byzantine's The X-Men #36 - Mekano Lives! review

Daddy issues

There is a certain charm in this issue, while it deals with a classic trope of Marvel's 1960s tales. That is, when the protagonist(s) are in desperate need of money and mere heroics won't save the day. Or as Cyclops puts it: "Even mutants have to eat".

But there is a reason Mekano remains a mostly forgotten villain, only appearing in flashbacks and works dealing with even the minor foes of the X-Men. He isn't a very exciting character. Neither his costume, nor his powers make him stand out from Marvel's crowd of villains. But it is probably his motivation for starting a super-villain career which makes him a joke.

Some villains would like to hold the world in their hands. Others are motivated by violent passions and/or obsessions. The average mercenary is in it for a decent paycheck. A few may be misguided idealists. But Mekano is basically a kid with daddy issues, calling out for his father's attention. Not particularly inspiring, right? Basically a bit ridiculous.

There are other aspects which make this issue interesting. Too bad they are typically overshadowed by that guy on the cover:

The good:

- The issue begins with two generic burglars breaking into the Xavier Mansion. Getting to face the Beast in combat and being captured. Decent enough material. But then a peculiar scene follows. Cyclops decides to connect the guys with Cerebro. Which here basically works as a mind-control device.

The burglars forget their entry into the Mansion and their encounter with their X-Men. They are also forced to obey a post-hypnotic suggestion. Which makes two "glassy-eyed" figures walk into the nearest police station and start confessing every crime they had committed within the last decade!

A ruthlessly efficient way for the X-Men to make their problems go away. Also quite reminiscent of the way Professor X handled the Vanisher. But this is arguably the first time Cerebro is used as a weapon.

- The basic problem of the resident mutants is their lack of funds. Their private jet is intact, but empty of fuel. They have access to the entire Mansion and the private Rolls-Royce of Xavier. But not to his bank accounts, nor can they legally sell anything. Even Warren admits to having less than 40 dollars on his person.

Which is a close enough look at their financial situation, previously only mentioned in scenes involving Hank and Robert's dates with Vera and Zelda.

- The scene where Angel, Cyclops and Marvel Girl (in costume) apply for employment in a construction crew is arguably the most memorable in the issue. Not only for its amusement value. It helps establish a couple of things.

First, the power level of Miss Grey. She manages to telekinetically lift three large metallic girders at the same time. Raising them from the ground to the top of a construction site. With Warren helpfully pointing that the days where Jean could only lift her own weight are gone.

Second, mutant-human relations are finally examined. The foreman of the crew mentions the public perception of mutant and his own doubt for it. "A lotta people claim all you muties are a menace ... But I never quite swallowed that!" He is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Which is unusual enough for the X-Men.

The X-Men only loose this job when they learn that they have to join a labor union first. And that it could take a few days to get their own union cards. They are in too much of a hurry for that. But basically they have just met a guy who is willing to work with them.

- The scenes with Mekano are rather generic. Far more interesting are scenes involving a couple of overzealous police officers. Which reveal the other side of the coin in mutant-human relations. Beast and Iceman are performing for an audience, basically offering fun in exchange for money. The two cops are immediately suspicious of the mutants. Not outright hostile only because they can't think of a law violated yet.

Once Mekano identifies the performers as his friends, we get treated to an interesting scene. The two cops attack Iceman, put handcuffs on him and basically leave him incapacitated for the rest of the issue. They are next seen threatening Cyclops and Angel with their handguns. Until Marvel Girl disarms them both. A few pages later, our two cops are all too eager to once again assault the mutant "hoodlums". While paying little attention to Mekano.

All scenes pointing to how the X-Men are viewed by the authorities: costumed criminals.

- The final panel establishes that the Changeling maintains surveillance over the X-Men. With Kevin specifically mentioning that he knows how they look like in civilian clothing. A hint at how familiar Factor Three is with their civilian lives.

The bad:

-The issue ends with a thoroughly unrealistic moment. Mr. Regal only blames himself for his son's behavior. Willing to reconcile with the young hooligan and pay the X-Men for their effort. Without once blowing his top or questioning their motivation. Somehow, the scene would be much more fitting in a sugar-coated cartoon show. not so much on a typically more cynical comic book.

1 Comments
Posted by B'Town

Nice review, you put a lot of thought and work into your reviews, well done.  
 
Hey, I have to laugh, love these old school comic covers, look at the top with, who's that... Prof. X working his mind so dang hard?  hehah.  love it.

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