Retrospective: The X-Men #5 (May 1964)

Back in 1984 I’d just moved to America, had been introduced to Dungeons & Dragons, started listening to a lot more music, and picked up my first Marvel Comic. That first comic, an issue of Secret Wars, introduced me to a universe of characters who I quickly fell in love with. One team stood out for me above the others –The X-Men.

Now, almost 40 years later, I’m heading back to where it all began for our team of Mutant misfits. My plan with this column is to relook at each issue, starting with the September 1963 release of the first issue of The X-Men, and journey with them through their adventures, losses, personnel changes, good times and bad, throughout the years as they changed from The X-Men to The Uncanny X-Men on a run that would last 544 issues – and spawned dozens of spin-offs and introduced some of most iconic heroes and villains in comics, and wider media, today.

—–

Following directly from the events of last issue we find the X-Men returning home with a powerless Charles Xavier, who lost his mental powers during a confrontation with Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

In a rush to get the Professor home and to bed to rest, Iceman can’t defrost quick enough to get the Mansion’s keys so Cyclops shoots the lock out. Marvel Girl uses her telekinesis to lift Charles from his wheelchair to his bed, with The Beast acrobatically covering him with a blanket. The Angel, meanwhile checks the entire Mansion to make sure that the Brotherhood hasn’t tracked them down to their base and finds everything as it should be.

The team are down, for good reason, but as Angel says “We’ve got to continue his fight against the evil mutants”, with Cyclops referring to all the training they’ve had over the past year and the team now need to prove themselves. Beast is more unsure, “We can’t remain leaderless!”, but the teams musings are interrupted by a car approaching… Jean had forgotten that her parents were stopping by.

Panic ensues as the team rush to get out of their costumes… de-ice, tie their wings back, and look respectable for the Greys whilst making excuses for the Professor’s absence. The Grey’s are curious about the school, having been contacted by Washington D.C. recommending they enrol Jean at the institute that has a number of Top Secret courses, thus hinting atleast to some government involvement in the school. Mrs Grey is intrigued by Scott’s glasses, but he reacts stopping her, claiming an eye infection, with Beast quickly stepping in to change the subject and offer the couple a tour of the school, claiming the empty gym they’re currently in is waiting for new equipment arriving the following week.

As everyone leaves for the tour Scott is too slow and finds himself locked in the gym… or rather the Danger Room, which is currently programmed to give The Beast a workout. The Danger Room immediately kicks into action once the door is closed and Scott battles for his life, thankfully overcoming the obstacles and managing to escape the, thankfully soundproofed, ‘gym’.

Later the Greys leave and drive off, passing the shady figure of The Mastermind on tehri way through the nearby town. Mastermind has failed to locate the X-Men, but the Brotherhood obviously have atleast a vague idea as to where they are situated to be in such close proximity. Mastermind receives a call over his videowatch from Magneto, summoning him back to the Brotherhoods base. Making his way to a deserted field Mastermind is picked up by a silent magnetic plane, piloted by Quicksilver and taken to…. Space?

Why yes, dear readers, apparently Magneto has built a base on an asteroid (Asteroid M) that is in a near Earth orbit. The duo land and immediately get into a brawl with the eternally over-eager Toad, which Magneto stops when he arrives in the company of Scarlet Witch. We have a slight time hiccup here as Magneto states they’ve been searching for the X-Men for weeks without any success, but we’re only a few hours since the X-Men returned from their battle in South America with The Brotherhood. I guess they’ve been searching pre-Santo Marco coup. Anyway, Magneto hatches a plan with Toad (who I admit I don’t feel is the most reliable candidate) as the key to its success.

Sometime later, back at the Mansion, the X-Men are enjoying some downtime, seemingly much to Cyclops irritation as he obviously feels they should be doing more to figure out how to help the Professor. The rest of the team, including Charles, relax watching some athletics on TV and are amazed as the brilliance of one of the competitors…. Who is literally leaps and bounds ahead of anyone else competing.

The crowd at the event start getting angry and the X-Men decide they need to suit up and go and help the athlete who is obviously a mutant. The team head out and save the mutant athlete, escaping the mob by managing to get on a passenger train. The Beast thinks he may have met the athlete before and, with Cyclops worried he was about to hurt the new mutant, pulls off a fleshy mask to reveal the athlete is in fact the evil mutant known as The Toad!

Toad tries to escape, but is subdued by the X-Men, only for Magneto and his followers to intervene. In the ensuing battle Angel finds himself wrapped in metal bonds and is snatched up by Magneto himself, who calls for the rest of the Brotherhood to retreat. They make it to one of Magneto’s spaceships and make their escape … but have left Toad behind as a captive of the X-Men.

Laster on Asteroid M, Angel has been put in a cell and is being interrogated by Magneto, with Scarlet Witch concerned about Magneto’s comments about the only way Angel will leave their captivity is by death. The Angel is subjected to flashing lights, high-pitch sirens, and assorted torture techniques but refuses to break… but for how long?

Back on Earth, the X-Men are worried about what to do with The Toad. They can’t set him free, but don’t want to take him back to their HQ incase he can be tracked by Magneto. The Toad, distraught from being separated from Magneto, is almost in a trance, and activates a communicator that calls down a ship to pick him up. The X-Men all bundle into the ship, half-fearing a trap, but desperate to get Angel back.

Once they dock on Asteroid M, Mastermind is waiting for Toad, unaware of the stowaways. Battle, once again, ensues. Magneto, alerted to the fight, puts on a magnetic intensifier helmet and parts of the base start attacking the X-Men. Metal wall panels wrapping themselves around Cyclops face, jets of flame shooting out at Iceman, etc. Magneto prepares to blast them out of an air lock, with Scarlet Witch scuppering his plans by short circuiting the controls, leading to a confrontation between Magneto, Scarlet Witch and her brother Quicksilver. That squabble is interrupted by Cyclops blasting though the wall, causing the Brotherhood’s squabble to be (temporarily?) forgotten as Quicksilver engages Cyclops and the other Evil Mutants retreat. The other X-Men find The Angel and finally manage to release him. Then fight continues but then, much to Magneto’s dismay, the asteroid base starts to crack in half. Quickly aiming to turn things to his advantage Magneto traps the X-Men in the part of the base that is disintegrating… only he doesn’t, only Cyclops is trapped there.

Displaying a obvious knowledge of ‘space’ the team are worried that Cyclops will “plunge to Earth” (not seeming to realise the vacuum of space will probably do him in and he’s more likely to end up floating space junk as opposed to being pulled into the Earth’s gravity and burning up on re-entry…) Iceman creates an Ice Bridge through space to the breakaway section so the team can rescue him. They (somehow) manage to all end up in one of the Magnetic spaceships that takes them back safely to Earth.

Once the ship delivers them it automatically takes off again, presumably to go and rescue the Brotherhood who are now, themselves, trapped on a partially destroyed asteroid base.

The team return back to the Mansion, pleased they’ve won the day and rescued Angel, but concerned about what the future holds as this was only ‘round 2’ of their battles with the Brotherhood. Cyclops goes to give The Professor the report, with the team in tow, only for The Professor to say “No need to Scott! I was with you all the time… listening to your thoughts.”

“You mean.. you have your mental power back?!” exclaims The Beast.

“I never lost it! I only pretended to after our first battle with the Evil Mutants! “ the Professor smugly informs them as he lights his pipe…

“But…why, sir?” says a shocked Cyclops

“Remember, this is a school! And you can’t graduate from any school without passing your final exam! Well, you’ve all just taken your final exam… just as I planned it! And I’m proud to say that you’ve all passed with flying colors! You’ve proven you can think and act for yourselves!! Your training period is over!! Congratulations my X-Men!!”

At which point the team bundle Xavier and gave him a good kicking for being such an asshole. Oh wait, that must have happened after the last panel as the issue seems to end on that bombshell declaration. Professor Xavier is a dick.

Anyway, Issue 5 was a good fun issue. We got more Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, learnt that space bases are ‘a thing’ and that the Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters has some kind of government connection (we’ve seen Charles in communication with government officials in previous issues too). Met Jean’s parents, seen more doubt and unease from Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in regards to Magneto’s intent, seen more signs of a discontent with mutants from homo sapiens, and reinforced that growing suspicion that Professor X is a bit of dick ;p

Great issue, roll on #6!

This issue “Trapped: One X-Man!” was written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby.

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