“Though I am prince of the deep, monarch of the sea, my titles are hollow… my kingdom is empty and meaningless!!”—Namor the Sub-Mariner, X-Men # 6, 1964
Central Conflict: Namor VS. The X-Men VS. The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants
There’s really just no way around the fact that a lot of this seems pretty inchoate.
It’s certain that in the course of the fifty plus years that lay ahead of the X-Men and their careers much of this will get ironed out, sidestepped, retconned, contradicted and/or ignored, but as of “now”—issue six—there are some inconsistencies.
Questions a reader of this book series might have at this point include:
- Exactly what are Magneto’s powers? He can, so far, demonstrate total (and pretty much telekinetic) power over any object that is even remotely magnetic (this includes rocks and people). But also, he can project himself metaphysically across great distance (just like Xavier can) and communicate telepathically (just like Xavier can).
- What are mutants? Traditionally, they’re considered the “next generation of homo superior,” right? But in this issue, Namor—an Atlantean—is identified as a mutant which would indicate—one would think—that, by extension, all Atlanteans are mutants, no? And if that is the case, then that kind of upsets the idea of mutants being the next anything. Is there any reason to think Atlanteans are not older than humans? Maybe Mutants are the originals, and humanity is the next step. Maybe it’s devolution, not evolution. Or maybe it’s just not thought out. But in this issue Xavier and Magneto are both immediately pretty accepting of the idea that the prince of the undersea kingdom of Atlantis could be a mutant. Which. doesn’t. make. sense.
None of this matters much because the point of this comic book series (up through now) seems to be pretty much just to facilitate fun.
And it really is doing a bang-up job so far.
Issue Six begins at home, with the X-Men clowning around a table set with a meal cooked by Jean. The requisite light comedy is enacted before Xavier withdraws to his study and, quite matter-of-factly—enters a trance state, whereby he projects a shade version of himself under the OCEAN(!) to seek out the never-before-mentioned (at least in The X-Men so far) character of Namor the Sub-Mariner.
It’s not much of a surprise that these panels are the most beautiful and energetic of the issue. It’s pretty openly psychedelic.
However, Xavier leaves his tasked unfinished when he “senses” Magneto nearby, doing exactly the same thing. Again, how Magneto’s magnetic power allows him to do this is pretty unclear. It’s like if you were really good at badminton, and that somehow also enabled you to cause earthquakes with your mind.
So anyway, Magneto gets to the undersea king first. Namor, it should be said, is really the star of this issue by the way. It’s clear from the editorial notes that this is a character who has recently shown up in Fantastic Four where he both antagonized the team and romanced its matron. So is he a villain, a hero, neither? Neither with a capital N.
The action finds its way to another of Magneto’s secret bases, this one a Magnetic island hidden away at sea. (The X-Men show up in a galleon which gets obliterated spectacularly.)
There’s a striking quantity of tension in this issue.
The X-Men and The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are in pursuit of the same “mutant.” Namor is courted by, then pitted in battle against, both the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and the X-Men. The Scarlett Witch finds herself crushing on the underwater dude and also beginning to question the infallibility of her leader Magneto. Magneto is subsequently doubted and tested by nearly each of his underlings. And Jean Grey (abruptly) reveals herself to be jealous of the Scarlett Witch’s beauty.
Not much happens to or changes with our X-Men here. In this issue, they’re actually very much in the background for most of the narrative. The stars are, again, Jack Kirby’s utterly vibrant art and Marvel’s seaguy Namor—who, it should be said, comes across as a pleasantly dimensional chap. In a mere handful of panels he displays royal surety, pettiness, rage, and forlornness.
It will be fun to see if (and how) the X-Men themselves dimensionalize to the same degree.