I’ll freely admit that I love origin stories. I see people on social media decry films and comics that recount them, but I just can’t help myself. One of my favorite origin stories, is that of Professor Xavier (and the X-Men). Of course, Spider-Man is the one that gets retold a lot, but I can’t recall this one being retold many times. Honestly though, does anyone not get pumped when they see names like Chris Claremont (writer), John Byrne (pencils), and Terry Austin (inks)?
This reprint book gives us a tale from the youth of Professor Charles Xavier. But first, he’s talking with Lilandra in his office. You see, the X-Men are missing and presumed dead (after an altercation in the Savage Land). He then begins to think that maybe he should never have recruited them for his cause. His mind drifts back to a trip he made to Cairo years ago. As he was walking through the city, a girl (a young Ororo Monroe, A.K.A. Storm!) stole his wallet. He chased the girl down, and retrieved his wallet, but was struck down by a mental attack. He then makes his way inside a cafe to meet the person responsible. He then comes face to face with Amahl Farouk. He is a mutant, and a very powerful telepath, just like Xavier. The difference is that he’s evil, and uses his powers for personal gain. After a quick introduction, they meet on the Astral Plane for combat. The battle is fierce, but eventually, Xavier proves to be the superior combatant!
This story isn’t one filled with action, but it does show you not only the origin of Xavier but his first encounter with another mutant. Seeing Xavier in this different light (pre-X-Men) is quite a thrill and I can only imagine how much bigger of one it was for readers back in 1979. There’s also a back up story by Claremont and John Bolton. A neat little story involving Nightcrawler! And to top it all off, we get a cover (and pinup) by Art Adams! The original cover is by Dave Cockrum (X-Men 117, the last image).
There are just a few series that really stand the test of time. You have perennial favorites like The Avengers, X-Men, and so on, but for me The Defenders is right there at the top. The book started out with the outstanding writer, Steve Englehart at the helm, but after eleven issues, he stepped aside. We all know that the greatest stories in this book were from the mind of Steve Gerber (RIP), but sandwiched in-between, are a few issues from Marvel staple, Len Wein. Marvel had a problem back in the 1970’s, of how to de-age their older characters. They found a way to do it to Professor Xavier, but Magneto was also one of those aged characters that needed to be brought back to his younger days. This story was the solution, and while it may be wacky, it was a throw-down between two awesome teams!
The two issues pit Professor Xavier and The Defenders against magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. This isn’t just some wishy-washy group of villains either, because when you have Unus the Untouchable, and the Blob on the same team, you’ve got the muscle to do just about anything. Throw in Mastermind and Lorelei (from the Savage Land), and the team is extremely formidable with Magneto leading them! Len Wein – writer, Sal Buscema – pencils (Gil Kane did the cover to #16, Sal #15), Klaus Janson – inks, Glynis Wein – colorist, John Costanza – letters, and Roy Thomas – editor! Don’t blink, or else you’ll miss baby Magneto at the end of the story!
I just started to grab some of these X-Men reprints, and wow, are they something! I love the X-Men, and wanted to find a way to get my hands on some of their older material without breaking the bank, and this title was just the way to go. Typically, with reprint titles, Marvel stays pretty close on the cover artwork to the original work. For some reason they really went in the opposite direction with some of these books. Not that I’m complaining mind you, because I’m a big fan of the work of Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell. He really stands out with his style, but also “gets it”, when it comes to being faithful to the source material. Check out the awesome work by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, Bob Wiacek, Tom Orzechowski, Glynis Wein (Oliver), and Louise Jones (Simonson)!
In this issue we see the first meeting (via flashback) between Xavier and Magneto from way back in the day! Also, we see the Brood, Gabrielle Haller, Cyclops and Storm having a power struggle, albeit a brief one, and then a battle with Xavier and Magneto on one side, and Baron Strucker and Hydra on the other!