X-Men: The Hidden Years #16-22
Issue(s): X-Men: The Hidden Years #16, X-Men: The Hidden Years #17, X-Men: The Hidden Years #18, X-Men: The Hidden Years #19, X-Men: The Hidden Years #20, X-Men: The Hidden Years #21, X-Men: The Hidden Years #22
The original X-Men (minus Angel, who stays behind to wrap up affairs after his mom's death, and Xavier, who is still living with the Martins) follow Havok and Lorna Dane, who left for the Himalayas to investigate a mutant reading from Cerebro. There they find the "brobdignagian" Yeti...
...who the X-Men recognize as a member of the First Line.
I want to know how the X-Men immediately recognized this Yeti as the one from First Line. We know from Silver Surfer #1 that there are actual Yetis living on Marvel Earth, and in general he's a generic enough looking monster, and the First Line were supposed to be obscure enough, that it takes a real intuitive leap for the X-Men to figure that out. I guess it's that weird chestplate that he wears.
The Yeti has gone completely feral, and is guarding the corpse of the Skrull Rapunzel, who died along with the rest of the First Line in the final battle in the Lost Generation series. We saw this Skrull befriending Yeti in the Lost Generation series, but i don't think we knew in that series that she was actually Rapunzel from that series, and it's not confirmed here. But the MCP lists this dead Skrull as Rapunzel, so i'll go with it.
The Inhumans show up to stop the fight with the other surviving member of the First Line, Pixie, who is an Eternal, not an Inhuman, but i guess she was fortuitously in the area at the time.
When the storyline is wrapped up, the X-Men state that since they are among the few who remember the First Line, they have the responsibility of being extra vigilant when it comes to the Skrull menace. It's an odd statement to insert into the X-Men's history considering nothing before or since supports the idea that the X-Men are at all concerned with Skrulls. It was a bit of an odd story overall - the mutants detected by Cerebro turned out to actually be the Inhuman Refuge, so there was really no point to this encounter other than to say "Hey! Here's what happened with Yeti!" which i don't think was a burning question for anyone. But there was nothing wrong with it, either.
Issue #16 is "Dedicated to the memory of" someone, but the words got cut off, both on my copy and the online scan. It looks like it could be Disney illustrator Carl Barks, but he died in August 2000, somewhat earlier than this issue would have been published.
Issue #16 also announces that the series was going to be cancelled as of issue #22, which means Byrne would have had plenty of time to wrap things up. But he didn't seem to want to take that opportunity. As we'll see below, Byrne dedicates a lot of pages to inserting Professor X into the Fantastic Four/Magneto story. Considering that's a story that already existed and didn't need any "enhancement" it would have made more sense for Byrne to drop that plotline (especially since issue #12 already provided a nice hand-off point) and instead devote more to the Ted Carter plotline that he'd started or wrapping up the "something's wrong with Xavier" story, but instead he just plowed forward full steam and then issue #22 is a rushed wrap-up issue. I suspect that Byrne was actually way ahead on penciling these issues and he didn't want to have to go back and revise (which may also explain some of the other oddities in the storytelling for this series as i described in the previous Hidden Years entry). I also think Byrne felt the need to "correct" the fact that the X-Men didn't get involved in a very public attack by Magneto.
Anyway, when the X-Men return home from the Himalayas, they find Kraven the Hunter waiting for them.
He'd like to play "the most dangerous game" with the Beast, and he's poisoned Avia to ensure his agreement. Issue #17 is the most focused issue of the series, devoted largely to the Beast/Kraven fight.
The Beast, poisoned by Kraven, goes wild and beast-like during the fight, something that is described as "one of Hank's greatest fears", but it's not a concern of his that i am familiar with (even during his transformation into an actual Beast, it's only a concern when Mastermind tricks him with illusions).
Fred Duncan, X-Men's FBI liaison who more or less disappeared after Uncanny X-Men #46, appears in issue #17, but Byrne doesn't really take to opportunity to explain why Duncan won't be around any more.
With that wrapped up (Marvel Girl wipes Kraven's mind and sends him to a police station), we get back to the more schizophrenic pacing we're used to from this series.
During the Kraven fight, Lorna was abducted, and the X-Men go to investigate. Her abductors are the group of mutants that we saw way back in Amazing Adult Fantasy #14.
Bringing that story into continuity is a really cool idea, especially since, as that issue implied, this group of mutants, instead of trying to integrate into society like Xavier's group, or take over humans like Magneto's, have chosen to live apart from humanity until such time as humanity was ready to accept them. Parallels have been drawn between Xavier/Magneto and Martin Luther King/Malcom X, but Malcom X didn't really want black people to take over America and enslave the white people, and it's therefore not a great parallel. So an actual separationist strain of mutants might allow for some interesting themes to be introduced into the mutant mythos.
The name of the group is called "The Promise".
Their leader, Tobias Messenger, whose astral projection we saw in Amazing Adult Fantasy #14, explains:
Since that is what we represent -- the promise of a more hopeful tomorrow. You've seen the fears and hatreds of humanity. How the human race can turn even on itself...
Messenger expects "all-out war" between humans and mutants, and when it's over, The Promise will emerge as post-war "voices of reason". It's a little different than the explanation given in Amazing Adult Fantasy #14, but i guess it's close enough. While waiting for the expected war, the group keep themselves in suspended animation, only emerging every so often to observe the current state of the world and gather new recruits.
Lorna Dane was chosen because she is the "least contaminated" by Xavier's indoctrination. Havok is also a target. While Lorna is learning all of this, the rest of the X-Men are trying to fight their way into the base, but they're are stymied by the Promise's mental attacks, which have the X-Men thinking they are fighting monsters instead of each other.
(It's worth noting that Monster-Havok is knocking out Cyclops with his powers. By 2001 it was established that the Summers brothers were immune to each other's powers, but i guess Byrne wasn't interested in that.)
One of the Promise, Lucy Robinson, who has power the persuasion, convinces the group to also include Angel in the suspended animation tubes. It turns out that she's bitter that Messenger ruined her life by convincing her to join him when she was just a naive housewife (her brother died in Vietnam while she was in suspended animation, and her fully grown son is now a mutant-hater). After the others go to sleep she wakes up Angel and has her fly him back to her son.
...but it's not a happy homecoming.
The rest of the X-Men are left in an artificial jungle in a tube, and when they break out they find themselves in a long high-tech underground complex (we'll later learn it was built by Deviants). They never make it back to the Promise, and instead wind up in a random encounter with the Mole Man.
There's some messed up dialogue in issue #19, and also issue #20.
In the beginning of issue #19, while the X-Men are trapped in the tube, Cyclops sees the Beast running from a giant beetle.
Byrne wants to make the point that it's out of character for the Beast to run, and he's therefore still rattled from his loss of control while fighting Kraven. But here's how the dialogue is delivered. I'm including panels above and below just to show that nothing's taken out of context, but focus on Cyclops' non-sequitur.
Then in issue #20, he starts repeating himself.
It's like he's having a stroke or something. I don't know what happened in these sequences. If someone else was scripting over Byrne's art and plot, and they were rushing, you might imagine mistakes like that, but it's odd to see it happen to when a single creator is responsible for the whole package (and where was the editor?).
Anyway, the Mole Man reminds us that he's Marvel's original blind-but-can-still-see-just fine super character.
In addition to his incredible staff-fighting abilities, he also sends his monsters against the X-Men, including the big one from his first appearance.
The Mole Man plot is a bit pointless (but still a fun adventure in its own right), and the plot pacing reverts to the earlier issues of this series, where there's all these random unrelated events are occurring simultaneously. I suspect the goal was just to get the X-Men out of the way during the Fantastic Four/Magneto fight. Angel eventually joins up with the rest of the group, thanks to the (unseen) help of Ikaris and Pixie, who turn Angel to stone and carry him through the Deviant tunnels because they don't want him to learn anything about the Deviants.
While all of this is going on, Xavier is still with the Martins. Teri has been putting the moves on Xavier but he's been politely not noticing.
Xavier hears about Magneto alliance with Namor and attack on New York City via the television, and he sends his astral form, first to harass Magneto...
...and then to help Reed build the doohickey that eventually defeats him. Much of issues #21 and #22 is devoted to repeating scenes from the Fanastic Four/Magneto story, except with Xavier's astral form floating around in the background.
The Promise storyline is wrapped up in a very unsatisfactory way. Havok was placed into his suspended animation tube out of costume, and since his costume regulates his powers, he eventually explodes. All of the other members of the Promise are woken up, but Tobias Messenger is seemingly killed (although a little bit of ambiguity is left in case someone wants to bring him back; it's implied that Lucy Robinson killed him, but he might also have mentally fled his body). As for the rest of the Promise, most of the members decide to stick together but Lucy goes her own way. The group says they realize that Messenger was wrong, but there's no attempt to reconcile their previous criticism of Xavier or otherwise do anything interesting with the characters.
Havok is sent to New York to help fight the Atlantean invasion, but he's beaten up by a group of anti-mutant civilians instead. Again, i think the idea was to show that Xavier tried to involve the X-Men in Magneto's attack, but circumstances prevented it.
When Xavier returns to his body, he quickly disentangles himself from Teri Martin and returns to his school.
Then there's a two page wrap-up of the Beast celebrating his 20th birthday. The cover of this series kept the "strangest teens of all" tagline from the original X-Men books, and there were challenges in the lettercols suggesting that the team must have been in their 20s by now, so this sequence is meant to demonstrate/establish/prove that the X-Men were still teenagers at this point.
To my eyes, the end panels have a different look to them. It reminds me of when a reprint book enlarges panels because of different space considerations. Or maybe they were just rushed.
John Byrne's art is nice, and he generally writes good dialogue and entertaining stories. But taken as a whole, it was a bit of a mish-mosh with way too much going on, often all at once, and in an insanely short period of time. I'm hesitant to say that the series was "pointless" because any stories that entertain seem worth the time to create, but if you're going to retroactively add stories to Marvel's canon, it seems there should be a purpose to them. Byrne did in fact use the opportunity of this series to do a little continuity clean-up (the Magneto gap, the death of Angel's mother, strengthening the threat of the Z'Nox invasion, re-enforcing the existence and forgotten nature of the First Line, bringing in the Tad Carter story), but in terms of additional character development for the original X-Men team, there's little here. The good news is that it wasn't really damaging in any way; other than the Storm appearance, there's little in this series that has much impact on continuity. So on balance this series is just a fun but harmless set of adventures. I am sympathetic to the reasoning behind its cancellation (it was a part of a deck clearing of all X-Title clutter, which was badly needed; unfortunately a lot of clutter has crept back in to the line again) but i also understand why many fans would have preferred these simpler stories to what was going on in the core titles at the time.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: These issues (and indeed, all Hidden Years stories starting with issue #12 when the Sub-Mariner finds Magneto) take place concurrently with Fantastic Four #102-104. I prefer to have these issues placed afterward so that the original FF story can stand by itself and then we see the behind-the-scenes help provided by Professor X afterwards.
Continuity Implant? Y
Reprinted In: N/A
Characters Appearing: Angel, Ashley Martin, Avia, Beast, Black Bolt, Candy Southern, Crystal, Cyclops, Dazzler (Angel Villain), Fred Duncan, Gorgon, Havok, Iceman, Ikaris, Invisible Woman, Jean Grey, Karnak, Kraven the Hunter, Lady Dorma, Lucy Robinson, Magneto, Medusa, Mole Man, Mr. Fantastic, Pixie, Polaris, Professor X, Rapunzel, Sub-Mariner, Tad Carter, Teri Martin, Thing, Tobias Messenger, Yeti
I think the Yellow Claw panels do refer to a story from the 1950s Yellow Claw book, but I can't quite remember which one.
The series also does a good job of showing Iceman's handling of Lorna Dane choosing Havok over him, which never got addressed back then.
There may be a continuity clash between the X-Men's encounter with the Inhumans here and their encounter (as X-Factor) with the Inhumans in X-Factor Annual #2. I don't have the issue in front of me, but I'm pretty sure the annual presents their meeting as the first time the two groups have run into each other.
I enjoyed seeing Lorna, Alex and Bobby here. In X-Men #65 and 66 (1970) the Alex-Bobby-Lorna triangle was just starting to become prominent, Alex and Lorna being newcomers to the X-Men comic. Roy Thomas was clearly going to explore the trio's tension so it was all the more shocking (to me, anyway) when the X-Men comic was canceled after #66! Then who shows up several months later in Spider-Man #92 (1971)? Bobby...but basically there's no continuity, as he talks about spending weeks trying to get a date with some chick. No mention of Lorna. This story was written by Stan, who by this time was probably not too concerned about character consistency, since he was about to go on to bigger and better things (publisher, etc.).
Yes, X-Factor 2 seemingly makes it clear that it is the frrst time the original five and the Inhumans have met. Triton says, "He is Black Bolt and we are Triton, Karnak, Gorgon and Luna" and Karnak says "Black Bolt has indicated that he would like to know just whom we are having the honor of entertaining". It should be noted that before that issue Hank and Scott were present with the Inhumans at the funeral of Captain Marvel but there were so many superheroes present it's possible they weren't introduced.
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