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X-Factor #2 (1986, March)

June 15, 2015

With the Secret Wars II ugliness behind us, we move on to X-Factor ugliness. By Layton and Guice, “Bless the Beasts and Children.”

Bless the Beasts and Children

Oh no! It’s the unstoppable menace of a tall person!

Jean has a nightmare about her death and being saved by Phoenix. She wakes up screaming, then starts thinking about how weird things are for her. She feels sorry for Scott, for his grief having been for nothing, and she wonders what it is no one’s telling her about him. Then she recaps the previous issue. Elsewhere, Angel’s trying to get Scott to call Maddie, and to tell Jean about Maddie. Scott tells Angel off, and Angel goes to see Cameron Hodge to talk about how the PR side is going. Cameron says they’ve been getting a lot of really dumb phone calls, like one saying Ronald Reagan is a mutant. Can you imagine how many calls they’d get today about Obama being a mutant? Yeesh.

Elsewhere in the city, Beast and Iceman are apartment hunting. It’s raining, and a car almost splashes Iceman, but he freezes the splash instinctively. Lucky him. Being splashed sucks. Anyway, they pay a visit on Beast’s old girlfriend, Vera. She’s become much more liberated. She looks like a hippie, really.She invites them in. She enrolled in some pop culture classes at Columbia University, and says Elvis Costello changed her life. Beast has no idea what’s going on, and Iceman is amused.

Back at HQ, Jean and Scott are giving Rusty his first training lesson. He ignites a pylon, but when he tries to create a fire bridge to another one, he misses and lights a computer on fire. Scott extinguishes it, and Jean tries to get Rusty to try again, but he whines about how he’ll never be able to do it and he’s going to be thrown in prison again. Holy shit, dude, your aim was a little off, it’s not a big deal. Seriously, he was able to actually make the fire bridge, he just missed his target. And he freaks out about that. If he’d been at it for a while and kept screwing up, then sure, but as far as we saw, it was his first attempt at it, and not being absolutely perfect his first time out is enough to send him into a self-pitying rage.

Anyway, he storms out, and Scott tells Jean she’s pushing too hard. He says that Rusty has a crush on her, and she needs to be careful to take ti slow with him. Which I find ridiculous. I mean, yeah, OK, take it slow, but Jean was taking it slow. He was able to light a fire with his brain, and he was able to move that fire, and now it’s just a matter of him getting the hang of moving it. I suppose she could’ve spent more time having him just light fires, before moving on to moving them, but still, Rusty being a whiny little bitch isn’t Jean fault.

Back at Vera’s apartment, a guy who’d watched Beast and Iceman go in makes a move. He enters the building, then shrinks out of his trenchcoat, and crawls under Vera’s door. Vera is saying she opened a book store that specializes in left-wing music and literature from South America. Then Tower attacks. He wants Beast. He smacks down Iceman and Vera, which pisses Beast off. Tower finally manages to knock him out. He heads down to a waiting car, where he’s injected with a sedative to keep him out.

At HQ, Scott finally decides to call his wife. But the phone number’s been disconnected. He gets pissed off about how his mutant powers have kept him from living a normal life. Angel calls for the team to meet in the garage. Scott, Jean and Angel head to Vera’s building and get the story of what happened. But they have no leads.

Down to Georgia, and a major lab with government contracts. Beast wakes up in a cell, held by Carl Maddicks, a guy who worked at Brand Corporation when Beast was there. He seemingly died back then, but apparently, he survived. He wants Beast’s help with a project. Beast refuses, and says his friends will come for him. Carl heads to his office in order to eliminate the big loose end, Tower, by calling X-Factor to deal with him. X-Factor wonders if it’s a trap, but it’s also their only lead. In the lab, Carl brings his notes on his project and tosses them in Beast’s cell. Then he goes to another section, where his son, Arthur, is. Arthur is a mutant.

X-Factor finds Tower, packing up a suitcase. Beast is perusing Carl’s notes, and finds it to be shoddy work. While he mentally corrects it, Arthur projects his corrections on a wall, so Carl can write them down. The project is a way to remove mutation, and all Carl needs now is a test subject.

X-Factor attacks Tower, who grows to 15′ tall. Carl shoots Beast with a sedative. Angel gets smacked by Tower, because that’s basically all Angel ever does. He also takes down Iceman and Jean, leaving only Scott still standing. So Scott blasts him in the face and knocks him out. When the others wake up, they point out they needed him awake to talk.

Back in the lab, Carl has begun his experiment on Beast, trying to revert him to human. Tower wakes up, and gets a hunch that he was set up by Carl. He agrees to tell X-Factor where Beast is, but he has a condition. But Beast has gone into cardiac arrest.

This issue is about the same quality as the first issue. The thing is, the first issue was a giant-size issue written and drawn in two weeks. This issue had, presumably, its full schedule. Yet it’s still mediocre.  The Vera stuff was mildly amusing, though perhaps a little over-the-top. The Rusty scene was ridiculously over-the-top. Scott’s angst about his wife didn’t get the space it probably deserved. I did like the idea of Jean having nightmares, suggesting some level of PTSD. Tower is a pretty lame villain. Carl Maddicks is a little more interesting. Actually, while I don’t know if it’s what Layton had in mind, but Carl trying to “cure” Arthur’s mutant state does make a fairly nice analogy to “cures” for gayness. Or, really, a cure for any condition that not everyone may feel needs to be cured. I would hope it’s what Layton was thinking of, but I’m not sure just how big an issue gay cures were at the time. It’s also possible he was just doing it as an excuse to revert Beast to his more human look, which is actually what happens next issue.

Guice’s art is good. Less rushed, but still not great. The big problem is faces. Especially eyes. Such dead, empty eyes. When they’re shown, anyway. Guice doesn’t show eyes straight-on often, but when he does, they don’t look good. On the plus side, he does throw in some beefcake for anyone who likes that – Angel with an open robe, showing his chest and abs. See, that’s the role Angel should play: Prettyboy. Don’t try to have him fight, because he’s clearly not very good at it. Have him just stand there shirtless for people to ogle, if they’re into guys.

Anyway. OK issue.

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