Gotta love a training montage starting off! But while on a break from training, Beast decides he’s had enough of protecting humans and he heads off on his own! But his first match as a wrestler (because what else is a big guy with massive hands and feet going to do) comes crashing down as he encounters Unus the Untouchable!
When the rest of the X-Men show up, they don’t have any more luck than Beast (although they do manage to leave Unus at the top of the Empire State Building) but Beast has a brilliant idea! Develop a machine to enhance Unus’ power…wait, what?
Yes, enhance Unus’ power to the point where he is unable to even eat. In exchange for Unus not joining other evil mutants, Beast returns Unus’ power to normal and, because everything has to end happily ever after in the 60’s, rejoins the X-Men.
We see Cyclops’ role as team leader really start to take shape here. Unfortunately that shape happens to be just as tough a drill sergeant as Xavier ever was. But at least Iceman gains a bit more control over his power and starts to become the translucent figure most of us grew up with him as. And when Cyclops finally agrees to let them have a night off (but refuses to join them) we see more of how Jean is pining over him.
While in the city, Iceman and Beast are just strolling along when they come across a crowd of people terrified because a small child has somehow climbed to the top of a water tower and nobody knows how to get him down (bear in mind this was before cell phones were anywhere). So Beast throws caution to the wind and leaps into action (quite literally) as he scales the side of the building, grabs the kid, and swings him into a window.
Now it’s important to notice a couple of things here. First of all, someone recognizes him as the Beast just by his powers… The X-Men are definitely famous in this era, known by the general public (even if their secret identities are not).
But the far more important detail is that once the rescue is done, the crowd turns on him, screaming that he is dangerous and that mutants are hiding, planning to take over the world. See, up until now, with very few exceptions, the X-Men were regarded as heroes. Mutants were not looked at as a general menace. In fact, Stan Lee didn’t even intend the metaphor initially. This scene marks the first instance of the bigotry that eventually be the entire theme of the book and the entire mythos.
Of course, the mob gives Beast second thoughts about saving humans…and he quits. Quite frankly, there’s absolutely zero build up to this, so it really does feel like out of left field. But decades later, you might notice that the rift between Cyclops and Beast started right here.
So despite being a literal genius, Beast instead tries his hand at wrestling…which is odd considering that now nobody seems to recognize him. But his first match doesn’t go so well when he can’t even touch his opponent, Unus. And after admitting defeat, Beast notices that Unus (who must be a mutant) is staring at someone in the crowd: Mastermind of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants! Mastermind has a goal for Unus before Magneto will accept the wrestler into the Brotherhood: he must either find the X-Men or at least beat one of them! (never mind that he literally did just that)
So when the X-Men show up (because Cerebro only goes off when a mutant shows up in the book…as if he wasn’t a mutant before), Unus calmly beats them down…almost toys with them. They literally can’t touch him. So what do they do? Angel picks him up and leaves him CLINGING TO A SPIRE AT THE TOP OF A BUILDING. Seriously. That’s how they beat him.
When the X-Men regroup, they find Beast building a device…a device that will increase Unus’ power! Of course the X-Men flip out, wouldn’t you? Beast manages to escape, mostly because Cyclops was holding back, and he comes upon Unus at his apartment, pleading with Mastermind for another chance at beating the X-Men (first of all…how’d he even find Unus).
So when Beast zaps Unus, suddenly, Unus’ power is amplified. Even things far away are flying away from him (which still makes zero sense because then he should be flying…but whatever). The X-Men briefly retreat but soon, Unus finds himself unable to even eat (what’s interesting is that decades later, one of his kids has the same power and has to wear a converter over his mouth in order to eat, so kudos to that little bit of trivia).
Completely frustrated, Unus returns to the X-Men and begs Beast to return his power to normal. Beast agrees to do so, but only if Unus promises to behave (while this is silly, I get the mentality…it’s not like he can be held in jail, the X-Men don’t have the facilities to hold him, and Xavier isn’t there to violate…I mean wipe his mind). And once the X-Men realize that Beast hasn’t turned evil, they welcome him back…and he’s happy to be back.
Except Cyclops mentions he never lost faith, even though a few pages earlier he had detained Beast and earlier still he tried to crush Beast with optic blasts. Even in a single issue we couldn’t get consistency. *sigh*
It’s a mostly pointless issue…largely forgettable. But it’s notable because for almost every single person reading this, we’ve known the X-Men as symbols of bigotry, whether it’s based on race, sexuality, or gender identies… but that’s not why Stan Lee created them. He was just lazy (those are his own words…he was tired of creating origins). It wasn’t until here that the hatred for mutants was shown.
And the rest, they say, is history.
In a largely forgettable story, we at least get our first glimpse of the bigotry that would plague the X-men for the next 60 years. The villain is boring. The reasons for anything that happens here is boring. But…it’s still an important one to read. Consider it necessary in your education of the X-Men.
X-MEN CLASSICS: Can’t Touch This!
Writing - 2/10
Storyline - 6/10
Art - 5/10
Color - 5/10
Cover Art - 4/10
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