The X-Men #18, Mar. 1966
A fair story by: Stan Lee
Adequate art by: Jay Gavin
Tolerable inking by: Dick Ayers
The world’s greatest lettering by: Artie Simek (Marvel’s birthday boy of the month!)
It’s cute that they reversed the credits for Artie Simek because it’s his birthday, instead of ragging on the letterer all the time. I like these little credits things they do, it’s just a little peek into the interoffice politics in Marvel, or at least those which they’re willing to be transparent about.
So last issue, Magneto put all the X-Men except for Iceman into a lead balloon shooting upwards into space. Iceman, if you’ll recall, was still in the hospital. Having full reign over the X-Mansion, Magneto hypnotizes Angel’s visiting parents and constructs a machine that will use their DNA to create an army of mutants at his command (since they had a mutant kid, this apparently means he can do that). Iceman wakes up and stalls Magneto long enough for the rest of the X-Men to get down. They finally beat him when Professor X talks to the Stranger, the stupidly powerful alien being who took Magneto from Earth in the first place, and they both run away together. It’s so sweet.
Magneto has some pretty stupid powers in this issue. He hypnotizes Angel’s parents using “magnetic attraction”, which is just a terrible, terrible thing. He also uses his magnetism as just a sort of all-purpose ray that can seal up an igloo and make people freeze in place and all sorts of other convenient things that aren’t even all that necessary for the plot. It’s kinda dumb that they have to bring back the Stranger again for the cop out ending, especially since the X-Men never really had all that much trouble defeating Magneto on the other dozen occasions they fought him. Still, he makes for an entertaining villain for these guys.
The X-Men #17, Feb. 1966
Story: Stan Lee
Layouts: J. Kirby
Pencils: Jay Gavin
Inks: Dick Ayers
Lettering: A. Simek
Finally, it’s the return of… well, maybe I shouldn’t say! It is a surprise until the very last panel of the comic, I should at least try to maintain that same sense of mystery and tension! Mostly because that’s really all this issue has going for it! Exclamatory remarks!
The X-Men are rushed to the hospital after their fight with the Sentinels. They mostly have minor scratches and bruises, except for Iceman who is in critical condition. Unfortunately, medical science doesn’t really know how to deal with a dude made out of ice, and there isn’t much the doctors can do for him. Meanwhile, the healthy students go back to Xavier’s school one by one… and are individually incapacitated and captured as they do so. Who is this mysterious villain who seems to know all their powers and is able to knock everybody out, including Professor X?! It’s Magneto!
That’s the surprise! Magneto’s back after being taken away by that incredibly stupid “Stranger” character who just stepped in so Stan Lee would stop writing every single X-Men comic about them fighting Magneto! I guess we can get back to doing that now. Yay.
The X-Men #16, Jan. 1966
Story: Stan Lee
Layouts: Jack Kirby
Pencilling: Jay Gavin
Delineation: Dick Ayers
Lettering: Art Simek
At last, the end of the Sentinels! Yep, the X-Men will never again ever have to face the giant robots that were specifically designed to hunt them down, they’re all gone now forever. Actually, I can kinda see that. This batch of Sentinels were really, REALLY bad at their jobs, the Sentinels I remember from the 90’s cartoon show were actually threatening.
The X-Men are held captive inside the Sentinels’ hidden underground base, where their creator, Bolivar Trask, is being forced to hook up the Master Mold so he can start making more Sentinels. Meanwhile, Professor X hitchhikes back into town where he examines the Sentinel that fell over during the original TV show he was doing, back when this whole thing started. After some concentration, Xavier figures out that a giant crystal on a nearby building cut the Sentinel off from receiving any orders, and that’s what they need to beat the rest of them.
Using his psychic persuasion powers, Xavier gets a helicopter to carry the giant crystal over the area where the Sentinels’ base is. This deactivates the robots and the rest of the captive X-Men are able to escape. They head toward the Master Mold to stop him, but Trask realizes at the last minute that he’s being a bad guy and sacrifices himself to destroy all the machinery, including the Master Mold. The X-Men are barely able to escape the exploding base in time.
One funny thing about this issue was that the cops riding with Professor X in the helicopter kept remarking about how he was being so quiet and just staring at things (because obviously he was being psychic at things, but they didn’t know that). I’ve never been so interested in why a quiet person is being quiet that I had loud conversations about it DIRECTLY NEXT TO THEM AS IF THEY WEREN’T THERE. People are really weird in comic books.
The X-Men #15, Dec. 1965
Smilin’ Stan Lee, writer
Jolly Jack Kirby, designer
Jovial Jay Gavin, penciller
Darlin’ Dick Ayers, inker
Adorable Artie Simek, letterer
Man, the Sentinels are really shitty this early on. I mean, it’s kind of a neat thing that they’re dumb robots and have to follow their programming, which means if something unexpected happens they just do nothing or go ask someone else what to do… But you’d think if they were designed to kill mutants then that would be something they wouldn’t be confused about.
The X-Men go through the Sentinels’ hidden underground base to rescue Beast and Iceman, whom they’ve captured. They’ve also captured Bolivar Trask, the guy who designed the Sentinels, and want to force him to make more of them. Except… he only made the Master Mold, who is a big Sentinel and I guess only him can make more guys. SO WHY CAPTURE THIS GUY IN THE FIRST PLACE?! They also put Beast under some memory ray or something and we get to hear his origin story: he was born a mutant. Oh. Well then.
With few exceptions, the origin stories of the X-Men are pretty boring. I mean, that’s kinda the whole point, they’re just born different and weird and that’s the basis for pretty much most of their stories. Yeah, this is a dumb issue and not a whole hell of a lot happens in it.
The X-Men #14, Nov. 1965
Stan Lee, D.S. (Doctor of Story)
Jack Kirby, D.L. (Dean of Layout)
Jay Gavin, M.A. (Master of Art)
V. Colletta, B.I. (Bachelor of Inking)
Artie Simek, T.O.L. (Tired Of Lettering)
With this issue, The X-Men starts being published monthly (instead of bi-monthly), so that means a whole bunch more mutie goodness. Well, as good as the 60’s X-Men gets, anyway. I know it seems like I’m pretty harsh on the X-Men at this point, but that’s just because I’m comparing it to the much more successful 80’s X-Men stuff that I grew up with, and frankly this early team just doesn’t hold a candle to it.
The X-Men have recovered from their tense fight with Juggernaut last time, and take a well-deserved vacation. Unfortunately, it’s going to be cut short, as Professor X decides to debate staunch anti-mutant anthropologist Dr. Bolivar Trask on TV. Things go awry when Trask brings out his newest creations, a phalanx of giant robots named Sentinels, who are built to protect humanity from mutants.
Unfortunately, the Sentinels figure the best way to protect humanity is to enslave it, and they take Trask back to their hideout so he can make more of them. The X-Men try to fight one of the Sentinels, but only win when it falls over on its own volition. Professor X traces its homing beacon back to the hideout and the team arrives at a pleasant hill… which rises up out of the ground and starts shooting lasers at them!
The Sentinels are one of the X-Men’s classic enemies, which return to menace them nearly as often as Magneto does (except I don’t think they ever team up with the X-Men). They’re extremely Kirby-esque, even if all he did was the layouts of the issue. Something about that big face in a huge helmet, that’s just one of the things he really liked doing. The Sentinels are kinda like lil’ Darkseid babies.