Power is a fleeting thing
The X-Men have already faced several enemies whose powers make them constant threats, Now there is one who experiences power for some fleeting minutes and then watches it fade away.
The introduction features the X-Men in another training session in the Danger Room. Most of them find the exercises boring, with the exception of Iceman who is working on target practice and realizes he is no Hawkeye. Robert and Warren annoy each other and are about to fight. When a blast by Cyclops reminds them that he is now in charge of their training and does not tolerate "clowning around".
Xavier approaches them with good news. They have fully recovered from their fights against the Sentinels and Magneto, reaching their fighting peak in the procees. It is time for a little vacation. That seems reasonable. Their previous vacation in #14 seems to have lasted less than a day. For all the X-Men's happiness at the prospect, the "vacation" turns out to be a free afternoon in New York City. The Professor isn't exactly generous.
For Jean it is time for a shoping spree. Hank and Robert immediately leave together, continuing the subplot that these two spend most of their free time side by side. Warren is left trying to convince Scott to hang out with him. Good luck with that. The scene shifts to the New York public library. Mr. Drake has a date with Zelda and they have set the library at as their meeting place. Hank is following for a blind date with a friend of Zelda. Since the girls haven't arrived yet, Mr. McCoy decides to browse some "tantalizing tomes". Getting into an argument with a young librarian who is trying to convince Hank that he is too old to be at the library section aimed at "pre-school age children". Zelda arrives just in time to explain that the librarian is her friend Vera and Hank's date for the evening. Hank is left blushing in embarrassment. A cute little scene and a good introduction to the Beast's love life.
Heading out, they run into Vera's self-proclaimed boyfriend, Calvin Rankin. She helped him locate some books on mine engineering at the library, he apparently got the wrong idea on the nature of their relationship. He is very possessive and agressive, wasting no time in attacking Hank. The Beast decides to take it easy on this non-superhuman opponent. To immediately have Calvin using Beast-like powers and moves against him. He dares not reveal his own powers in front of the girls and gets knocked out in seconds. Iceman tries to react and gets a face full of snow. At that moment a nearby construction crew decides to help the defenseless kids against the "rotten mutie". Calvin has to climb a wall to escape.
I'd like to see the reactions of Vera and Zelda to the whole scene, or even those of the construction workers who just saved the day. Unfortunately, none of them get much screen time. Instead the narrative follows Calvin. He has finally had time to stop and think of what just happened. Realizing he has been using superhuman powers and figuring where he got them from. Soon deducing that the two guys he just fought where the Beast and Iceman of the X-Men in their civilian identities. Nice to see that all the publicity the X-Men are getting makes them very recognizable to the public. Calvin exercises his new powers. But they fade away within minutes. He wants to regain them as soon as possible.
A contrived coincidence then has Calvin going out for a coffee and running into Jean. He soon develops telekinesis. Figuring the redhead is Marvel Girl of the X-Men, he decides to follow her until finding out where the X-Men live. The following day, the X-men are discussing about Calvin. For all his powers, he is not a mutant and Cerebro has failed to locate his whereabouts. They didn't have to search really. The Xavier Mansion's doorbell rings and there is coming. He pretends he is here to apologize and gets a formal introduction to each individual X-Man. This is the first time since #3 that anyone learns the civilian identities of the X-Men. But Blob simply knew Cyclops was Scott Summers. Here Calvin learns the identities of all of them.
After some chit-chat and a couple of handshakes, Calvin gains the physical features of the Beast and Angel, as well as the combined powers of Cyclops, Iceman Marvel Girl, and Professor X. He excuses himself for a few minutes to put on his new costume and then returns as the Mimic. He wants to test his new powers by challenging all the X-Men. He uses the powers of most of the team effectively for defense. Though his use of telepathy is amateur at best, distracting the X-Men by pretending to be Xavier, and he doesn't really use telekinesis. Using some teamwork, Iceman blinds him, Beast holds him and Marvel Girl topples him to the ground. But then everyone stops attacking, figuring the Mimic is beat. Nope, he has no trouble rising again, grasps Jean and escapes with his hostage. A rather contrived damsel-in-distress scenario. The other X-Men don't dare to attack in case they harm Jean. But there is really no explanation of why Jean doesn't use her own powers to defend herself.
Mimic drives his car, with his hostage inside, to an abandoned mine. Not that abandoned apparently. Within is Calvin's residence, furnished and comfortable. There he starts explaining his origin to Ms. Grey. He was a son of a scientist but his father never let him enter his laboratorie. Calvin was curious and broke in during a short abstence of his father. Curiosity killed the cat as they say, and Calvin had a chemical accident. He was mutated and soon found out what his new power was. He found himself adapting the special skills of anyone around him and in some way instantly knowing how to use them. Case in point, when getting into a fist fight with Blackie, the school's boxing champion, Calvin instantly found himself a boxing expert. Matching and besting the champion. He soon became the top athlete ansd scholar of his school, convinced of his superiority to the rest of humanity. The only problem, his powers required close proximity to his targets to work. If he got away from them, these abilities would instantly fade away.
His fellow students disliked him. But dislike turned to distrust, suspicion and fear. People started suspecting Calvin was not human. His father eventually found out what went on with his son. They moved to the abandoned mine, his father working on a machine which would affect Calvin's powers. Calvin believed the device would fullfil his greatest desire, a way to keep his new abilities for life. But the machine drained too much electrical power, eventually short-circuiting "every fuse in the county". You would expect investigators and repairmen to arrive. Instead, an "angry, fear-crazed mob" arrived at the mine. Dr. Rankin decided to use explosives to seal off the mine entrance. He use a decent chemist, nobody claimed he was an explosives expert. He blew himself appart and burried the machine under rubble in the process. Calvin swore revenge.
Calvin naturally has no intention of hurting Jean. He counts on the X-Men arriving to the mine to rescue her. Granting him access to their powers and allowing to recover the machine. The X-Men did follow him. With someone the most concerned of all, leaving Professor wondering if his deputy leader is in love. Anyway, the Mimic's plan works like clockwork. Until activating the machine. His father never intended to increase the powers of his man. The machine performed according to Dr. Rankin's actual plan, de-powering Calvin. Xavier has no trouble with erasing the memory of Calvin after that.
A pretty good issue with some faults. The scenes with Zelda and Vera are easily comedic highlights but end all too soon. Calvin has a rather easy time locating the X-Men due to contrived coincidences. His "victory" in battle requires the X-men stopping a fight they are winning to gloat. The Damsel-in-distress situatution is all too stereotypical. The Jean-Scott romance is getting tiresome. By this point, almost every X-Men has reasons to suspect Scott is in love. The exception being Jean because Scott puts on a poker-face when around them. It is supposes to be dramatic that he doesn't dare to ask her out. By this point, after all these issues, it seems stagnant.
On the plus side, the fighting sequences are pretty good and Werner Roth seems to give Jean more face-time than Kirby ever did. Speaking of Kirby, after several issues of co-working with Roth, he seems to have left the series. This is also the last issue written by Stan Lee. From #20 ondwards, Roy Thomas takes over as the main writer of the series.