Retrospective: The X-Men #6 (July 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.

This issue starts off on a more relaxed note than recent issues. The X-Men are all enjoying a meal, which the Professor thanks Jean for preparing and helping out on the cook’s day off (not that we’ve ever seen any staff at the Mansion to date).

Warren is enjoying the fact that Scott finally seems more at ease, and is actually cracking a smile as he admonishes Hank for reaching over the table for some sugar. We also discover that apparently Bobby can create ice cream… as he layers some on top of a slice of pie for himself. But before Bobby can enjoy his delicacy the pie is whipped out of his hands and hangs in mid-air with Jean telling him off for using his hands to eat “You know how Professor X feels about table manners! Next time use your fork!!”…. where was she a few moments ago when Hank reached across the table and Scott shot Hanks hand with his energy beam? Surely using energy beams at the table is not good manners either?

Anyway, Professor X is reading a paper at the table as Warren, Jean and the Professor muse over the fact that there are probably other mutants living among humanity that no one suspects. Sub-Mariner is all over the paper, and apparently has been in the papers a lot recently, and the Professor wonders if he might also be a mutant and, if he is, the X-Men should recruit him before the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants do…which we then discover is also on Magneto’s mind, but that he must reach Sub-Mariner before the X-Men do.

As Magneto muses about the Sub-Mariner to Toad they are interrupted by Cyclops, who Magneto immediately shoots at using some kind of ray gun. The energy weapon flows through Magneto’s lair, narrowly missing Mastermind, and alerting Quicksilver who just manages to out run the beam and pull Scarlet Witch out of it’s path. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver rush to the others, wondering if they are once again under attack from the X-Men, only to find Magneto laying into Mastermind who had been practising his illusions and had created one of Cyclops. Magneto, reminded again of the X-Men, heads over to his chair and projects himself from his body to go and find Sub-Mariner.

As the X-Men train in the Danger Room, the Professor heads to study and also sets his astral form off into the ocean in search of the Atlantean Prince. He senses Magneto’s presence though and decides to withdraw and gather his students.

Magneto carries on his search, eventually finding Namor, the Sub-Mariners, castle. Namor is ranting about the Fantastic Four, how humans have taken everything from him, his people deserted him, and all his power and his kingdom is empty and meaningless. As he rants, and his advisors and guards cower and hide, one of them is approached by the astral Magneto who promises to give him “power beyond your wildest dreams” if he can pass a message on to Sub-Mariner which would result in him leaving to join Magneto and leaving the throne vacant which ”a clever man might easily steal”.

Meanwhile, Professor X has gathered up his team, rented a schooner, and set sail in search of Magneto’s North Atlantic island lair. Magneto’s message is passed on to Namor, who finds the idea that he too may be a mutant intriguing, and decides to go and meet Magneto to learn what his power is. To do this he gets into a submarine (a ‘sleek undersea racer’) and heads to the co-ordinates Magneto supplied for his island. Why the Sub-Mariner needs a submarine I’m not sure, but he makes it to the island and is greeted by Magneto himself.

Wanting a way to try and influence and control Sub-Mariner Magneto decides that Scarlet Witch would work (“You are what I need! Once he sets his eyes on The Scarlet Witch, he’ll be putty in our hands!”), which doesn’t go down very well with Quicksilver. Scarlet Witch thinks Namor looks very noble, and wonders “why would someone so fine, so masterful, want to ally himself with the evil Magneto??”. As she goes to tap him on the shoulder she accidently lets her hex powers loose, blasting Namor with high voltage electricity. Thankfully Namor is alright, but seems impressed that The Scarlet Witch caused it.

Mastermind and Toad don’t think he’s all that, “So that’s the famous Sub-Mariner! He’s just a man in swimming trunks! What a disappointment!” mutters Mastermind, to which Toad replies, “See the wings on his feet! How small they are! Of what use can they be?”. Magneto shushes them with “Fools!! His strength is that of a hundred humans!! He has no need of costume, or weapons!”…. this coming from a man in full costume who fights against a wheelchaired bound gent with no costume… although I doubt that connection joins up for him…

Then, suddenly, Angel arrives on the scene but Magneto tells the others not to panic as the X-Men have made a great blunder attacking as on his home ground Magneto can not be defeated!!! Seemingly forgetting the events of the previous issue when the X-Men defeated and partially destroyed Magneto’s space station.

Anyway, Sub-Mariner flies up, grabs Angel, and flings him miles away… thankfully into the path of the X-Men’s ship so they can catch him with a combo from The Beast and Iceman. Magneto sends a magnetic blast which destroys their ship, plunging them all into the water. Iceman creates a frozen road for them to all travel along to the island, overcoming illusions put in their way to slow them down.

Cyclops and Quicksilver, once again, get into a fight as Cyclops tries to destroy Magneto’s giant magnet, but Quicksilver is subdued as the rest of the X-Men arrive on the scene. Magneto decides to destroy them all using his magnet, but Scarlet Witch is horrified as her brother is still out there with them, not that Magneto cares, “Stop your snivelling! I make the decisions here! Abide by them or suffer the same fate yourself!”. This causes Sub-Mariner to step in and destroy his control panel, “I am the Sub-Mariner! I ally myself with no one who speaks to a female as you do!!”. Magneto takes that as a declaration that Sub-Mariner is an enemy and envelopes him in metal machine parts… but is interrupted by The X-Men breaking into the control room and a brief fight between the Evil Mutants and the X-Men occurs before Magneto runs away, leaving Scarlet Witch behind as she wants to save her brother.

Scarlet Witch and the Sub-Mariner face off against the X-Men, with Wanda wanting to know that Quicksilver is safe and demanding his release. The joint forces of the X-Men seem to have no real effect on the Sub-Mariner, with Beasts attacks bouncing off him, Cyclops energy beam not having any effect, etc.

The battle is called abruptly to a halt by Professor X who arrives with Marvel Girl and a trancelike Quicksilver. The Professor releases Quicksilver, much to Scarlet Witch’s relief but Sub-Mariner has had enough with humans and mutants and decides to head back to the sea, “I was a fool to come here! The Sub-Mariner needs no alliances! All surfacemen are my enemies… whether mutant or not! I shall return to the deep where I belong!”. Although he does regret leaving Scarlet Witch, “Not since I lost my heart to Sue Storm have I seen such a beauty as The Scarlet Witch! But I dare not love another surface female… I dare not become vulnerable again!”.

The Professor is happy for Sub-Mariner to go as long as he’s not joining up Magneto. Magneto however is less happy, seeing Sub-Mariner as a threat “There is no way to leave Magento’s Mutants except by death!” and unleashed a mighty magneto blast at him. Sub-Mariner breaks free of it’s grip and, flexing his muscles, smashes his fists into the ground with such a force that it shatters Magneto’s island, destroying the gigantic magnet in the process.

The Evil Mutants, rejoined by a mentally summoned Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, make their escape in a Magno-Ship leaving the X-Men on the destroyed island, but thankfully with access to Magneto’s boat to get them back to the mainland.

“Our prisoners are escaping!” exclaims Cyclops. “I allowed it! Until they join us of their own free will, they would be useless to us! Someday we must learn what mysterious hold Magneto has over them.” Exclaims Professor X. “I’m glad to see them go! That witch is much too attractive!” Marvel Girl says as Angel replies in her ear, “Know something Heanie? So are you!”

Whilst I enjoyed this issue it had a lot more flaws than usual. A number of things just didn’t really make sense and it was quite clear that Sub-Mariner was the central character to the whole story. We got a little character development for some of the X-Men, as well as some of the Evil Mutants, so that was good. Oh, this was also the first issue to have an X-Men Special Pin-Up Page…. Featuring you’re lovable but glum Cyclops.

This issue “Sub-Mariner! Joins The Evil Mutants!” was written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Jack Kirby.

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