To paraphrase an old song by Oingo Boingo: "It's an Iceman's party, who could ask for more"? Well this issue presents a memorable birthday party and so much more. Almost the entire supporting cast makes an appearance (minus Ted Roberts), the Scott-Jean relationship reaches a critical point, readers get a closer look at the psychology of Professor X and a classic villain gets an upgrade. The only real problem is a finale which makes no sense whatsoever.
To begin with, the issue features two subplots:
-In the first subplot, Robert Drake celebrates his 18th party. Zelda has organized a party at Cafe A-Go-go, one involving music, poetry and dancing. Zelda is paired up with Robert (she is paying after all), Vera with Hank, Warren with Candy and Scott with Jean. So the latter two are unsure of each other's feelings.
Bernard finally recites a poem which rhymes. The young couples seem to like it. But his usual audience is less than appreciative. "Like, I can't believe it! Bernard's gone establishment!" "I always knew, down deep, he was petit bourgeois!" Now that is comedy.
Thomas seems to have some very clear ideas on the love lives of his X-Men. The days of Lee and Kirby's lonesome and sexually frustrated heroes seem to be ending. Werner Roth gets to draw a couple of decent romantic scenes to set the mood. With the eccentrics of the coffee place adding a more humorous tone. 1960s X-Men at their best.
On another note, the birthday seems to have an implication for the team. Now even the youngest X-Man is a functioning adult. They are all college-aged. Which is important since the X-Men are about to loose the paternal supervision of Xavier.
- In the second subplot, Thomas resolves a mystery introduced back in #28 (January, 1967) and offers a follow-up to the final moments of #13 (September, 1965). Back in #28, a locked door in the cellar of the Xavier Mansion was introduced. It has appeared in almost every issue since then. With Charles once thinking to himself (in #29) that the room behind the door contains his "greatest secret" and "most tragic failure".
Well that secret is whatever happened to Cain Marko. He was last seen with his mind effectively broken by dear-old Charlie. We learn here that Cain has been comatose ever since. Xavier has been keeping his half-brother hidden in the basement for months. Xavier is feeling responsible for the fate of Cain. "For, each of us is his brother's keeper--- but I failed Cain ... and, in doing so, may have doomed him! "
We soon learn that Xavier blames himself for failing to prevent Cain from becoming the Juggernaut. For abandoning him back in Korea. His current plan is to find a way to both drain the energies of Cyttorak from Cain's body and find a way to awaken the mind of Cain. "Can I destroy my nemesis... and restore my brother?"
A couple of fine points here. Xavier never blamed himself for what happened to Cain before. Neither really admitted guilt or regret for his action in previous occasions. Here Xavier is clearly motivated by guilt and seems all the more human for it. But that he intents to depower Cain might question his sincerity here. While keeping that kind of secrets from his students paints Xavier in a decisively negative light.
"Brother's keeper" is a phrase from the tale of "Cain and Abel" in the Genesis. Which is a tale of fratricide.: " Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" "I know not," he [Cain] replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?" "
- Back in the Coffee A-Go-Go, the Satan's Saints burst through the door. This a pretty enjoyable battle. The X-Men could easily crash their enemies. But not without revealing their secret identities to their friends and various bystanders. So they have to apply some strategy to knock out opponents without causing suspicion.
Refreshing to see strategy win the day. The Satan's Saints are mostly played for laughs But they are a nice tip of the hat to the biker gangs which were so prominent in the fiction of the 1950s and 1960s. And naturally to the real thing, since the Hells Angels were relatively well-known at the time. Thomas keeps his X-Men "relevant".
- The romantic subplots are being advanced. Warren is contemplating that he has always liked Candy, "ever since we were kids together". But he is concerned that their new romance might only be his way to recover from the end of his pursuit of Jean. In other words that he is on the rebound and might be misleading Candy. Surprisingly mature reaction from the supposedly conceited X-Man.
Meanwhile, Scott finally opens his heart to Jean. Not about his love for her. But about his self-isolation as a way to avoid hurting anybody. He is left contemplating about further expressing his feelings to her. While Jean makes a vow to herself: "I'' never rest till I break thru the rest of that shell of yours... and find out if it's Jean Grey yo want, or only pity!"
A surprisingly sober affair. But it ends up being the single most important scene of the issue. It is the official start of the romance between them. They are treated as a solid couple from there on, inseparable until the [first] death of Jean in 1980. Too bad, Thomas rarely gets the credit for this development.
- Back on the Mansion, the efforts of Professor X backfire. Factor Three somehow finds a way to interfere with the process. Resulting in Xavier ending up comatose. While Cain is awake, stronger than ever and with an additional power. He has absorbed part of his half-brother's psionic abilities and has now gained telepathy.
Thomas acknowledges the influence of #17 (February, 1966) where Magneto took over the Mansion. Here, Juggernaut takes over the Mansion and uses its defense systems on the X-Men. Cerebro is destroyed, leaving the team unable to locate further opponents.
The twist is the way that Cain uses his telepathy. He reads the thoughts of his opponents and anticipates their moves. Knocking them out one by one. With Jean the only one felled by a mind blast. Juggernaut finally seems like a serious threat. Frank Tieri seems to have liked this way to use a telepath. Since he revived the concept with his character Mister X.
- It might have been a perfect issue. If not for the last couple of pages. Cain Marko stands over the unconscious bodies of Xavier and the X-Men. Victorious at last. He next attempt to demolish the Mansion, intending for his foes to be left buried under the debris. Which is a perfectly sensible way to end the X-Men and their legacy. When Factor Three mentally contacts him and effectively convinces him to forget about Xavier and the others.
In other words, the lives of the X-Men and the entire Mansion are saved ... by Factor Three. Does this make sense? Absolutely not.
As for the fate of the various characters:
*Professor X would remain comatose for a while. Next seen conscious in #38 (November, 1967).
*Vera Cantor and Zelda Kurtzberg were next seen in #41 (February, 1968).
*Candy Southern spends the next couple of years dating Warren behind the scenes. Next appearing on panel in "Ka-Zar" vol. 1 #2 (December, 1970).
*Bernard the Poet makes his last appearance in this series. He is latter seen in various retro stories of the 1990s and 2000s. The earliest being the "Marvel Holiday Special" of 1994.