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X-Factor #1 (1986, February)

June 2, 2015

A new series! By Bob Layton and Jackson Guice, “Third Genesis.”

Third Genesis

Their very first cover had them fight Magneto. This cover has them fighting fire.

Up in Alaska, Scott is making firewood in preparation for the winter. Maddie remarks it’s all he seems to do. Back inside, a TV is showing a news report about a proposed Mutant Registration Act. Scott gets distracted by it, and Maddie yells at him about his responsibility to his family. That night, Maddie wakes up alone in bed. Scott’s out on the balcony. She asks if he’s thinking about Jean, and he says yes.

The next morning, Angel’s flying around over New Mexico. Beast and Iceman are bringing their bags downstairs, since they’re moving out. They go outside to say goodbye to Candy, and Angel flies down to say his goodbyes. They get into a debate again about continuing as superheroes. Meanwhile, some construction workers doing renovations of Angel’s house are admiring Candy, and one of the men cuts through a supporting wire on the scaffolding. Quick rescue time, and then Beast and Iceman are seen off.

Back inside, Angel gets a call from Reed Richards. He tells Candy he has to go to New York right away, he flies off, and Candy thinks about being left alone with a house full of construction workers. Jeez, I didn’t think Candy was that kind of girl. Maybe they have an open relationship? Also, holy shit, Layton. I think most women would actually be a little uncomfortable with that possibility. Being left completely alone with a bunch of big, obnoxious guys? Ones who already nearly got themselves killed ogling her? If Candy had any sense, she’d get out of the house right away.

In San Diego, a medical frigate has docked, and the crew disembarks for shore leave. The captain takes one of the crew, Rusty Collins, out to a strip club. He introduces Rusty to one of the women, Emma. She brings him outside and starts to basically force herself on him. He freaks out and catches fire, and badly burns her.

A few hours later, Angel’s plane lands at JFK airport. He takes his shirt off as he dashes through the airport looking for Reed. His display gets the crowd riled up, forcing Reed to protect him. The two fly back to Avengers Mansion. Back in San Diego, Rusty has been captured, and is being put on a transport.

Late in the night, Angel is trying to figure out what he should do. Jean wants to see Scott, but Warren isn’t sure it’s a good idea. He also wonders if maybe he has a chance to finally hook up with Jean. Warren, you stupid, two-timing, bro-code-violating dicksack. You don’t date your friend’s ex, and you certainly don’t date your friend’s ex when you’re already in a relationship. Though I suppose he and Candy must not be very serious, given how intrigued she was by the idea of being left alone with a bunch of construction workers.

In the morning, in Alaska, Scott’s telling Maddie that they’ll work it out, when the phone rings. It’s Warren. Scott agrees to go to New York. Maddie tells him if he leaves, to not bother coming back. He leaves. Because Bob Layton’s Scott is a dick.

The next day, Scott arrives at the Waldorf in New York. He gets off the elevator and is greeted by armed guards. Scott goes in to see Jean, who doesn’t know he’s married. She throws herself into his arms and says she loves him. He starts to cry. Scott is about to tell her he’s married, but Angel interrupts. Angel explains to Scott – and to anyone who hasn’t read Fantastic Four #286 – what happened. Piloted the shuttle, shuttle crashed in Jamaica Bay, became Phoenix, became Dark Phoenix, sacrificed herself. And then the truth: That Jean was replaced by the Phoenix Force, which put her in a healing pod at the bottom of the bay.

With that out of the way, Jean brings up the problems mutants are facing. She thinks they need to do something to protect mutants. She thinks they should form their own team. Angel says he’s given up the superhero business. He’s wearing his costume. That’s like saying you’ve given up alcohol while holding a bottle of beer. Jean gets angry, but Scott agrees with him. She gets even more pissed and throws a couch through the wall. She levitates away. Angel tries to get Scott to go after her with him, but he can’t, so Angel goes after her himself. He tells her he thinks she’s right, and he has some ideas.

A couple weeks later, Beast goes in for a job interview at Harvard Medical.He’s rejected on the basis of being a mutant. It’s the 15th rejection he’s gotten, and he’s fed up. As well he should, since he’s been told he’ being rejected based on the class of person he belongs to. Today, he’d have a strong case for a discriminatory hiring practices suit, even if mutants aren’t on a protected classes list. It probably wouldn’t have been as easy in 1986, though. And actually, in some states, even today it’s not illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation, and presumably mutants would be in a similar situation. Still, this interview was in Boston, and Massachusetts is generally pretty liberal, so he might do well with the courts there. Anyway, he jumps out the window, and a guy asks for a word with him.

Iceman gets a call at the accounting firm he works at. A couple guys are talking about mutants, with one saying he doesn’t believe they exist. Iceman freezes the water cooler as he rushes past, because Iceman is an infantile idiot. “Hey, there’s a lot of fear around mutants these days. I know! I’ll pull an incredibly petty prank that will nonetheless terrify people! That can’t possibly go wrong!”

Six hours later, in Manhattan, Beast and Iceman arrive in a huge building. Angel tells them it’s their new headquarters. They also meet back up with Jean. After the reunion, Angel asks them to find Scott. They eventually find him at Jamaica Bay. He talks about his life being a mess. He mentions the old coffee place they used to hang out at is now a sushi bar. Beast tells Scott he can’t run from his problems, and that Jean won’t be angry with him for moving on with his life when he thought she was dead.

The next day, the team gather for a briefing, where they’re introduced to Cameron Hodge, their PR guy and Angel’s old college roommate. Hodge begins the briefing, saying they have to locate and train mutants, and he’s come up with a method that uses mutant hysteria to their advantage. They’ll pose as mutant hunters, X-Factor. People who suspect someone of being a mutant can call, and they’ll check it out. Ads have already started airing. Ads that promote the mutant hysteria. I can’t help but wonder if Layton genuinely thought it was a clever idea, or if he knew it was possibly the dumbest approach possible.

Back in San Diego, Rusty’s in prison in a Naval base. His captain sneaks in. He tells Rusty that there’s word he’s being moved to a medical centre, and they think he might not have hurt Emma intentionally. The captain doesn’t believe it, and is there to kill Rusty. Rusty freaks out, and lights up again. He burns the captain’s hand, and blows a hole in the wall. He tries to escape, and is chased, which freaks him out even more, so he lights half the base on fire. The captain, with his hand wrapped up, heads to a local diner and sees an X-Factor commercial, and gives them a call.

Back at HQ, Scott thinks it’s a bad idea, but Jean convinces him to go along. They take a chopper to LaGuardia, to their new jet. They fly out to San Diego and meet the captain. He tells them where Rusty is, out in the mountains. Rusty is being attacked, and he fights his attackers off. X-Factor, in their mutant costumes, join the fight to rescue Rusty. They fight off the military, and then follow Rusty into a mine. He’s still freaking out, and he attacks them. The heat starts to damage the cave, and Angel is almost killed by some falling rocks. Because Angel is useless. Just so, so very useless. They take down Rusty, but the ceiling collapses. Jean forms a protective barrier, and Scott blasts their way to the surface.

Scott, Jean and Bobby put on their mutant-hunter uniforms and meet back up with the captain to give him their bill, then they all start flying back to New York. Rusty wakes up and they explain the situation to him. In Alaska, Maddie watches an X-Factor ad on TV.

This issue isn’t great. Probably the biggest problem is the obvious one: Their plan is mind-bogglingly stupid. Like, “How the hell could any of them ever have thought this was the least bit reasonable?” stupid. The plot requires that none of them point out just how horrific an idea it is. It is the exact opposite of the proper approach. The proper approach would be ads saying “Hi, we’re mutants. Don’t believe the hysteria – we’re not a menace. We just want to live in peace. We’re here to help other mutants learn to control and cope with their power.” Layton doesn’t last long on X-Factor – only five issues – and then Louise Simonson takes over, and she does a lot more to explore the fact that it’s a stupid idea.

Another problem with this issue is that Scott and Angel both come across as dicks. Layton was clearly trying to get the old Scott/Jean/Warren triangle from the original series, despite everything that had changed in the meantime. Warren had a girlfriend, a girl he’d loved for a long time (since the original series, in fact), but he still wanted to hook up with a girl he had a crush on when he was a teenager. Total douchebag move. I try to be understanding of people who have affairs, I try not to pass judgement, but Warren’s just being an idiot. As usual. Between this and his near-harassment of Dazzler in her solo series, he comes across as just a womanizing dick who’s more interested in getting laid than in having a real relationship, which would be fine if he wasn’t in a relationship.

And then there’s Scott leaving Maddie. Dick move. He has a wife and a newborn son, and he just walks away from them. It’s understandable – he never really got over Jean, and now she’s back, and it’s thrown his whole world for a loop. But he should’ve talked to Maddie about it. And when he saw Jean, he should’ve told her about his wife and son. For that matter, Angel should’ve told her about Scott having a wife and son. Leaving it to Scott to tell her was another dick move on Angel’s part. He could predict how Scott was going to feel about everything, and that he was going to be torn between his first love and his wife. Forcing him to wrestle with that was cruel, and it was also cruel to Jean, who was going to notice that Scott seemed awkward and distant, more than usual. She threw herself at Scott as soon as he walked in the door – if Scott had told her then that he was married, she would’ve felt like an idiot. And it looked like Scott was about to tell her, until Angel interrupted! Yet another dick move! It makes me wish Angel had been crushed by the collapsing ceiling.

Maybe it’s unfair to blame Angel, since it’s a result of Layton wanting to draw out the melodrama as long as he could. Beast and Iceman get spared that crap in this issue. In fact, Iceman gets spared any melodrama at all during Layton’s brief run. He also gets spared having to be at all interesting.

Guice’s art is nice, for the most part. It’s nothing spectacular. It’s not much different from most other books of the time. Facial expressions tend to be pretty vague. The action is reasonably well choreographed. All in all, Guice’s art here is competent, but not memorable. Of course, one should probably be a bit generous towards him, and towards Layton, too. As an old Comic Book Legends Revealed article confirms, this issue was re-written and re-drawn in two weeks. During a hurricane. Apparently, when the first version of the issue was submitted to Jim Shooter, he rejected it, and said it had to be completely re-done, even though there was only 2 or 3 weeks before it went to press. So Layton, Guice and inker Joe Rubinstein holed up in a hotel room to work on it, and during this time, Hurricane Gloria was on its way to New York. They put together a full double-size issue in two weeks. That is a damned impressive accomplishment.

This is the third X-team, and the first not written by Claremont. It’s also the weakest of the three. Claremont didn’t really want this book to happen. He pushed against it, and in particular, he pushed against the inclusion of Jean Grey. He recommended they use Dazzler, instead, and he also recommended they use Jean’s sister, Sara. His suggestions were ignored, obviously. It’s a shame Claremont wasn’t more involved in the comic. He might’ve been able to get the Scott/Jean/Maddie triangle to be handled better.


One Comment
  1. I loved the classic X-Factor, but mostly because they gave us Apocalypse (who was almost just a reimagined version of the villain Owl) and Archangel

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