The last time I got a wild hair to read X-Men I left off with #110 knowing that #111 is a good jumping on point. #111 begins in medias res, but I’m reading in conjunction with the supplemental material from Classic X-men, so let’s start with #17 of that series.

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Walking down a city street one day, Jean Grey damps down her telepathy to shut out the crowd, which leaves her open to an attack by Mesmero. He takes control of her mind and tries to make her his sex toy, but every time he tries to touch her she begins to break through his control. He can’t have is way with her, but he can control her. She leads him to Xavier’s mansion where, one by one, he defeats all of the X-Men except Wolverine. After pitting all the X-Men against him and still being unable to win, Mesmero puts them all to sleep. His next ploy is to humiliate them (and also make some money on the side) by putting them in a carnival. This plan works (even with Wolverine) because their “carny” personas are slightly twisted variations of facets of their own personalities.

I didn't remember the "sex toy" bit. Ew. 

It does raise an issue I've thought about before, about how all the women in comics are gorgeous (even in crowd scenes), so how can you tell who is actually attractive? Evidently Jean Grey is quite a looker, head and shoulders above her peers, because everybody wants to have sex with her. You don't see that happening to Kitty Pryde.

By the same token, Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy, as drawn by John Romita Sr., were equally attractive to the young Captain, but he could tell that MJ was supposed to be zowie by how the in-story men reacted to her (then and since). Despite her depiction, Gwen must have been a bit more ordinary. (Compared to MJ.)

This is a corollary to a story I've told here before, about how the only way I knew that the women in early Marvel Comics were supposed to be attractive was from the reactions of the men in the stories. Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Don Heck were talented artists and deserve every accolade imaginable, but "pretty women" was not an arrow in their quiver.

The "sex toy" bit was added to the original story. Creepy, yes but answers why Jean wasn't abused.

Didn't Magneto find her "attractive" as well?

“I didn't remember the "sex toy" bit. Ew.”

Every issue of Classic X-Men (later X-Men Classic) had a back-up story which tied in in some way to the original issue (in this case, #111). These stories were written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Bolton (later by others). In this case, the back-up story serves as a direct prequel to X-Men #111. Classic X-Men also featured new scenes (sometimes panels, sometimes pages) added to supplement the original story. Also, certain dialogue was changed. The Classic X-Men Omnibus includes the covers of both issues, recaps the original story, and reprints the supplemental material as well as the back-ups. It had been my intention to deal with both original and new material together in the same post, but we went out last night and I had time to read only Classic X-Men #17. In this case, the material works so well as two separate parts of the same story, I decided to handle it that way. I’ll play it by ear going forward.

“Didn't Magneto find her "attractive" as well?”

Not to mention Xavier. Double “Ew.”

That cover is terrible!

The series' regular cover artist* was Arthur Adams, and his were often better than the originals (IMO). #17 was the first (I think) issue which required a substirute artists, Jon Bogdanove in this case.

*The first regular cover artist, I should say. Later regular cover artists included Steve Lightle and Mike Mignola.

(Do you like this cover better?)

X-MEN #111:

The story opens with the Beast discovering the X-Men performing in a carnival freak show. (The cover reveals their roles.) It is revealed through flashback why the Beast came to seek the X-Men in the first place. Because this story is told largely from the Beast’s POV (or at least can be read that way), it’s a good jumping on point, especially for older readers, because the beat doesn’t really know the “All-New, All-Different” team very well at this point. He finds Jean grey and “Slim” Summers after the show, but they don’t know him and call on the circus staff to chase him down. He is captured in view of Wolverine, which is enough to snap him out of his brainwashing. Wolverine finds Jean and provokes her until the Phoenix instinctively emerges. Then it’s short work to use her powers to free the rest of the X-Men. They storm Mesmero’s wagon only to discover another villain: Magneto!

The new pages of Classic X-Men #17 recap the Beast’s origin and details how he tracked the X-Men. X-Men #111 begins an arc which continues pretty much nonstop until “The Death of the Phoenix” in #137. I keep my X-Men Omnibus and my Classic X-Men Omnibus side-by-side, and may choose to read a run of the Byrne originals, a run of the Bolton back-ups, or I may alternate back and forth.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

(Do you like this cover better?)

Ha..yes!  Classic cover. And classic story at the peak of Claremont/Byrne.

But it (gasp!) doesn't feature Wolverine!

And which of these covers do you like better? (This question open to anyone.)

(I am going to begin using “CXM” for Classic X-Men.)

X-MEN #112/CXM #18:

Magneto uses his power to transport the wagon through the air, 10 miles above ground, 4000 miles from Texas, passing over the Andes Mountains. He tells the X-Men in flashback how he came to the X-mansion seeking revenge but found it empty. He was there when the Beast arrived and followed him to Sullivan Country, TX. Magneto ejects Mesmero at that point, but he does lower him safely to the ground. He flies the wagon on to Antarctica and descends into a live volcano using magnetic force to protect them from the molten lava. His underground headquarters covers five square miles. They fight. Magneto wins. The X-Men awaken to find themselves imprisoned in power-dampening chairs, unable to use their powers or even to speak. They are tended to by a saccharine robot nanny. Magneto blames Xavier for being turned into a baby several months prior (Defenders #16), and plans to keep the X-men imprisoned for the rest of their lives in revenge.

CXM #18: The new pages show the individual reactions as they prepare to battle Magneto and present an extended battle scene between Magneto and Phoenix. Frankly, I never thought the added scenes meshed all that well with the original story and art. It seemed like so much padding to me. I don’t mind so much reading them separately, however, with the original comic still fresh in my mind. The Bolton back-up takes place between #110-111, before the back-up in CXM #17, and details the Phoenix’s increasing power.

“Classic story at the peak of Claremont/Byrne.”

I must say, I’m really enjoying reading this run so far. In the past, whenever I would start to read a classic run, I would invariably start over at the beginning each time. Consequently, I have read the early issues of famous runs multiple times, later issues less frequently. But, for the past several years, I have made it a point to pick up an abandoned reading project where I left off, which has made a big difference.

I don't remember exactly when it happens, but Cyclops reacts to Magneto by thinking, essentially, "Oh no! We're not ready!" This really cemented in my mind just how dangerous Magneto is and was. That is to say, every month our heroes (and every hero) are put into desperate jeopardy, even when they're fighting nobodies. But this told me that Magneto was really the only foe the leader of the X-Men actually feared.

Oh, and this is a great issue to put the kibosh on the idea that Xavier and Magneto have had a secret partnership since before X-Men #1. Well, at least in this timeline!

That was in X-Men #104, Captain, as Magneto was a baby when the new team was formed. And he destroyed these New X-Men which wasn't hard when two of them, Colossus and Wolverine, were particularly vulnerable to his powers. The one who did the best against him was Banshee, of all people, but they were defeated until Cyclops made the save. Magneto was at his most destructive as opposed to his previous appearances.

Speaking of which, if he wanted revenge because of his baby-dom, why didn't he go after the Defenders?

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