Friday, May 18, 2012

Adaptoids: The Curiously Strong Robots (Issue #29)

Let's judge this book by its cover:
Not just Adaptoid ... it's SUPER Adaptoid! Which means that it's better than any adaptoid you've seen, to date. And it's green. OK! Judging this issue on its cover turned out to not be such a great idea / source of laughs. Let's move on!




The X-Men are on a winter outing to go ice skating. A fun time is had by all...

The Ironic X-Men: Bobby is terrible on ICE skates!
...except for Cyclops, who slouches off into the woods to brood and pout and attempt to control his eye beams without his protective glasses. He manages the brooding and the pouting, but not the controlling-his-eyes part and destroys a mountain.  And then shouts his love for Jean Grey. And then has a mental breakdown of sorts.

That's Oprah's couch-jumping crazy, right there.

My mom said that my uncle had "uncontrollable eyes" too, but only after a few drinks. A few more and it was "hands". This is not true and all of my uncles are really nice people and I'm sorry I used them for a cheap joke.

Having then declared his teary-eyed love for Jean, a woman his eyes prevent him from having, he rejoins the group, repressing his feelings way, way, down.

Unfortunately, his eye-based destruction caused a robot known as the Adaptoid - the SUPER one that we heard about on the cover - to wake from its robo-slumber. I'd never heard of it, but it seems to think it killed Captain America, but it really didn't. [Only flagging sales can do that!]

This Adptoid used it's adaptoidness to adapt [adopt] the powers of "four of the Avengers". Which ones? Unsure! But you can get some clues from its dress-sense:

Watch The Throne, Adaptoid.
I see a bit of Captain America in there ... maybe a little Green Scales-Man, a bit of Dish-Back, and a smidgen of The Boot-Wearer. But now that its been awakened or awoken, what's its plan? Destroy all of humanity. [The factory-default robot setting in the Marvel universe.] How? By building more adaptoids to take over the planet, of course!

It will start with Bobby who, unlike all the other X-Men, did not go back to mansion, but opted to stay out to perfect his ice skating. Adaptoid attacks ... well, attacks is a strong word for what really happens. "Falls through the ice at" is a better way of putting it. To get away, Bobby covers the robot in ice and scampers back to the mansion.

"As X-Men, we are UNUSED to seeing bizarre things, Bobby. How
could we possibly believe you? Now, let's all go fight dinosaurs."

The team thinks Bobby just wants attention. [Everyone knows an Iceman will leave ice cubes in your shoes, if they want that.] Before The Case Of The Lying Iceman can be solved, Calvin "The Mimic" Rankin, blows his top about something or other and starts fighting the X-Men again. Seriously. They need to call in those guys from that TLC reality show, "It's Me Or The Mutant" to house-train The Mimic. They just can't have him lashing out like this! "I've been afraid to have people over, for fear of what The Mimic might do!"

Prof. X calls an end to the fighting, but then, having suffered through one too many "bald jokes" at the hand of Mr. Rankin, Xavier kicks him out of the group, out of the house, and unfriends him on Facebook.

With his hot-headed, screw-you-all attitude, I'd say that Mr. Rankin is even money for a redemptive scene in the near future ... perhaps (dare I morbidly dream) even a redemptive DEATH scene?! Probably not. these are books written for children [and 60's children, at that. Not today's blood-thirsty, Hunger Games versions].

To calm down, the group goes outside to play football. This issue brought to you by: Sports. Try Sports, a healthy alternative to most other activities!(TM)

The Adaptoid chooses now to make his appearance, catching a football with one hand! Take THAT Tebow (Does he catch footballs? Probably not! [C'mon. Like it's a surprise that someone spending their free time blogging 50 years of the X-Men doesn't watch football?!])

You should see how it grabs a pebble!

To his credit, Iceman does not go into a long-winded "I told you so" routine [like the one I would have, that would've gone on for so long that the giant robot would have had time to kill me and all my x-friends, too. And as I blacked out into the sweet arms of the reaper, I would have thought I was justified and that it was something they all really needed to hear. Justified.]

The Adaptoid announced that it sure would like to en-robot-ize each of the X-Men. The X-Men had other plans for the rest of the day (possibly playing a third sport in the out-of-doors?) so they decline. They decline with their FISTS! Of course, a group of teen-aged mutants are no match for a robot. (Of course? I still don't understand the power structure here. By these rules, this robot is stronger than Magneto. I am disbelieving.) But Adaptoid can't turn their unconscious bodies into more adaptoids because of a sub-clause in the Adaptoid's charter states that adaptoid-izing only works on willing subjects. [Like hypnotism and The South Beach Diet.] The Mimic hears this and thinks, "The robot life's for ME!" and volunteers.

I cannot improve this panel with a caption.

Cyclops wakes up from his beating just enough to be able to talk The Mimic out of the transformation by dropping the science that Adaptoid doesn't want a friend, it wants a slave and, despite what Nine Inch Nails would have him believe, there is no happiness in slavery. So, "No life of indentured robotry for ME!", says The Mimic and shoves aside the adapting hand of the Adaptoid. To break the awkwardness of the situation, Cal starts a fight with the giant robot. Proving that he can mimic the X-Men all too well, Calvin quickly loses the fight.

Once defeated, The Adaptoid tries to "scan" The Mimic's powers into its database, making them his own, but since The Mimic's powers are not natural (full of transfats and high fructose corn syrup) The Adaptoid's attempts to scan him result in a feedback loop which strips BOTH mimicker and adapter alike of their powers. Since this happens high in the air, both plummet to earth. One is caught by Angel and one crashes into the ocean.

So, The Mimic has become human once more, but did NOT die. What kind of lesson is that?!


Want to read along? This story is contained in:
Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Volume 3

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

C+C Music Factor Three (Issue #28)

SUMMARY!
The Banshee is here and he is plaguing E57th and 5th Ave in Manhattan with "E"s!

He heard Bieber was nearby. EEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Forty six years later, that intersection now looks like this:

You can just BET the next time I'm up here, I'll be making
OOOoooOOOooooOOO sounds on this corner.

Is this THE Banshee, or just A banshee, I wonder? I know there is a dude called The Banshee, later in the series, but is this the same guy? He seems to have the same powers of ear-hurty sounds, flight, and similar coloring. [This sounds like I'm writing "A Field Guide To The Common Mutant": "This uniquely colored song bird prefers to live in urban areas and uses its unique calls to steal paintings. Its diet consists of etc, etc, this joke has gone on too long."]

But I was telling the truth in that joke: He does like to steal a painting ... a rather unremarkable painting.

An original Plaincasso, from his "boring period".

Meanwhile, let's not forget that The Mimic has joined the X-Men and become their leader. [So in the TV commercials, they's going to be announced like, "The Mimic and the X-Men square off against Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!" - a tactic which, to my mind, totally devalues the rest of the team. I mean, sure, Shaq is the star, but don't the other guys need to be there to win games, too? (Also: A Shaq reference is still relevant, right? I've not watched Basketsports since Kazam-times.)]

No one is happy about this arrangement, but Xavier says it's a necessary evil, if they are to fight the, sigh, - say it with me - "greatest menace they've ever faced" which the Prof swears is coming soon. Is it The Banshee?! Or is it still unknown? Stop crying wolf, Professor. Remember what happened to the last boy who did? He was Jon Bon Jovi and he got shot! Or something, the details of that movie are a bit fuzzy. [Whoops! Forgot to call "Spoilers!" on a 7-year-old movie! You don't mind, right?] Though, maybe Professor X. ["Professor X was my father! Please, call me 'Xavier'!"] is just hedging his bets each issue and saying it just in case? Maybe he doesn't want to NOT say it and be embarrassed when a new, really dangerous threat does show up? We'll never know (until we find out, later.)

Mean whiles, back at Banshee HQ - which turns out NOT to be Banshee HQ, because he is just a henchman in the employ of a shadowy organization called "Factor Three", so, if anything, it's a Factor Three HQ ... except that it's not their headquarters, but just an outpost of theirs in Manhattan. I could go back and fix this paragraph, but, like you, I'd rather just grit my teeth and plow through this post to get it over with, quickly. I have solidarity with my readers!

Anyway, The Banshee has a chit-chat with fellow hench-person, The Ogre, and it is revealed that the painting that The Banshee stole has NO part in Factor Three's plans. The Banshee stole it just to have it. So he's doing a little evil moonlighting on the side, in addition to his henching for F3. Well, you know what they say: Find something you love doing and you'll never work a day in your life. For The Banshee, what he loves is "stealing". I guess that means he literally doesn't have to work another day in his life! Further proof of my point: The Banshee announces that he is stepping out to steal some pipe tobacco.

He "EEEEeeeEEEEEEE"s to a tobacconist shop at Broadway at 44th St, where, to the best of my research, this is there, now:

Only slightly less addictive.

Stealing a pouch of tobacco seems a bit irrational seeing as how in 1967 a pouch of tobacco probably cost 2 cents, but thanks to his robbery, Cerebro was able to pick up his mutant activity. The Prof even says that The Banshee is stronger than Magneto. Nor sure if I believe that one. Since both can be used to find your way (magnetic compass vs  echolocation), in my book, they're tied.

Instead of sending the X-Men out, the Prof kinda panics and say that they have to be ready to defend themselves. Which turns out to be the right call because once The Banshee gets back to his/Factor Three's HQ/outpost, he and The Ogre depart in some kind of submarine to ... kidnap Professor X!

Long story short: They fail. But they'll be back, so the X-Men must prepare a trap.

I want to believe this is just a bad drawing and not overt sexism.
I WANT to believe that.

Another long story short: They build their trap and it works, trapping The Banshee, when he comes back alone to the mansion to finish his mission. Part of the trap requires a tank that Cyclops must get from the basement. After numerous reassurances that there are no monsters down there, Cyke goes to get what's needed and notices a door:

Xed's dead, baby. Xed's dead.

Then The Ogre shows up and has his ass handed to him. And, with The Ogre defeated, we learn that The Banshee's spiffy headband was being used to enslave him to the will of The Ogre (and thus Factor Three) since it could have been detonated at any time, taking his head along for the high-explosive ride.

The Ogre dominated him the way his upper
lip dominates his face.

Now he's free and everyone is happy again ... except for the gallery owner from whom The Banshee stole that painting ... and the tobacconist whom he also stole from. So, The Banshee is a good guy, yes? Hmmm.



Want to read along? These stories are contained in:
Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Volume 3

Monday, May 14, 2012

Return to Mimic Mountain (Issue #27)

I warn you, this is an an issue full of "agains".
As the cover reveals, we again get to see The Mimic AND, as also seen on the cover, Marvel Girl is back in her weird-o mask. (Guess which of these I am more excited about!)

So, it looks like Cal Rankin's appearance in the previous issue wasn't just a red herring, but that he's going to make a command performance as the villain that no one in the world was clamoring to see more of. Sigh. Let's just do this....

SUMMARY!
We start smack-dab in the middle of some action: The X-Men are facing off against The Mimic. As is their way, the X-Men proceed to have their asses handed to them ... in the form of their own asses (MIMIC JOKE!)

Yes, Marvel Girl, constant studying and learning
makes MENTAL POWERS weaker!

But wait, this is no fight! It was some kind of exercise, merely a test. But before we can learn how or why, we're going to jump back in time and then slowly work our way up to this point. It's out-of-order storytelling that is an homage to Pulp Fiction.

The helpful narration bar sums it up:

One can only assume, from the use of "pussycat" that the narrator is the owl.

Outside of Jean's mask and possibly the team's belts changing color from yellow to red (which looks more like a printing error than anything else), I see nothing different between the old and the new costumes. And I've been REALLY looking. But, the bigger question is: Why am I so obsessed with the clothes in these X-Men books?! Is it because I'm the son of a costumer? Is it because, deep down, I have a here-to-for unrecognized passion for clothes? Should I apply to be on Project Runway? Would I be the drama queen if I did? Would everyone snipe behind my back about how I make the same dress for every challenge? Would Tim Gunn cry when it was time for me to "pack up my things and go home"? I just couldn't make it work, people....

SO, the X-Men return from thier South American fight with Kukulcan, only to be greeted by Professor X and another "again": It's the old, "The greatest enemy we've ever faced" gag!

"Hope you enjoyed your little vacation abroad, while I've
been home all day, slaving over a hot Cerebro for you!"

Meanwhile, ex-X-man-cum-co-ed [that looks like the phonetic description of a large work, doesn't it?] is hit in the face with yet another "again": The "Big Orange Drink" date

"But it took you 2 hours to complete your last three laps!
A girl's gotta get Big Orange Drink NOW!"

On their way from the pool (smelling slightly of chlorine, fallen-off band-aids, spiders, hair, and pee, no doubt [it was a public pool]) their Big Orange Plans are interrupted by the chem lab exploding. And, boom, just like the accident that caused his mimicry in the first place, Cal Rankin is given back him mimicking powers of mimicositude. It also returns his memory of who he is AND who the X-Men are. Now, since a freak chemical explosion of a similar kind gave him his powers in the first place, I'm gonna go ahead and count this as another "again" for the issue.

Back in Westchester, Professor X is working on some machine or other when one of the X-Men comments that he's not looking so well. The Professor shrugs it off by explaining that it's nothing ... it was just someone trying to mind-control him, but that's over now. La-de-dah. But WE know that it was some dude named The Puppet Master who was attempting to take over Xavier's mind.

But since "the greatest danger the X-Men have faced" - which is apparently NOT the same threat as the mind-invader, mind you! - is still out there, Prof X decides to send out his astral projection self to try and recruit some more mutants to join the X-Men. His brain finds Quicksilver and his sister/lover Scarlet Witch, but they say they've already joined the Avengers. Since super hero law prevents a double membership (incurring losses of team privileges, parking passes, and the 10% discount in the Avenger's gift shop), they respectfully decline.

When answering an alarm in the city, Iceman and Beast find that Spider-Man has already apprehended the bad guys.

Sadly, one of them was Garfunkel, who fell back on a life
of crime after his acting career failed.

Is this a "very special episode" of the X-Men? A lot of cameos are goin' on, here. Anyway, The Prof shoots Hank and Bobby a mental fax telling them to recruit Spider-Man. He doesn't give it more than a second's thought and declines. I'm starting to get the impression that the X-Men just don't get no respect in the Marvel universe.

Since this issue is all over the place, why WOULDN'T we now jump back to campus, where some of the other X-Men have arrived to pick up Jean. At this point, The Mimic pops up and is all, "I'm still a jerk!" and Xavier's all, "Let's take him back to the mansion!" and the readers are all, "I'm not sure where you're getting your logic from, but whatever!" and The Puppet Master (viewing this all on remote villain cam, channel 727 in HD - call your cable operator to get it!) is all, "That Mimic guy seems like a way better candidate for mind-control than Xavier, the guy known for having the strongest mind on the planet!"

It is back at the mansion where Jean announces that she has made new costumes for everyone ... which  look just like the old ones.

The rest of the team, knowing her sensitivity to her colorblindness, plays along.

Maybe it's not an aesthetic upgrade? Maybe these have better wicking and less chaffing? Maybe they are HyperColor and will turn a slightly darker shade of yellow, as they sweat?

Not to be outdone in the gift-giving department, Professor Xavier then announces that his gift to them all is that he has made The Mimic the new leader of the X-Men. Not to be outdone in the gift-giving department, The Puppet Master then takes over The Mimic's mind.

And now we have caught up to where we were at the beginning of the issue. It sure took a long, long, convoluted road to get here, but I KNEW it would totally pay off.... Ugh, I hate this issue.

So, as we know, The Mimic beats the X-Men. But The Puppet Master is not interested in the X-Men, but in defeating the Fantastic Four, so he orders The Mimic to fly away to get those guys, instead. Prof X then uses his brain powers to somehow STAR-69 The Puppet Master's brain and sends the X-Men out to get him. A confrontation is about to happen, but the still-injured Angel [*see last ish - Ed.] staggers in and smashes the  puppet that The Puppet Master is using to control The Mimic.

At this point, the issue just kinda fizzles out, with someone mumbling something about The Puppet Master getting away. I still hate this issue.

FINAL THOUGHTS!
Now, what I don't understand (besides why this issue is so terrible) is that when Prof X said what he said about "worst enemy we've faced", who was he talking about? It couldn't have been The Mimic, because they'd already faced him once. And it just COULDN'T have been The Puppet Master because, well, come on! That guy was a joke! Maybe there is still something "coming" and it's setting up a future issue? Maybe it's like "winter" in those damnable Song Of Fire And Ice books ... always coming, never here?

This one-off issue was pretty ... one-awful! Wordplay!

OK, OK, there was ONE nice moment:

Maybe you should mimic someone who
doesn't whine like a little baby?
The very last panel had a slightly interesting moment. Heartbreaking realization by The Mimic that he can never be anything but the shadow of others. Don't Cry For Him, Mimictina. Or do. I'm not sure, I've never seen Evita.

TOTAL NUMBER OF "AGAINS": I gave up caring a while ago. Sorry!



Want to read along? These stories are contained in:
Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Volume 3

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Macaulay Kulkulcan (Issue #25 and #26)

ISSUE #25


SUMMARY!
Jean (Marvel Girl) had "tests" at school, so she's out for the issue. Yeah right. I, too, have "tests at school" after a night of hard partying and drinking. In retrospect, it's not the best excuse to give my boss for my absence from work. But I don't think he suspects anything. Is this blog public?

So, Cerebro detects something, which sends all the X-Men running to see who it is. Thanks to his mechanical legs, Professor X can run, too, but he forgets how to use stairs and starts to Father Karras:

"My Pet Cthulhu" is filmed in front of a live studio audience!

Whoops! Luckily he built mind-activated saver-tentacles into the walls to catch him. NO FOOLIN'! That's why they are there. Of course, if you want to use wall-tentacles in the third act, you have to show them in the first act ... or not use them in the third act at all, which [spoilers] is what the writer chooses, in this instance. So, yes, we are shown these ridiculous tentacles for no future plot reasons. Forget you even saw them. ZIISH!

I dunno, whatever, it's SOMETHING, ok?
Look, what do you kids WANT from me?!
Who Cerebro is really detecting is an explorer who likes to be called "El Tigre" [which translates to "shirts I wanted to wear in the 80's but were too poor to buy, so I wore store-brand rip-offs, instead, to try and be cool, if even for just that single moment before the person I'm hoping to impress notices that the tiny patch is not a tiger, but a octopus or something"].

So this polo shirt guy found half of a mysterious Mayan stone which is now granting him powers of telekinesis and the ability to read Mayan writing. One of these abilities will come in WAY more handy than the other, am I right? (Especially when he peruses that degree in advanced Myanology that he always wanted to, because then he can levitate the heavy books to and from class!) This piece of the amulet, hoping to be reunited with it's estranged half, despite it not returning his calls, ignoring his clever Facebook posts, and even changing it's telephone number, compels der Tiger to journey to Fun City, New York City. [Historical note: It is around this time that NYC WAS using "Fun City" as a motto / advertising slogan "New York City is a Fun City". This blog has officially edu-tained you.] It is here that the X-Men, who, in plain clothes, are scouring the city for this new "whatever" threat. They all see him, but think he's just a regular, henchman-having, serape-wearing tourista.

Then Cyclops bumps into someone and his eye beams go nuts.

Sadly, Croakies would not be invented for another 11 years.
[Yes, I looked this fact up. They were invented in 1977.
DOUBLE EDU-TAINED!]

Regrouping at the hotel that the X-Men are using for their temporary base of operations (because Westchester is SO far away from the city that they can't commute) the gang sees a news report about a riot in a night club. Some of the on-scene footage shows a man and his two cohorts which each of the X-Men instantly recognizes as having seen earlier in the day. Assuming this is not a coincidence, that night they track η τίγρη to the museum ... where he's the new night watchman tasked to look after exhibits that magically turn into celebrity cameos after dark. It turns into box office gold.

Breaking the first rule of "Hands Across America", the X-Men divide ... and fall. One by one they are picked off by тигр and his hench-buddies. (Except for Cyclops, but I'll get to him in a second.)

Angel was defeated by his racism.

Meanwhile, The Tygr locates the other piece of amulet and turns into:

Historically accurate and not at all offensive to the Maya.

But what can Cyclops do?! He's being held at gunpoint by an elderly night watchman (played by the lovable, inimitable Dick Van Dyke) who is under the spell of El Tigre's amulet.

Cliffhanger Buster: The guard has a gun, but Cyke has eye beams!
I think we all see where this is headed!

ISSUE #26

SUMMARY!
Cliffhanger buster busted: Instead of using his eyes, Cyke talks the guard into ... nope, psych! He uses his eye beams. But too late! Because Kukulan has already rocketed off back to Mayanisport in a sun sphere. What? It's a sphere made of sun - or solar - energy.

If you're havin' girl problems,
I feel bad for you, Sun.
I got 99 problems,
a sun sphere ain't one.

The next day Jean is in her schools library looking up Mayans for Professor X when Cal Rankin walks in! Cal! Rankin! (Yeah, that's the Mimic's real name. I forgot at first, too. No points will be deducted for missing this one.) Does this chance meeting mean something? Not in this story, it doesn't! MOVE ON!


Jean brings the books to the Prof and, as luck would have it, they have exactly the info he needs! Libraries: We're still useful, despite what Amazon and Wikipedia might say about us behind our backs(TM)Having fulfilled her role as book-getter (couldn't get them yourself, Professor X? What're your LEGS BR- er ... *cough*) and Cal-recognizer, Jean exits the story.


The remaining, higher-learning-eschewing X-Men pile into a plane and fly to Latin America where Kukulcan is building an ancient Mayan city anew using mind-controlled Mayans. (Mayan-d control! Ha! WORDPLAY!)


On their way to confront Kukulcan, their boat is attacked by a jaguar. 


Their boat tour included the
Jack Bauer's Daughter Big Cat Experience add-on package.


Somewhere along the way, Cyclops decides once and for all that he is definitely, certainly, 100% going to tell Jean how he feels about her. AND, somehow, Angel knows it [did he read Scott's thought bubbles?], so he gets all snippy since he also has feelings for Jean. Looks like it's a love triangle, folks! Thankfully, the triangle is one of the strongest forms in all of geometry! So, bad analogy, then? How about: It's one of the easiest instruments to play. What, again? 


Eventually we get past river boat cruises ["See that, up there? That's what we call a ... paradox. Pair-of-docks? Thanks for visiting Disney, we hope you enjoy the rest of your vacation with us!"], cougar attacks, introspection, love triangles, and library scenes and arrive at a battle with Kukulcan. During this melee, Beast realizes that a giant, nearby stone is channeling the suns power to Kuku [great, now I'll have The Breeder's "Cannonball" stuck in my head -  AH-OOOOOOooo! AH-OOOOOOooo!]. Always thinking, Beast directs Bobby to cover it with ice (which, being translucent, should block out the sun's rays nicely...) while the rest if the X-Men attack. This two-front attack works, draining the villain of his powers AND preventing him from converting new power from the sun. 


Right before the final victory for our heroes, Cyke tries to zap him with one last eye beam at the same time that Angel tries to ... swoop him with one last swoopy-swoop. Result: Kuku ducks and Cyclops' beam takes out Angel. VZAAAP! Other than THAT, the plan is successful and the X-Men capture the now-ex-god-ed El Tigre. 


Stunner: Angel wakes up briefly from his Cyclops-induced unconsciousness, only to accuse Cyclops of deliberately shooting him in jealousy over Jean! TRIANGLES! [That would totally be the name of the unproduced teen drama pilot for the CW that I scripted, had I scripted an unproduced teen drama pilot for the CW.]



Want to read along? These stories are contained in:
Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Volume 3

Monday, May 7, 2012

The LOCUSTomer Is Always WRONG! (Issue #24)

PREVIOUSLY ON THE X-MEN:
As you might remember, we were left with a cliffhanger last issue [see last issue - Ed.] that involved a mysterious letter of mystery with mysterious contents that so socked Jean that she was going to leave the X-Group ... forever! (musical stinger; wide eyes; gasps all around; "To Be Continued...")

TODAY ON THE X-MEN:
The letter was from Jean's parents - mystery solved! They wrote to say that their phone was broken, so they sent a letter. ("Formality in all things." --Mr. and Mrs. Grey). The letter's contents may contain: Peanuts; telling her that she is being withdrawn from Xavier's fancy-yet-weird academy and being enrolled in a more "conventional" college. (Where she will learn how to shotgun a beer, shout "WOO!", smash her face next to her friend's while taking a picture with her camera held at arm's length, and land a man by getting telling him she's pregnant. [What? Was that not your college experience? Guess YOU didn't go to one of US News and World Report's "Top 10 Party Schools! WOO!]

As a sign of gratitude for defending the world against evil mutants, the X-Men give her a parting gift:

"Its slow, wilting death will remind you that
your own beauty will fade, too. Love, The X-Men"

On the ride there, there's lots of belly aching and heart breaking by Warren, Scott, and Jean.

The Fantastic Four's Johnny Storm?! SQUEE!
*ahem* I mean ... SQUEEEEEE!

But love is lorn for only a short while, because some hunky co-ed immediately hits on Jean by asking her to share a "big orange drink" with him. My mind immediately went to all of my public school special social functions, where the administration would buy a huge tub of something orange from McDonald's. It wasn't exactly sweet ... and it was orange, for sure ... but no one would ever - could ever! - have drank a quantity of it that could labeled as "big". It was more like medicine. Anyone else remember this stuff? Or is it strictly a Staten Island thing? [Partial origin story of your dear writer revealed: Staten Island residence!]

But enough about drinks of the large orange kind, there is a man who calls himself "The Locust" running around, spreading "ionically treated insect eggs" all over the place.

Pseudoscience: Using "ionic" as a
buzz-word since 1966!

Thanks to "ions" these bugs grow to b-movie proportion within minutes, and Peter Graves is nowhere to be found.

But The Locust is actually ... Dr. Hopper (teeheehee, seriously?! Yes! That makes up for all the soap opera crud at the start of this ish!). Dr. H is, of course, an etymologist, who was fired from Metro College (where Jean now matriculates [this word on loan from The Beast]). To "get back" at those who "wronged him", he is going to unleash giant insects upon the world ... then save the world from them to become a hero. This is one of my favorite twists in Evil/Mad Scientists. It's so much more classy than just wanting to rule the world. They don't want world domination, just respect ... and they'll kill to get it. I find this way more compelling than a loon ransoming a city! [Peering over my glasses at you, Nefaria! (see last issue, again!)]

The X-Men come to battle The Locust, but get tangled up fighting the giant insects. And though they are easy to beat, there are so many that they get in the way enough to allow The Locust to escape.

But The Locust isn't done sowing his seeds of insects and he heads out the next night to do it all again. This time, however, a crazy old hermit approaches the villain and appeals to Doc Hopper to give up his evil ways and work for the good of all mankind. (Apparently, somehow, giant bugs can be used for the good of man? If it's to solve world hunger, I'm out. I'd rather starve.)

Hermits: Always getting up in
other people's business.

"Nah!", says The Locust and flies off, leaving the hermit to reveal that he is none other than ... Professor X! You know, wearing his CLASSIC "hermit garb" and using his trademark "mechanical legs"! Right? You all remember this? Oh, yeah, didn't we tell you? Xavier has "a thing" for hermit cosplay.

Added to my auto correct dictionary: Cosplay.

Anyway, The Locust is not swayed by Xavier-in-disguise and he leaps off to continue his plan of terrorizing the corn belt with giant insects. He lands, only to find himself surrounded by X-Men. In a daring move to get away, he creates two super giant bugs ... but loses control of them when Marvel Girl twists his costume's antenna up. (They do not mention that she learned this trick in college, in her "Advanced Bug Confusing 102" class, so it's a good thing the Greys pulled her from Xavier's School.)

It's a weird kinda preying. One that is done
with their swimsuit areas.

So these giant bugs are now attacking The Locust (heal thyself etymologist!) who - did I forget to mention - lives in a double-wide trailer? Yeah. Evil Scientist budgets were WAY tighter back then. So, the all-too-kind X-Men save his exoskeletal ass from being an innocent victim of some bug-on-Airstream lovin' and in return, the bug-man repents and says that he is going to go turn himself in, which the X-Men allow him to do. [Not shown: Dr. Hopper jumping into a Lamborghini and flipping them off, as he rides away Scott-free.]

Wow. Escaping the X-Men is super easy! Once you realize you're about to be defeated just tell that you're going straight, and they'll let you go. See, the mistake The Vanisher made was in not appealing to their misplaced and misguided faith in humanity. Had he done that, he might still know his own mailing address.



Want to read along? These stories are contained in:
Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Volume 3

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Blast From A Past You've Never Heard Of (Issue #22 and #23)

ISSUE #22

SUMMARY!
Here we are, back in the Danger Room, watching the X-Men expose new readers to their powers while on one of their endless "training" sessions. I will now call this "Danger Rooming" ... until I come up with something better, snappier, and more hashtag-able. #DangerRoom

This month, we're treated to a giant robot that teaches the X-Men a lesson in teamwork ... and in love. "I never thought I'd find true happiness ... but then I found YOU, TeacherTron 3000!"

If this were a poorly-written TV show, the lesson the X-Men learn while fighting this mechanical man would directly apply to how they should defeat the bad guy, in the end. But since [SPOILERS!] the bad guy isn't a giant robot, there is no WAY the Xes will be able to apply their new-found knowledge. NO WAY. These lessons are for robot-applications only.

The training session is notable for this:

Menace II Society II: Mutants II Society

Most tragic? Cyclops?! Yeah ... I guess he kinda is, right? I just didn't even think about it until now. Before, I'd hear him voice his concerns and think, "PFFT! What I wouldn't give for power eyes!" - after all, he has special glasses to prevent accidental discharge.! But yeah, a deadly beam shooting from your eyes whenever they are open makes most social situations pretty awkward. "Oh, and what do YOU do, Mr. Summers?!" VZAAAAAAP! "Well I NEVER!"

I feel more sorry for Slim Summers than I ever have before. [Are we not calling him "Slim" anymore?] Iceman can de-ice, Beast looks relatively normal, Angel can hide his wings under a suit (and his wings don't kill if they are accidentally unloosed), and Jean's telekinesis isn't out of control, like Carrie's or anything. I call a big pity party for Scott, and you're all invited.

After the lesson-instilling robot is defeated, the X-Men are treated to ANOTHER vacation. If these guys have a good benefits package, I'm gonna be REALLY mad my mom didn't stand closer to the microwave when she was pregnant with me (thus mutating me and enabling me to join the X-Men for said benefits package and time off perks). But there is one guy who's not all pumped about the X-Men's free time:

Face Palm: The First Stage of Grieving

Face palm!!! Wow! It's like that meme of that guy who would later play Professor X, as illustrated by the illustrated Professor X! That is too GREAT! (Except for the fact that the words he is saying is setting back the "differently able" movement by about 50 years. [It's not just women that are inferior in these comics! Bigotry loves company!])

While on "leave" Beast and Iceman go looking for their girlfriends in New York City's Greenwich Village, where this happens:

Dudes with slightly long hair?! Greenwich Village, you the CRAZIEST!

At some point in all the goofing off and coffee-housing, Warren mentally declares his love for Jean, too. For those keeping score, that is now Cyclops, Warren, AND Professor X who have all expressed interest in Jean's shades of Grey. The X-Men need to recruit some new women, and fast.

But all fun aside, here comes Count Nefaria, Plantman, The Scarecrow, The Porcupine, The Eel, and The Unicorn! Each of them is from marvel comics of yore, and each of them you have never heard of. It's like "old timers day" at the baseball arena-park, except with more evil (or less, if you're a Yankee's fan [BOOM! BURN! I know NOTHING about sports, but I'll bet that STINGS!]). This collection is LIKE the Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants, in that it's a "Super Group", but unlike them because none of these guys are mutants, just dudes with fancy suits. OLD SKOOL STYLE. They look like this:

That is a LOT of words for a visual medium, right?
These guys start lurking around Central Park trying to get noticed. [Central Park: Where people go to see and BE SEEN ... also: to mug joggers(TM)] And noticed they get:

Warm up? Soon no one but me, the elderly,
and "tube enthusiasts" will understand this panel.

The X-Men head to the park to check it out and each of them are captured one by one (since the super heroes SPLIT UP instead of TEAM WORKING like the lesson-bot taught them at the beginning! Oh, TeacherTron 3000, I knew your hypothetical situation would apply to real-world situations! I never lost faith!)

But why were they captured? So that Count Nefaria can offer them a spot in his super villain team. And if they don't join? Well, Count N will ... take an entire city hostage!!! Don't do it X-Men, the benefits package is way better at Professor X Corp!


ISSUE #23


SUMMARY!
Taking a city - which turns out to be Washington DC - hostage sounds way cooler than it is revealed to be. Count Nefaria merely places a dome over the whole thing and threatens to destroy the oxygen inside unless he is paid ... 100 million dollars! [Thanks, Austin Powers, for forever ruining ransom-demand line-deliveries, even when they are read in your head-voice!]

Then the plot becomes a jumbled mess. Check it: The X-Men escape captivity in Count Nefaria's dungeons only to immediately turn around and pretend to join Nefaria. Mixed messages. Like when a woman cries after you ask her to marry you. [That's right, guys. Women are not supposed to cry in that situation, and if they do, you've done something terribly wrong. Oh, your future wife will SAY they are "tears of joy" ... but are they? Are they?!]

The newly evil X-Men are sent into the domed city to pick up the ransom cash, but are waylaid on their return by Nefaria's cadre of super villains who are out to double cross everyone and steal the money for themselves. Then the army shows up and start shooting everything and everyone, regardless of costume. In the confusion, the X-Men manage to escape and send the money back to Nefaria, but the super villains get away, too.

Since it seems like double-crossing is the thing to do, Count Nefaria says "me too!" and tries it on the X-Men, but is, in turn, himself double-crossed by a mysterious stranger.

When first I appear I seem mysterious,
but when explained I'm nothing serious. 

Can you guess who the mysterious stranger is? That's right, it's Xavier, walking around on his own two legs using the special fancy leg braces he built for himself while no one was watching. The Prof uses his super smarts to remove the dome from around Washington DC and all is well with the world.

Until Xavier takes a second to deliver a letter that arrived for Jean. The contents of the letter are SO TERRIBLE that next month is Marvel Girl's turn to leave the X-Men foreverUntilTheEndOfTheStoryArc!

This issue was terrible. No stars. 

This is how they choose to end their third year of publication? Though, to be fair, I'm probably thinking about that as an "occasion" more than the writers were. It's not like TV seasons, where there should be A Big Cliff Hanger or something. Maybe these two issues would have felt less flat had I not been expecting something more grandiose from them. I guess I'll have to re-adjust my comic book expectations to: "Expect nothing but disappointment in everything and everyone! Trust no one! Suspect everyone!" [So, you know, my de rigueur.]

BONUS: Somehow I managed to get through my on-phone note-taking for these two issues without having "Nefaria" added to my auto correct dictionary! It's the minor victories that we need to cling to.



Want to read along? These stories are contained in:
Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Volume 3

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Lucifer In The Sky With Diamonds (Issue #20 and #21)

ISSUE #20

Holy Hannah! It's the first issue not penned by Stan Lee! It's the end of an era! Of course, Lee will continue to act as editor, so his dirty little alliterative fingerprints will probably still be all over the rest of these issues (at least the ones in the Silver Age).

Stan lets someone else take over and mistakes are immediately made:

Blake, Drake, who cares? The readers'll never know, right?

SUMMARY!
The Blob, Unus the untouchable (as opposed to all the other Unuses who litter this comic which makes that clarification necessary), and Lucifer - all villains, need I remind you, that the X-Men previously fought, caught, then let go on their own recognizances - are back. See, I TOLD YOU, Xavier, that your "catch and release" policy for evil mutants would come back to bite you on that big, shiny head of yours. I formally submit a proposal for the X-Men to adopt a 1-strike policy. Penalty: Death.


But what about the ray that Beast invented that neutralizes Unus' powers?! Oh, that? Yeah, it doesn't work anymore. That's some gooooood writing, boys!

Plot hole? SOLVED!

Lucifer manipulates The Blob and Unus into dressing up like X-Men to go on a robbery spree and since regular homo sapiens are so stupid, they fall for the ruse and blame the X-Men for everything.


Meanwhile, this month is Cyclops's turn to leave the team FOREVERuntilpageslater until he happens upon one of the fauX-Men and attempts to stop them. Of course the stupid humans think it's all a trick to convince them that the X-Men are good, while allowing them room to rob banks and run off with their daughters. Look: If the Homo Sapiens in these books really are this stupid, I think I might swing my allegiance behind the BOEM. I mean, it's as if the X-Men saving the world from that Sentinel mess has already been forgotten! NY POST HEADLINE: Humans to X-Men: What have you done for us lately?

In his attempt to locate who is orchestrating The Blob and Unus's plan (assuming, very correctly, that these two idiots couldn't plan a wedding (which is actually very hard, so I should have chosen something easier to make my point, I guess - oh well)), the prof's brain receives feedback and he becomes paralyzed. He then uses what little time and strength he has left to tell Jean the SHOCKING story of how he lost the use of his legs at the hands of Lucifer.

So Lucifer is an alien, who, when confronted by Xavier, drops a slab of stone on him, crushing his legs.

ORIGIN STORY'D!

Xavier winds up his story by saying that it's also because Lucifer got away that he knew he would have to form a group of super humans to fight him at some point in the future. He then adds, "But you guys'll have to do for now!" Jean thinks it cruel of him to say but knows that, as a woman, it's not her place to argue with a man - even if he is a cripple. (It says something about the tone of this series, to date, that even though I made that last bit up, you were willing to believe it really happened.) Oh, social mores! Will you ever stop changing?!

Silly Science:

His brainwaves dressed up as a roadie
and snuck in. Fresh maker!



ISSUE #21


SUMMARY!
The X-Men track down Lucifer's "signal" and fly out to the desert to mount a raid on his lair, which looks like the same place Close was Encountered, that 3rd time:

Aliens like to do it in the butte.
(T-shirt worn by a lot of alien frat boys)

'Natch, the X-Men follow their pattern of instantly being captured. This time, they are held in a "cosmic crystalline cube" which looks a lot like a glass terrarium in which one would keep an exotic pet. [For instance a frog that does nothing but sit there all day. Exotic sitting.] Thinking back, these guys sure do spend a lot of time in glass boxes. Some joke about not throwing stones.

Marvel Girl uses her telekinesis to flip a switch to open the man-quarium and the X-Men quickly escape and breach Lucifer's inner sanctum. Instantly, Prof X mentally warns them NOT to break the Dominus machine, which is a huge computer that, once activated, will control and enslave the minds of every living being on the Earth [you know, just like the INTERNET would do in about 30 years?! SOCIAL COMMENTARY!] But was the mental memo from X nothing more than a trick of Lucifer's? The X-Men are unsure because the professor says nothing more. Things get suspicious enough that the group starts to fight amongst themselves as time begins to run out before Dominus is activated.

What? It's a COMPLIMENT!

REVEAL: Prof X was so silent because he was mentally distracting Lucifer into sending his robots on the attack, recklessly, so that they could be easily defeated by the X-Men. And, of course, without the giant robots, the Dominus machine can't work. Sure!

Then Lucifer's space-boss appears on-screen to tell him that he's fired. And when you are space-fired, it means that you get banished to some hell dimension.

"What's that, Lucifer? Sorry, I can't hear you over my
permanently crippled legs!" --Xavier

Hooray! And that's that. Do you guys feel like that's a fitting end to the guy who crippled Prof X and, basically, wrote Xavier's origin story?

Further: Way to tie up loose ends ... what happened to The Blob and Unus? Are they still terrorizing the city? No matter, let's all have a laugh and freeze-frame on a high-five.




 -------
Want to read along? This story are covered in X-Men Volume 2 (Marvel Masterworks)