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X-Factor #4 (1986, May)

July 7, 2015

It’s too hot. Bleh. I hate summer. Here, by Layton and Pollard, “Trials and Errors.”

Trials and Errors

What is Frenzy even wearing? Seriously, what is up with that outfit?

X-Factor, in their mutant identities, attack Tower in an airport, demanding to know what he was doing outside X-Factor HQ. Tower shrinks down out of sight and escapes, so X-Factor leaves while the humans yell at them. And rightly so – what the hell was up with them starting a massive brawl in the middle of a crowded airport? Scott complains about “the typical anti-mutant rhetoric,” and we’re obviously supposed to think the humans yelling at them are wrong and bad, but X-Factor started a massive brawl in the middle of a crowded airport!

Anyway, Tower is confronted by Frenzy, who tells him to report back to the Master while she goes after “the boy.” Frenzy’s got a very intelligent way of speaking here. Years later, she’d basically turn into dumb muscle, but here, she’s clearly meant to be intelligent.

At X-Factor HQ, Beast is doing some jungle gym training. He heads to the changing room, where Rusty mentions that it must feel good to be human again, and Beast reminds him that none of them are human.  Rusty heads into the gym, where his test is to melt the ice missiles Iceman hurls at him. He’s distracted when Scott comes in with Artie, and then overreacts and almost burns Scott and Artie. Jean chews Rusty out and tells him he’d be helpless in the real world, and he snaps back at her and says none of them care what he wants. He also calls Artie a freak.

Scott hooks Artie up to a machine, and asks him to start projecting things from Scott’s mind. First, an image of Xavier. Then an image of an angry Madelyne. Scott gets angsty again. Jean goes to talk to Angel, about Scott. She says he’s been so moody, and Angel says he’s always been moody. They laugh, and Angel is about to confess his own feelings for Jean, when the phone rings. It’s Candy, saying some of his business holdings need some decisions. He tells her to handle it, then hangs up. Nice, Warren. You prick. “Hey, you handle all my business while I try to cheat on you, OK? Sound like a plan? Great, you’re a doll, thanks!” I suspect Layton was, once again, trying to bring back elements of the original X-Men, with the Scott/Jean/Warren love triangle. Though Madelyne and Candy turn it into a love hexagon. Either way, it meant turning Scott and Warren both into dicks. By the way, I should probably note that Angel was shirtless for the scene – clearly, he’s the eye-candy of the book. He may as well serve some purpose, since he’s otherwise useless.

X-Factor heads out to Newton, Massachusetts, to investigate a suspected mutant. Some kid claiming to be a mutant telepath. They quickly realize he’s not a telepath, since he doesn’t realize they’re mutants, themselves. X-Factor plays Bad Cop with him, and he confesses that he gathered secrets using bugs in everyone’s rooms. The other kids all make fun of him a lot, and his parents don’t care what he wants. Jean feels bad, and wonders if she’s been treating Rusty the same way the kid’s been treated. She says they’ll work things out with the headmaster, then asks why he claimed to be a mutant. He says he figured it would make people too scared to pick on him. When X-Factor showed up, he thought they were going to kill him. Jean wonders if maybe the X-Factor idea isn’t working the way she’d hoped.

Back in New York, Rusty’s packed up and leaving. Artie sees him leaving. An hour later, Rusty’s lost. A bum tries to mug him, but Rusty scares him off. Then Frenzy approaches, and asks him to join her and meet her Master. He refuses, but she refuses to let him go. He tries to burn her, but she’s unhurt. She bitch-slaps him down.

X-Factor returns to HQ, and sees Artie trying to sneak out. He shows X-Factor an image of Rusty being held by Frenzy. They slip into their combat uniforms and head off to find him. He’s still being chased by Frenzy. X-Factor catches up. They fight her, and she can’t beat them on her own, so she drops a building in their path.

Back at HQ, Jean apologizes for how she’s been treating Rusty. Scott also apologizes for entering during his training session. Rusty agrees to stay and try again, then he apologizes for how he’s treated Artie.

Frenzy watches X-Factor HQ, waiting for the day when her Master lets her attack them. Time-Shadow calls to say she needs to report back before the symptoms again. She thinks about “the Source” that holds all her team under control.

Meh. Again. This just isn’t a particularly strong series under Layton. The love hexagon is just annoying, since it makes both the male members look like jerks. Angel, in particular – he’s been with Candy for years, he has her running his business holdings, and he’s trying to hit on an emotionally vulnerable woman who’s recently returned from the seeming-dead. And he doesn’t feel the least bit guilty about the fact that he’s trying to cheat on Candy. Scott, at least, felt horrible about running out on Maddie, and he did try to reach out to her again. And he’s made no attempt to get back together with Jean.

We do get some advancement on the subplot of X-Factor being a bad idea. Which, really, should’ve been blindingly obvious from the start. I mean, your plan is predicated on telling people how dangerous mutants are, and then making absolutely no effort, at all, to prove otherwise. It’s one of the most idiotic ideas imaginable. How are you going to promote coexistence and acceptance when you don’t actually provide any examples of positive mutants? It’s utter nonsense.

It’s funny to think that, originally, Layton’s plan for the “Master” Frenzy refers to here was going to be the Owl. In the ’60s, he was a relatively major Daredevil villain, but by this time, he was a third-rate Kingpin that no one gave a damn about. And he was going to become an X-Factor villain. So crazy. I mean, come on, he’s one of the few supervillains that even Angel could probably defeat. I say “probably.” There’s still a pretty decent chance Angel would lose to the Owl. Because Angel was always just the most useless superhero ever.

Pollard’s art is good here. Though a lot of faces look here. Pollard is credited as the layout artist, with Joe Rubinstein doing finishes. So Rubinstein might be responsible for the weird faces. Regardless, a lot of faces look off.

Only one issue left on Layton’s run, then a better writer takes over.

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