Monday, 6 June 2011

UXM #3: "Beware Of The Blob!"


I realise no-one has ever accused Stan Lee of underselling, but I confess I'd forgotten just how hyperbolic his prose gets.  "Of all the great Marvel epics, this may be the greatest!" might be a tad OTT as a way of introducing a story that can be boiled down to "Fat man fails to beat X-Men, even whilst armed with giraffes", but then that's all part of the fun.
At last! Beast has made a sudden transformation (not, of course, his last) and is now ridiculously loquacious and a confirmed "book-worm".  He's even seen reading books held between his toes, adding another X-Men staple to Stan Lee's tally.  Of course, his new found smarts aren't enough for him to detect an entire goddamn carnival arriving outside the mansion (I don't care how well trained that elephant is, I refuse to believe they've gotten it to ninja-like levels of stealth).  One suspects the Blob might actually have managed to win the battle for the mansion had he not decided to send in his giraffes as his Forlorn Hope.  Mere height does not a siege engine make, Mr Dukes.
We're still being bombarded by sexism, naturally; Angel's response to the possibility of a new mutant is to say - with Jean in the room, mind you - "I hope it's a female!  One just like Marvel Girl! Mmmm boy!" Later, the boys compete for the right to chaperone Jean (whether this was Beast's idea or the Professor's, I'm not sure), and the tone throughout the issue (at least as regards Bobby, Warren, Hank and the Blob) defines Jean as an object rather than a person.  She isn't even smart enough to realise she can telekinetically remove her blindfold until Xavier points it out.
Speaking of Jean and Xavier, this issue makes two interesting moves.  The first is making it clear Cyclops has feelings for Jean, but won't make a move out of fear of hurting her with his power.  The second is that the Professor is secretly in love with Jean too, but in his case won't say anything because of his inability to walk [1] and because he's leading the X-Men.  Apparently his professionalism does impose some limits after all (though not to the point where he won't refuse to allow someone to leave when they choose not to join the X-Men, obviously).
In other circumstances, a teacher secretly in love with his pupil might make for a pretty good storyline.  I'm less convinced that Stan Lee is someone I'd hand the job too, though.  I'm pretty sure this idea gets dropped quickly, though, and is forgotten about for a loooooooong time (X-Men vol. 2 #53, to be precise), but it puts a new spin on things at least.
Besides, I think we can forgive Lee this misstep, since issue #3 manages to add two more central pieces to the X-Men canon, the previously mentioned brainy Beast, and the Blob himself.
This is a little bit tricky, actually.  It's difficult to tell in black and white, but the storyline implies that the carnival attacks the same night that Cyclops invites the Blob back to the mansion.  If so, the whole story can fit into a single day, barring the last panel (Blob at another show) which can safely be allowed to overlap issue #4's story if needed.
The bigger problem, though, is that both Cyclops and Professor X are both clearly harbouring feelings for Jean.  We need to think about how quickly that could have happened, which is not an easy consideration.  Thinking about it, though, we don't know how long Xavier knew Jean for before he invited her to join the team, so the real issue is how the (now clearly) tightly-wound Cyclops has let his guard down. We could place this story only a week after her arrival, but is that really enough time?  I suppose given the fact they're living in the same house, they share a bond as both teammates and as mutants, and (cynically) she's apparently phenomenally attractive, one can imagine an infatuation burning fairly bright fairly quickly.  I can believe he'd start thinking about giving his heart to her after only three weeks, maybe.  He is a teenager, after all. 
I did briefly wonder whether we could deduce anything from the presence of a travelling carnival with attendant sideshow, but it occurred to me that there was little point trying to extrapolate public interest in freak-shows in the Marvel Universe in any case.  On the one hand, you've got a guy who can literally stop bullets with his beer belly, which is probably pretty cool to watch.  On the other hand, you might be coming to the carnival after a busy day repairing the damage to the city caused when a Greek God did battle with a giant robot.  Who knows where the humble carnival would fit in at that point?
Saturday 23rd September, 1978.
Compression Constant
1 Marvel week = 5.30 standard weeks.
Contemporary Events

Three days into General Rahimuddin Khan's martial law governorship of Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan.
Stand-Out Line
“Hey! Watch it! I just shined my little black booties!" Iceman reminds us that just because you regularly do battle with the world's strangest supervillains doesn't mean you have to accept ugly scuff marks.  It's a little thing called standards, people.

[1] Is this a bit offensive too?  Having a disabled man conclude he has no right to court a pretty woman?  Aside from the continuing idea that Jean can't make up her own mind about who she wants to be with, I mean.  Maybe there are self-esteem issues that can hit people after they lose the use of their legs in an accident.  I really have no idea, actually.  So I'm not declaring a foul, here, just wondering aloud.

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