Friday, June 27, 2014

Marvels: X-Men #2

"No One Can Stop the Vanisher!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Paul Reinman
(November 1963)

This issue's villain, the Vanisher, is a bit of a step down in evil mutants. Well, after Magneto, how could it not be? The costumed menace here is a teleporter who, as you might expect, uses his powers to rob banks and make himself king of New York's criminal underworld. What are the X-Men going to do about it?

Train.

For pages.

Most of the first half of this issue is taken up by Professor X putting the X-Men through their paces in the Danger Room. (The Danger Room appeared in the first issue, but is given its name here.) It's mainly to show off the X-Men and what they're capable of, and try and give the personalities some room to develop. But it also gets at the main problem with this issue, is that there's really not enough story to justify the full issue length. So we get a lot of training, a lot of action (some of which is pretty good), and too much time given over to a villain who isn't that interesting, has a terrible design, and isn't really memorable. He doesn't even put up much of a fight in the end. Sure, he beats the X-Men in round one, stealing strategic defense plans. But then he gets cocky and takes to the White House lawn with his army of gangster goons and is defeated handily.

And chillingly.

That's right, Charles Xavier just straight brainwashes the guy. The head of a school, one of the heroes of this book, defeats a guy by just brainwashing him so he forgets his powers, his name, and everything else. Professor X just pulled a heroic lobotomy right there in front of the White House.

This is right there with Reed Richards hypnotizing the Skrulls to believe they're cows. This is the kind of major ethical lapse that's going to make it hard for me to see Xavier as a good guy for a while.

So, are we protecting humanity from evil mutants at any cost, no matter how dehumanizing? This seems to run counter to the later protestations that Professor Xavier wants peaceful coexistence. Of course, we can't hold this to standards set by later stories, but wow. Just wow.

Why bother even training the X-Men to fight this guy if Professor X is this ruthless in the first place and defeating a bank robber who can teleport is as easy as just shutting his brain down in minutes?

Stray Observations:

:: Stan and Jack are trying hard to turn this book into another Fantastic Four. The issue even begins--as many early issues of FF did--with the X-Men racing to get to their headquarters after being summoned. The personalities still aren't completely there yet, but it does give writer and artist a chance to show off the X-Men's powers a bit.

This one's especially neat:

Nice touch.

:: Hated and feared, despised by the outside world...

Still not there yet. This is like the beginning of A Hard Day's Night. Boy, girls never clamber over Reed Richards anymore. I wonder if he misses it.

Yep, everyone admires and respects the X-Men, it seems. I wonder if there's an in-canon explanation for the falling out between humanity and mutantkind, or if that's one of those retcons we just end up going with. Not that it matters, really, I just think it's interesting to see the evolution of what people consider the integral parts of a specific story.

Even the US government doesn't seem to have a stance on mutants yet, with Professor X psychically contacting an FBI agent, Fred Duncan, at the Department of Special Affairs. The government seems happy to have Professor X's help facing the Vanisher.

:: In the Danger Room, the Angel is chasing missiles and the Beast is trying to avoid being crushed by walls. What's Marvel Girl doing? Balancing a really big medicine ball. Come on, you guys. Why do you keep giving the women such passive powers?

:: They've stopped calling Scott Summers "Slim."

Without a villain as strong as Magneto at its center, this one was tedious. Tedious and ethically questionable. This book's still in shakedown mode, and this second issue feels more or less inconsequential, but with a bizarre and disturbing climax.

Next time: the Vulture returns!

4 comments:

bliss_infinte said...

"I wonder if there's an in-canon explanation for the falling out between humanity and mutantkind"

Perhaps it's when the Prof washes the Vanisher's brain on the White House lawn. Everything was hunky-dory with these 'strange' mutants until the US gov. witnessed their absolute power, and in typical fashion, got scarred. So in essence, you can say that Prof X caused the rift between humans and mutants. If I recall, I don't think the X-Men are seen in a positive light by the public after this issue.

SamuraiFrog said...

That's something else I forgot to mention; when American soldiers show up, they think Professor X is some harmless man in a wheelchair. Scott says something like "imagine if they knew you were the leader of the X-Men." So they're somehow both a secret organization, but also incredibly popular and liked by the people of New York.

Nik said...

That Vanisher costume has always baffled me. Why would a grown man wrap himself up in what appears to be a quilt and call that a costume?

SamuraiFrog said...

I keep thinking that it's supposed to look like some kind of a snake motif, but why? What's the theme?