Spotlight on the Quist
Well, this is Roy Thomas' first issue on the X-Men. The good news is that he has clearly done his howework on the series and starts with restoring some old foes to power. He also seems full with ideas. The bad news is that they don't exactly make a coherent whole.
The issue certainly has a promising start. The Blob and Unus are robbing a bank in broad daylight. While dressed as X-Men, framing their foes for the crime. That distinctive uniform of the team is now finally exploited by their enemies. Bystanders are aware that these two haven't made an appearance in press photos of the X-Men. But simply figure that they are new recruits.
Blob gets to perform some feats of super-strength, like demolishing a vault door single-handedly and crash the handgun of a security guard. Both mutants gleefully point out that they are bulletproof. An arriving police unit attacks them and fails to even scratch them, much less stop them from escaping. Nice to know they still have it. Blob has not been seen since issue #7, Unus since #8.
The scene shifts to Xavier Mansion. Scott is seen packing up his suitcsase. He has decided to leave the X-Men, searching for a way to lose or effectively control his powers. This follows up a scene from #7 where Scott noted this was among his lans. The sublot was ignored until now. Meanwhile the rest of the X-Men are enjoying some free time. Until a televised news report concerning the bank robbery alerts them to the existence of X-Men imposters. They try to inform Xavier, only to learn he is way ahead of them. He has programmed his new version of Cerebro to locate and identify the new threats. The two old foes are soon identified.
So far, so good. Then the messy plotting begins. Professor X concludes that Blob and Unus aren't working alone. There is certainly an unseen "third entity" who masterminded the plot. Which somehow comes off as an insult to the villains. Nobody claimed they were geniouses but unable to rob a bank and perform a half-decent frame job on their own? At this moment, Jean is the first to realize there is one X-Man missing. Robert goes to check for the missing Cyclops and returns with a goodbye note left at Mr. Summers' vacant room. Xavier notes that Scott had "seemed terribly distraught these past few weeks". No explanation of why Charlie never bothered to ask Scott about his problems. Nor is anyone attempting to go search for Cyclops. He is on his own for now.
Xavier is too busy listing their old foes, trying to decide who is the mastermind behind the imposters: Magneto, Vanisher, Mastermind, Sub-Mariner, Juggernaut and the Sentinels. He somehow concludes that none of them are involved. The culprit is a forgotten foe. Not someone utterly forgettable. Someone who set up a "mental screen" to prevent the X-Men of thinking about him. Really? Couldn't the team have forgotten about a lesser foe without needing a complex explanation? Couldn't the foe Xavier is seeking be a new member of their rogues' gallery?
In any case, the next panel reveals that the forgotten foe is Lucifer. Not seen since #9 and not particularly memorable either. Flashbacks narrate how he affected Blob and Unus. Unus has apparently quit the wrestling scene and joined a circus. Offering $100 who can last three minutes wrestling with him. Blob and his carnival see the newcomers as competition. With Blob deciding to take up the challenge. They fight each other to a standstill, each invulnerable to any attack. Blob wins his prize. But by then they realize they are both mutants. They arrange a private discussion to find out they have more in common. They do, a common grudge against the X-Men. Nothing extraordinary there. But Lucifer assures us it was his behind-the-scenes mental influence which planted the ideas in these two minds.
Back in the present, Cyclops encounters the imposters by chance. Noting that the duo strengthen anti-mutant sentiment among the New York crowds, Scott decides it is his duty to stop them. He is trying to explaine to everyone that these two are phonies. Instead the other two are acting as if they are all partners, having a minor difference in opinion. The crowd chooses to believe the worse of any mutant and soon sents Cyclops running. Lucifer is confused. He had hoped his pawns would lure all X-Men out of hiding, not just one. At that moment Angel, Beast and Iceman arrive at the scene. They still have to face the two imposters and an angry crowd. Cyclops chooses the moment to rejoin them. Winning the day by destroying the ground below Blob and Unus, senting the two villains right on top of a speeding train. Where was the train heading and where did the two end up remains unknown. These two won't be seen for a while, until #37 that is.
Lucifer notes that Xavier has finally started locating him. But unleashes a mental attack which leaves the professor unable to use his body. Xavier has finally recognized his enemy and starts narrating to Jean their past history. The narrative has a young Xavier entering a fortified city in Tibed and discovering the inhabitants have long been enslaved by an unseen force. He recruits some of the most rebelious elements to start a regular uprising against said force, Lucifer. They invade his headquarters to encounter a series of death traps. They barely survive a hand full of them and Lucifer has more. But the Supreme One, his commander, has registered the destruction of machinery and estimates it would be cheaper for Lucifer to retreat and abandon the city. Lucifer complies but not before crippling Xavier.
Back at present, the rest of the X-Men return. Jean passes instruction to Beast for the construction of a device shielding the Professor from Lucifer's attacks. Allowing him to use his body again. All six X-Men then board their new jet to fly to their foe.
Blob and Unus are arguably at their best, easily facing any foe and doing a hell of a job in ruining the reputation of their foes. Lucifer is given a backstory, a rather impressive arsenal of weapons and an agenda which makes sense, at least if aliens conquering the world makes sense. We get our first good look at the Quist, briefly seen before as enemies of Uatu the Watcher. These aliens race will end up as minor but persistant foes for multiple marvel heroes over the years.
But the public relations disaster and alien world-conqueror subplots don't fit each other very well. The plot of Cyclops running away is discarded within a few pages and doesn't really affect any character. The Xavier-led Tibet rebelion seems to enjoy an easy victory. With not much explanation of why it would be best for Lucifer to loose his long-held base rather than have a hand full of machinery destroyed. The purpose of having Xavier unable to move or speak if he can still communicate telepathically is unclear. Thomas also pays attention to the Jean-Scott drama. With a rather ineffectual scene. Near the finale, the X-Men are talking and Cyclops more or less orders Jean to shut up. Leading her to conclude that he still doesn't care of her. It might have worked, if there was a proper set-up. Instead it seems to come out of nowhere.