Friday, January 26, 2007

The Bird, the Beast and the Lizard (Marvel comics)
X-Men: First Class #2 When: Decmber 2006
Why: Jeff Parker How: Roger Cruz

The story so far...
Promised a vacation from their troubles, Professor Xavier diverts the trip home to Florida, where he and his X-Men intend to take a relaxing beachside trip to the Worthington holiday home.

Things go awry when the Professor decides to bring his students to visit the home of an old college friend, the biogeneticist, Dr. Curt Conners.

With Conners absent, his wife confides in Xavier and his motley crue of mutants, confessing that he had once more become victim to the lure of genetic experimentation that grants him incredible regenerative healing capabilities -- but also turns him into a human-Lizard.

While the rest of the team lounge on the beach, budding scientist Hank McCoy (the Beast) and Angel set out to catch a Lizard, but will it be they who become prey in the swampy everglades?...

Previous Form:
Beast (#56): Beast has had mixed results, getting physical with Namor and Xorn.
The X-Men: This incarnation of the X-Men, including Beast, Angel & Iceman; was unsuccessful in battle against both Sub-Mariner and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
The Lizard: Lizard has not yet been featured.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Lizard 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Beast 6 (Genius)
Speed: Lizard 4 (Olympic Sprinter)
Stamina: Lizard 4 (Trained Athlete)
Agility: Iceman 7 (Unlimited)
Fighting Ability: Iceman 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Iceman 2 (Projectile Weapons)

Well, it certainly isn't everyday you have The Lizard up against a trio of X-Men!

The Lizard's an interesting character who tends to fluctuate between the very heights of superpowered menace, and the more average levels of phyiscal menace. As you can see above, we rate him at a five, which is equal to that of the Beast's general strength level, but perhaps with a little bit more ferocity behind it.

Still, that at least reveals a potential blockade for the Lizard's attempts to strongarm his X-opponents. Which, as often is the case, brings us to suppose how this brute might articulate his strength to be advantageous.

As Dr. Curt Conners his intelligence would rival that of Hank McCoy, Beast, but as the Lizard he suffers the usual 'animalistic' regression we see in characters like this. Not that this makes him a total loss in the brains department.
Rather than juggling figures and compound structures, Conners' brainpower redirects it's agility to the art of war, making The Lizard a deadly strategist capable of harnessing the advantages of his surroundings.

The X-Men are trained to deal with this kind of thing, and the Angel, if he has any use in the field, is to thwart urban warfare with a bird's eye view.

This particular trio of X-Men has another advantage, but we'll leave that for now to go to the basic advantage here -- that of numerical superiority.
While The Lizard would be quite capable of handling the three X-Men, I think their abilities are suitable to counter, and ultimately overcome the obstacle.

The Math: X-Men (Total) Lizard (Average)
The Pick: The X-Men

What went down...
Feeling a commonality with his fellow biologist, Beast volunteers a convenient segue for him to feature in this particular issue. Somehow Angel also manages to convince everyone it's a good idea that he go into combat with a giant lizard-man.

Setting off into the marsh on a little boat, Beast steers he and Angel through dense wildlife, eventually coming upon harmless alligators. Fortunately, as Beast kindly informs us, they generally don't exert energy in an attack, so they're relatively safe... Or at least, they were, until Beast notices his compadre has disappeared and there's feathers on the water.

Meanwhile, undah dah sea, Angel finds himself in the merciless grip of the amphibious Lizard, who seems intent on dragging the X-Man down.

Beast, having finally clued in, fulfills his dual role on the team as both 'smart guy' and also 'muscle' by diving in and slapping the good Doctor around a bit.

Angel, feeling useless enough as it is, finds himself on the receiving end of Beast's bulky feet as he is kicked upward toward the surface where he attains some assemblage of use.

Meanwhile, Beast grapples with the mighty jaws of the Lizard, struggling to keep his head off the platter.
Though impressively agile, in the drink Lizard's maneuverability proves too great, as he whips around to bring his body down on top of the dextrous mutant.

As he struggles for breath, Beast finds salvation from above! Angel's unwritten storyarc is complete as he comes to the aid of his friend with their gondele style propultion stick! Smack! Straight to the side of The Lizard's head! Angel is redeemed!

Beast resurfaces for air as Angel finds himself back in hot water, the Lizard using his mighty crocodilian jaws to snap their stick like a twig.

In the boat, Beast catches the end of Angel's wing and yanks him out of the water, so that he might live to fight miserably another day. Oh, I joke because I love.
Angel proves his worth once more [despite my ribbing] by carrying Beast to safety, away from the rickety vulnerability of a boat that Lizard could no doubt destroy with ease. Leaving the X-Men to ponder the home advantage provided by the bayou.

As Beast monkey-swings his way through the trees, Professor X pops in for a psychic chat. This proves to be sufficient enough distraction for the Lizard to emerge from the murky depths, and attach himself to Beast's mighty leg by way of his teeth.

Angel grabs hold of Lizard's tail, looking for a means to aid his buddy. Finally Angel is able to drag the fight by the tail to his domain. The skybound Lizard struggles until finally he makes the call we all face at some time -- he bites his own tail off!

[Having become the Lizard in an effort to regrow a lost arm, Doc Conners has the convenient reptilian ability to regrow lost apendages, so this is nothing to worry about.]

Lizard plops back into the swampy water, where Angel and Beast have little chance of finding him again. So, Beast devises a strategy to use Lizard's own bleeding tail-end as bait to lure him in to a special little trap secretly orchestrated with Prof X.

Detecting the oozing green trail left by Angel, Lizard reemerges, taking hot pirsuit after the duo. Lizard gets awfully close to his prey, snapping at the feathers of Angel's wings, before rounding the corner toward his everglades home where Iceman and Professor X wait.

Using his mutant gifts, Iceman cooks up enough ice in the water to produce a hazing snow as Lizard catches up with Beast.
As the temperature lowers further, the cold-blooded flaws of the Lizard make themselves present as he becomes unable to function.

With Lizard's maw frozen wide, Beast is easily able to pour the transformative cure into his gullet. Thus, Curt Conners is saved once more... Until the next time he has the overwhelming urge to get his arm back, and inadvertantly become a snarling man-beast...

Yeah... Well, at least we learned the benefit of teamwork.

Vanilla Ice... Man. Haw!The hammer...
And so; Beast, Iceman, and yes, even Angel emerge victorious against the lethal Lizard!
[With the assist from Professor X, I might add. - Mike]

Secret Wars on Infinite Earts has a few mission objectives, and sometimes they get a little lost amongst the flying fists and snarling teeth. One of those is to present a friendly entry point into enjoying comics, and I've had the pleasure of talking to various visitors who are casually acquainted with the characters and stories depicted here.

One of the other more base objectives is to map out a ;andscape of who might be the ultimate fighter in comics. Done not through speculation, but rather on their own terms, through issues just like this.
The Lizard is the last foe you would ever list when compiling a catalogue of would-be foes for the X-Men, but here it is in full colour, and it's glorious!

Speaking of glorious, how about that cover art by Marko Djurdjevic?
Gotta admit, after a cover like that, a guy can really be disappointed by more conventional interior artwork. I believe he's been doing cover work on the new Super Villain Team-Up series upcoming, and that too is glorious.
You'll notice a couple of our mugshots (including the above Iceman) are taken from these X-Men: First Class covers. They're fantastic!

Meanwhile, you might be interested in the series itself.
For those who don't know, First Class pertains to the original group of X-Men, rather than any indication of quality. 'Lost Years' books are really a dime a dozen, and efforts to squeeze stories in-between the historical canon can be a pretty messy business. One tends to believe efforts could be better utilized trying to propel properties forward, rather than lingering in the past.

Likewise, a book like this starts to look a little redundant in a world where youngsters have an in through Marvel Adventures: X-Men or even Ultimate X-Men. Although, these sorts of titles have generally failed even in times before those kinds of on-going options were available, so what's the point?

As an eight issue mini-series, First Class should be able to justify itself, but having read two of the eight issues, they lack the collective intent a strong mini-series should have. While there may be a unifying twist at the end of number eight, these early issues show no indication of such, which does not service such an outcome.

These reads are fun. You could not take away from that at all.
It's a thrill to see the X-Men of the sixties fighting other sixties allumnists like The Lizard, or teaming up with Thor and Dr. Strange. It's just a shame that it's done under such dubiously planned circumstances.

The artwork is less than stellar, and actually, it kinda harkens to what you expect from the Adventures line of titles. Though, it certainly isn't what I'd call poor. And whoever came up with the new take on the sixties designs has done a great job, although, by it's nature this just makes this book an even more confusing riddle of logic.

If you're new to the X-Men, it might be a nice way to become acquainted with the guys who were there in the very beginning (and meet the pre-fur Beast), but even the most nostalgic long-time readers probably won't get a lot out of this.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4

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