Archive for May, 2010

The X-Men #19

May 31, 2010

Stan Lee // Werner Roth
April 1966
**
This one-off hangs entirely upon a villain who mimics the X-Men’s superpowers. The result makes for a good visual (esp. his kooky cubist visor) but a pedestrian plot that never gains energy. Roth, the new regular penciller, lacks a discernible personality & doesn’t diverge from the path Kirby’s laid.
[last issue: X-Men #18]
[next issue: X-Men #20]

The X-Men #18

May 30, 2010

Stan Lee // Werner Roth
March 1966
*
Exit Kirby, & w/ him go any wisps of the team’s personality. Magneto’s back, a lame villain w/ vague motivation (“mutant supremacy”), ill-defined powers, & a silly plan involving sci-fi mutant zombie slaves. Once again, Prof X saves the day, not the teens, thru a particularly bald deux ex machina.
[last issue: The X-Men #17]
[next issue: The X-Men #19]

The X-Men #17

May 29, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby & Werner Roth
February 1966
**
Who is the Mystery Villain? The art contorts itself to hide his ID (it’s Magneto) as he ambushes the team one by one. Aside from a lovely splash of a soaring Angel, this ish meanders towards its death-trap cliffhanger (why slit the team’s throats when you can asphyxiate them in a weather balloon?).
[last issue: X-Men #16]
[next issue: X-Men #18]

The X-Men #16

May 28, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby & Werner Roth
January 1966
****
The grand finale to the excellent Sentinels arc. Tho’ predictable, the action is explosive & breathless and the stakes are dire.  Prof X jams the robots’ radio control, which allows their creator (in a fit of conscience) to destroy the commander center. Oddly, the teen heroes mostly just skirmish.
[last issue: The X-Men #15]
[next issue: The X-Men #17]

The X-Men #15

May 27, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby & Werner Roth
December 1965
****
W/o the social content, this arc turns into a robots-run-amuck B-movie plot. But who cares, w/ Kirby concepts like the Master Mold, a titanic cyber-commander who will protect humanity thru tyranny! There’s also goofy Silver-Age action as the team storms the Sentinel HQ & the Beast gets mind-probed.
[last issue: The X-Men #14]
[next issue: The X-Men #16]

The X-Men #14

May 26, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby & Werner Roth
November 1965
****
Maybe inspired by the new monthly status, the mag has its strongest ish. Lee finds a strong plot-engine in Cold War paranoia. There’s social tension—even political commetary—in the contrast btw. our team’s ordinary lives & the mob’s hysteria, fanned by large racist robots (Sentinels) & the media.
[last issue: The X-Men #13]
[next issue: The X-Men #15]

The X-Men #13

May 25, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby & Werner Roth
September 1965
***
Having provided exposition last ish, #13 is entirely given over to a rumble btw. Juggernaut & the teens, w/ an assist from Johnny Storm. It builds Juggy as a real threat! Plus using a classic 2×3 panel-grid allows for more action than most ’90s comics w/ a similar content-to-story ratio.
[last issue: The X-Men #12]
[next issue: The X-Men #14]

The X-Men #12

May 24, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby & Alex Toth
July 1965
***
#12 benefits from Toth’s shadows, as Kirby provides only layouts for the book. Prof X describes his service in Korea (it was like an Indiana Jones movie), where he & evil step-brother (inauspiciously named Cain) stumbled upon a mystical gem. Now the bro holds a grudge as the unstoppable Juggernaut.
[last issue: The X-Men #11]
[next issue: The X-Men #13]

The X-Men #11

May 23, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
May 1965
**
Five of the first 10 issues had the X-Men competing w/ the Brotherhood to recruit mutants, a formula that’s quickly become rote (neither team added 1 member). So Stan & Jack jettison the plot-engine in this perfunctory encounter w/ a god-like alien who grabs Magneto for scientific study off-planet.
[last issue: The X-Men #10]
[next issue: The X-Men #12]

The X-Men #10

May 22, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
March 1965
***
The X-Men discover a Land That Time Forgot under Antarctica, giving Kirby the opportunity to draw dinosaurs, sabretooth tigers, jungle flora & barbarian hordes. It’s sensational to look at but pretty derivative, esp. the Tarzan rip-off, Ka-Zar (whose comic debut, FYI, was Marvel #1 back in ’39!).
[last issue: The X-Men #9]
[next issue: The X-Men #11]

The X-Men #9

May 21, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
January 1965
**
A limp story despite a gallery of guest stars (all 5 Avengers, fought to a draw). Last ish teased a subterranean showdown btw. Prof. X & Lucifer. But the villain’s no demon, he’s just a generic Marvel megalomaniac whose clever plan involves hooking up a cataclysmic bomb to his beating heart.
[last issue: The X-Men #8]
[next issue: The X-Men #10]

The X-Men #8

May 20, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
November 1964
***
Good: Cyclops displays Spidey-like angst due to the stress of leadership & an unspoken crush on Marvel Girl. Better: the Beast, ticked at humanity’s ingratitude, goes rogue till—like a brawny Reed Richards—he uses his smarts to invent Kirbytech & triumph over an untouchable mutant wrestler/criminal.
[last issue: The X-Men #7]
[last issue: The X-Men #9]

The X-Men #7

May 19, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
September 1964
***
After running bi-monthly for a year, The X-Men celebrates by presenting its teens w/ diplomas. Prof X bows out, leaving behind a marvelous piece of  Kirbytech: Cerebro, a mutant detector. And happily, before yet another brawl w/ Magneto & the Blob, the gang visits a kooky coffeeshop in the Village.
[last issue: The X-Men #6]
[next issue: The X-Men #8]

The X-Men #6

May 18, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
July 1964
**
Lee indulges his hobby of cross-title fertilization w/ The X-Men‘s first guest-star: Namor, the original anti-hero. He’s the focus of the mutant recruitment competition btw. Prof X & Magneto. Buoying a lackluster issue, he characteristically thrashes both sides before stalking back to Atlantis.
[last issue: The X-Men #5]
[next issue: The X-Men #7]

The X-Men #5

May 17, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
May 1964
***
Thrilling comic-book action at a rollicking pace. The teen team once again face Magneto & his Evil Mutants, first in Grand Central Terminal & then on an asteroid pitted w/ deathtraps! Stan & Jack are smoothing out a formula as Kirb offers robust fight sequences & some trippy sights of outer space.
[last issue: The X-Men #4]
[next issue: The X-Men #6]

The X-Men #4

May 16, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
March 1964
****
Stan’n’Jack finally find a peg to hang this book on: the kids clash w/ a rival team, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. It’s led by Magneto, but the real draw is a pair of morally ambiguous siblings who follow Mags cuz he rescued them from an anti-mutant mob in Europe (a coded nod to the Holocaust?).
[last issue: The X-Men #3]
[next issue: The X-Men #5]

The X-Men #3

May 15, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
January 1964
**
The issue duplicates #2 but at a circus. The X-Men fight a mutant whose defensive power—morbid obesity!—require a Prof X mindwipe. But Lee finally supplies the teens w/ 2-D attributes: stoic leader, playboy, teen (ie Johnny Storm redux), girl (oy), &, w/ a touch of irony, a brainy bruiser.
[last issue: The X-Men #2]
[next issue: The X-Men #4]

The X-Men #2

May 14, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
November 1963
**
This team of rambunctious teens hurl themselves everywhere: they don’t walk if they can run. But they’re also rookies who can’t touch their foe, a teleporting criminal in a silly Silver Age costume. So Prof. X steps in, casually wiping the baddy’s mind! It’s the old lesson that brains trump brawn.
[last issue: The X-Men #1]
[next issue: The X-Men #3]

The X-Men #1

May 13, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
September 1963
***
A super-teen strikeforce trains at a private school & foils the plot of a ranting Dr. Doom ripoff. The Big Idea is, they’re all mutants: shorthand for “born with superpowers” & an elegant plot device for generating new chars w/o backstory. Jack dashes off exuberant art but Lee phones in his script.
[next issue: The X-Men #2]

Tales of Suspense #50: Iron Man

May 12, 2010

Stan Lee // Don Heck
February 1964
A-story: *
Why does Lee swap Heck for Ditko just as he’s rolling out a major arch-enemy? The art suffers, esp. a romantic subplot w/ Potts & Hap. Then there’s the Mandarin, a Chinese warlord whose power rings belie his origin in 007 foes (& Dr. Doom, natch). Worst of all: the bucktoothed Asian caricatures.
[last issue: Tales of Suspense #49]
[next issue: Tales of Suspense #51]

Tales of Suspense #49: Iron Man

May 11, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
January 1964
A-story: ***
#49 guests X-Man Angel, turned “evil” by an A-bomb test. Ditko spins the contrived conflict into a drama by making Stark’s Achilles Heel the key to the issue’s climax. Some lovely aerial combat exhausts the Iron Man suit’s batteries, a near-fatal design failure that shocks Angel back to goodness.
[last issue: Tales of Suspense #48]
[next issue: Tales of Suspense #50]

Tales of Suspense #48: Iron Man

May 10, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
December 1963
A-story: ****
Ditko whips up the best IM story so far, adding depth to the hero’s psyche thru pain. When Stark runs low on juice, he’s kayoed for hours; when he’s tortured by a mind-control puppeteer (not this one), he doesn’t flinch. Plus a taut 3-page sequence shows Stark don a new suit: red & gold, a Ditko classic!
[last issue: Tales of Suspense #47]
[next issue: Tales of Suspense #49]

Tales of Suspense #47: Iron Man

May 8, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
November 1963
A-story: ***
Iron Man‘s stock is up presumably, since Stan assigns himself & Ditko to take over. In Dit’s version, the gold IM armor is an early ’60s American car: plenty of horsepower under sleek bulk. The plot’s also typical of the Silver Age, w/ a sci-fi thug in garish outfit w/ the ability to melt metal.
[last issue: Tales of Suspense #46]
[next issue: Tales of Suspense #48]

Tales of Suspense #46: Iron Man

May 7, 2010

Stan Lee & Robert Bernstein // Don Heck
October 1963
A-story: ****
Iron Man finally finds its voice in this taut parable of anti-Soviet propaganda pitting Stark against his Commie counterpart, the Crimson Dynamo. Their face-off ends not in violent victory but in epiphany, as the Soviet scientist defects to join Stark’s team. Plus, his stocky red armor is a treat.
[last issue: Tales of Suspense #45]
[next issue: Tales of Suspense #47]

Tales of Suspense #45: Iron Man

May 6, 2010

Stan Lee & Robert Bernstein // Don Heck
September 1963
A-story: ***
To support Stark’s adventuring, Lee & co. add a freckled admin asst. (“Pepper” Potts) & an ex-pug dogsbody w/ Beatrice/Benedick chemistry. Heck’s creative juices are beginning to flow, & his work is more energetic & confident: a spiky ice-villain trumps Kirby’s frosty Iceman, debuting the same month.
[last issue: Tales of Suspense #44]
[next issue: Tales of Suspense #46]

Tales of Suspense #44: Iron Man

May 5, 2010

Stan Lee & Robert Bernstein // Don Heck
August 1963
A-story: *
An inane story out of the execrable Gardner Fox playbook hurls the hero back to Cleopatra’s Egypt via magic, a plot device that plays against the book’s techno theme. Iron Man defends the queen’s throne from a sorcerer, pitting transistorized gadgets against an army of chariots. Disappointingly chaste.
[last issue: Tales of Suspense #43]
[next issue: Tales of Suspense #45]

Tales of Suspense #43: Iron Man

May 4, 2010

Stan Lee & Robert Bernstein // Jack Kirby
July 1963
A-story: ***
Still lacking a distinctive tone or theme, Lee & co. toss Iron Man into yet another Silver Age plot & undermine it w/ sexism. An imperious Kirby queen, aiming to expand her underground empire, kidnaps Stark for his techno talents. Kirby invents farfetched weaponry for IM to use in battle.
[last issue: Tales of Suspense #42]
[next issue: Tales of Suspense #44]

Tales of Suspense #42: Iron Man

May 3, 2010

Stan Lee & Robert Bernstein // Don Heck
June 1963
A-story: **
Heck gives Iron Man a mature feel that’s closer to Infantino’s cool than to Kirby’s dynamism. He adds tension to this thriller, tho’ he doesn’t energize a formulaic story. Stark busts up a spy ring & out-maneuvers a Red master-of-disguise to keep his latest weapons tech out of Soviet hands.
[last issue: Tales of Suspense #41]
[next issue: Tales of Suspense #43]

Tales of Suspense #41: Iron Man

May 2, 2010

Stan Lee & Robert Bernstein // Jack Kirby
May 1963
A-story: **
Kirby gives Iron Man a touch of the trog: stocky build, brute strength. But mostly this actioner follows the forms of the genre: a megalomaniac holds the world hostage from his secret base. A bigger problem is that Lee & Kirby can’t find a way to play Stark’s playboy genius against his alter ego.
[last issue: Tales of Suspense #40]
[next issue: Tales of Suspense #42]