We take a little step away from the core book for the first ever X-Men appearance in a non-X-Men book! Tales of Suspense #49 sees a radiation accident turn Angel evil and he leaves the team to become a villain! But no worries, Iron Man is there to exchange some absolutely silly dialogue and eventually save the day (which is a good thing, since it was all his fault).
Then in X-Men #4 and #5, Magneto is back, but he’s not alone! He’s gather his own team to deal with the X-Men: The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The Brotherhood takes over the small island of Santo Marco before being driven off by the X-Men.
But when Xavier is seemingly put into a coma by a trap left behind, the X-Men must continue to deal with Magneto and his flunkies on their own for the first time, following the group to Asteroid M. But no worries, True Believers! The X-Men manage to defeat the Brotherhood and return to Earth where they find Xavier was fine all along! He was just being a jerk (#Kittywasright) and pretending to be hurt.
The battle with the Brotherhood continues into X-Men #6 where Magneto and Xavier both try to reach out to the Sub Mariner. Namor easily turns the tide in the Brotherhood’s favor, but when he refuses to bow before Magneto (because at this point Magneto is an almost comically inept dictator-wannabe), he decides to return to Atlantis, leaving the Brotherhood fleeing once again.
And finally, in X-Men #7 (the last Brotherhood battle for a bit), the Blob is back! Magneto’s magnetic powers have freed the Blob from Xavier’s mental manipulations and the Blob (justifiably) is pissed! So he joins Magneto and the Brotherhood in taking on the X-Men, until Magneto hurls several missiles at the X-Men while they are tussling with the Blob. So the Blob takes the brunt of the attack and Magneto and the Brotherhood make a quick getaway.
Tales of Suspense #49 is the first time we have to step away from the X-Men book (granted, we’re not many issues in) as Angel essentially guest stars in Iron Man’s book. The tale itself is pretty forgettable. Doesn’t introduce us to any new characters. It has some laughable dialogue (bad even by Stan Lee’s other comparisons) and some silly justifications as radiation from an explosion somehow turns Angel evil.
Oddly enough, the Angel just randomly flies on by and sees Iron Man trying to clear the area before a nuclear disaster (because everything in the 60’s was nuclear related). It’s humorous to see Angel “fanboying” out over seeing Iron Man (although I find it hard to believe that Angel would act starstruck…he’s the one X-Men who would expect Iron Man to be the fanboy), but the misunderstanding means that Angel gets too close to the blast
While I’m not a big fan of the art of this era, Steve Ditko’s penchant for facial expressions really comes through. We don’t even need the dialogue or narration to see Angel’s shift in attitude.
The rest of the book sees Angel confront the rest of the X-Men and Xavier. He leaves, looking for other super villains to conspire with and that’s pretty much the rest of the issue. He does come across a construction site with dynamite just laying around in a box labeled “dynamite”. Seriously, these early issues read like a looney tunes cartoon (that’s not a snipe at looney tunes which I love).
Beyond the pure silliness and pointlessness of this issue, I do enjoy the shock to Xavier’s confidence at one of his students turning against his teachings. If only it had lasted more than until the end of this issue. And to once again praise Ditko, the way he draws Xavier makes you really feel that Xavier’s failure pains him.
Back to the X-Men’s book for X-Men #4-5, grouped together because these books represent the first time a story is essentially “to be continued” (even if it does just say “the end” at the end of #4). These were perhaps some of the best issues so far in the title and introduced several new characters: Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (who would later become Avengers and major supporting characters in the X-Men’s universe), Toad (who…well…he’s just Toad…I always hated him) and Mastermind (who would ultimately be responsible for Dark Phoenix). Together with Magneto, they represented the first incarnation of The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
It’s definitely interesting seeing the X-Men battle another team for the first time, not just an individual (I don’t count the regular powered henchmen in #2 and #3). Quicksilver vs Cyclops, Beast vs Toad, Mastermind vs…well, he’s kind of a wimpy dick so he just serves to annoy everybody.
Their first encounter ends with Professor Xavier attempting to save his X-Men from an exploding…door? The result is the supposed loss of his powers. This, of course, turns out to be a lie by the end of issue #5…further proof that Xavier is a horrible person. Granted, here he does it to teach them how to survive without him, but still… as we find out more and more, he’s really just full of lies.
The other notable part, as I mentioned, is that issue #4 directly continues into issue #5… which doesn’t seem like a big deal nowadays, but keep in mind that it ends with Xavier supposedly gravely injured…and the books were SEMI-MONTHLY. This means people had to wait TWO months to find out what happened. I can’t even fathom… (well, normally I couldn’t, up until this past Wednesday, we’d been 2 months without X-Men books…)
X-Men #6 gives us more of the struggle against the Brotherhood. And man, Magneto is really horrible here! I mean, really. Just awful. He seriously tries to pimp out the Scarlet Witch to Namor. And to make matters worse, he then is willing to sacrifice Quicksilver to the X-Men in order to get away….all while Scarlet Witch screams at him to save her brother. Luckily, she was pimped out to Namor who is as horny as a rabbit (no offense to rabbits). And before I forget…apparently magnetism allows you to do whatever the hell you want as Magneto uses magnetism to project his astral self. (yes…seriously!)
I was always a stickler for continuity and seeing how the X-Men interacted with the rest of the Marvel Universe so seeing a reference by Namor to events in Fantastic Four was a treat.
But sadly, the book starts off by once again reminding us of the misogyny of the time by reducing Jean’s role in this issue to essentially the team’s cook, which, ironically, leaves a bad taste in my mouth (which was NOT due to Jean’s cooking skills).
Graduation day comes quickly in X-Men #7! Seems extremely abrupt considering we had no lead up…but back then, we rarely had overreaching arcs.
But really, the big part of this issue is seeing Cyclops in charge for the first time as Xavier takes his leave (again, he’s a jerk). And of course this results in more of Scott and Jean’s pining for each other. They each love the other but has no clue and their own reasons for not saying anything (hard to believe they still won’t kiss on panel for another 87 issues!).
And first mention and images of Cerebro! Wooo!
Beyond that…sure, we see more of the Brotherhood, but honestly the actual plot of this book is incredibly mundane and not worth delving into…which I feel sometimes summarizes this entire era. Stan Lee writes such grandiose dialogue that sometimes works…and other times is cringe worthy. And I find myself wanting to skim over a lot. Magneto, especially. And yet, he still has unique voices for each character which does seem to start breaking out in these issues. Xavier, Magneto, Cyclops, Jean, Angel, Iceman, Beast…heck, even Toad…they all have unique ways of talking. So as much grief as I might give Stan Lee, he’s done a superb job of separating these characters out, giving them all at least minor variations so that it doesn’t feel like it’s necessarily the voice of the writer, but rather the voices of the characters… even if I am pretty certain that Stan Lee would talk just like Magneto if he could.
There we have it, the first Brotherhood stories… Some more exciting than others, but again, laying the groundwork for details that would persist for decades to come. Sure, the art is simple, and the writing was corny, and some of the characters are jerks (can I point out BOTH Xavier and Magneto now?), but just as the first three issues, it’s fun to read, it’s fun to see their beginnings.
X-Men #4-7: The Mutant Age…Has Now Begun
Writing - 6/10
Storyline - 4/10
Art - 7/10
Color - 7/10
Cover Art - 9/10
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