Wednesday, May 11, 2016

We Have To School The X-Men!

We know that in the early days, the Fantastic Four may have butted heads with the Avengers once or twice, but their disagreements fell short of reaching the point of all-out battle. It might have been interesting to test those waters beyond the brief clash we were treated to in the pages of Avengers Annual #2; instead, there was another team that was willing to try their luck at grappling with "Earth's mightiest heroes." Six months earlier (our time), in a scheme crafted by the mad Thinker and aided by the Puppet Master, the X-Men took on the FF--but now, it seems they're ready to play with the big boys.

But before we see what's set these two teams against each other, we're going to have to wade through a nauseating scene that may prove that the X-Men have no business being out in public, much less on a battlefield going up against the Avengers. The team is on its way to Europe, where Professor X is intent on confronting Lucifer, the foe who cost Xavier the use of his legs in a previous encounter. During their ocean crossing, their ship is about to collide with an iceberg, when Cyclops uses his beam at full power to destroy it. He's severely weakened by the experience, and so the other X-Men see to his comfort--though if Jean Grey had her way, she'd be comforting Scott Summers on another level entirely.

Blecchh! This isn't Our Love Story, Jean--can the mushy stuff!

Now that we've all hurled our lunch, we can get to the real story here--namely, what's set the X-Men and the Avengers against each other?

The crux of the story is made clear when Xavier manages to reach Lucifer--or, more accurately, when Lucifer brings Xavier before him. Xavier doesn't stay a captive for more than a few seconds--but Lucifer proves that he holds the upper hand, and that Xavier dare not move against him.

Meanwhile, now arrived in Bavaria, the X-Men close in on Xavier's location. But unknown to them, another super-team has arrived to deal with a powerful threat in the area--and they, too, are closing in.

Xavier has detected the approach of the Avengers, but realizes they can't be permitted to engage with Lucifer and possibly risk the thermal bomb's detonation by causing him to be injured. In order to give himself time to deal with Lucifer himself, he broadcasts a desperate message to the X-Men on the surface and instructs them to delay the Avengers at all costs.

Give both teams credit--they try to play it nice at first, albeit in blunt terms. But if you think that such a confrontation is going to be conducted rationally without getting out of control, you're not thinking like an eager comics reader from 1965--because we can be almost certain that no one pulling this comic from the spinner rack was interested in plunking down 12¢ to see the X-Men and the Avengers be rational. It was a simple formula that writer Stan Lee used in such stories: resolve leads to posturing leads to a claim by someone that the other side was warned, followed by an all-out brawl.

From the way the battle unfolds, Lee and artist Jack Kirby seem to feel that the X-Men are both out-gunned and out of their league--and that may well be the case, since all of the Avengers have already led solo careers which seasoned them to the point of joining forces, and they've more than earned their reputation. Consequently, they treat their foes with (you'll excuse the expression) kid gloves, though they make it clear that they'll only take it easy on the X-Men for so long.

*chuckle* Cyclops and his warnings. Someday they'd carry more weight; but as Cap implies, fighters of the Avengers' caliber have dealt with far worse, and for now Cyclops can only face the fact that the only weight that's being carried is humiliatingly his own.

Below the surface, Xavier deals with Lucifer by mentally disabling his foe while taking care to avoid affecting his heartbeat. Once that's done, he's free to settle things topside.

It's gracious for the Avengers to step aside and allow the X-Men to mop up this operation--especially considering that there's still the thermal bomb to defuse, something that Iron Man could have handily assisted with. Nevertheless, the X-Men succeed, while Lucifer is set free to fight another day.

It's the X-Men vs. the Fantastic Four--and the kids take the kid gloves off!

X-Men #9

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Chic Stone
Letterer: Sam Rosen

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