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X-Men #22 (last issue | next issue)

"Divided - - We Fall!"

Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Jay Gavin (A pseudonym for artist Werner Roth taken from the first names of his sons. He would be credited under his real name starting with X-Men #23)
Inker: Dick Ayers
Letterer: Artie Simek
Editor: Stan Lee
Colosso: Irving Forbrush Robotics, Inc.

Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover date: July 1966
Cover price: 12 cents

The issue opens with yet another Danger Room session, and this time Professor X has a new test for his team. Since they’ve been inundated with robots recently (the Sentinels and Master Mold, and Lucifer’s Dominus), the test is Colosso, a giant, bulky machine of steel and ass-kicking, and the Prof has given them only five minutes to defeat it. Individually, Colosso shrugs off or neutralizes their attacks and soon has Marvel Girl and Cyclops in its giant metal claws. Defeat is near, until Scott orders Jean to telekenetically levitate the Professor’s blanket to them and drape it over Colosso’s head, covering some flashy lights which are apparently Colosso’s sensory devices. The now “blind” Colosso is quickly toppled by a combined attack and the Prof congratulates them on a job well done.

Now the Professor rewards them with a vacation. Why, Professor, why? The first two times you sent the kids off on vacation, they were attacked by the Sentinels (X-Men #14) and the Mimic (X-Men #19). So it’s virtually guaranteed that a new menace will strike. Jean is off to visit her sister in Albany, the Beast and Iceman head towards Greenwich Village, Scott agonizes over his feelings for Jean, and the Professor uncharacteristically agonizes over his confinement to a wheelchair.

All that angst is merely an introduction to the angstiest one of all, Count Nefaria, the villain of this piece, last seen in Tales of Suspense #68. Luchino Nefaira was once a prominent leader in the Maggia, which is what Marvel Comics calls the Mafia so no one from the real Mafia leaves a horse’s head in their bed. Now Nefaria has gathered together some of his old goons and a quintet of loser supervillians to...do something or other. A recent news article gives him an idea: he will attempt to recruit the X-Men to be his allies for no particular reason. Luckily he didn’t read an article about the Legion of Substitute Heroes or Captain Carrot and His Zoo Crew.

Hank and Bobby are down in the Village where they meet up with Zelda. Thinking he spies his beau, Hank instead finds that it’s a shaggy-haired guy named Waldo. Geesh, Vera must be broad-shouldered. Vera’s arrival is timed to cause Hank embarrassment, and off they go. Meanwhile, Warren treats Jean and Scott to a meal at a swanky restaurant. Afterwards, Warren drives Jean to Grand Central Station while Scott, telling the pair he’s off to meet some chums, actually checks into a hotel to brood for his entire vacation.

His brooding is cut short when he sees Marvel Girl floating above Central Park. But it can’t be Jean, because she’s at the station and when she hears a news report about X-Men on the loose in the city, she suits up and heads to the park to check it out. It’s a trap, and she’s captured by Plantman (last seen in Strange Tales #121) and incapacitated by cholorform gas. Then Cyclops sees Angel flying above the park, but the real Angel is in his car. When he hears the same report Jean did on the radio, he parks and suits up. But when he gets to the park, he’s quickly netted by the Scarecrow (last seen in Tales of Suspense #51).

Hank and Bobby’s double date actually lasts long enough to get through an entire movie, but they’ll be no post-film chips or making out for them. They hear the radio report too and Hank makes some pathetically poor excuse to ditch Vera, but he’s kind enough to let Bobby stay behind for some smooching. The Beast heads towards Central Park Zoo, where he encounters the uncaged Porcupine. A poorly planned attack of bare feet versus quills is easily rebuffed, and the Porcupine captures Hank with a hypnotic disc.

Meanwhile, Bobby (misnamed “Bobby Blake” and not Drake in a caption) is worried about Hank and ditches the girls to head into action. His opponent is the slippery electric Eel (last seen in Strange Tales #117). However, Cyclops, who finally finds an opponent after wandering the park all this time, arrives and takes out the Eel. Then the nastiest bad guy, the Unicorn (last seen in Tales of Suspense #56), shows up, and with the help of a not quite unconscious Eel, capture Cyclops and Iceman.

The quintet take their captives aboard a waiting ship and “the sinister freighter sails along the coastline of an unsuspecting America...” until it reaches Nefaria’s fortress. When his henchmen arrive, Nefaria threatens them with unpleasant ends should any of the X-Men be harmed. Satisfied that they are not, Nefaria presents his prisoners with an offer to join the Maggia. Naturally, the offer is quickly rebuffed, but Nefaria shocks the X-Men by revealing his plan. He’s going to hold Washington, DC for one hundred million dollars ransom, and the X-Men are going to collect it for him.

Nefaria’s Rogue’s Gallery:

Count Nefaria (first appearance Avengers #13) was descended from a long line of Italian nobility and was secretly a Maggia crimelord. He unwisely sought to deal with the Avengers before they became a threat to his empire of crime, and his ass was righteously kicked, leading to a long series of defeats at the hands of superheroes. He would tangle with the X-Men again in the second outing of the new team in X-Men #94. Nefaria and his Ani-Men took over Norad, but they were defeated by the X-Men. However, while Nefaria was escaping in X-Men #95, Thunderbird leaped on his plane. Nefaria teleported away, but the plane blew up, killing Thunderbird. Nefaira died fighting Iron Man in Iron Man #116, but since no one except Bucky ever really dies in the Marvel universe, he returned as an “ionic vampire”, feeding off ionic energy. Yeah, sure.

The Eel (first app. Strange Tales #112) wore a costume which generated electricity and was really, really slippery. He was killed in Ghost Rider #21 by the Gladiator.

Plantman (first app. Strange Tales #113) could control and animate plant life with his ray guns. He was pretty small-time until he captured a SHIELD base and held the President hostage until the Avengers rescued him.

Porcupine (first app. Tales to Astonish #48) wore a battlesuit which in its original version seen here looks like it’s made of bundles of straw. It may have looked silly, but it could fire quills and was armed with a wide range of offensive weaponry. Despite this, he was an utter failure as a criminal and eventually attempted to sell his armor, with little success. In Captain America #315, Cap enlisted him in a sting operation to capture the Serpent Society, but things went awry and the Porcupine was impaled upon one of his own quills, dying something of a hero.

Scarecrow (first app. Tales of Suspense #51) can command a flock of crows to do his bidding, which isn’t so useless as it might initially seem.

Unicorn (first app. Tales of Suspense #56) was a Soviet operative created to defeat Iron Man. He is equipped with a rocket belt and a helmet with an energy projector. His battles with Iron Man didn’t go well, and at one point he was the victim of severe cellular degeneration. He was cured of that, but left insane in the process.

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