Monday, November 12, 2012

178: The X-Men #7

The X-Men #7
July 2, 1964 
  • In this issue: The X-Men graduate from Xavier's academy! Yes, despite having set up the presumably rife premise of "super-powered teenagers in high school" in their debut, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby surprise us by seeming to resolve it a mere half-dozen issues later. It's impressive to see how casually Stan introduces real change, and doesn't shy away from acknowledging the real passage of time - things which would happen less and less in Marvel Comics as the years go by. (That said, it's worth pointing out that casual yet radical changes proved utterly disastrous once before; hopefully such a significant change to the status quo was considered carefully this time, weighing benefits gained against any potential lost.) Still, such a graduation does give rise to a number of questions, like: How can they all graduate at the same time, if the X-Men are different ages? Does that mean they were all, effectively, in the same grade? What kind of academic program did the Professor teach them? Wouldn't it have been neat to show the occasional classroom session (a welcome insight which would be seen regularly, and to great effect, in the 1980s series The New Mutants)? And most importantly: Where do they go from here - and why did Stan choose this moment to graduate them? Well, as we soon learn, because it's now time for the X-Men to grow up...

    These aren't graduation caps affixed to their heads.
    They're incredibly unfortunate secondary mutations.

  • Under the less-than-illuminating pretext of "unfinished tasks", Professor Xavier announces to his students that he's going away for a while. In his place, he's chosen Scott to be team leader in the interim, and reveals to him (and us) his secret invention "Cerebro" - an advanced machine which can duplicate Xavier's ability to locate new and previously-identified mutants. This, more than anything else, should drive the point home, as the Professor is now giving his charges the means to track down and investigate new cases without him. In practice, Xavier's departure is to last only a short stint, as he'll return in the issue-after-next - yet it's worth noting that this is the very first time he's leaving the X-Men on their own, an event that will recur a number of times in the decades to come. (On those occasions, his absence will often last for many years at a stretch, with the team massively changed as a result.)

    What they don't tell you is this is how Magneto
    spends every Sunday afternoon.

  • After having debuted in issue #4, and returned in every issue since, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants will take a break for a bit after this story, unseen again until issue #11. Last time, they tried to recruit the Sub-Mariner and failed. (Amusingly, because the arrogant-yet-chivalrous Namor didn't appreciate the way Magneto spoke to a lady.) This time out, the Brotherhood heads to to the carnival to recruit The Blob! Hey, they probably need a bit of a powerhouse in their ranks, don't you think? And yet this new alliance is trounced once again by Mag's inability to play well with others, or even marginally conceal his contempt for those he considers beneath him - which, let's be honest, means just about everyone. At the end of the tale, The Blob turns his back on both heroes and villains, dejected, and returns to the carnival ... the only place, he believes, a freak like him can ever truly belong.

    Dig this swingin' sixties hangout!
    We'll be seeing a lot more of this.

  • The rest of the plot is fairly pedestrian, as the main importance of the issue is the introduction of elements like Cerebro and the X-Men working on their own, as well as continuing to flesh out the characters' lives via new settings and situations. To this end, we get our first trip to the Cafe A-Go-Go (though not named as such in its first appearance) over in trendy Greenwich Village, and some of the regulars of that joint, such as Bernard the Poet and Zelda. Meanwhile, Scott Summers - already a tightly-wound young man - settles into his new role, and is further cemented as the personality he'll become known for: seemingly destined to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders.

    Scott as grim and lonely leader.
    We'll also be seing a lot more of this...!