Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Giant-Size X-Men #1 by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum [1975]

Around the 1970's, Marvel stopped publishing new X-Men stories after issue #93 and instead spent time reprinting past issues. It's almost comparable to Doctor Who being gone in television in the UK since 1996 and only came back around 2005. 

Luckily, it only took five years before Marvel decided to publish a new story. Hence the sixty-eight paged Giant-Size X-Men #1 which was written by Len Wein and illustrated by Dave Cockrum who also served as its co-author. This was an important release because not only did it mark the return of the strangest super-heroes of all in comics for some fresh material, it was also the same issue that served as a link between the old team composed of the core four members since its debut in the sixties: Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel (minus Beast who left some time during the run) plus recruits, Havok and Lorna Dane, and that of the new ones as featured in the cover.

Afterwards, publications for The Uncanny X-Men run resumed again with issue #94 which, of course, also finally began the sixteen-year career of one Chris Claremont, who was fated to define and turn the X-Men as one of the most formidable and widely successful Marvel titles to ever been in print. That was only possible because this contributing piece written by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum opened the doors for that, since they had wanted Claremont on the writing board themselves and therefore helped with the transition. It's inarguable that without the launch of Giant-Size X-Men #1, we may never have gotten to Claremont's X-Men which is a literary cruelty of the highest order, in my opinion.

This issue also aimed to explain as to why the X-Men were absent in the last five years which turned out to be because they were abducted and stashed away in the island Krakoa during a mission to find another mutant. Only Cyclops was able to survive the ordeal and return to the Xavier School to recover and heal. Meanwhile, Professor X began recruiting across different parts of the world. For someone strictly wheelchair-bound, I have no idea how he is able to go about traveling, but hey, an excusable technicality. It was a montage of scenes, anyway. Perhaps the professor had some help around who never got to appear in the pages themselves. So in this issue, we get the appearances of Thunderbird (a new character at this point) and Sunfire which are two mutant characters I never really cared for because I hardly know them, so I'm going to purposefully skip them and talk about the four other ones I have varying degrees of affection for. 

First, we have Kurt Wagner, the teleporter otherwise known as Nightcrawler. He was being chased around by an angry mob who are trying to kill him when Professor X put a stop to it. He then made a promise to help Kurt figure out some things about his lineage and ability, but all Kurt wants to be at this point is to be normal which was perfectly understandable but the professor was quick to challenge his concept of normalcy. Intrigued and probably with nowhere else to go or anyone else willing to take him in, Kurt agrees to come with him.

Next we have Wolverine who already made his first appearance in The Incredible Hulk #181, and therefore a recognizable interesting character for the readers. In this issue, it was shown that he had been working for the Canadian government when Professor X wheels in the office to recruit him, making a pretty convincing argument as far as Wolverine is concerned. One of the bureaucrats tried to stop him but not one to nurse any fondness for authority figures, Wolverine latches out and threatens him not to get in the way. 

Professor X makes a stop to meet up with Banshee who cheerily went along for the ride without much coaxing. Professor X gets to Kenya, East Africa to encounter a self-fashioned goddess, Ororo Munroe who at first thought that the wheelchair-bound bald man was offering a ridiculous proposition, seeing as she didn't feel like living the comfortable lifestyle she has grown accustomed to. However, Charles Xavier knows exactly what to say and says things so poetically that Ororo was eventually swayed.

Next, we have sweet Peter Rasputin of Russia who demonstrates his mutant strength as he saves a girl from being ran over by a tractor. I thought it was interesting that of all the recruits, he was the only one shown to use his abilities to rescue someone and that alone has made him automatically endearing to me especially when he began to contemplate about what Professor X tells him next. This is a guy who genuinely wants to help people when he knows he has the tools to do it, and is only reluctant because he has loved ones to leave behind. His family is very supportive which made it easy for him to make his decision to join the professor and see what else he can offer the world.

So we throw in Thunderbird and Sunfire (who came off as an arrogant prick later on), and we get the new X-Men!

Cyclops later arrives to explain their mission which is to save the original X-Men from the island of Krakoa. The rest of the pages showed that these new members are not that eager to work with one another (cough, Sunfire, cough) but they generally try to form some kind of teamwork anyway as they navigated through the mysterious island where Marvel Girl, Havok, Lorna Dane, Angel and Iceman have been held captive. After finding out that the mutant the original team has been looking for turns out to be the island itself (and the fact that Krakoa has been feeding on their energies for some time now), the new guys decided to fight the wretched creature together with the help of the professor's telepathic aid. The battle was more difficult than they imagined and as soon as they made their escape, they realized that the plane can only carry a minimum amount of passengers. Now the thirteen X-Men have to decide who is going to get left behind first. 

And this is where the issue gets cut short. Now, I already know what is going to happen next since these events will be once again tackled upon in the House of M-aftermath story, Deadly Genesis which I'll be reading in May. There's a rather wicked secret about this, and boy, it's going to be a doozy one. I think I won't talk about that here and would instead discuss it on my review for Deadly Genesis. The revelation is a rather game-changer for certain characters. I'm getting excited just thinking about it now.

Overall, Giant-Size X-Men is a worthy read not only because of posterity but also because it introduced four X-Men characters who will stick around and garner their own respective fanbase throughout the years. This issue also marks the beginning of the Claremont era.


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