byzantine's The X-Men #28 - The Wail of the Banshee review

That was a bit clumsy

This issue is famous for the introductions of Banshee/Sean Cassidy, the Ogre/Brian Dunlap and a basic introduction to the Factor Three organization. While there is some pretty good material here, I was rather surprised at the clumsy way it is handled. Roy Thomas could certainly do better.  
 
The Good: 
  
- Sean is basically a living sonic weapon whose sound waves can shatter solid objects at certain frequencies. And cause humans to collapse on the ground. 
 
- Brian has some basic powers of technological villains, mainly flight and a device which blasts opponents. But his moves allow him to overcome multiple opponents and the guy throws a decent punch.  
 
- The character dynamic of the X-Men has taken a decent turn. Professor X has started relying on Mimic in combat situations. Calvin relies on the Professor to extend the range and use on his powers. He is not subservient to Xavier like the others. He has little to no affection for his teammates and an apparent need to show off.  He really comes alive in combat situations, though partly motivated by attempts to taste the powers of his enemies. 
 
- The other X-Men do not particularly care for Calvin. With Scott being his most vocal critic. But even Cyclops has to admit that Calvin has his uses. 
 
_ Jean is tired of being overlooked and points out her own role to both her allies and their opponents. An early attempt to give her her own voice?  
 
-Foreshadowing is still at work. Ted Roberts lets Jean (and the readers) know some facts about his brother Ralph. "My brother Ralph is the family pride and and joy! Everything he does turns out a success! ... How can I ever hope to compete with him?" That we are going to meet the brother seems certain. 
 
- Foreshadowing #2: Cyclops enters the cellar of the Mansion on an errant. And notes "a heavy oaken door" which Xavier has kept locked for quite a while. Without telling his students why. There is more to that little scene than simply posing a question on what is Xavier hiding. It reminds readers at how secretive Xavier actually is.  
 
The bad: 
 
-Lets begin with the most obvious problem. What is a banshee? Etymologically it seems to derive from the Irish term "bean sidhe". "Bean" is an Irish Gaelic term for "woman". "Sidhe"/" sí"/ "shee"/ "sith"/"sidh" are all Irish and Scottish variants of the Gaelic term for a supernatural race living " underground in the fairy mounds". The mounds being ancient burial mounds, which might point to them being originally ancestral ghosts. Often translated to English as "Elves" or "Fairies" though the terms have somewhat different connotations. So the implication is "Woman of the Sidhe".  
 
In Irish and Scottish legends, banshees lament the death of important people. Either at the time of the death, or prematurely as an omen of an event about to happen. They may take different guises, though they are either portrayed as "frightening hags" or "beautiful" women/girls.  
 
So, by the title "The Wail of the Banshee", readers ought to expect: a new female character and/or that someone important is about to die. What we do get is a red-haired guy who apparently likes introducing himself as a woman. It immediately undermines all the legendary connotations and makes the character quite laughable.  
 
The story goes that Roy Thomas intended to introduce a female opponent for the X-Men. But Stan Lee convinced him to change the Banshee to a male character. his thoughts on the subject being that male villains were taken more seriously than female ones. Nice to know how sexist the 1960s were, but this certainly doesn't make the story seem any better.  
 
- The second page has the implication that Sean might be an actual immortal. One that is not familiar with modern civilization. His lines of monologue include "these mortal fools" and "How could these puny humans -- who dwell among the smoke and noise they call civilization". Later pages reveal that Sean is just another mutant, mortal and presumably originating from the British Islands. Which, being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, have their own experiences of air pollution and plenty of noise. 
 
-There is the matter of the vanishing Angel. Warren is depicted as still injured, with a hand placed on a sling. He is still in uniform though and does take part in various scenes. He is last seen in page #10, conversing with Xavier. A couple of pannels later, Banshee invades that room. Warren is nowhere to be found. He is neither seen or mentioned for the rest of the issue. An issue where the battles take place within the Mansion and its yard.   
 
-The first scene involving the Ogre introduces the Factor Three subplot and explains that these two local operatives were supposed to locate the headquarters of the X-Men. The second that their main mission is the abduction Professor X. The Ogres keeps pointing the stealthy approach they need for their mission.  
 
Yeah right. That is why Banshee is out there raiding art galleries and tobacco shops. Making the local news by the effects of his wail on people. First by knocking out everyone in the vicinity of a heist. Then leaving them with a fear of high-pitched sounds as a result. Television and radio are constantly broadcasting on the subject. It might be slow news day, but somehow these throws caution out of a window. Whats the point? 
 
- Cerebro takes the spotlight this issue, constantly signaling about the activities of the Banshee. So we get ridiculous lines such as "That sound--- it means a mutant is in the New York area right now!" and "Not even Magneto made the machine react more strongly".  
 
Cerebro never indicates which mutant is their target. For all we know, Quicksilver is just doing his morning jogging. Mutants may be rare in the Marvel Universe of the 1960s. But really, the presence of a single mutant in the New York area signals alarms? What does the comparison with Magneto mean. That he is more powerful, makes more noise or just an attempt to establish Banshee as a big gun? 
 
-Over in Metro College, Jean Grey hears about the Banshee-related events in the news and decides to respond. So far, so good. But the only clues she has is that Banshee has stolen "a Scottish painting --- and some imported tobacco". Which alerts her that this could be "the mutant menace which Professor X has been expecting".  
 
Wait a minute, Sherlock. How many super-villains are active by this point? The X-Men have faced more than their share of mutates and guys who simulate superpowers through technological means. What exactly points to the new face being a mutant? As opposed to  Mysterio , for example, going through his shopping list? 
 
- In the first battle of the issue, Banshee invades the Xavier Mansion through a window and knocks out Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, ?Mimic and Professor X. The X-Men are at his mercy. Its the Silver Age, so he can't just shoot them. But why doesn't he tie them up. He simply leaves the Mansion, signaling the Ogre to come collect Xavier. 
 
Let me rephrase that. Most of the X-Men with their headquarters are in his hands. But he retreat. Something doesn't add up. 
 
- The Ogre similarly pays no attention to the fallen X-Men. He simply ties up Xavier and carries him out of the door. Stupid minds think alike. He is stopped by jean who seems to have just arrived at the Mansion. Lets see we have here a powerful telekinetic who has brought dinosaurs to the ground. What can she do to a common man? Apparently nothing. She simply uses a tree branch to trip him off his feet. 
 
The Ogre starts blasting at her, forcing her to retreat. Hank, Robert and Scott arrive to help her. The Ogre simply flies up and points his blasters at them. All three boys are shot. Mimic arrives as the last opponent of the guy. The Ogre stops using gadgets and applies his boxing skills to the Calvin's chin. A complete victory, right? 
 
No. The X-Men stand back on their feet. The Ogre pointing that their "mutant powers" prevented them from getting knocked out. Since when does the powers of anyone involved include invulnerability? The Ogre summons Banshee to cover his retreat. He runs away on foot. Claiming that the girl (Jean) damaged his boots. Too bad, Brian did all that flying AFTER his encounter with Jean.  
 
-The X-Men win their rematch with Banshee thanks to Professor X duplicating the Ogre's ear shields. Amazing! (sarcasm). Since he can't hypnotize them, he is helpless. Hmmm... didn't he wreck metal objects before. Why doesn't he use his powers on the objects around him. He could easily use them as ammunition. 
 
-By this point, the X-Men are on full alert, waiting for the return of the Ogre. Who simply walks in through the front door. Which they had left open and unguarded. I wouldn't certainly hate to see what the security of the Mansion is when there isn't an alarm.  
 
Anyway, the Ogre knocks out Grey, McCoy, Roberts and Xavier. Then uses his weapon in an attempt to kill ... the Banshee. If that weapon can kill, why don't you just kill the X-Men?  Leaving your personal rivalries for later.  
 
He is then stopped by Summers, his escape attempt thwarted by Rankin. 
 
-The final battle is supposed to be the Mimic's chance to really sign. Instead it makes the character sound like a complete idiot. At this point Mimic has access to the combined powers of the Angel, Banshee, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Marvel Girl and Professor X. But only tries to uses his new Banshee-like powers.  
 
Then, with a supreme effort,  the Mimic combines some of his powers to overcome his opponent. The problem here is obvious. Combining powers is what the Mimic does best. Why the heck is it treated as his last resort?  
 
The issue ends with the fates of Banshee and the Ogre undetermined. The X-Men apparently don't press them for information. Sean is next seen in "X-Men" vol. 1 #35 (August, 1967). Brian is next seen in "Thunderbolts" vol. 1 #28 (July, 1999). His personal history in the intervening years is explored in #33 (December, 1999). 

1 Comments
Posted by Uncas007

Well said.

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    Good Start, Bad Finish 0

    Once again, Roy Thomas shows he can come up with some fairly interesting ideas, yet he doesn't quite know how to bring them to a satisfactory conclusion. This is especially confusing considering his impressive demonstration of his knowledge of Marvel characters and issues - yet he can't seem to remember what happens in the issue he is writing by the time he gets to the conclusion. Banshee is a great creation, despite his misnomer and the fact he looks 60 years old for most of the issue (aided no...

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