byzantine's The X-Men #14 - Among Us Stalk... the Sentinels! review

Anti-mutant paranoia reaches new heights.

Well this is it. Anti-mutant paranoia stops being a subplot and becomes one of the main themes in this series.  There were certainly previous issues leading to this point. #4 introduced the concept that normal humans both fear and hate mutants. Having a flashback where Magneto saves Scarlet Witch from a mob about to lynch her. Toad got his own share of such loving fans in #5, as did Beast and Iceman in #8. The concept of Homo sapiens viewing Homo superior as the "enemy within" was also mentioned back in #8.  
 
What changed? All these scenes were brief, taking place in one or two pages. Then it was back to the same old plot: the X-Men against various "evil" mutants. Humanity could fear and rage but really had little effect on our various mutants. In this issue the predictions of Bolivar Trask, that mutants could actually conquer and enslave mainstream humanity, give the United States press enough material to spread the fear and hatred. Almost like an epidemic. The lynch mobs are about to become much more often and in time more violent.  
 
 It is a great concept. Too bad the Sentinels take center stage before it can be properly explored. To be honest this is a pet peeve of mine with this issue. Subplots and new characters are introduced, dealt with in a panel or two and then vanish. 
*Let us start with the very first page. Angel, Beast, Cyclops, and Iceman are still recuperating from their injuries, received at the hands of the Juggernaut. Warren has to exercise his wings and manage to fly again. The typically agile Beast has to walk with crutches. Scott has been slowly building up the energy reserves to fire his beam again. Robert has been using an Ice-intensifier to get his powers working properly again. Beast gets to express his frustration at being stuck like this. Could this serve to introduce quiet, contemplative scenes about the characters realizing their mortality? Absolutely not. They are back and about by the next page. With Hank instantly going from limping to performing acrobatics. Wolverine's healing factor has nothing on the Beast's. 
 
*Xavier decides to give his team a much needed vacation. With each X-Man leaving the Mansion for a while. Special attention is payed to how Hank, Scott and Warren hide their physical mutations. With Warren giving readers an elent of his back story. His wings grew while he was attending military school, forcing to quit before taking a physical examination. His parents still haven't noticed his wings. Anyway, this gives readers the first opportunity to see the X-men having some free time since #7-8. We haven't even seen the entire team out of costume since #9.  
 
*Jean is taking a train to her unspecified destination. This would be a good chance to see her parents again and hopefully establish her family background. But this apparently never occured to the writer. When the X-Men are called back to action, she is seen still on the train. She manages to telekinetically bring Warren to her location, thus saving him from a large group of Sentinels. There is one interesting change in Jean in this issue. She has been able to levitate individuals and objects with varying ease since #1. But this is the first issue which has her levitating herself, simulating flying. She mentions it took months of practice to manage it and it is only for short distances.  
 
*Warren drives his Mustang to Lomg Island, paying a long-delayed visit to his parents.Hinted in previous issues to be financially well-to do, this is the story which really introduces the wealth of the Worthingtons. They live "in a luxurious estate on the fashionable north shore of Long Island", a butler and connections to the Junior League. The latter being an educationaland charitable women's organization whose members have included several high-profile socialites since its foundation in 1901. His parents are really looking forward to having Warren around again. They are understandably dissappointed when he has to leave. But his father lets him know that they trust him to take his own decisions. Too bad the only family scene of the book gets two panels to develop.  
 
*Hank and Robert decide to spend their vacation in New York City. Naturally this has them return to their favorite Greenwich Village coffee house. Unnamed back in #7, here it is dubbed Coffee A-Go-Go. Cute reference to the New York nightclub scene of the 1960s. Zelda and Bernard the Poet make their second appearances. Zelda is curious where the guys were for the previous few months. She teases them about how little mone they are spending between them, a reference to their rather tight budget. Robert wastes no time to ask her on a date. Before sparks can fly, Xavier calls them and the two X-Men leave in haste. Leaving a very annoyed Zelda, who got the impression Robert was toying with her. Ouch. Hank gets a good line while changing to costume in a back alley, feeling that a phone booth would be more faithful to the super-hero code. A reference to Superman who often changed clothes in a phone booth. There seems to be a pattern developing in the Coffee House scenes. Hank gets to joke with the patrons, Robert gets to flirt with Zelda and then the duo has to make a quick exit. Too bad because the scenes are comedic highlights and seem to be the only times these twoare getting any character development.  
 
*Scott is being mysterious. He has not really informed the other X-Men where he is heading. He declines invitations from Hank and Robert to join them, as usual isolating himself from the others. His lack of a social life and being a loner within the team is a major theme with him. As he leaves the Xavier Mansion last, Charles contemplates the nature of this student. "He carries his loneliness silently -- locked inside him ! And nothing that anyone can say or do will help! I, of all people, know the pain of such loneliness -- the ache that seems unending!" Which adds a good dramatic dimension to both leaders. Not that there is much explanation of why they never seek companionship. Their problems semm self-inflicted. 
 
*The Sentinels really get the poorest characterization. The conflict between a creator (in this case Trask) and his/her sentient creations is nothing new. Neither is their demand to have their creator built additional individuals like them. Both elements were also present in "Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus" (1818) by Mary Shelley and had been adopted by numerous horror and science fiction stories since then. Robots rebelling or striving to take over the world were also an old concept in comic books. What is missing is an actual sense the Sentinels are unique. Xavier gets to read the mind of a Sentinel and gets a glimpse of its home. And that is about it for establishing them as sentient creatures.  
 
Decent issue, great concepts but ieverything seems so rushed.

1 Comments
Posted by cbishop

This needs a little bit of editing for typos, and it looks like a paragraph break was closed up, at "*Let's start with the very first page."  Otherwise, nice review - I didn't know where the mutant paranoia actually started.

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