Wednesday, August 24, 2011

From The Top - X-Men #2

What comes after #1? That feeling of satisfaction and readiness for another beer...or, you know...

X-Men #2 - November1963

Like I said when I covered the first issue, I'm doing these reviews fully knowing that they're stories composed in the 1960's for a 1960's audience, but looking at them with a modern 'sensibility'. There wasn't too much about #1 that seemed completely ridiculous given the passage of time, but that completely changes with this issue. In fact, I kind of wish I could have been a 12 year old boy in 1963 reading this when it was first released because let me tell ya, this one just does NOT stand the test of time.

Last issue introduced readers to the X-Men, their mentor Charles Xavier, and their enemy, Magneto. This issue introduces a new villain called The Vanisher. Like the X-Men, the Vanisher is a mutant, but his powers don't necessarily match up with his name. His powers are teleportation, the ability to travel from place to place in the blink of an eye (think: Nightcrawler). I suppose "The Teleporter" was a bit too on the nose, and the "Vanisher and Reappearer" was a bit too much of a mouthful (fun future trivia fact - sometime later The Vanisher's real name was revealed to be...get this...Teleford Porter. So eventually 'on the nose' went out the window). Also interesting is the fact that only once in the issue are the Vanisher's powers referred to as 'teleporting', but repeatedly throughout the book another mutant's powers are called 'teleportation'. Observe:

Yup, several times throughout the issue Marvel Girl's telekinesis is called 'teleportation'. You may also note that Angel calls Professor X "Dr. X" in that panel, but that's a one off so far...

Anyway, the issue begins an undisclosed time after issue #1 ends, with the X-Men out doing 'something' and getting summoned home by Xavier. Xavier introduces them to the threat of The Vanisher who has been making the newscasts after telling a couple of cops he's going to rob a bank, going to the bank, stealing the money, and then teleporting out. It's cute, but hardly something that really screams "OH MY GOD! This is the next Magneto!" After all, there's a bit of a difference between robbing a bank and attacking a millitary missile silo, right? Probably even in the sixties there was a difference, don't you think?

Still, the Vanisher's robbery was enough to make Xavier think that his X-Men need to get involved so he once again puts them through their paces in the Danger Room. Meanwhile, the Vanisher reappearas in "a locked, heavily-guarded conference room" in the Pentagon where a couple of officers are looking over the United States' Continental Defense Plans. He doesn't actually *steal* the plans, but rather he tells the officers that he's going to steal a couple of days. Oh, and he adds that there's absolutely nothing they can do to stop him...

This gets the attention of FBI Agent Fred Duncan who apparently has a brain apparatus that allows him to contact Xavier at pre-arranged times. Duncan tells Xavier what transpired at the Pentagon to which Xavier replies "I suspected that might be his likely next move!" Wait...what? You suspected that he was going to teleport into the Pentagon and taunt the army that he was going to steal the United States' Continental Defense Plans in a few days? I call bullshit Professor. Also, when did the X-Men become FBI Agents? I don't remember that happening in the previous's actually a neat little sub-plot that goes absolutely nowhere until it's brought up again in abotu 40 issues or so when it promptly goes nowhere again.

Anyway, Xavier gathers up his team and they fly off to Washington DC to try and stop The Vanisher. What happens next is out there that I'll let the panels from the comic speak for themselves:

If that looks to you like the ultra-secret plans are sitting on the top of a desk all by themselves with four men holding tommy-guns surrounding it, you're right. Despite having a few days worth of warning (from the Vanisher himself) that he was going to steal the plans, (and that there was NOTHING that could stop him...)the security at the Pentagon did absolutely NOTHING to stop him. Considering how this actually went down, I've concoted a small list of things the Pentagon *could* have done to stop him:

1.) Hide the plans
2.) Lock the plans in a safety deposit box or wall safe
3.) Shuffle the plans into other papers and ...fuck it.

You know what the Pentagon could have done to stop the Vanisher from stealing those plans?


Anyway, there's a small fight outside the Pentagon where Marvel Girl plays hot potato with the plans because the Vanisher decided it'd be more fun to teleport outside and taunt the X-Men instead of just going home...and basically the X-Men look like a bunch of amatuers when the Vanisher escapes.

Our team of heroes return home, being decried as failures in the press. There's a scene of people on the street corner reading the newspaper and talking about how the X-men are a bunch of phoneys and how they're so scared of the Vanisher that they're going to leave town because there's no idea what he'll do next...

That's when the TV news people (as if on cue) announce that the Vanisher has decided that he'll ransom the super-secret plans back to the United States for....drumroll please....


Yup, he want's Ten Million free. I'm assuming that prior to this the Vanisher was on a game show or something and won a new car or a crap load of money only to then be told that before he could claim his prize that he needed to pay the applicable taxes, and had to walk out of the studio empty handed. Either that or a year had actually passed between the beginning of this issue and the page where he made his demands and he discovered that by claiming the money he robbed from the bank that he was now in a new tax bracket and had to pay more in taxes...something I guess because the very specific demand was "Ten Million free" or else the communists get the plans.

The X-men are doing some homework on their enemy when this demand comes across the TV know, I bet tehy could have booby trapped the breifcase with a landmine or something, so when he picked it up the briefcase would have exploded...Professor X contacts the FBI guy telling him that the X-Men will be at the prearranged location to meet the Vanisher when he comes for his money. The FBI readily agree since the X-Men did such a stellar job of stopping the Vanisher the first time and as we saw earlier, they're not really willing to do much of anything at all to stop this guy themselves.

So the X-Men, this time joined by their leader, meet the Vanisher and his small army of underworld goons on the lawn of the White House in what is certain to be the most anti-climactic ending of all time. The Vanisher asks where his money is, and he's confronted by Xavier himself.

Xavier then uses his telepathy to make the Vanisher forget he has the power to teleport. In fact, he makes the Vanisher forget who he even is. Dude completely freaks out and begs the X-Men to help him. Xavier reassures his team that the Vanisher can no longer threaten them, and they then make handy work of his human henchmen. Presumably at some point one of the X-Men recover the plans that caused all of this drama (they don't bother showing that though...), and the issue ends with this happy thought:

Gee, thanks...dick. You could have done that back on page 15 and saved your X-Men a little face in the public eye, and maybe even given the public a little piece of mind.


...and that brings this look back at X-Men #2 to a close. I'd like to say that things get better with the next issue, but...well...there's a giraffe in it that threatens the team. And not even a mutant giraffe if that intrigues you at all, be here in a couple of days when I turn my attention towards the story that's called "Beware The Blob!"

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