X-Men #14, November, 1965
“Don’t worry—It’ll be all right—As soon as I put my glasses back on—!”
Central Conflict: The X-Men VS The Sentinels
Raciest X-Joke So Far:
Now that the mouth-breathing musclestorm that was the Juggernaut has dissipated, the X-Men are given some well-earned R and R. I wonder if it will be interrupted by some new, loud, superlative threat.
Their period of “recuperative therapy” looks pretty kinky: Cyclops kicks back in a nitrous-tank, Angel hangs from the ceiling by leather, and Iceman happily chills in an “ice intensifier.”
—Bobby, I think you’ve been in the ice intensifier long enough. You seem to have reached your frigid peak by now.
—Aww, just a few minutes more, Professor! This is the coolest, if you’ll pardon the pun!
We won’t, Bobby.
Elsewhere, we join new character Dr. Bolivar Trask, anthropologist, at his press conference in “another city.” Trask, looking his most evil Walt Disney-esque, effuses on the new threat faced by humanity. “We’ve been so busy worrying about cold wars, hot wars, atom bombs and the like, that we’ve overlooked the greatest menace of all!”
He’s talking about our mutants of course.
When you’re a teenaged student at a prep school, and you survive an attack by the headmaster’s step-brother, you get a reward. Case in point: now that the X-Men seem to have recharged, Xavier lets them all in on the good news that they’ve earned a vacation.
As the X-Men prepare to flit off to their various vacation destinations. Each must take an extra step or two to conceal their mutations. Warren ties back his wings in a girdle, Hank pulls on “specially hinged” shoes, and Scott breaks out the Ray Bans that—somehow—protect everyone in sight from his optic blast.
Lonely Scott wants to drive Jean to the train station but Warren beats him to it (“’natch”).
So again we’re reminded that everyone loves Jean Grey. Maybe it’s her telekinetic abilities, or the way she plays team nurse after a rough rumble with Juggernaut, or maybe it’s the fact that she’s the only woman in the house or appearing regularly within these pages—whatever it is, she’s just plain irresistible to the teenagers and the headmaster.
To the writers’ credit, they’re keeping the muted Scott/Jean/Everyone Else Alive Ever love triangle going somewhat organically. Scott loves Jean but doubts that she sees him as anything other than the tormented, loner team leader. Jean loves Scott but thinks his singular vision won’t allow a girlfriend. And Warren is a Ken doll.
The students all go off to celebrate their leaves in different ways. Bobby and Hank split for their hipster coffee spot, Angel heads home to Long Island where he’s waited on by his family butler, and Jean—well, we don’t know, she just kind of vanishes for most of this book.
Xavier watches Scott do the dejected Charlie Brown walk out of the X-Mansion, and then turns to peruse the newspaper. Dr. Bolivar Trask’s fear-mongering must be good stuff, he’s got front page billing with the headline, “Mutant Menace!” Xavier reads that what he’s always feared has now eventuated: mutant fear has come into vogue. “Dr. Trask warns that the superior abilities and supernatural powers of the hidden mutants will enable them to enslave the human race, replacing our civilization with their own!” In Public Relations terms, this is “not good.”
Xavier’s not happy. “I cannot let this go unchallenged! It could cause panic thruout the world!” Newspaper in one hand, telephone in the other, Xavier rings the “National Television Network” and makes a proposal: “I want to engage in a public televised debate with Dr. Bolivar Trask as soon as possible! I claim his theories are both erroneous and potentially dangerous!”
Because Xavier gets stuff done the debate is scheduled for the very next night. ‘Natch.
Xavier and Trask are seated at a stage where a respectful, thoughtful debate is surely about to take place. Right? I mean, it’s not like Trask—an anthropologist—is going to interrupt his own argument and say, “At any rate, I have created a new defense for mankind! Whether I win or lose does not matter… for the mutants will never take over the human race now! Not while my new army of Sentinels lives!”
At least this would make for great TV. It’s tough to imagine any public forum that wouldn’t be livened up by the speaker abruptly shifting gears and summoning his “army of” anything onto the stage.
So enter the Sentinels. Twice the size of a man, decked out in Magneto’s color scheme, and wearing large, golden Aztec god faces, the Sentinels are something to behold. Again, it’s unclear what business an anthropologist has inventing a robot army but whatevs, they’re here and they want to party. Trask offers to demonstrate the robots’ subservient nature and orders them to seize Xavier, not as an attack, merely as an illustration. How can this go wrong?
Well, it can wrong lots of ways, and quickly too.
Just like you knew they would, the Sentinels decide their “brain is superior to your brain!” and “We are the Sentinels! We serve none! It is our destiny to command!” It’s quite a jump from obeying simple verbal commands to “It is our destiny to command”, but, hey, this is Marvel in the 60s; anything/everything can/will happen (loudly).
The lead Sentinel activates a chest-ray that incapacitates Trask. Everyone panics and Xavier calls in the troops.
–X-Men! X-Men! Professor X calling! Condition Red!…Come at once! Come at once!
You could pretty much write your own X-adventure from here on out. The mutants come running and, soon, grappling, with the Sentinels. Beast takes on most of the action (why is this? Every time there’s a throwdown, Beast is the one who gets the most screentime. This writer’s theory is that his acrobatics are either the most fun to draw or the most thrilling to witness. I dunno.)
One of the Sentinels captures Trask and flies out from the studio (though it’s never explicitly shown how these creatures made it into or out of the building, they’re too tall for doorways.
Why capture Trask, you ask?
Here’s some pat reasoning:
Meanwhile, back in the battle, Beast and Cyclops move in for “Operation Duo-Smash” (“Your battering ram and my ray blast! Let’s go!”) but it fails miserably. “Hank crashed into the wall with such force that he knocked himself out!”
While Beast lies on the floor, prone and vulnerable, a Sentinel raises a massive robot fist to decimate him. “But then, suddenly, the most unexpected event of all occurs! For no apparent reason, the towering Sentinel stops [and] falters…” and collapses with a supernal “THOOOM”.
So, the X-Men didn’t exactly win this one; the fight just kinda stopped occurring. Now that they’ve got some breathing room, the team huddles to determine What Next. Trask has been kidnapped and even though he’s unquestionably a dangerous dickhead, it still behooves the X-Men to go rescue their antagonist. Without any real clues, Xavier begins to receive “vague mental impulses” that indicate the Sentinels have taken Trask to something called “Master Mold”—“their headquarters”.
The team jumps into their Rolls-Royce(!?) and head off into the countryside to rescue Trask.
“According to the mental emanations I received from the fallen Sentinel, this is where his headquarters will be found!”
Well how could mental emanations be wrong?
Seems like they are though, because here in the New York countryside, there’s no sign of Sentinels, Trask, or whatever “Master Mold” is. All is pastoral, peaceful, and dull.
And so the issue ends on another hard cliffhanger. The “fortress” comes lifting out of the earth, ray guns a-blasting, X-Men a-toppling. Meanwhile, the narration informs us that due to “the most unprecedented demand in fandom’s history” the publication rate has now accelerated to monthly! It’s kind of charming to imagine waiting monthly for loud, splashy, bang-you-over-the-head content like this, now that every weekend brings new dark and/or multi-format superhero IP to a device near you.
This is just where it started. ‘Natch.