A lesser effort
This is another of Roy Thomas' lesser efforts on the title. With the end of Factor Three, Thomas has either completed or dropped most of his major sub-plots. This issue is killing time until the next big story-arc. Introducing a mysterious subplot on the way. So its time for another one-shot villain.
I have to say that the best part of the issue isn't in either of the stories featured. Its in the fan letters. A letter by disillusioned reader Ken Jensen pretty much evaluates Thomas' first run on the title and predicts the future of the series. Ken notes the various problems of the title. The various lackluster villains "who can hardly make it through one issue", the interchangeable evil organizations of would-be world conquerors (suggesting a "Factor Four") and a revolving door of artists. He, correctly, notes that recent guest appearances by Doctor Strange and Spider-Man are transparent attempts to improve sales. Fearing that the title is heading for cancelation. The charm seems to be already fading with this incarnation of the characters.
But lets take a closer look at the story at hand.
- The issue begins the Beast going through a strict exercise regime at the Danger Room. Finding the experience "relaxing", even if Cyclops keeps barking about the Danger-room being "serious business". Iceman decides to interfere by adding ice to the scenario at hand. Hank looses his balance and hits his head hard. A dazed Hank complains of having "a headache that even excedrin won't cure". But promises to give Drake one "that will make mine seem decidedly pale by contrast!"
A fun opening scene which adds some much needed humor. I liked the reference to excedrin. A nice time capsule of a time when excedrin was a pioneering " multi-ingredient formulation headache treatment product" and heavily advertised. Otherwise, this is another chapter in the McCoy-Drake long lasting "best friend" relationship.
- The third page introduces a new mystery subplot. Which will lead to many developments until the title goes into its reprint period. The male X-Men are under the impression Xavier and Jean are "working on some kind of hush-hush project". But they are notified to see the Prof at his office. While Jean Walks in from a different room. When they ask her about working with Xavier, she replies with a cryptic "yes and no".
According to #43, the hush-hush project involves the Professor tutoring Miss Grey on the use of telepathy. Initially explained as sharing part of his powers with her. Then retconned in the 1980s to Jean being a telepath all along. With Xavier just removing the mental blocs that he had placed years before. In other words, this part of the subplot prepares Jean for a serious upgrade in powers.
According to #65, Jean is also aware that the Prof is about to go into hiding. Preparing to face the alien invasion of the Z'nox. She is his only confidant in this matter. Unless you count the Changeling who was about to take his place. In other words setting up a plot where the Prof is fooling most of his students and Jean is forced to keep silent about it. Professor Xavier is a jerk, indeed.
Speaking of the Changeling, the clue of the Prof and Jean being in different rooms might point to the impersonator being already active within the Mansion. According to this interpretation, the Xavier waiting for the X-Men at his office is Kevin. While Jean is stepping out of the room where Charlie is. There have been different readings of the issue over the years, but this one is plausible.
- The main plot starts with Charles/Kevin explaining to the X-Men about some famous chapters of the "Frankenstein" novel. How Victor Frankenstein pursued his creation to the Arctic. How Victor died aboard the polar exploration ship of Robert Walton. How the Monster stood above the corpse of his creator. How the Monster left the ship to travel further towards the Pole and vanished.
Great stuff in the novel. Not so much here, where the sole visual description is a panel of the Monster leaving the polar exploration ship. By the way, this has been noted as the only scene of the issue where the real Monster is depicted. The rest of the issue features the Android look-alike.
Here we have the Prof (whoever he is) explaining that part of the novel was real and that the creature has been discovered. The sole reason for the X-Men to go looking for the Android is that its 19th century creator could have been a mutant. A pretty flimsy excuse.
- The rest of the issue deals with the Android trying to escape from New York City, while the X-Men keep pusuing it. Charles/Kevin has deduced that his one weakness is ice. This supposedly explains why the Prof kept sending every other X-Man, including himself, against the creature. Though their powers were useless. But kept Iceman behind until the very end. The Prof was supposedly waiting for the right time to use his MVP. Iceman even apologizes for disobeying and trying to get himself involved earlier.
The one major weakness of the issue. The creature went on a rampage on the streets of New York, beat-up the X-Men repeatedly and almost killed Xavier. But this could all have been resolved much sooner if Drake had been on the mission with the rest of them. This isn't preparing for the right moment to strike. This is removing your one chance to win.
- The second story is not thus interesting. Scott Summers finds himself the reluctant sidekick of Jack Winters. (Wonder where Springs and Autumns are). Winters is a telepath, teleporter and has diamond hands. We get his origin story. Then Xavier locates them using a prototype for Cerebro.
More of an origin tale for everyone else but Summers. The one character trait revealed is that young Scott is horrified at the thought of killing anyone. "No matter what you do to me -- I won't become a killer!" My how much he changed since then.
Naturally an origin story which reveals nothing of the titular character isn't doing its job. Poor addition.