Wednesday, 22 June 2011

UXM #19: "Lo! Now Shall Appear -- The Mimic!"

(Imitation is the sincerest form of battery)


It's the last Stan Lee scripted issue, exactly two and a half years since the comic began.  As mentioned previously, this is a good time to list all of the concepts, inventions and characters central to the X-books for which Lee is responsible.
  • Professor X
  • Cyclops
  • Angel
  • Beast
  • Marvel Girl
  • Iceman
  • Magneto
  • Quicksilver
  • Scarlet Witch
  • Mastermind
  • Toad
  • Blob
  • Vanisher
  • Unus the Untouchable
  • Ka-Zar
  • Juggernaut
  • Bolivar Trask
  • Mimic
Inventions and locations
  • The mansion
  • The Danger Room
  • Cerebro
  • Asteroid M
  • The Savage Land
  • The Sentinels
Which pretty much just leaves Lucifer, the Stranger, the radar-image beam and the dreaded mento-helmet that didn't really go anywhere.  Even if you can't find a good word to say about Lee's writing (which would be a tad unfair; it's a lot closer to massively outdated than actually terrible), you have to respect his success in terms of world building. 

His swansong issue is pretty strong as well  Just as you're wondering what the Mimic hoped to gain from attacking the X-Men, we learn it was all a ruse to get them to follow him to where he could put their stolen powers to use.  It might not exactly be a Shyamalan twist (even one of the shit ones), but it does play smartly off the standard "villain shows up, X-Men beat him" template that was so in evidence during the early issues.

The psychology of the Mimic is also fairly interesting, especially for a '60s character.  Calvin's obsessive need to prove himself (to his classmates, to his father, even to the X-Men, in a delightfully twisted way) not only explains why he does what he does, but also explains why it never works.  His ability to share someone else's powers means any attempt to prove his superiority boils down to tossing a coin.  Like the doppelganger in Talisman, once you're faced with something which is identical to you by definition, all that's left is the luck of the draw.

Which is why Mimic keeps failing to be satisfied, even as he wins all those medals, and beats (temporarily) the X-Men at their own game.  The real problem is that he isn't just mimicking powers, he's mimicking ambition.  He wants to be good at sports like the people he steals from.  He wants to impress the girls like Hank and Bobby have (or seem to have).  He wants to be a powerful man, like his father, to the point where he makes a costume which apes the design on the door to his father's lab.  Ultimately, of course, he joins the X-Men because he wants to be a superhero too.  It's a really nice idea for a character, I think, a good use of tying in a personality to their power without making it too literal or obvious, and might in fact explain why Rankin is forever in the lower tier of Marvel characters - all he can do is fret about what others think of him.

I vaguely remember the "Is Mimic a mutant" argument taking up a lot of fan's time at one point.  Within the context of this issue, I wonder if Lee thought ti was pushing credulity too much (even for him) to have a chemist smart enough to make a mutant enhancement machine[1] happen to have a mutant for a son. I don't see why else Lee wouldn't have gone for it; easy superpower justification being the whole point.  Interestingly, this then led to a large number of X-Men villains with preternatural origin stories during Roy Thomas' run, bu we'll get to that in due time.


This story takes place over two days.

Apparently it's vacation time again.  This is somewhat confusing, actually.  Xavier mentions their encounters "with the Sentinels and with Magneto in the past few months", apparently forgetting that they both happened within the same three day period.  It's possible he was including one of their earlier bouts with Magneto (just before he was abducted by the Stranger, for example), but then why skip over the Juggernaut?

Well, maybe Xavier doesn't like talking about his stepbrother; that's hardly unreasonable.  In any event, the leaves have finally fallen from the trees (some of them at least), so if we assume this story takes place at the start of November, everything fits neatly into place.

Cyclops refers to Beast as "boy", which previously I took as evidence of chronological superiority.  This time, I think Cyclops is just being a dick.


Wednesday 1st to Thursday 2nd of November, 1978.

X+215 to X+216. (Lee era: 7 months)
Compression Constant
1 Marvel month = 4.37 standard months.
Contemporary Events
Ugandan forces annex Tanzanian territory across the Kagera River.
Stand-Out Line
"Zelda's not here yet! We might as well case the other chicks!" You stay classy, Bobby.
[1] Or so he told Calvin, at least. This issue really does deserve credit for how hideously bitter the ending is: the X-Men don't stop the Mimic, he's undone by his own father secretly thinking he was a prick.  That's some dark shit, right there.

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