("Ah, alpha particles. Is there anything they can't do?")
First thing's first: I love that cover. We're still squarely in the "more vibrant colours means more awesome" era of comic books (to the extent to which that was an era, rather than an almost immutable law), so something comparatively understated like this is a joy to see. It even has (whisper it) atmosphere, something the comic has decidedly lacked until now.
Radiation really is a wonderful all-purpose plot device, isn't it? This time around it not only wipes out Grotesk's entire race, but it also makes him ugly, super-strong, and inflicts him with amnesia that can only be cured by him reciting the entire story to himself. It's Roy Thomas' very own sonic screwdriver.
At least Grotesk's motivation - his entire civilisation was accidentally wiped out and he blames humanity - makes for a better driving force than that of most of the villains we've seen so far.
Another X-Men tradition gets its initial airing, as we get our first glimpse of the "impending secret catastrophe makes Xavier a total dickhead" phenomenon. Indeed, he acts so unbearably during the X-Men's training session that I initially thought he'd been already been replaced by Changeling, until he started being a prick telepathically. Two demerits apiece for Hank and Bobby because they rushed into the Danger Room in civvies? What a turd!
(Besides, if anything regarding Hank and Bobby's behaviour in this issue should raise eyebrows, it's how they respond to a brutal attack on their subway car by waiting for the lights to go out and then taking their clothes off. Just sayin'.)
I can't help thinking Mr Clancy might be a bit too jittery to sit on a board of trustees. Turning on a dime from "this machine cannot possibly work" to "this machine could be used to destroy the planet!" is a fairly remarkable transition, and indicates rather strongly that he should probably try to cut down on the coffee (I think Al Gore talked about a similar type of reaction in An Inconvenient Truth; perhaps they've met).
I adore the fact that Cyclops immediately concludes that all this secretive business between Xavier and Jean is because the professor is in love with her. Right or wrong (who knows when he gave up hope of offering her a few, ahem, "private lessons"), it's completely believable that a teenage boy as deeply in love as Scott is(which is to say all teenage boys everywhere, ever) would be incapable of imagining any relationship between Jean and another man which didn't involve the latter lusting after her. This is why we should slap people who claim to miss their lives before they turned twenty.
The five-pages-at-a-time origins story continues in this issue. Once again it's mostly forgettable, save for it demonstrating that Xavier apparently had telekinetic powers once upon a time, and for showing us that, amazingly, Thomas hasn't entirely mined out the potential uses of radiation, having added "can give you hands made out of diamonds" to the list of possible side-effects.
Mind you, this is Marvel we're talking about, here. They should just come up with a "random response to radioactive bombardment" table and have done with it.
This issue takes place over a single night.
Following standard practice, we'll set this the day after the previous adventure. Iceman certainly notes that they could have done without a giant monster smashing up the NY subway system so soon after Factor Three and Frankenstein's Monster.
Something strange is clearly happening to the trees hereabouts; some are still in full bloom, others are completely bare. Obviously Thomas is trying to throw me off the scent...
Sunday 13th April, 1980.
1 Marvel year = 2.17 standard years.
(Iceman is 38 years old.)
The 6221 Ducenetesima asteroid is discovered in the main belt by Antonin Mrkos.
"It cannot be mere chance! They must be directed at me... from the outer world!" It's Writing 101 time again, folks: if a coincidence is so ridiculously unlikely that your own characters refuse to believe it, you probably shouldn't try to get it past your readers either.