now on. 

Teebore's Take
Well, Heck and Roth are back on art, and it's a step down after Steranko. I'd grown accustomed (and even, at times, fond) of their work prior to Steranko's fill in gig, but just as the transition from their art to Steranko's made me appreciate Steranko's all the more, so too does the transition back make it harder to appreciate the more traditional Silver Age stylings of Heck and Roth.

The story wraps up largely as expected, with Magneto defeated, Lorna's parentage safely confirmed, and the X-Men one big happy family again. Erik the Red turns out to be rather pointless; clearly, he was created simply to generate a cliffhanger for the last issue, as the whole Cyclops-in-disguise angle adds little to the climax. At four issues, this story definitely feels padded (and the central conceit, that Lorna would be loyal to Magneto, maniacal super-villain or not, simply because she thinks he's her father, is laughable), though its worth pointing out that with the backup story eating up five pages every month, the story works out to sixty pages, or a little less than three traditional comic book issues, a number that feels more right for a story like this.


  1. holy shit...i love the trial of gambit.

    also, bobby (ha! I originally spelled this "booby") is such a d-bag. And what happened to his other girlfriend? It's over just like that?

  2. @Falen: You know, Bobby is kind of a douchebag. He's always been "the immature one" because he's the youngest member of the team, but as the Silver Age run is winding down, his douchieness is also becoming a defining characteristic.

    As for Zelda? Yeah, no mention of her. Douchebag.

    It was the Silver Age, and Zelda was a Lee/Thomas creation, so I'm not surprised Arnold Drake is forgetting/ignoring/ignorant of her. Continuity (character or otherwise) wasn't much of a concern at the time.

    I know that Vera (Beast's girlfriend and Zelda's contemporary) shows up in a random X-Factor issue (along with Mesmero) in the late 80s, but Zelda won't be seen again until John Byrne's Hidden Years series in the early 00s (which set out to fill in the time between the end of the Silver Age X-Men and the All New, All Different team but got canceled before it did much of that).

    Heck, she didn't even get a last name until a few years ago, and that was in Iceman's entry in the official Marvel handbook.

    So basically, comics history has been as much a douche to Zelda as Bobby was.

    As for the trial of Gambit...well, good. You enjoy that. ;)

  3. hey, trial of gambit was when Joe Madureira (sp?) was on the book- best art EVAR. so we will enjoy that thankyouverymuch

  4. @Anne: trial of gambit was when Joe Madureira (sp?) was on the book- best art EVAR We can discuss that when we get there. Assuming we're all still alive and the internet hasn't been replaced by some kind of groupthink holosphere by then...

    For now, let's just agree to disagree.

  5. I love these blog entries !

    Somehow, I feel compelled to mention that the Trial of Gambit was Madueira's last issue... and in typical fashion, half of it was drawn by a fill-in artist.

  6. @Insane Reviwer: I love these blog entries !

    Thanks, and thanks for reading (and commenting!).

    Somehow, I feel compelled to mention that the Trial of Gambit was Madueira's last issue... and in typical fashion, half of it was drawn by a fill-in artist.

    Indeed. As much as I enjoyed Madueira's art back in the day, I could never fully embrace it because his run was so broken up by fill-ins.

  7. I've always wondered how exactly Cyke's Eric the Red costume redirects his blasts. The only explanation I can think of is some sort of ruby quartz cable leading from his hands to the hands which the beam travels down...

    And on a side note, I love Cyke's line in Shakari's first appearance - "But you can't be Eric the Red... I was Eric the Red!" It sounds great taken out of context like that.

  8. @Harry: The only explanation I can think of is some sort of ruby quartz cable leading from his hands to the hands which the beam travels down...

    That's always been my assumption as well. It's not great, but it's all we've got...


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