Friday, July 28, 2017

"In Battle Joined!"

Writer Roy Thomas often indulged in crossovers back in the day, even before they were formally referred to as such--and a stand-out from mid-1968 was the face-off between the Avengers and the X-Men, bringing the two teams together again 2½ years after their initial clash but this time with the X-Men of course facing a different Avengers lineup. And that lineup had gone through yet another change only recently, which served as the link between the two stories--the departure of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, after Wanda had suffered a gunshot wound to her head and her brother Pietro had blamed human antipathy toward mutants for the act (though it was all due to manipulation by Magneto, who had been lobbying for the two to rejoin him).

With Wanda recovering on Magneto's island base, the X-Men have gone in search of Magneto after hearing reports of his return, and are captured. The Angel, however, escapes and flies off to seek help from the Avengers--while Cyclops manages to escape captivity and searches Magneto's stronghold for his teammates. Unfortunately, he runs into someone else, whose loyalties are in question but who means to prevent Cyclops from freeing his friends--and this action-packed two-parter kicks into high gear!

By the time Quicksilver confronts Cyclops, the Avengers have already arrived on site, though neither Pietro nor Cyclops are yet aware of it. Right now, even though Magneto is monitoring them, it's just the two of them in conflict--but if Cyclops has anything to say about it, that number will be reduced to one in short order.

With Pietro's alliance with Magneto, things between these two have changed from the days when the X-Men were sympathetic toward Pietro and his sister. At Charles Xavier's funeral, it was Cyclops who reached out to Pietro to strike up a dialog--but Pietro, suspecting an attempt at capture, raced off without a word. Yet now, Pietro appears to be firmly in Magneto's camp, which, as far as Cyclops is concerned, closes the door to any dialog--though Pietro, who has fallen for Magneto's act, would have it otherwise.

But while Cyclops gives Pietro a fair hearing, he has his long association with Xavier to fall back on, to say nothing of a history with Magneto which has never shown the man to be anything but ruthless, cruel, and self-serving. There is only one answer that Cyclops can give to Quicksilver, one that Pietro was never intending to accept.

Given the literal speed involved, this fight appears to be almost over with Cyclops' source of power effectively neutralized.  Pietro makes a valid point that you can't really battle a foe who "moves more quickly than the naked eye can follow" (and who can track your movements before you've even completed them)--so the fact that the graphite has temporarily blinded him hasn't really disadvantaged Cyclops any more than he was before.

Meanwhile, Magneto continues to monitor the altercation, though he's likely scrutinizing Pietro's behavior just as closely--because as fast as Quicksilver is, Magneto is of the opinion that he may not be moving as fast as he could be.

But by a stroke of luck, Cyclops manages to prevail, a development which opens the door to Part 2 of this tale. And for Cyclops, telling the good guys from the bad guys is about to become even more complicated.

To backtrack a little, we should return to a short time ago, as the Angel finally reaches New York (in, honestly, one of the most garish costumes this side of Captain Ultra) and fulfills his mission, while also offering the Avengers a valuable lead on the location of their two missing members.

But as the Avengers approach Magneto's island, they have cause to mistrust the X-Men--doubts which magnify when they covertly monitor the meeting between Cyclops and Quicksilver (there's a lot of that going around, isn't there?) and jump to conclusions.

Cyclops, as it happens, is the one who urged the Angel to seek out the Avengers for aid, so you'd think their arrival would be a welcome sight for him--but as we've seen, the Avengers have a reason for treating Cyclops with suspicion. As for Cyclops, he has doubts of his own--specifically, whether these people are the Avengers. The Panther is unknown to him, having joined the team only recently; in addition, they've made hostile moves toward him, when the Angel's meeting with them should have assured that they'd arrive to assist. Of course, things aren't helped by the fact that, by now, Thomas has drilled it into the reader that Cyclops really, really doesn't like being told what to do.

While the getting is good, Cyclops takes off to make another attempt to free his team. But even more complications are on the way, when it becomes clear that Magneto is manipulating both teams, having an axe to grind with the Avengers as well. The first phase of that plan already appears to be working, with the two teams about to become at odds with each other if Cyclops convinces his friends of his doubts--but for the X-Men, that will escalate swiftly to open warfare, as we'll see.

As for Magneto, who returned from being the Stranger's captive along with the Toad, his cruelty toward the one who serves him so dutifully knows no bounds--and their relationship will play a key part in this story's denouement.

And speaking of allies not getting along--what's going on with the Avengers?

Naturally, Magneto, who really should see someone about his compulsion to eavesdrop, has monitored the scene, and realizes the time is right to play his card involving the X-Men--namely, to take control of them by technology (though he would later learn to accomplish that by the use of his own power) and instill in them the urge to destroy the approaching Avengers.

The issue's cover has already spilled the beans on who faces off with who in this battle--even though, with the exception of the Beast vs. the Panther, everyone's sparring partner is really up for grabs. I would much rather see everyone mix it up a little (you know, teamwork?), rather than one-on-one struggles that seem logical to Thomas. The Wasp, for instance, could best help her teammates by taking out Cyclops, whose eye beams could pick off any Avenger from across the chamber (certainly as large a target as Goliath)--yet Thomas has her calling for Hawkeye to stop Cyclops, while she and Marvel Girl become stuck to each other like glue apparently because they're the women on their respective teams.

(No, I don't know how the Wasp plans to stay out of the path of a telekinetic assault when it's not visible to the naked eye.)

The tide finally turns against Magneto's plan when the Avengers bear down on their foes--thanks to some help from the Angel, who it turns out the Avengers were working with behind the scenes. It also turns out that the Avengers' quarrel was staged in order to make Magneto play his hand. (Nice to know Magneto doesn't monitor everything!) But as everyone closes ranks with Magneto, will their momentum be enough to carry them to victory?

Yet Magneto himself has seen to his own defeat, as his arrogance and disdain toward others sow the seeds of his end.

Fortunately for the X-Men, the Avengers' aero-car is big enough to let them escape the island's destruction with their former opponents. As for Magneto, he ends up in the Savage Land, this time duping the Angel in a scheme where he creates mutants out of the indigenous people there. That leaves only Wanda and Pietro as loose ends, which will be tied up when they attempt to restore Wanda's power and cross paths with none other than Arkon.

X-Men #45; The Avengers #53

Script: Gary Friedrich and Roy Thomas
Pencils: Don Heck (with Werner Roth) and John Buscema
Inks: John Tartaglione and George Tuska
Letterer: Sam Rosen and Artie Simek


Anonymous said...

So, you're a guy who depends 24/7 on your magnetic powers, so you build a flying ship entirely out of plastic. (Which is possible how?)
Think it through, Eric!
They really couldn't figure out a better way end the story, I guess. Was this the end of the Magneto/Toad team-up, or did they ever reconcile later after Maggie mellowed out under Claremont?


B Smith said...

"(Which is possible how?)"

Perhaps he's a woodcarver in his spare time?

Comicsfan said...

That's a very good point, M.P. Such a project doesn't seem worth Magneto's time, as driven as he is with his agenda. What purpose would such a ship have for him? How would it benefit him?

To my knowledge, the Toad and Magneto never buried the hatchet, even during Magneto's time with the New Mutants. Given the history between them, I can't imagine either of them wanting to seek the other out for any reason, though more unlikely forgive-and-forget meetings between characters have probably occurred.

dbutler16 said...

This two-parter was my introduction to the original X-Men, thanks to Marvel Triple Action. I love the covers, especially the one for X-Men #45! Very good stories, too.

Leave it to Marvel superheroes to always assume the worst about other Marvel superheroes. If they only spent as much time fighting the bad guys as they do each other, well, the comics would be a lot shorter. Marvel superheroes can be such idiots sometimes. And yes, the woman on one team must fight the woman on the other team, regardless of logic.

Magneto built a ship out of non-metals just to prove he could do it? Really?

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