X-Men (Vol. 1) #4

Credits:

Cover Date: March 1964

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Paul Reinman

“The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Paul Reinman

What’s Going On?

Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants conquer a small nation. It’s up to the X-Men to defeat them!

Details:

  • The X-Men always seem to be busy in the Danger Room, honing their mutant powers.

  • A recently decommissioned freighter ship is hijacked by Magneto, doubtlessly as part of a larger scheme. Or maybe he just collects them.

  • Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants is revealed: Mastermind, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Toad. They tend to fight among themselves. They are held together by fear of and loyalty to Magneto.

  • We also learn that Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch don’t necessarily agree with Magneto that mutants should rule the earth. They are helping Magneto because they feel indebted to him for rescuing the Scarlet Witch from an angry mob.

  • Magneto’s plan is to use his stolen ship to help conquer a small country; he picks the small South American nation of Santo Marco. The world at large does not realize that the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants is behind the attack, but Xavier does.

  • Magneto quickly conquers Santo Marco with some clever use of Mastermind’s illusions. He soon builds a real army to enforce his rule.

  • Xavier and the X-Men enter Santo Marco and attack Magneto’s base. In one-on-one battles, the X-Men fare pretty well…

  • …but they are easily overcome when the Brotherhood uses teamwork.

  • When the X-Men start working together, the Brotherhood is forced to retreat. Xavier joins the team in the field to help counter Mastermind’s illusions. Magneto’s totally reasonable response is to set a nuclear bomb to destroy the entire country!

  • The X-Men break into Magneto’s inner-headquarters, just in time to see the Brotherhood escaping. Before he leaves, though, Quicksilver deactivates the nuclear bomb. The X-Men do not pursue the Brotherhood, choosing to tend to their own injuries instead.

  • In the battle, Xavier was hurt by an explosion. He appears to have lost his telepathic abilities as a result.

Is It Good?

It’s not great, but this has some interesting moments. I like the Danger Room training scenes, and I like that we learned a bit about the Brotherhood before they battled the X-Men. Honestly, most of the scenes, in a vacuum, were pretty good. As a whole, though, that’s a different story.

The larger plot raises a lot of questions, even if you ignore the historical unlikeliness of a nation like Santo Marco existing. Magneto is able to use an old, stolen boat to effectively bombard an entire country; apparently, the freighter was well-armed but easily forgotten by the US Navy, and the country was without its own navy to defend it (which seems odd for a nation whose capitol city is a port). The X-Men attack a fortified castle, filled with armed guards; they don’t make a carefully orchestrated attack, either —- they attack one-at-a-time, from different directions! And then, because the X-Men are near, Magneto chooses to abandon the country he just conquered and literally blow it up! He single-handedly almost defeated the X-Men (in X-Men #1), and then built a team to help him fight the X-Men, so when they arrive he…runs away?!? Each instance is defensible on its own, but when taken as a whole, the plot doesn’t make much sense.

It doesn’t help that the artwork looks a little sloppy. I’m guessing that Kirby did looser pencils on this book (he also pencilled Avengers, Fantastic Four, Journey Into Mystery, and Sgt. Fury this month), with Paul Reinman handling most of the detailed work. There’s nothing wrong with that with the right inker, but I don’t think Reinman embellished the pencils enough. The faces frequently look odd in this issue, and there are multiple instances of costume details disappearing between panels, like Iceman’s boots below. Nothing major, mind you, but it feels more important when the story isn’t very good.

Continuity:

  • This is the first appearance of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The team is Magneto, Mastermind, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Toad.
  • This is the first appearance of Mastermind (Jason Wyngarde). He can cast powerful and realistic illusions with his mind. His name is not given in this issue.
  • This is the first appearance of Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff) and the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff). They are siblings gifted with super-speed (Pietro) and an ability to cause “disasters” (Wanda). Their last names are not given in this issue.
  • This is also the first appearance of Toad (Mortimer Toynbee). He has super-leaping abilities, and a tendency to lick Magneto’s boots. His name is not given in this issue.

  • Magneto last appeared in X-Men #1.
  • For the first time, we learn that Iceman doesn’t fully transform into ice, but develops an “icy coating.” Also, he only wears boots and trunks as his X-uniform.

  • The X-Men have been a team for one year at this point. Presumably, Xavier did not start counting with when Jean joined the team.

  • This is the first time Magneto and Xavier have met or spoken to each other, albeit on the astral plane. Apparently, Magneto has been trying to contact Xavier for a while now. How he was doing it, and how he knew who Xavier was is not explained.

  • Magneto does not appear to know Xavier’s name, nor the location of Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters.
  • Magneto can sense Xavier’s presence with his mind, but not the X-Men.

  • Xavier can mentally sense the presence of other mutants.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Cyclops’ power hasn’t really been defined yet. It was a heat-ray last issue, and now appears to be more laser-like to cut the cake. Later this issue, it is described as a force-beam.

  • Did Bobby use a vase for a Slurpee cup?

  • Wait…Magneto doesn’t know where to find Xavier? Has he tried the phone book? He lives in a mansion that he inherited from his parents (not that we’ve learned that backstory yet), and runs a school. How much effort has Magneto put into this, really?

  • This seems like the sort of thing a soldier would actually think: “I sure do like serving my evil master!”

  • Magneto recruited and armed an army in San Marco, after he took power. Forget asking where he got the soldiers, or how he laid them. Why did Magneto dress them like WWII German soldiers?
  • It’s cool that Xavier was able to take a group of minors out of the country at a moment’s notice. That means that they all have passports, which is weird, right? What parents surrender their child’s passport to a school?
  • That’s quite the helpful diagram, Professor. So, Magneto is…a glowing house? Also, I love that Xavier’s plan is to not use teamwork whatsoever.

  • I absolutely love that these two enemies were forced to repeatedly somersault when Cyclops blasted them.

  • It is nice that Magneto’s castle is handicap-accessible.

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • Wow, an Ovaltine reference?

  • The Huntley-Brinkley Report was a news show during the ‘60’s. Sick burn, Angel!

  • While it is not impossible to find a small group of Caucasians (who appear to be dressed like Eastern European peasants) in South America, it does seem unlikely that there would be no people of color in a crowd scene like this. One or two instances like this are easy to overlook, but this is an ongoing choice Marvel is making at this point. Aside from Gabriel Jones and the occasional Asian Communist, Marvel has not shown a non-Caucasian in a single panel, even a crowd scene —- and there have been stories in India and North Africa before this!  Oh, wait…I forgot about the Fantastic Four story, where the Human torch briefly fought a “savage” African tribe.  Still, NOT GOOD, MARVEL!

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>>>X-Men #5

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