Uncanny X-Men #22-23
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #22, Uncanny X-Men #23
The training robot basically stands there waiting while the X-Men figure out that they have to use teamwork.
Xavier should have been training the X-Men to fight C-list super-villains. This issue Count Nefaria collects a group of discarded villains in order to... to... to be a bad guy.
He wants to recruit the X-Men by framing them for a crime. His feeling is that he can't trust his current super-villain recruits so who better to replace them than super-heroes and what better way to instill loyalty into their replacements than to set them up for a crime? The logic in that may not be entirely sound, and it's also not a great way to bolster the morale of your current minions. "Hey, Unicorn! I don't really trust you, so can you go out and recruit Cyclops to be your replacement?"
After their training exercise, the X-Men go on vacation. Scott and Jean are desperately in love with each other but each are too shy to say anything (as has been the case for THE PAST 22 ISSUES!!!), so Jean winds up spending more time with Warren. Meanwhile, poor Hank McCoy reveals something about himself when he mistakes a man in a suit with what just barely qualifies for long hair (over the ears) for his girlfriend (whether it reveals that he's secretly gay, intolerant of the beat culture, or simply in need of a new prescription, i can't say).
Nefaria captures the X-Men by creating floating images of their various members over Central Park. One by one (so much for that lesson in teamwork) the X-Men go to investigate and get captured by the C-listers. The irony that the C-Listers were forced to recruit their own replacements is not lost on them.
The X-Men are then forced to work for Nefaria. They really make a terrible showing for themselves these two issues, and are rescued in the end by Professor X, who now has transistor-powered leg braces. Despite his earlier moping, Xavier says that he's been working on his braces for months.
With Xavier building giant robots and these braces, you have to wonder if he really needed the X-Men at all. It's not clear how Xavier gets all this high-tech equipment. Later he'll get stuff from the Shi'ar. For now, it's just pure Marvel super-science.
At the end of this issue, Jean receives a letter saying that she must leave the X-Men forever.
These issues are pure Roy Thomas: The weeping melodrama, the random super-villains from other books, the big reveals that don't make much sense. I'm more tolerant of the super-villain cross-overs than others (I used to link to a Paul O'Brien index of these issues here, but he's shut down his site), since the idea of the shared universe is one of my favorite things about Marvel comics, but this does seem a bit random (although the bit where the X-Men keep saying 'Nope, never heard of you' when these guys show up is funny)...
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Uncanny X-Men annual #2
Inbound References (11): show
Roy Thomas here tries to turn this book into a standard super-heroes vs. super-villains title, but it doesn't work and he stops it fairly quickly.
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Posted by: fnord12 | November 7, 2014 8:03 AM
Something about Colosso makes me think of it as one of Zeon's mecha from Gundam.
Posted by: Ataru320 | January 12, 2015 7:54 PM
The cover of #22 is rather hilarious. "Here comes a startling stampede of yesteryear's most sensational supervillains!"
Okay, first, if they were sensational they wouldn't be in this issue. As fnord says, this is clearly a group of C-list villains. That this group could take down the X-Men is embarrassing.
Second, why bother to bring in villains from all these other titles when you've already, in the first 20 issues, created Magneto, Blob, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Toad, Mastermind, Unus, the Juggernaut and the Sentinels. That's a hell of a villain lineup and the best you can do is poach third-rate villains from other titles, almost all of whom are now forgotten?
Third, yesteryear. Yesteryear? None of these villains is more than three years old. I love how they advertise it as if they brought back villains from World War II (ironic, since it won't be that long before the Red Skull actually is brought back).
It's all just a sign of how badly done X-Men was in these years. I love Roy Thomas when he can indulge his real whims (Conan, modern retellings of WWII adventures), but this is just terrible.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 13, 2015 6:07 AM
I never realized that Nefaria doesn't have an appearance between here and (probably his most famous appearance) in X-Men 94, nine years of publishing time later. You'd think he was almost on the cusp of becoming an X-Men villain, before he winds up returning to Avengers to become basically anti-Wonder Man (again drawn by Byrne).
I'm not going to defend this issue too much but if you read between the lines here -- and you have to do a lot of work, admittedly -- you can sort of see an very sublimated exploration of mutants-as-minorities at play. The idea that a crime boss thinks that if he manages to alienate the X-Men from any hope of integrating into the world so that they'll join his crew is one that resonates with real world significance.
But I harbor no illusions that Roy Thomas intended this.
Posted by: FF3 | March 21, 2016 3:26 PM
I was under the impression that Nefaria was a rip-off of Superman, and my only experience with him was in what FF3 refers to as 'his most famous appearance.' I literally just looked up his appearances a couple days ago, and see nothing to suggest he's anything like Superman. I wouldn't like him any better if he *was* a Superman rip-off, but where did that get started? Horrible character.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 22, 2016 2:16 AM
@ChrisW: Avengers 164-166 is where Nefaria gets his powers.
Posted by: Thanos6 | March 22, 2016 3:26 AM
Ok, now I see. The impression I always had was that he was 'created' as a Superman rip-off. Which always seemed kinda weird, considering how early he showed up in the Marvel Universe, but I didn't read those issues, so I've never understood what this could mean.
At least he makes a bit more sense as a guy with a monocle and a name that automatically condemns him to failure. Would he be any better as a dentist, an English teacher, a Catholic priest or a soldier? [Doctor/Professor/Father/Sergeant Nefaria respectively; at least "Sergeant Nefaria" has a certain cool villain approach to it, at least if he's fighting SHIELD.]
Posted by: ChrisW | March 24, 2016 2:11 AM
Okay, I like Nefaria as a villain because he is clearly scheming way about his reach. He's nuts but persistent in his pursuit to become a super villain. I like Roy and agree that this story helps consolidate the idea that anybody might show up anywhere.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | November 7, 2016 9:49 PM
For the first time i had to go back in issues to remember these villains. I only remembered porcupine and the eel.
Posted by: Roy Mattson | July 5, 2017 7:16 AM
Nefaria is a strange villain overall. He starts out as an effort to play up two gimmicks at once -- sinister aristocrat and super-crimelord -- and then becomes a sort of generic megalomaniac schemer in his subsequent appearances. Finally, he's reinvented as Evil Superman, or, basically, General Zod. Later on he became "West Coast equivalent of the Kingpin," with his superpowers as the reason the heroes can't take him down like a common thug, but that's since been passed to his daughter, Madama Masque.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | July 5, 2017 7:40 AM
The Unicorn really stands out here. The other villains are simply criminals, but Unicorn is a foreign Communist agent. It makes sense Nefaria could recruit the others, but not the Unicorn. Unicorn is listed as the provisional leader, so perhaps he was recruiting the others on a scheme on behalf of the Soviet Union when Nefaria recruited the group?
Posted by: Chris | October 1, 2017 3:16 PM
Perhaps the Soviets assigned him to infiltrate the super-villain community with the goals of gathering information and influencing it ideologically.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | October 5, 2017 9:26 PM
Count Nefaria is one of those few lingering "classic" villains that really needed to visit the dustbin after the 1960s, along with the Red Ghost and Diablo. That said, most of his lackeys here are mere cannon fodder and this issue is one of the first historically where we see sub-par villains lumped together to create a credible threat. When the Sinister Six debuted, it was with the understanding that they were Spidey's greatest opponents (at the time) and the Fantastic Four wedding annual was just a fun free-for-all that really had no lasting consequences to its cast of villains. I think only the Fellowship of Fear appearance in DD6 predates this issue with regard to reusing lame villains with the implication that Ox and Eel wouldn't work well as solo villains.
Posted by: Jonathon | October 5, 2017 10:29 PM
Posted by: AF | October 6, 2017 8:42 AM
A bit of a tangent, but these issues made me wonder, "What if Acts of Vengances occurred in the 1965 instead of 1990?"
If it had, this issue would have fit perfectly. Loki wouldn't be able to recruit the Kingpin (who didn't make his first appearance until 1967), so it would make sense that he might turn to the likes of Count Nefaria. Then, Nefaria assembles a group of villains who were known to other heroes but not the X-Men. And the element of surprise and the X-Mens' lack of knowledge allows the villains to gain the upper hand.
Oh, the fights we could have had during Acts of Vengance 1965...Thor vs. Unus! Spider-Man vs. the Swordsman! Doctor Strange vs. Egghead! The Avengers vs. the Terrible Trio!
Posted by: Peter Niemeyer | May 10, 2018 2:57 AM
The X-men encountered Unicorn in the FF wedding issue but its understandable they'd not remember him amongst all those other villains.
Posted by: kveto | May 27, 2018 2:15 PM
I'm almost thinking the villains recruited by Nefaria are supposed to be X-Men counterparts in vague and superficial ways. Unicorn can fire beams like Cyclops, Plantman has an elemental power like Iceman, Scarecrow is bird-themed like Angel (now that's a really superficial connection), the Eel... got Beast-like agility, I guess? But I can't figure out how Porcupine would mirror Marvel Girl.
Posted by: Nth Wolf | May 27, 2018 3:05 PM
While these villains are definitely C-List, there is no reason why they couldn't become credible threats. The Scarecrow, Porcupine, and the Eel at least can be the basis of a mid-tier super-criminal team. I always thought they had some potential. Plantman is a little off thematically, but could also fit in (no animal motif though). Only the Unicorn, as a Communist agent, doesn't fit.
Such a team would not be know for its gravitas or compelling backstory, but could be written seriously enough that they would not be a joke. They filled this role under the Viper years later in Captain America and later in the Avengers. So a few more appearances and they could have been a minor Marvel institution. Not powerful enough to take on the Avengers, but big enough to be a foe for special Annuals with guest stars or Marvel Team Up. They'd just need a compelling team name and a little more thought put into their heists than Larry Lieber (or the other various writers Stan Lee tried out in the early sixties) provided. Something along the lines of the Sinister Syndicate much later on.
Posted by: Chris | May 28, 2018 2:43 AM
I dunno, Plantman did take on the Defenders all by his lonesome, and considering he escaped that fracas speaks well for him. I believe Roger Stern did try to make him more of a credible threat in The Avengers, but that went by the wayside when he appeared in Solo Avengers (or Avengers Spotlight, if you prefer).
Posted by: GreggM | May 28, 2018 5:42 AM
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