Thursday, 18 August 2011

X1C (v2) #1: "The Job Shadow"

(How not to be invisible.)


Hmm.  This is becoming a little repetitive.  The Fantastic Four's appearance in this issue brings the ratio of X1C issues (other than the special) to feature established Marvel characters to eight out of nine.  You can certainly make an argument for including Juggernaut and Blob in X1C #3, and the Maximoff siblings in X1C #7, since they're at least X-Men villains and thus tie into the aura of nostalgia this title is seemingly trying to create.  But that still leaves six issues - fully two-thirds of the run to date - that hinge on characters with little or no logical ties to the team or to mutant-kind in general.

That, as far as I'm concerned, is too much.  Yes, the characters are generally well used (Ken Hale was brilliant in issue #8, for instance), and this is true once again in this issue, but I'd still like to have a break from the wider Marvel Universe, at least for a little while.

That gripe aside, though, how does this issue stand up?  Pretty well, actually. As I say, the Fantastic Four are at least well used here, and having Jean hang out with Sue Storm so she can use the Invisible Girl as a role model is a perfectly serviceable idea.  It also allows Parker to point out that Jean is badly undervalued by her usual team, or at least badly underestimated.  Whilst the X-Men admonish her for trying to develop her powers without her help, the Fantastic Four are perfectly happy for her to throw herself into whatever she feels like.  Both her resulting joy and the X-Men's concurrent terror over losing her are great fun to watch.

There's also a panel of Cyclops' reaction to Johnny flirting with Jean that singlehandedly justifies the entire issue.

Built into this fear that Jean might leave the team is another point, however - how much the X-Men wish they could be like the Fantastic Four (nicely demonstrated by Iceman trying to impress Sue with a wall of ice that he's trying to make invisible). As Cyclops points out, Jean does the exact same things in both teams, but in the X-Men she's viewed as potentially "the real threat", and alongside the Richards, she's an instant celebrity.  I guess that makes a lack of appreciation the overall theme, which certainly makes the story more than just a standard super-hero team-up. 

Obviously, teaming-up is exactly what happens at the conclusion - this is a super-hero comic after all - but there's a nice element of vindication and catharsis to the proceedings.  It's then all brought full circle by Sue admitting she's envious of the X-Men for having a mentor to prepare them for the life they've chosen, and then asking Xavier if the true purpose of the "job shadow" was for Jean to see how other superheroines deal with their male counterparts.  The overall message here is that the two teams really aren't all that different.  Perhaps this isn't much of a surprise to the reader, but it's a nice thing for the X-Men themselves to consider.

Just as an aside, since I don't really read much Fantastic Four, I have a question.  Is building a giant android with a head shaped like a hammer something that Reed Richards would spend his time doing?  Because even for him, the cost-benefit analysis surely can't have looked that promising.  The Thing seems to have similar concerns: "Why didn't ya give this thing a face?"


This story takes place over a single day.

Apparently the first meeting of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four takes place in FF #28, which was published between UXM #7 and #8 (that issue also featured the Mad Thinker and his stolen android, and ended up with Richards reclaiming it, presumably that wacky old MT managed to swipe it again). Nothing else gives us a clue as to when the issue is set, beyond a passing reference by Bobby regarding how the team "Cerebro-ed" Jean's location.  If we assume that Iceman knows about Cerebro as some kind of team tracking technique, and not the specifics (which aren't revealed to him until UXM #12), and that Bobby doesn't consider "Go save Jean" to technically be a mission, then we can actually place this issue between UXM #9 and #10.  That's what we'll do, then.


Saturday 29th of July, 1978.



Contemporary Events

Standout Line

"[Jean's] blasting off in a sweet air car while we're all cramming into a minivan on missions."
"That van gets excellent mileage." - Bobby and Charles.

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