Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Thomas-Adams X-Men: X-Men 58

X-Men #58 (1969) You know this is by Neal!

X-Men #58 (July 1969)
“Mission: Murder!”
Roy Thomas –script
Neal Adams – art
Tom Palmer – inks

Karen: This is the third issue in our look at the Adams-Thomas X-Men from the late 1960s. This issue is action packed, as the X-Men face off against the new and improved Sentinels. These Sentinels were no longer just giant robots – they were able to adapt to attacks and compensate for any mutant ability. This made them truly formidable foes for the young mutants. Unfortunately, as with many things, familiarity breeds contempt, and I’m afraid the overuse of the Sentinels has rendered them somewhat uninteresting nowadays. But here (and also in the early Claremont- Cockrum run), they were still incredibly dangerous and exciting threats.

Doug: The opening sequence with Hank and Bobby being attacked is quickly-paced and shows off the best of both of these X-Men. Also of note is Adams’ use of the television screens showcasing Larry Trask’s rant. Frank Miller would use this motif in both of his The Dark Knight Returns and Elektra: Assassin graphic novels.

Karen: Besides the action, we begin to see signs of a love triangle forming between Iceman, Lorna Dane, and Alex Summers, who has been rechristened “Havok”. Poor Iceman – I don’t think he really had a chance against the much more compelling Alex!

Sharon: I really enjoyed this sequence with Lorna “the green-haired goddess”, Alex, and Bobby (who looked good in his un-iced form, and much more like a teenager than the other X-Men in their civilian guises). This sort of character byplay was welcome, as the X-Men had become very stodgy with only the original five (as I’d mentioned previously). Seeing some unexpected characterization gave me hope that the series would develop into a Marvel contender. Loved Roy’s anti-war sentiment (voiced in Alex’s mouth): “Fighting’s your hang-up, Drake…not mine!”

Doug: This love triangle is not unlike one we’ll see “in a few years” in the pages of The Fantastic Four, between Johnny, Crystal, and Quicksilver. And if you think about it, Roy was writing those stories as well! Here it’s pretty easy to see Bobby stand in for Johnny, and Alex playing the part of Pietro. Of course, Lorna and Crystal had all of the explaining to do!

Sharon: When Lorna was introduced as a love interest for Bobby a few issues earlier, I immediately thought of the Johnny-Crystal pairing. At the time one of the things I felt was lacking in the X-Men was the sort of interpersonal relationships that made the Fantastic Four such a good series. As mentioned, the original five were getting boring (by this point Scott and Jean’s relationship seemed trouble free) and I thought that some new characters such as Lorna would liven things up. Adding Alex to the mix was even better!

Karen: We get some nice cameos in this issue with Mesmero, the Living Monolith, and the Banshee (back when he looked really weird!). This issue was really chock full o’ mutants, back when this was not a regular occurrence in X-Men mags! We’ll see even more in the next issue.

Doug: I get the impression that Roy and Neal were really starting to gel and pick up a head of steam in this, their third issue together. Respect for the past, laying the groundwork for the future… And I’m glad Dave Cockrum (and later John Byrne) softened the Banshee’s looks and gave him some personality. Having only seen the reprint of X-Men #28 after the All-New, All-Different team began, I can say I’m glad. The latter version of the character was much more to my liking!

Karen: Of course, the art is again gorgeous. The cover is one of my favorite X-Men covers. In fact the only thing marring the artwork is that terrible costume Angel was wearing! Yellow, red, blue, black…ye gods, what a mess. I guess Adams didn’t like it much either, as he would later replace it with a much cooler blue and white one. However, the Havok costume is one of the most original I’ve ever seen. I really like the concentric circles on his chest, which get larger as his power builds.

Doug: Angel’s costume is interesting to say the least, and I agree – the Havok costume, in all its simplicity, might be one of the best superhero suits ever designed. I was somewhat disoriented the first time I read this in that regardless of how Alex faced, the concentric circles always faced the reader.

Sharon: The Havok costume is great—all silhouette and no shading (per Adams’ instructions to Palmer, who had started to ink the costume with the usual lines and texture to depict musculature). I could do without the “eggbeater” headpiece, though (I understand its intent and that it was supplied by Trask… but it just looked so clumsy!).

Doug: But of Angel – do you like the blue/white color scheme, or the red/white scheme used in The Champions and the X-Men issues of the 1980’s?

Sharon: I preferred the blue and white. Something about the red with his blond hair didn’t appeal to me.

Doug: A comment on Adams’ faces – few artists really take the time to show emotion with the mouth. If you think about stalwarts like Kirby or Sal Buscema, their characters’ mouths generally look the same. But if you focus on what Adams is doing, and much later Byrne – there is a real attention to detail that allows a face-shot to move the action and emotion along without the use of full-body poses.

Sharon: I agree, Adams’ facial work—in close up or medium shot—often was excellent.

Doug: The first time Havok cuts loose on a Sentinel is awesome! I wish it had been a splash page!

Karen: We get a nice twist by Roy here, with Larry Trask turning out to be a mutant himself! Of course, he would also show up later in Avengers, right as Roy was ending his run on that title.

Doug: It’s certainly a cliffhanger! I love doing these reviews of classic stories – when you think about it, each story we’ve looked at so far on our wonderful little blog has had decent scripting, capable art (to say the least), and the stories flowed one issue into the next in a manner that made the consumer want to get back to that drug store or newsstand as quickly as possible.

Sharon: I literally counted the days until the next issue. I knew exactly when my Marvels (X-Men, Avengers, FF) would hit the stands at my neighborhood store.

Doug: These were times when the characters were written in-character, the artists were storytellers and not just posers, and there was a sense that the story was important as a vehicle toward making a buck, not just focusing on the buck itself.

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