The Early Years: First Class

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There is a lot of change ahead for the X-Men, including a very different roster. Some founding X-Men members are dropping off the team for a while, and they will be missed. This is the end of the “good old days” of the original five: Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, Angel, and Marvel Girl. So lets look back at who these characters are and what they accomplished in their first tenure with the X-Men.

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A Big Green Goodbye

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The X-Men have only once chance to save Professor X, and his name is Bruce Banner. Unfortunately, his other name is The Incredible Hulk. The secret to saving Charles is locked inside the mind of a monster, and it’ll take everything they have to get it out. The X-Men have had run-ins with the Avengers in the past, but this is actually their first encounter with the Hulk. Issue 66 shows us how this team performs against the most powerful brute force on planet Earth. This is also the final issue of this titles early run, before taking a five year hiatus. The days of Scott, Bobby, Jean, Hank, and Warren end here, for now.

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Threats Within, Threats Abroad

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An alien planet approaches Earth, set to invade. The X-Men plan a counterattack, but there is friction building between them. The X-Men face one of their biggest external threats just as their internal struggles reach a boiling point. They’ve always been a five person unit, and their new friends are rubbing them the wrong way. Can they rally to save both man and mutant kind? If they succeed it won’t be without some significant help, as even bigger secrets will be revealed. Guess who’s back.

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A Rising Son

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Issue 64 continues a long standing tradition of allies being complete assholes to the X-Men when they first meet. It started with Namor back in issue 6, and since then there’s been a long line of future X-Men acting like total douchebags, including Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Banshee, Mimic, you name it. Even Spider-Man was a total prick. This issue introduces Sunfire, enemy of the state. He’s an international terrorist. I didn’t know that quite so many of them started off as super villains.

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Strangers in a Savage Land

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Sauron might not have been from the Savage Land, but his origin is still forever tied to it. As the X-Men search for his body, they discover a passage into this legendary realm, a primitive jungle world hidden beneath Earth’s southern pole. They have an adventure with Ka-Zar and Zabu! The X-Men find themselves knocked down a few pegs on the food chain, faced with dinosaurs, monsters, and a classic villain. Issues 62 and 63 are full of surprises and danger.

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Behold the Eyes of Sauron

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The X-Men have barely had time to calm down since the excitement of the mutant genocide and they’re about to face a monster. This isn’t a lost, hapless mutant. This isn’t some guy in a suit with a fancy gadget. This isn’t a bank robber, a robot, or some pathetic megalomaniac plugging the holes in his ego. This isn’t Magneto’s crazy face. This is a god damn monster. Sauron is one of the first villains they’ve faced that could easily rip them limb from limb. He is a villain to fear, and I’m excited to see where he comes from. Issues 60 and 61 tell the story of his origin, his tragedy, and his first encounter with the X-Men.

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A Matter of Style

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Before we continue, I want to take a moment to observe some of the artistic changes that have been taking place over the last few issues. The X-Men are maturing, both as characters and as a comic. The series is beginning to feel less like a monster-of-the-month novelty and more of an ongoing saga. This is reflected throughout the writing, the layouts, and the artwork itself.

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The Sentinels Wreak Havok

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Getting back to the X-Men and their impending doom, issues 58 and 59 are going to up the ante. There are more villains, more heroes, more danger, and more action than anything we’ve seen up to this point. It’s an epic story with high stakes, resulting in both triumph and tragedy. There will be secrets revealed and plots set in motion, as the events of these issues will shape a large part of the X-Men universe in the decades that follow. Get ready for the mutant genocide, finally put into motion by a revengeful, grieving son. Trask Industries is back online.

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Marvel Girl Explained

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Before we find out what those Sentinels are up to, lets pause to check out the side story in the back of issue 57. Marvel Girl is finally getting her time in the spotlight. She’s shared issues with Scott, but this is the first time the series has spent any significant time on her specifically. To mark the occasion, Marvel actually allowed a woman, one of the “supposedly weaker” gender, to write a comic book. But how will she manage that with her smaller, more lady-like brain? Immediately I’m wondering just how sexist this segment will be, and just how much of that sexism we can blame on “the times”. The first thing Jean says here makes me think that my suspicions were correct, but the second thing she says leaves me feeling that perhaps I assume too much. Lets not overthink this. Give Marvel the benefit of the doubt and all, right? I mean heck, these days Thor and Captain Marvel are both women. So lets get back to Jean and her cool powers. This will give us a look into her mutant abilities and all of the amazing things she can do.

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Monolithic Robotics

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Did you think we were done with the Living Pharaoh? Didn’t I warn you not to be fooled? He isn’t done giving the X-Men trouble, and he still has it in for Alex. What seemed like another short encounter with another forgettable villain has instead turned out to be a much greater plot that connects directly into the nest story arc. This tale will lead through the next four issues, and here we’ll talk about the first two, 56 and 57. We get some nasty new villains and the return of another old favorite.

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