X-Men #18 (last issue | next issue)

"If Iceman Should Fail--!"

Writer: Stan Lee
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
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Cover date: March 1966
Cover price: 12 cents

Angel, the Beast, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Professor X were all captured and incapacitated last issue by Magneto, who somehow escaped the powerful extraterrestrial Stranger and returned to Earth. Now our heroes are stuck in a steel gondola attached to a balloon soaring high into the atmosphere, where they will surely perish. Magneto considers destroying the mansion, but instead decides to make it his headquarters…of evil. He destroys Cerebro (why is it still wailing since it was turned off last issue?), the mutant detector in the Professor's office.

Magneto hears a car drive up. It's Mr. and Mrs. Worthington, parents of the Angel. He hypnotizes them and directs them to a guest room. Then Magneto remembers Iceman, the only X-Man he didn’t capture since Iceman was still recuperating in the hospital. Magneto dismisses Iceman as the youngest and least experienced of the X-Men and concludes he is no threat. Now why did you have to go and jinx yourself like that, Magneto?

Back at the hospital, Iceman is in bad shape because of injuries sustained in the battle against the robot Sentinels, concluded in X-Men #16. Dr. John Thomas (yes, that is his real name) concludes that a potent new sulfa drug is Iceman's only hope, but needles can't penetrate Iceman's tough ice shell. So Dr. Thomas resorts to using an untested laser-induced hypothermic which looks like a big ray gun. The laser does its job and Iceman is injected with the life saving drug. But why not just give him the drugs orally. His skin may be covered in ice, but he still has a mouth, doesn't he?

High in the atmosphere, Professor X regains consciousness and struggles against the mental-wave distorter attached to his head by Magneto last issue. After a painful struggle, he succeeds in his battle against the machine, which blows up but causes no damage to his head. Then he wakes the other X-Men. They may be awake and free to use their powers, but things still look bad. And to make matters worse, back at the mansion, Magneto constructs a machine to examine the Worthingtons. Analyzing them, the parents of a mutant, could provide the key for Magneto to construct his own army of mutant slaves. Making his own mutants might be a better plan than his previous efforts in recruiting existing mutants, who tend to desert him once Magneto screws them over.

Professor X uses his mental powers to discover that Magneto has captured Angel's parents, which makes a hopeless situation even worse. Their only hope is Iceman, who is making a speedy recovery thanks to that sulfa drug. He's still weak, but at least he's not in a coma. The Professor contacts him and sends him off to the mansion. Then he starts poking around Magneto's brain to discover how Magneto escaped. Magneto and the Toad were taken by the Stranger back in X-Men #11. Magneto's memory reveals that the Stranger deposited them on a deserted planet full of relics from countless civilizations. Among them were spaceships with depleted atomic piles. But the Stranger has underestimated Magneto, and the mutant is able to reactivate one of the space ships. Just as he enters the ship, Magneto kicks away the ladder so his lackey the Toad can't get in. Why? Because the Toad, though loyal, is just that annoying. "Come back!" is his sad little cry, "Master, come back!"

At the mansion, a terrified Iceman prepares to face Magneto alone. Magneto has skipped ahead from research to manufacturing and is about to produce his first mutant slaves. Iceman halts the process by creating an ice shields around the Worthingtons, and Magneto goes to investigate. Finding Iceman in the room, Magneto hurtles objects at him, but Iceman escapes by sliding away between Magneto's legs on an ice sled. Iceman leads him outside into an igloo he had prepared as a trap, but he becomes a victim of his own trap when Magneto magnetically seals the opening.

Professor X senses Iceman's peril and escape for the X-Men becomes even more imperative. He directs Cyclops to blast a tiny hole in the balloon, which forces the balloon to lose altitude. But the balloon is falling too fast, so Marvel Girl has to use her telekenesis to slow their descent. It works, but barely, and the X-Men burst from the gondola to save Iceman from certain death (or at least certain ballooning) by Magneto's hands. They fight a desperate fight, and they are on the verge of losing when the Professor orders them to stop.

He's not giving up. He's been sitting out the fight to marshal his efforts to send a mental signal out into the depths of space. He has succeeded in summoning the Stranger, and the extraterrestrial entity is coming for Magneto. Magneto hops into his Magna-car and flees for his life. Without Magneto to direct it and the Worthingtons as a catalyst, Magneto's mutant slave army vanishes into nothingness before it is even created.

While the Worthingtons sleep, the X-Men work feverishly to clean up the mess. The Worthingtons awake remembering nothing, thanks to Professor X, and the students and the Professor are there in the morning to share breakfast with them, back from their "field trip". And of course Jean is serving breakfast, since this is 1966 and she's a girl.

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