Building up Suspense
This issue is pretty much devoted to building up suspense for the next. Introducing some tensions among the X-Men, a rather nihilistic villain and a device which can supposedly destroy a planet. I I rather like the results, though the artwork could be better. Anyway, the story has some strong points
- The story opens at midnight, within the subway system of New York City. A giant figure steps right before a speeding train. He derails the charging "monster" with minimal effort. Passengers of the train include Hank McCoy, Vera Cantor, Robert Drake and Zelda Kurtzberg. The lights in the train are out and the two X-Men hurry to face the mysterious giant. He more than holds his own against them. But seen no point in this battle and walks away.
I have to concur with Grotesk, the battle was pointless. The characters have no idea who their opponent is and no need to obtain victory. But readers get to see Grotesk's Hulk-like powers.
The X-Men have the vague idea of rescuing civilians including their girls) from harm. We have no idea what Grotesk intended to do. But still its nice to see the X-Men trying to help civilians. This is one Silver Age title that made infrequent use of that superhero concept. Their previous such rescue was back in #25 (October, 1966).
- Hank and Robert take the girls home. Having already told them that they are in a hurry and that the date will have to be cut short. The girls are by now all too familiar with the sudden exits of their boyfriends. But have certain questions about the repeated incidents. Vera points that she hadn't even heard from Hank for "weeks". Weeks of absence followed by an all too brief date. Zelda warns her own boyfriend: "If I ever find out you're two-timing me, you penny-pinching Romeo ..."
This is a rather memorable scene. The two X-Men seem to walk in and out of Vera and Zelda's lives with little explanation. Who wouldn't be suspicious of what is going on? I\d like to see more of their perspective on the matter. Thomas seems to even be making a plot point out of his own writing. Vera and Zelda last turned up in #32 (May, 1967).
- Grotesk contemplates his own origin. This is one part of the issue that I would like having someone like Steve Ditko or Marie Severin draw it. The narrative speaks of a civilization surviving thousands of years of constant warfare and thrive. But then cut out in its prime. The underground nuclear testings wiped them out, either directly (through the explosions and tremors) or indirectly (through radiation poisoning). These could have been epic stuff. But Don Heck offers images that wouldn't look out of place in a fill--in issue of "Thor".
In any case, this establishes the big guy's motivation. He wants to repay the favor by wiping out the cultures of the surface. He is determined to do it, even if his actions bring his own death. He reminds me quite a bit of the Samson tale from the Book of Judges: " And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead that he slew at his death were more than they that he slew in his life." Pretty nihilistic stuff.
The issue later depicts the guy in his residence. Among the ruins of his civilization. Ruling an empire consisting of debris and corpses. No wonder he isn't a particularly cheerful individual.
- In the Mansion, Xavier seems to be reverting to type. Acting more like the harsh taskmaster from issue #1, not the supporting mentor figure of recent issues. He berates Angel, Cyclops and Marvel for perceived short-comings in a Danger Room scenario. When Hank and Robert burst in (wanting to alert them about Grotesk) , Xavier is annoyed. Grounding them for a month. Jean summarizes his behavior as "cold" and "stern".
Charlie then asks to see Jean in private. He apologizes for getting "carried away". But insists that the X-Men should act as "a perfect team". A brief chat establishes that these two are keeping secrets from the others. But not what those secrets are.
The subplot from issue #40 gets more development. Miss Grey seems to be the Prof's sole confidant among the X-Men. Jean herself has no confidant of her own. Some secrets seems to be bothering both psionics of the team. Foreshadowings for some great events of later issues. I enjoy the idea that these two have much more going going on beneath their surface.
- Later, Xavier sends all the X-Men on a mission. Except Jean, who remains at his side. Cyclops contemplates that the Prof and Jean have been spending a lot of time together lately. He wonders about this all too sudden interest in Jean. He fears that Xavier may be in love with Jean.
Later yet, Jean refuses to join the others on the mission. Warren noting she looks distracted, "like her mind's a million miles away".
Both scenes establish that the clueless X-Men have noted the changes on the resident psionics. And are clearly bothered by them. The insecurity of Scott, fearing of loosing Jean to his own mentor, is particularly cute. By the way, Charles is in love with Jean, as established in #3. But he has failed to act on the feeling.
- The weakest part of the issue involves the so-called "Nuclear Oscillotron". It is a device which creates earthquakes. A scientist has built in the hope of it benefiting humanity. his colleagues fear that its earthquakes could cause a chain reaction and destroy the planet. Grotesk notices the resulting tremors. He wants to possess the Oscillotron and do exactly what these academics feared.
While it is certainly a way to make this a high-stakes game between Grotesk and his opponent, there are two logic problems. A device causing earthquakes. Sounds like a weapon at best. In what way could it ever benefit humanity? Second, Grotesk follows the tremors to the device. How exactly do you follow an earthquake?
- The second story is getting absurd. It starts with a battle between Professor X and Jack Winters. Winters is a fellow telepath and Xavier can't penetrate his defenses. So he has to defend himself with his powers. So we get scenes where the Prof mentally pushes away a steel support beam and shields himself from tons on falling debris.
These are both very impressive uses of telekinesis. Just one problem. Xavier isn't supposed to be telekinetic!!! I expected something much better from Roy Thomas.