The Story I Read: “X-Men” (Uncanny X-Men #1 Sept 1963)
It must get annoying reading these reviews and seeing me bring up the Fantastic Four at every given moment. I do admit I often think to myself, ‘my my I do go on about the Four, and in the middle of a review of Spider-Man no less,’ but as I get deeper and deeper into Marvel, it is astounding to me the influence that group has on the others. Never has that influence been more obvious then in the debut issue of the X-Men.
I am so excited to have read far enough into this journey to finally meet mutants, as they were the ones that spurred on the journey in the first place. However, I did not expect to encounter the team that I did. I actually thought Wolverine was an original member of the X-Men!
I know, total newb, right?
I didn’t know, he wasn’t involved until the seventies.
My mind is blown.
The X-Men is the third team offered up by Marvel. First, they gave us the vainglorious fame whores that are the Fantastic Four, second, the mish-mash team of coincidence that is the Avengers and now, the X-Men, and also Marvel Girl, but we’ll get to that.
If Reed, Sue, Jonny and Ben looked into a magic mirror and asked it to predict what they would look like if they were better written and male, what would be presented back to them would be Cyclops, Angel, Ice Man and Beast.
Cyclops is almost a carbon copy of Reed’s prickly personality. As each character goes through their training, which a good half of the issue is dedicated too, Cyclops chastises each character individually for being childish. How Mr. Fantastic can you get? Unlike, Reed however, he has a soul and when he goes up against Magneto’s magnetic forcefield, I actually really wanted him to succeed, a feeling I have yet to share for Reed.
Angel and Sue are two peas in a pod, because they are both quiet hearts of the situation. When the chaos is happening, they remain calm and continue thinking for what is best as a group. Also, their skills are wildly less powerful then the rest of the group.
Ice Man and Torch are obviously mirrors. I mean come on, Ice verses Fire? Stop the presses, Julian, you’ve discovered something knew.
Beast, (who is not yet blue and, even though I’m a newb, I know why) is a smarter, more brash, version of Thing. He’s a mixture of Happy Hogan, Ben Grimm and Tony Stark. Beast is a down to Earth muscle, with a low self esteem and a witty sarcastic persona. He’s a marvelous character.
The X-Men are a better version of the Fantastic Four, and this is because they have two things the Four don’t: Professor Xavier and Jean Grey. Prof. X is a fantastic character from the get go. He rarely uses his voice rather relying on his extraordinary mental powers to communicate. It seems that he literally has the world at his finger tips for he can fly a an airplane with his mind, anywhere on Earth, from his wheelchair in upstate New York. It would be safe to say that in this period of Marvel, he is the strongest character in the universe. Jean Grey is very special in her own right, as she is the only woman thus far in X-Men and is extraordinarily powerful. There is a moment when Hank McCoy (Beast, for the uninitiated) attempts to steal a kiss from her, she promptly throws him through the wall with her mind. She’s the first female that hasn’t professed her undying love within seconds of meeting another man. This is astounding to me having read through 80 issues of nothing but vacuous females with negligible influence on the plot.
When it comes to influence, there is not a more powerful debut for any villain, DC or Marvel, then Magneto’s is, in this issue. His power is astounding and actually is a real threat, to the world and the X-Men. All the villains to this point were either wildly weaker then the heroes or were equal (Dr. Doom, Loki and Sandman/ Dr. Octopus). Magneto single handedly takes on the US army, the entire stockpile of Nuclear Missiles in the American East and the X-Men. That’s an even match to him. Magneto is an amazing character, though no back story is given as to his motivations beyond wanting the ‘Homo Superiors to dominate the Homo Sapiens.’ At one point he refers to the X-Men as ‘antagonists’ as if he were the protagonist in his own story. This means that the conflict is not one of man vs. man, but a battle between two ideologies. I am only one issue in and I can already tell there is something more literarily important about the X-Men.
They only thing that holds this story back is the vagary in character construction. The team and the school are already founded by this point. There is no explanation as to why mutants exist. A small explanation from the Professor is given that it may have something to do with radiation exposure as he is the son of two scientists that invented an Atom Bomb, but beyond that, no explanation is given. The characters are also said to be teenagers, hence the school for gifted youngsters bit, yet they look like middle aged adults. With the exception of Ice Man, they are all drawn so coarsely. Can Jack Kirby only draw one face? It seems so.
X-Men is, by far, the best debut. It has best the villain, the best team dynamic, and the most detailed and satisfying story arc. I cannot wait to follow them further.
Rating out of 5: 5
Pros: The Team Dynamic, Jean Grey, Professor X, Magneto and his attack on the US.
Cons: Jack Kirby’s rendering of the characters.
Upcoming Review: “Skrulls From Outer Space” (The Fantastic Four #2 Jan 1962)