Count Nefaria and the Maggia
Issue 22 introduces a whole new team of super villains, known simply as the Maggia. Upon first glance, they closely resemble the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. By the end of this story they prove that they are somehow actually more bumbling and less united than the Brotherhood on their worst day. They’re also quite entertaining. What starts off as a retread ends up becoming a pretty unique X-Men story. So lets take a better look at these goons.
First there is the ringleader, Count Nefaria. The first thing I noticed is his striking resemblance to Magneto, something he shares in common with Lucifer. The cloak suggests it but the crazy face seals it, even without a helmet. Apparently this guy is one of the strongest humans in the Marvel universe and a very formidable adversary. You wouldn’t know it from watching these issues. I had to check Wikipedia to see what this guy’s powers are, because I can’t recall him actually doing much here. He has the gifts of strength, speed, illusion, and energy projection, but comes off as harmless as a birthday party magician. He shows us a bit of his telepathic abilities to trick people, but not much else.
The issue begins with a lot of the same kind of drama that we’ve seen before, but it was nice to be doing some of the old routine again. The X-Men start off training in the danger room as usual. Xavier has built a giant robot for them to attack, which I found amusing almost as if Stan Lee is making fun of the fact that they’ve been doing almost nothing but fighting giant robots for the last five or six issues. Scott and Jean play their usual romantic head-games. By the seventh page Charles has them all going on vacation. Bobby and Hank end up in Greenwich Village. Surprised?
These characters are never going to finish a vacation, and they should just accept it. Before long, the Maggia are luring them into Central Park one by one, to be overtaken and taken prisoner. Luckily, the Professor was in constant mental contact- oh no wait, he had that turned off. Vacation.
Lets see what our heroes are up against…
Plantman is Poison Ivy minus all of the sex appeal and any actual power over plants. He has chloroform gas, and can control plants enough to make them grow and attack you. He can’t communicate with them, he just uses gadgets. I wouldn’t want to be Plantman.
Next we get to see the Scarecrow, my personal favorite of the bunch. He is a former circus performer who turned to a life of crime. He has incredible tumbling and acrobatic abilities, and can control crows. He can command a murder of crows to attack you. He can murder you with murder. I totally wouldn’t mind being Scarecrow.
Porcupine looks like some sort of Native American god, or a golem made of bamboo. His strange, impractical suit can do various things, such as fire quills and release tear gas, but is controlled by little knobs on his junk. Plus he looks like a mutated pan flute. If I was the Porcupine I would never be able to go home again, for having brought shame to my family.
The Eel is a pretty hysterical character. He has a simple, dark outfit, and he can discharge electrical blasts, which is kind of cool. He seems like a great villain for Spiderman or the Human Torch. So good so far. Then you realize that his other ability is that his entire body is lubricated, all the time. He walks around covered in sex jelly so that he can slither and slide his way out of various situations. He is as slippery as an eel. Gross. If I was the Eel I would be the hit of the party.
The Unicorn. Do I really need to go any further? He chooses such a ridiculous name, practically begging for ridicule, and for no reason since he doesn’t even resemble a unicorn in any way. It can shoot beams, and he just thought it would be a good idea to wear it on his head, in what I guess can be considered a horn. On top of how obviously pathetic this guy already is, he’s the biggest jerk and sorest loser of the bunch. Oh, and he has rocket shoes. I don’t even want to think about what it would be like to be the Unicorn because I would never be the Unicorn.
If I can say one thing about Count Nefaria, he seems to be the only one of the bunch who has any sort of actual super power. In this issue we see him use illusion and mind control to pull strings from a distance. The rest of them are regular guys with special suits and gadgets. (I’m still not sure how Scarecrow controls crows.) They’re sort of a Brotherhood of Vile Humans. Only they’re less a brotherhood and more like a bar brawl.
Issue 22 plays out a lot like issue 17, and was kind of a let down. These five henchman are dispatched to kidnap the X-Men, and just as Magneto had attempted and failed, they divide and conquer. While separated from each other, the X-Men are overpowered one by one. However, once they are kidnapped and brought to Nefaria’s European castle, the story gets a lot bigger. Nefaria is threatening to steal Washington D.C.!
Whereas issue 22 was predictable, 23 is filled with twists and turns, double crossings and action. The entire city of Washington D.C. has been placed under an impenetrable dome, which will kill all inside if ransom demands are not met. Even worse, the X-Men are being framed for the crime. Perhaps unknowingly, the writers are planting seeds of distrust and hatred towards mutants, as the X-Men’s good name is being tarnished and questioned. Issues like this set the scene for themes that will be expanded upon by later writers. A lot happens in this issue. Professor X walks with robot legs, the X-Men are forced to fight the US Military, and everyone escapes.
Even though none of these villains technically make their first Marvel Comics appearance in these issues, this is the first (and I believe only) time these five are seen in this group or referred to as the Maggia.