“The heat is so intense that even I cannot get close to it! I must walk carefully around it!”
Central conflict: X-Men vs. Magneto
Biggest surprise: Xavier a dick.
“Attention X-Men! This is Professor Xavier calling! Repeat: This is Professor X calling! You are ordered to appear at once! Class is now in session! Tardiness will be punished!”
Punished? Why and how?
In the first issue of The X-Men we witness the training and initial combat execution of the first iteration of an X-Men team. We meet Professor Xavier, Cyclops, Angel, Iceman, and The Beast. A WASPier team of mutants there never was. In the opening, exposition-packed panels, the X-Men train in the Danger Room with retro-futuristic equipment like balancing rods, medicine balls and an enormous, whipping wheel called a “spanner.” The team banters and brawls among flame jets and gymnasts’ rings, and everything comes to a sputtering stop when Marvel Girl arrives—petite, proper, scarfed and manicured (she’s touching her hair or hat about 50% of the time). Xavier says, “Boys, this is Jean Grey! She will be known as Marvel Girl!” Presumptuous to bestow a name like Marvel Girl on someone who hasn’t really done anything yet, no?
Now that Marvel Girl’s on the roster, there’s no time for her own training. A terrorist named Magneto has attacked Cape Citadel and is using his magnetic powers to wreck everything because he’s evil. How do we know Magneto is evil? Because he says things like “Wrong, General! I have all the time in the world! And now, I, the miraculous Magneto, claim this entire installation… in the name of Homo Superior!!”
The final panels are about what you might expect. The X-Men colorfully dismantle the machinations of Magneto with powers perfectly suited to each challenge (Cyclops’ power beam blasts through a magnetic wall, Angel’s fancy wingwork diverts the heat-seeking missiles, and Ice Man makes with, what else, ice tricks). We end with Magneto’s defeat and escape to fight another day, as we all know he will.
The issue closes with the narrator urging us not to miss the further adventures of the strangest superheroes of all. And what’s strange about all this is the lack of strangeness so far. In the first issue, it’s a little easy to imagine the X-Men as carbon copies of existing superheroes (The Beast and Ice Man in appearance and banter are pretty much just the Thing and the Human Torch, right?) But the creative process is a process, and the first issue of a series this long is probably not an even remotely accurate indicator of where this road will go. And it is a long road. What began in September, 1963 is going plenty strong today. This depthless and homogenous team of X-Men are about to have stunningly enduring careers as journeymen superheroes.