X-Men: First Class (Vol 1) #8: The Treasure Hunters

The X-Men are flying via passenger jet, albeit first class thanks to Warren, to find Xavier whom they believe to be lost deep in the Congo jungle. Scott puts the blame on himself, that he was too eager to show Xavier the X-Men could take care of themselves and he failed to “check on” Xavier “sooner”.

This impromptu trip started twenty-four hours ago based on Jean telepathically sensing that Xavier is in trouble. She awakens the entire mansion screaming.

Jean is troubled by what she saw, a dark and dreadful place, and even more troubled by the fact that Xavier cannot contact them.

Piecing together Jean’s thoughts, Hank manages to pinpoint Xavier’s rough location within the Congo jungle. Scott does a check of Cerebro’s database and discovers that Xavier went in search of a mutant while they were on break. Scott and Hank start to plan logistics when Warren remembers he has an aunt who might know someone who can help. Scott reassures Jean that the X-Men will find him.

Arriving in the Congo, their driver drops them off at their requested location to meet with Warren’s aunt’s friend, Ken Hale, who might help them in their quest. The X-Men are a little wary of revealing their identity in the course of this rescue, Warren assures them that his aunt and her friend will respect their secrets.

The X-Men find Hale’s treehouse, and is astonished to find out that he is a gorilla. Hale is offended that they have not seen a gorilla that talks. Getting down to business, Hank explains that they are “a bit ‘off’” compared to ordinary humans and are crime-fighters. Hale tells the X-Men that he used to be in the crime-fighting business as well, and directs them to a map to brief them on their expedition.

Hale goes over the lay of the land and warns them of the danger areas to stay away from when hunting for treasures. Jean explains that they have reason to believe their teacher is trapped in “The Valley of Demons” and they are here for the sole purpose of rescuing him. Jean having tapped into Hale’s soft spot has Hale agree to lead them into the jungle to search for Xavier.

While trekking in the jungle, Hale begins to learn more about the strange ways and appearances of the X-Men. From their uniforms to Beast’s manner of travelling on all fours to their powers. When Hale discovers his canoe is gone, Cyclops makes quick work of a dying tree, carving it into a suitable canoe.

They encounter a herd of dangerous and gigantic hippopotami. Angel fishes Marvel Girl out of the water while Beast rescues a semi-conscious Cyclops from near drowning. Cyclops then orders Marvel Girl to telekinetically lift everyone out of the water except a very scared Iceman who promptly freezes the entire river, stopping the hippos.

Along the way, Hale has grown to like the X-Men and shares a bit of his past history on how he came to be a gorilla. He bought into a legend of immortality; after killing the magical “Gorilla Man”, Hale became the next “Gorilla Man” and hence immortal.

Hale and the X-Men arrive at the temple they sought. Immediately stepping into the temple, they turned from a spirited bunch to people in despair. They do find Xavier, in the same state of depression. Having had time to study the temple’s writings, Xavier explains that this place is a “treasure trap”, luring people with hopes of riches then traps them in their greed with no reward and no way out.

While Xavier and the X-Men have given up, Hale, owing to the curse of the “Gorilla Man” is unaffected and still as optimistic as before, thinks quick on his feet to save the X-Men. He has Cyclops blast the roof off the temple, then tosses Angel through the roof, with Marvel Girl after him. She then uses her telekinesis to stop the roof from caving in.

Xavier and his students are grateful to Hale for all his help.