X-Men (1st series) #56

Issue Date: 
May 1969
Story Title: 
<BR>(1st story) What is… the Power?<BR>(2nd story) The Flying A-Bomb!

(1st story) Stan Lee (editor), Roy Thomas (scripter), Tom Palmer (inker), Herb Cooper (letterer) – and introducing the penciling wizardry of Neal Adams
(2nd story) Stan Lee (editor), Roy Thomas (writer), Werner Roth (artist), Sam Grainger (inker)

Brief Description: 

(1st story)

Having detained the Living Pharaoh, the X-Men and Alex Summers fly above the archaeological areas of Egypt, looking for someone to turn over their captive. However, in one archaeological site, they are again attacked by the Pharaoh’s loyal servants. The villains turn the tables, knock out the X-Men, free the Pharaoh and capture Alex. Only Angel reclaims his senses quickly enough and follows the villains to their hideout in a nearby temple. Through Marvel Girl’s telepathy, the X-Men soon track down Warren. Meanwhile, inside the temple, the Pharaoh reveals to Alex that the two of them share a common source of power: cosmic rays. Whenever one of them charges himself with power, the other wanes and weakens. Trapping Alex in a chamber, the Pharaoh drains great amounts of energy from him. Finally, he transforms into a rock-hard, giant version of himself, renames himself the “Living Monolith” and attacks the flabbergasted X-Men. Realizing he’s dying, the agonizing Alex manages to tap his source of power once more. However, unable to control the destructive power he wields, Alex brings down the temple. Simultaneously, Alex’s access to power causes the Monolith to reduce in size and collapse. The X-Men reunite with Alex, but he pleads with them to stay away from him, as he is unable to control his tremendous power.

(2nd story)

Professor X realizes that the vial the Angel retrieved from those thieves contains an untested nuclear explosive, which has been activated by the Angel’s mutant body. In full knowledge of the terrible danger, Xavier telepathically alerts Cyclops and Iceman to snatch this vial from the Angel. Warren, however, easily evades them. Finally, Xavier directly addresses Warren and relates the fatal danger to him. In one selfless act, the Angel flies skyward, reaching freezing temperatures, since the vial can only be deactivated in extreme cold. After his gambit pays off and the explosive is deactivated, Warren returns to Earth, humbled from his experience, and agrees to join the X-Men.

Full Summary: 

(1st story)

The X-Men have captured the Living Pharaoh and are now flying over an ancient temple in Egypt on their mini-jet. Angel spots some archaeological diggings below – as if they couldn’t tell! An excavation to be more precise, Beast adds. Cyclops hopes there’ll be someone there to whom they can turn over their stony-faced captive. The shackled Pharaoh grunts that they have eyes, but cannot see. Only the desert winds hold court in this place!

After they go down the excavation site, though, they spot no one around. Beast quips that not a creature is stirring here – not even a Sphinx. He decides he’ll hold their prisoner while… “We do the footwork!” Iceman grumps. “Or, in my case, the wing-work!” the high-flying Angel banters. Scott instructs Marvel Girl to see what she can find behind those nearby dunes. “And me, Cyclops?” his junior brother, Alex asks, desperation audible in his voice. The all-American shock treatment… the walking treatment… who can’t even shake hands for fear he’ll kill somebody?! “Easy, Alex!” Scott tries to assuage him. They’ll figure out that mutant power of his, and…

Power?” the Pharaoh puffs out in disdain. What do any of them know about power? He alone knows the true secrets of the abilities both Cyclops and Alex possess. Just as he knows that they are, in truth, brothers. But they should not fear: they shall learn that secret from his lips… in the hour that they die! Just then, Angel returns from his scout to report that the area’s a ghost town. To copy a cliché, it’s too quiet…

But then, after telepathically scanning the area, Marvel Girl warns them all to duck! They are all under attack by the Pharaoh’s minions: they were hiding inside the tomb! The Pharaoh’s servitors assail them with their ray-guns and the X-Men all collapse like ragdolls. One of the men is confident that is the end of them; only the great Pharaoh himself could survive their concussion guns! A more astute follower of the Pharaoh warns them, though, that the mutants are but stunned. He alerts them that, even now, one of them raises his head!

Still groggy, Cyclops attacks them with his optic blasts. “…Which is more than you’ll be able to do, my friend…” Scott replies, in regard to the guard’s last remark about his raising his head – because this is the part where Cyclops brings down the house on them! “I think not, infidel!” the man gloats, as another of the Pharaoh’s minions cunningly flies over Cyclops on a mini-plane and blasts him. Beast, who has also come to, jumps aboard this mini-jet and attacks its pilot. Violence may well be the last refuge of the incompetent but, if Cyclops has sustained injuries, even the mild-mannered Beast may be forced into physical retaliation! With this, he kicks the man off the air vehicle.

One of the Pharaoh’s men urges his master not to be dismayed; they are more than enough to defeat that brute! “You desert swine!” the Pharaoh growls in exasperation. He orders them not to waste their time battling the masked ones; only Alex Summers concerns him! Hearing this, Hank realizes the Pharaoh’s still after Alex – even now. But why? What possible connection can there be? Before he can think this through, one of the Pharaoh’s goons blasts him with a concussion gun. His adversary gloats: a single blast felled the bestial one!

“Hurry, dogs!” the Pharaoh barks at his men, as they carry the unconscious Alex and place him in an air vehicle. Their departure should not be as slow as the Pharaoh’s rescue. They must go before the unbelievers awaken! The vehicle elevates in the air. However, having heard the Pharaoh’s last words, the semi-dizzy Iceman snaps that if that’s what the Pharaoh is hoping for, he just busted out! All the Pharaoh’s powers went up in smoke with his crummy scepter – and here’s where Iceman will make him holler ankhle!

Bobby immediately generates a huge formation of ice to use as battering ram. However, the Pharaoh remains undeterred. Does Iceman think he is yet powerless? He asks him to explain this to his mutant friends, he gloats, and attacks Bobby’s ice formation with blasts from his hands.

Bobby is surprised to see he zapped his icy battering ram like so much cotton candy! Angel assures Bobby it’s not his fault. Seeing the Pharaoh flying away with his men and Alex, a guilt-ridden Warren fears that was his own prize foul-up. He should’ve spotted those jokers, instead of playing glory-hog. He promises he’ll make up for it! Without thinking twice, he flies up in the air and pursues the plane.

The Pharaoh’s men quickly spot him and alert their master: the winged one follows them, even as they gain altitude! Warren realizes one of the guru’s goon-boys spotted him. And he’s still groggy as a gassed gosling. Which means, he’ll be a sitting duck if they… “Fire concussi-missiles!” he screams as he sees them coming his way. Further stunned by the missiles, he begins collapsing headlong to the ground. They knocked him right out of the sky… and the ball game! He will be lucky if he can save his own feathered fern!

In the deepening shadows below, a dead worried Cyclops kneels above the senseless Jean and yells out her name. She took the full brunt of the first blast. If she’s hurt, he vows they’ll pay! Thankfully, she quickly comes to. He asks her to speak to him. Marvel Girl mumbles she feels so very weak… Beast deduces she appears to be basically intact. But where is their pinioned compeer? Iceman points him at the direction Angel went. But that’s the last Bobby saw before he blacked out. Scott knows Jean is still stunned and confused, but if only she could locate Warren mentally…! Jean promises she’ll try. What a gal! Bobby admires her dedication – there’s nobody like her!

Jean begins a series of cerebral exertions impossible to describe, until she finally establishes contact with Warren. Good ol’ Jeannie! Warren mentally salutes her, as he senses her mind. He knew she’d locate him sooner or later. He almost got creamed himself back there. But he managed to pull out of a dive, and he’s been following their Fellahin friends near ground level, so that…

No… it’ can’t be… he suddenly ponders, as he sees the destination of Pharaoh and his men: another temple, identical to the first, yet miles from the other site. The Pharaoh’s ship zooms right through some kind of entrance. Angel follows. He tells Jean he’s got a hunch he’s getting near the nitty-gritty of this little mystery. He announces he’s breaking contact now for full concentration. The X-Men are on their own… and so am I! he realizes.

Angel eavesdrops as closely as he can, as sinister words swirl through the age-old corridors. Alex has been shackled on a table. Standing above him, the Pharaoh sees him gazing up in sullen silence; it is good! And how fitting that he should meet his rightful end here, amidst the rediscovered glory of the kings-who-were… and yet those who shall be! But he speaks of things which concern him not. For, he decreed Alex should learn of the power in the hour he perishes! And that moment draws ever nearer!

The Pharaoh reveals he was an archaeologist… but he is also a mutant. Yet, he and Alex are both different from the masked ones… for their destinies are inextricably linked. Can Alex not feel them – the celestial chains which bind their two fates as one? The same mutant instinct which led him to Alex tells him that it is cosmic rays which give to each of them… the power! As Alex’s began to awaken, the Pharaoh’s waned. Alex is the sole threat to his supremacy. And so, he must die!

The Pharaoh encases the terrified Alex into a glass chamber. It is done! the Pharaoh screams in exhilaration – the chamber absorbs all cosmic rays! No longer does he share the potency with one who is unworthy! Siphoning the cosmic rays unto himself, he relishes: now, he alone is the power!

Horrified, Warren decides he has seen enough! Something tells him that… Just then, the rest of the X-Men appear on their mini-jet. Warren urges them to get back, before it’s too late. Cyclops sees Angel streaking out of the holly of hollies. Having not heard his cries of despair, he tries to realize what kind of danger he’s warning them against.

And then, bursting through Earth and massive stone appears the Living Pharaoh – although in a radically different form. He is now a being of gigantic proportions, with rock-hard, gray skin and raw energy seething and crackling from his eyes and mouth! “Good Lord!” Cyclops gasps upon seeing him. He shouts at Angel, who’s closer to the Pharaoh, to fly higher! Too late, though: the Pharaoh grabs Angel, before he can veer away. Trapped in the Pharaoh’s huge fist, Warren feels the foe is crushing him like a helpless canary. The Pharaoh confirms that he was indeed the one called the Pharaoh. But now he is so much more. Now he is he who shall restore the glory that was. Now he is… the Living Monolith! Now he is…

He suddenly growls with surprise as Cyclops assails him with his blasts. Momentarily distracted, he frees Angel who hastily flies away. Scott urges him to flap those wings! The Pharaoh’s skin is like rock now – or maybe more like a tank’s armor! He realizes his optic blast surprised him, but it didn’t hurt him.

“Rejoice in the futility of a moment’s respite! You shall know no more!” the Living Monolith roars and blasts at Scott. Cyclops barely dodges the blast. He realizes the villain’s mutant powers have all returned. And he fell dodging that burst! Approaching Scott, who’s lying on the ground, the Monolith tells him to give thanks, for as he is ground, beneath his heel of stone, he shall be the first victim of the Living Monolith!

But just then, unexpectedly, an invisible barrier blocks his way. It is due to Marvel Girl and her mental powers, although the strain of the effort is too great on her. Beast seizes the chance to intervene and kicks Monolith hard on his feet. Hank feels that his tender tootsies will ache for a fortnight after this kick, but right about now jolting Jeannie definitely classifies as a damsel in distress!

The Monolith grunts that the Beast’s intentions are more laudable than his judgment – for he has brought the girl within his grasp! Tripped up by Beast’s kick, he drops to the ground very close to Jean. Jean realizes her powers couldn’t support his falling back.

Still encased in the glass chamber, Alex sweats and agonizes. He recalls how that phone Pharaoh spouted a lot of hot air about this chamber cutting off cosmic rays. He still doesn’t know what in blazes he meant, but it sure puts a crimp in the old oxygen supply! In fact, another few breaths and it might get downright unpleasant in this fish-bowl! And yet… what if the two of them really do share some kind of power? A power he soaks up… just by standing around? Something sure zapped the Pharaoh a few hours ago. What if some of that something remains? It came out before in a moment of stress… and he’s starting to feel that way again! But what’ll happen this time… what? His eyes begin crackling with energy.

Outside, the gigantic Monolith has grasped Marvel Girl and is attacking the rest with energy blasts. He finds them such fools – to pit their puny might against the secrets of the ages! Against him who is heir to Rameses, who is himself Horus and Osiris, who shall restore the dynasties, who…

Beast is inconsolable: he thinks it’s his fault the villain got Jean. “No, Hank!” Cyclops shouts as he tries to call attention to something altogether different: look, he tells him. The ensnared Marvel Girl can also see it: both the Monolith’s voice and his grip are getting weaker. But why, when he was on the verge of victory? “What is happening to me…?” the Monolith despairs as he begins growing weaker and reducing in size. He drops Jean and Angel, with perfect timing, jumps in to grab her in mid-air. Jean notices that the Monolith is getting smaller. And behind him the temple is shaking… starting to crumble!

Cyclops witnesses in awe as the Monolith becomes normal-sized and collapses. But so is the temple! Realizing that Alex is in there, he begins screaming his brother’s name in panic! “Easy, Scott!” Hank tries to hold him back. He can’t help Alex now – nothing can. Watching the dust rising from the collapsed temple, Scott mumbles he’s right. All their mutant powers can’t raise the dead! Marvel Girl suggests that perhaps Alex wasn’t inside… perhaps…

“Wait!” Beast shouts and points at a human figure. There, amidst the smoking debris, is Alex. He’s alive! The X-Men rush towards him. However, Alex warns them to keep back, all of them. They shouldn’t come near him! It’s true what the Pharaoh said. He’s got the power… and he can’t control it! The desperate man’s eyes are bursting with uncontrollable energy.

(second story)

Cyclops and Iceman have just broken into Warren’s apartment, asking him to join the X-Men on behalf of their mentor, Professor X. Charles suddenly telepathically contacts his two students. Although they traced down the mutant called the Angel only to ask him to join the X-Men, now they must capture him at all costs, because he is a flying A-Bomb!

“You heard the Professor, Iceman – take him!” Cyclops shouts at his teammate. Bobby is still surprised, though: us take him?? Warren is furious. He doesn’t know what their game is, and he never heard of any group called the X-Men, but they’re going to learn that nobody takes the Avenging Angel where he doesn’t want to go – nobody! Scott tells him to hold. They’re mutants like him. They’re friends, not enemies. Warren repeats that the Avenging Angel is strictly a loner, and prepares to attack Cyclops.

Iceman notices that Scott is holding back to avoid hurting the guy with his optic blasts. That leaves him wide open for the old one-two… unless… He decides to generate a wall of ice, which obstructs the flying Warren from initiating an attack against Cyclops. Warren pummels at the wall and groans in pain; he wonders where it came from. “Same place you got your wings, bird-boy!” Bobby quips. What does he say to cool it now?

“So it was you…” Warren rages, now facing Bobby – the one who looks like a juvenile snowman! Well, he doesn’t mind getting his fist chilly for a second, in order to polish him off! Scott realizes Warren has gone too far, menacing Bobby. Still, Professor Xavier said to handle him with kid gloves, so… He blasts the skylight above Warren, causing it to fall down on him. “What kind of jokers am I up against?” Warren exasperates. Bobby suggests they might ask the same of him!

Below, a bewildered couple might ask the selfsame question of all three, as they wake up from the terrible noise. “What on Earth…?” the woman, Alma exclaims. Her husband, Fred, realizes it’s that kid Alma rented the loft to. He must be throwing a party in the middle of the night! Teenagers! They are all alike!

Xavier telepathically alerts Iceman that he is closest to Warren, so he should grab the vial in his belt! Iceman doesn’t know why he wants that vial, but complies. The Angel retorts that he doesn’t know who in blazes he’s talking to, but he definitely won’t grab the vial! Before Iceman can snatch, the Angel punches him.

Miles away, in a secluded Westchester county mansion, Charles loses contact with Bobby. That means he’s unconscious. And it may be impossible for Cyclops to subdue that young mutant without accidentally harming him! Xavier realizes it’s up to him. He must get through to him – he must! Reaching out to the Angel’s mind, he asks him to hear him and heed his words. About to attack Cyclops with a timber, the Angel wonders if it’s a kind of trick. Cyclops assures him it’s no trick and asks him to listen to the voice.

Xavier again asks him to listen for there is little time. They are his friends… fellow mutants… Warren feels there is something about his voice, which makes him believe him. But why is time so short? Professor X explains that the vial Warren retrieved last night from thieves contains a new, untried nuclear explosive, activated by his mutant body! He discovered that while mentally probing Warren. Cyclops is shocked to hear this: even he and Bobby didn’t know this! Examining the vial, Warren admits it does feel strange. If there’s even a chance that voice is telling the truth…

Warren instantly makes the decision: he’s got to get out of here, take it where it can’t harm anybody when it blows! “Good lad!” Xavier commends his decision. If he dares, he should take it high into the night sky. For he can sense only freezing cold can now deactivate it in time!

The Angel starts flying high, as high as he possibly can. An airplane spots him as he continues his ascension to the nocturnal firmament. “Good gravy!” the plane’s pilot, Tom, exclaims upon seeing him. If that wasn’t a flying man, he’s ready for Senior Citizens City! The co-pilot tells him to make room for one more – he saw it, too!

Still flying skywards, Warren realizes what a hot tempered fool he was. If he hadn’t slugged that Iceman guy, he could’ve handled the vial. But when he fell, he turned back into a normal Joe. And now, it’s up to Warren. And he’s no longer Mr. Confidence of 1963! He suddenly realizes it’s getting cold up here where he’s flown – so cold. Which is just what he wants! If he can survive it!

O-okay, little-man-who-isn’t-there! the freezing Angel addresses Charles, as crusts of ice begin forming around his body. He’s so high, even his thoughts are shivering. What does he do now? Charles tells him to snap off the top of the capsule. If he’s correct, that will deactivate it! “And if it doesn’t… scratch one angel, huh?” Warren remarks. “Well – here goes nothing!” he decides and does as instructed by Xavier. Only to realize a moment later – it worked!

Then, as the stark tension of the moment fades, so does Warren’s consciousness. He’s blacking out… can’t stay awake… too cold! Professor X implores him to stay awake – no matter what! He shouldn’t close his eyes for a moment! As he collapses headlong to the ground, Warren tries not to… Until he finally does it and fully-awake, controls his flying abilities again. He did it! He saved a city he endangered! And then the voice saved him! Now to find out what’s going on…

Soon, a relatively humble Warren faces the owner of the disembodied voice and shakes his hand. Charles deduces it was the gas he used to fight crime that must have hyped up Warren’s ego. If he agrees to join the X-Men, he’ll have to discard such gimmickry! Still, he hopes he will become one of them. Smiling, Warren quips that, since Professor X can read minds, he already knows his answer! Standing nearby, Cyclops confidentially whispers to Iceman that, with or without gas, this mutant still’s got an ego! Who cares, Bobby replies – as long as he doesn’t moult!

Characters Involved: 

(1st story)

Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Marvel Girl (all X-Men)

Alex Summers (Cyclops’ brother)

Living Pharaoh/ Living Monolith

Pharaoh’s minions

(second story)


Cyclops, Iceman (all X-Men)

Professor X

Alma & Fred (Warren’s landlords)

Story Notes: 

(1st story)

First issue for penciler Neal Adams.

Rameses III (also known as Ramses) is often regarded the greatest and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. Horus and Osiris are significant deities in the ancient Egyptian religion.

(2nd story)

The use of reference to “Mr. Confidence of 1963” is an interesting example of early Marvel time, before the use of a sliding time-scale. As this story was taken place in the past, it should be before the then-current year of 1969. The use of presumably current year of 1963 of the flashback story was the same year as the X-Men’s first date of publication, six years before.

Issue Information: 
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