Monday, October 4, 2010

X-Men 104: Old Buckethead's Back in Town

(look familiar?)

X-Men #104 (April 1977)
"The Gentleman's Name is Magneto!"
Chris Claremont -writer
Dace Cockrum -artist
Sam Grainger- inker

Karen: Here it is -the story we've been building to the last couple of weeks -and boy was it worth it! This was an action-packed ride from panel to panel! With the return of the X-Men's greatest enemy, we see how much training and team work matter, as these X-Men, while all probably more powerful than the original team, have no clue how to face down the master of magnetism.

Karen: The battle takes place at Muir Isle, where Moira MacTaggert maintains a lab -really, a gigantic complex! -where she keeps dangerous mutants contained while she tries to help them. One of these mutants was an infant Magneto. Confused? Well, old Maggsy had been reduced to an infant a few years earlier in the pages of Defenders #16. But X-Men enemy Eric the Red, seeking an ally, broke into the isle and managed to restore Magneto to the prime of his life. Thus, Magneto is at the peak of his power -and boy is he teed off at Xavier and the X-Men!

Doug: I want to take a short break and do some "
Marvel Time" dissection here. How old do you think Xavier is? I guess I always viewed him as about a generation and a half older than the original team. So if they were around 16-17 (Bobby more like 14-15) when they came to the School, then Xavier must have been in his early 50's or so. So, fast-forward a few years, and maybe he's in his late 50's. Where am I going with this? Well, it's pretty obvious that Banshee is pining for Moira MacTaggert. I think we all feel like Banshee is older than the other new members; maybe Storm, Colossus, and Nightcrawler were in their early 20's, Cyke perhaps around 24-25 (?). So does that make Banshee significantly older? And, since Moira mentioned that she and Charles were students together, does that make her 55 or so? Wow...

Karen: Well we know from issue
102 that Storm was about 25, and I figured the same for Cyclops. Nightcrawler might also be that old. Peter I always thought was younger, around 18 or 19. When I was reading these books that seemed pretty old to me! So to my mind, Professor X might have only been in his forties -just like my parents at the time! Banshee did seem significantly older than the others -maybe a ten year gap. That would put Banshee in his mid thirties. I don't know, it's all pretty vague. Maybe Moira was just an advanced student? Or there's a ten plus year gap between her and Xavier, which is not really unusual (how many times have you heard of a female grad student marrying -or at least dating -her professor?).

Doug: Magneto bounced around quite a bit between the demise of the original mag and the All-New team. He was in FF 102-104, Amazing Adventures 9-10 and 17, the Avengers 110-111 and 115, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants turned up in the Secret Empire arc in Captain America, and then of course Magnus was in those Defenders issues. Magneto's such a great villain -- a guy who could certainly spread the menace around!

Karen: As the all-new, all-different team arrives at the shores of Muir Isle, they're assaulted by a strange force that literally rips up the ground beneath their feet and hurls them at the wall of the lab. Doug, we've talked before about ho
w it seems like the X-Men were always combining their powers to take down threats -this is a perfect example, as Banshee tells the rest to hit the wall with all they have! They manage to blast a hole in the wall and avoid being smashed, but then they come face to face with the person responsible for their plight: a very angry Magneto! Cockrum draws a full page shot of Maggsy and it is magnificent.

Doug: This was
a scene where I really felt Banshee was older than the rest. His leadership seemed natural, and the others deferred to him easily. I guess that background as an Interpol agent made him pretty savvy! I am continually impressed at the team's power in these early issues. There is simply no comparison from the originals to these guys (and gal). And you're right about Cockrum's Magneto splash -- it's only too bad that it wasn't after a page turn that would have made it even more surprising.

Karen: While the new team is facing off with their deadliest enemy, Cyclops and Moira arrive at the lab. Once Scott finds out that they are facing Magneto, he tells Moira (and the injured Jamie Madrox) to head back to the jet, while he recovers the
team. As he tells her, he and the Professor never thought they'd face Magneto again, so they've not been trained how to fight against him. "They're good kids Moira, but against Magneto, they haven't a prayer!"

Doug: Cyke was a father-figure to the team, even though Wolverine and Banshee were older than he. I'm not saying he was necessarily viewed as such; I'm more commenting on his own sense of responsibility.

Karen: Turns out Cyclops was 100% right. Magneto easily rebuffs Colossus and Wolverine, and even Storm is unable to get past his defenses. Nightcrawler tries to teleport behind him, but Magneto can sense disturban
ces on the magnetic lines of force, and therefore can locate where Nightcrawler will reappear! You know, I always loved the way Claremont put so much thought into the different characters' powers. He was really a science geek, and it shows here -but in a good way!

Doug: Magneto is a super-baddie like no other -- if the guy can control the iron in your very blood, how can he be beaten?? It's not like you can just put on some super-suit, or sneak up on him, or whatever.

Karen: The only X-Man who i
s having any luck against Magneto is Banshee, but Magneto imprisons him in a form-fitting cocoon of magnetic particles. As he begins to gloat about his victory, Cyclops shows up and puts up a heck of a fight. He manages to slightly stun Magneto, who has put up a force shield to protect himself from the ruby-red onslaught. Cyclops orders the team to head for the jet. This leads to a confrontation between Cyke and Wolverine, who doesn't want to run. But Cyclops, at this time one of the best super-team leaders in the business, tells Wolverine to get on the jet or he'll blast him down and carry him out! Man, I love these scenes between these two guys.

Doug: Both the physical altercation with Magneto and the verbal barbs with Wolverine really showed Scott's intensity. This is a really good build-up for wh
at's coming. You know, did you ever read the back-ups in Classic X-Men? I liked them at the time, when it was a re-read of these original stories. However, I don't think I'd have liked the additional details of Logan's feelings for Jean, etc. if it had been originally written that way. The slower reveal back in the day was exciting and really showed the character development that Claremont was establishing.

Karen: I did read Classic X-Men for awhile, but honestly it never stuck with me! The team gets on the Blackbird and zooms off. They are still upset about leaving the fight, but Cyclops explains that this was a diversion by Eric the Red, to get Prof. X unprotected. They've got to get back to New York as quickly as possible to save the Professor.

Doug: And for once the ship didn't explode!

Karen: On the last page of this tale, we get a brief scene aboard the Starjammer -of course, we'd soon learn a lot about its crew. We also see that Cyclops was right -Eric is planning to attack Professor X.

Doug: I liked how the last page was laid-out, with three short two-panel vignettes that foreshadowed what was to come in the next few issues. And hey -- I know that Cockrum's tenure on the book would soon be over and the true golden age for the team was coming, but there was just so much momentum at this point. It really makes me wonder what Dave Cockrum's X-Men would have become.

Karen: Reading a book like this was a great pleasure. Although it's essentially one long fight, Claremont manages to weave in enough character moments and interactions to keep it interesting. Cockrum's art was spectacular here, imparting a tremendous sense of urgency and danger to the story. You really felt like the team was terribly out-classed. This made it all the more exciting when they would face Magneto again.

Doug: I couldn't agree with you more -- the second battle with Magneto features one of the all-time great baddie entrances, at the conclusion of X-Men #111. Can't wait to get there!! But one more thing before we head out. I want to throw some love Sam Grainger's way. As good as Cockrum has been, he's looked even better with Grainger as the embellisher. It was quite a few years earlier that Grainger had worked some magic over Sal Buscema in the Avengers; he proved that he still had it in these tales.


Andrew Wahl said...

Hey, BBB:

I continue to enjoy your X-reviews. It's funny, as much as I enjoy these early Cockrum issues, they just don't induce the same sort of I'm-10-again nostalgia that the Byrne issues do. Can't wait till you get to those.


Edo Bosnar said...

As Karen noted, this issue is also awesome because of the role Cyclops played in it. He pretty much beats back Magneto single-handedly and pulls the rest of the X-men out of the fire. That's the way Cyclops is supposed to be written...

Karen said...

Agreed, Edo. This is Cyclops at his peak -decisive, in charge, much so that he never feels like he's doing a good enough job, always pushing himself harder. He had to balance his relationship with Jean and his loyalty to Xavier and the team. He was one of the most interesting characters in the title back then.

Lydia Grainger Powell said...

Just wanted to say thanks so nice to see loving comments about my dad's artwork. You said, "I want to throw some love Sam Grainger's way. As good as Cockrum has been, he's looked even better with Grainger as the embellisher. It was quite a few years earlier that Grainger had worked some magic over Sal Buscema in the Avengers; he proved that he still had it in these tales." Thanks again,
Lydia Grainger Powell

Doug said...

Lydia --

Thanks so much for stopping by. Your dad's work pops up from time to time on this blog, and I will say that he always did a professional job. It was obvious that he liked what he did -- and because of that, he gave all of us who love Silver and Bronze Age comics a fair amount of joy over the years.

Best to you,


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