Impressive handling of subplots
Roy Thomas further develops some of the subplots from previous issues and introduces new ones. I have to say I am impressed at the numerous threads weaved into the tapestry of a single issue. The one flaw of the issue its lack of character development for Warren. But I'll get to that later.
Subpot #1: In the previous issue, the Angel was blasted by Cyclops in mid-combat. This issue deals with the consequences of the incident. Warren is first seen with one of his shoulders and his entire chest area bandaged. But the Beast assures that Warren's mutant "recuperative powers" (healing factor) ensure his eventual recovery. But his wings are in a worse state. With Xavier recognizing that their "tendons and ligaments" have been damaged and the very real threat that they might never heal.
Cyclops is guilt-ridden at almost killing one of the persons who trusted him. He is also plagued by self-doubt. Was this an accident or the result of a subconscious desire to kill his rival? Several pages later we learn that Scott is motivated to resign from his position as field leader of the X-Men.
This is quite a significant issue for the development of Cyclops. While we are often reminded that his blasts are powerful, this is the first story which actually features someone severely injured by them. Second, self-doubt was long part of Cyclops' personality. But guilt and anguish are rather new. Perhaps a first attempt at psychological depth?
Subplot #2: Cerebro has finally located a "new mutant menace". Later, Xavier and the three active X-Men (Beast, Cyclops, Iceman) are seen on further improving Cerebro. Xavier cryptically comments "It's been some time since we last discovered a mutant threat --- and now, I think I know why!" Hinting at something or someone interfering with Cerebro's ability to locate mutants.
Thomas uses the internal history of the series to create a subplot. Bravo! The series had not introduced any new mutant for quite a while. The last one was Unus, introduced back in #8 (November, 1964). The story essentially seeks a reason for this lack of mutants. This new subplot leads to the "Factor Three" storyline which is introduced here and lasts to #39 (December, 1967). Foreshadowing is a narrative device readers haven't seen in a while.
Subplot #3: The developing relationship between Jean Grey and Ted Roberts at Metro college. They keep spending their free time together and are getting closer. Ted was a recent addition to the supporting cast and hadn't really received much attention. Here we get to see a couple of new aspects of him.
The first is Ted's obvious athletic skills which so impress Jean. She hasn't seen a non-powered individual achieve so much. But Jean also starts seeing behind Roberts' seemingly playful personality. She questions him on his constant need to push himself hard. Ted admits that he is trying to escape the shadow of his older brother Ralph. "No matter where I go --- what I do--- I'm always in his shadow!"
Ted seems haunted by the idea of his brother and obviously takes his problems with him, wherever he goes. A surprisingly poignant idea and a decent look at the psyche of the character. This mention of Ralph also foreshadows the introduction of Ralph Roberts in #31 (April, 1967).
Subplot #4: A lab accident helps Calvin Rankin recover his memory and powers. Gone is the relatively friendly college student, back is the conceited creep. He is anxious to meet the X-Men again and taste their powers. A bit predictable but it certainly leads to a new development.
Subplot #5: The Puppet Master attempts to regain control over Professor X, wishing to manipulate the X-Men against the Fantastic Four. This follows a half-forgotten plot point from "Fantastic Four" vol. 1 #28 (July, 1964). That Phillip Masters knows what Xavier looks like and what his rolewith the X-Men is. His first attempt to regain control fails. Xavier using a "mental screen" to avoid falling under control.
But the issue later has Masters keeping surveillance over first Metro College and then the Xavier Mansion. Allowing to take over not Xavier but the Mimic. This also leaves Phillip as one of the relatively few villains who knows what the X-Men look like out of costume (except the Angel) and has an idea of where they live. Pretty good material for establishing Phillip as a major threat to the team.
Subplot #6: Professor X realizes that that X-Men are dangerously understaffed with Warren out of action and Jean as a part-time member (only on weekends). Deciding to go on a recruitment drive. Which as another thing we hadn't seen in a while. A pretty intriguing idea. Potential recruits include Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man and the Human Torch. Which allows for guest appearances obviously.
Xavier locates Pietro and Wanda somewhere in Europe, retraining themselves at the use of their powers. This follows a subplot from "Avengers" vol. 1 #30 (July, 1966) where the twins had realized that their powers were at the weakest and took a leave of absence. They has since been seen in a hand full cameos. The Maximoffs reject the recruitment offer with Pietro explaining "We are full-fledged Avengers --- and it is ever as Avengers that we shall stand ---or fall." Touching loyalty. And also anticipating their return to action in "Avengers" vol. 1 #36-37 (January-February, 1967).
Spider-Man has a busy schedule apparently. He is seen subduing a gang of bank robbers in less than thirty seconds (!!!) taking their photos and preparing to rush towards the offices of the Daily Bugle. His reaction to the recruitment offer is one of the most amusing lines of the issue: "You gotta be kiddin'" Hank and Robet are left wondering why does Spidey get photos of his enemies. So much for secrecy. Xavier fails to even locate Johhny Storm for some reason.
When the Mimic approaches the X-Men, Xavier is in desperate need of recruits. Which is how Mimic finds himself to be the newest X-Men and Cyclops' replacement as field leader. This is a historic moment of the X-Men ranks getting an addition for the first time. But its funny that this is more an act of desperation than a conscious choice.
Subplot #7: The issue tries hard to establish Mimic as a master fighter, using his powers in more creative ways than the X-Men and outperforming Cyclops as a strategist. But Thomas tries to add some redeeming values to the former villain.
While under the influence of the Puppet Master, Calvin ruthlessly knocks out opponents. Because he has no problem with that concept. When asked to kill, Calvin draws his proverbial line in the sand and escapes control. The text points that the Mimic pretty much hates the idea of becoming a "murderer". The finale also introduces self-doubt in his mind : "I'm sentenced forever to live only in the shadow of other men's powers ... other men's abilities! Nothing is truly mine! "
A bit heavy-handed but enough to depict Mimic as more than another megalomaniac villain.
For those interested in superhero costumes. The issue offers a redesign of the X-Men's uniforms. In-story the new suits are supposed to be creations of Jean. Her own costume is now more feminine and low-necked. Past issues alternated between a domino mask and a full-head mask for Jean. This issue reintroduces the domino mask. The main effect is allowing her hair to flow freely. For the male X-Men, the are a few more areas of black in the uniforms. The most prominent new feature are red belts.
The main flaw of the issue for me was Warren. Warren almost died, Warren is in danger of being crippled. We get to find how Cyclops feels about it, how Xavier feels about it. What we don't get is to see how Warren feels. These ought to be traumatic events. Secondly, the issue has Warren rescue the X-Men and defeating Puppet Master. By depicting a half-dead and sedated Warren driving his car to the battlefield, falling on Phillip and then collapsing. The story seems to be trying to make a point about heroism. Honestly, I was left wondering if Warren has some kind of death wish.