X-Factor #15 (1987, April)
Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it. Happy Day Off to those of you who don’t. Have a review of an issue that is not at all appropriate to Christmas. I really should skip ahead to a Christmas-themed issue or something, but I don’t actually care about Christmas, so I’m fine with the comic I am talking about here. Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). By the Simonsons, Bob Wiacek, Petra Scotese and Joe Rosen, the cheerily named, “Whose Death Is It, Anyway?”
So we start with Angel waking up to find his wings have been amputated, and freaking out over it. It’s a pretty powerful scene, brief as it is. It then cuts to Anchorage, where Scott is in a morgue to ID a dead redhead. He’s pretty sure it’s Maddie, though really, she’s too decomposed to be able to tell. Scott blames himself and is determined to find her killers and make them pay. He calls Beast at X-Factor HQ. Beast tells Scott about Angel’s wings being amputated, with the kids overhearing and being shocked. Skids tries to comfort Artie, but Masque shows up to be a dick. Why you gotta be such a dick, Masque? He does raise an interesting point. He says that X-Factor tries to teach mutants to pass for humans, and asks what they can do for mutants like himself, Artie and Leech, who can’t pass. He’s right. That question of passing privilege is something that gets raised occasionally in X-Men titles. It’s an issue that exists in some real-life minority groups. Latinos and the LGBT community are big examples – plenty of Latinos look white enough that they can pass as Caucasian, and so avoid some of the discrimination faced by the Latino community. And among the LGBT community, it’s similar, with some better able to pass as straight than others, and avoid some discrimination. I’ll be honest, it’s something that rarely gets handled well in the X-Men. It’ll be brought up, with someone being all pissy about how they can’t pretend to be human, and then it’ll just be dropped. Once in a very long while, a story might raise the argument that mutants shouldn’t have to try to pass for human. But it doesn’t happen often, and it’s a shame, because it’s an important point to raise. No one should ever feel pressured to pretend to be something they’re not. No one should ever have to try to pass for white, or straight, or whatever. And in the context of the X-Men, no one should have to try to pass for human. And yet, the ones who can’t pass are mostly shoved into sewers, away from the eyes of humanity. Because X-Men comics, at the time, were all about hiding. Which is a shame.
Anyway, Boom-Boom tells Masque off, and he threatens to make her ugly, and she threatens to blow him up. Jeez, Boom-Boom plays for keeps. It’s not a dud, either – Beast kicks the time bomb into another room, and the explosion isn’t small. It would be enough to kill someone. So, the lesson here is: Don’t mess with Boom-Boom. Beast yells at her, and you know, he’s right to do so. Skids makes a comment about everything going on getting to Beast, but Boom-Boom just tried to murder someone. I think he was actually pretty damn lenient on her. Attempted murder usually warrants stronger punishment than a stern talking-to and some laundry duty.
A few days later, Jean visits Angel in the hospital. The news is talking about him being summoned to an inquiry into Worthington Industries’ holdings. He’s wallowing in self-pity and anger and self-pity. He’s got a lot of self-pity. He tells Jean off and tells her to leave him alone. She calls Scott and asks him to come home and help with Angel. He says he has to stay in Alaska. I’m not really sure what she expected Scott to do about Angel, anyway. What, was Scott going to be the one to get through Angel’s emotional barriers? Because Scott’s so great at dealing with feelings? Scott’s in grieving right now. He’s actually been hallucinating, even if Jean doesn’t know that. He is not in the right state of mind to be helping anyone else. He’s the one who needs help. And Jean just tries to lay a guilt-trip on him. Not cool, Jean.
The Morlocks are getting ready to leave, and Beast tries to convince them to stay. Masque messes up his face, but Caliban beats him up and forces him to put Beast back to normal. The Morlocks leave, but Skids stays behind.
Back to Scott, who’s at Maddie’s grave. And he’s still not in the best mental state, clearly, as his hallucinations come back. He has a conversation with Maddie. She reminds him that Angel’s dying in New York while he looks to avenge her in Alaska. And the fact that he’s being told this by an hallucination of his recently-deceased wife is a clear sign that he’s in the right mental state to do something about Angel. Scott. Scott. Go to a therapist. When you’re talking to people who you know aren’t there, go see a therapist. In the hospital, Angel’s given sleeping pills, but he doesn’t swallow them. He sneaks out of the hospital. He takes a cab to the airport, wanting to fly one last time.
In a big-ass cloaked ship, Apocalypse monologues to his Horsemen about his Darwinian philosophy. Which isn’t actually Darwinian. Darwinism isn’t survival of the fittest, it’s survival of the ones most able to adapt. Anyway, he says he’s ready to recruit the final Horseman, Death.
X-Factor sees off the Morlocks. As Beast suggests a workout, Iceman vanishes. It’s the scene from Thor #377. I like how the scenes are completely identical. Of course, Simonson drawing one book and writing the other would’ve made that easy. Anyway, a little later, Beast is trying to train Skids while also struggling to stay awake. Jean rushes in to tell him that Angel’s gone missing, and that an intern at the hospital heard him mention wanting to fly. Meanwhile, Scott’s just gotten off his plane from Alaska. He figures he can get through to Angel somehow. Jean and Beast arrive in the helicopter, and the three of them see Angel’s plane taking off. Then they see his plane explode.
So this is a strong issue. There’s a lot of grief and tension and drama. This is, after all, X-Factor, where Everything Is Awful For Everyone Forever. Everyone’s dealing with a lot of heavy stuff here. Angel’s loss of his wings, Scott believing Maddie’s dead, the tension of the Morlocks living in X-Factor HQ and the conflict when they leave. There’s not much in the way of comic relief in this issue. It’s pretty much all drama and misery. I mean, when Caliban threatening to tear Masque’s arm off is the high point of the issue, it’s a pretty frigging dark issue. Between hallucinations, attempted murder and apparent suicide, this isn’t a barrel of laughs. But Weezie does a good job with it, even if the dialogue does tend to be overwrought, even by the standards of the time. She could make Claremont look subtle
The art is good. The focus here isn’t on action, it’s on talking, and I find Walt was better at action. He does some pretty good stuff here with body language and facial expressions, but it’s not what I find him best at. So the art here doesn’t really stand out to me very much. But still, it works fine, the artists do a fine job. So, all in all, it is a good comic.
By the way, there’s a letter in the issue from a woman named Peni Robinson, where she just tears into Angel for ignoring Candy the way he does. It’s a pretty glorious letter, I have to say, and it’s made funnier by the fact that it appears in the issue where Angel is apparently blown up. The editor’s response is, “Boy, bet you feel bad now, huh, Peni?” I just want to say that I am totally on Peni’s side. Angel was an asshole. And the letter was just so insulting and condescending and scornful. She ends it by calling him slime. It is an amazing letter and I love it and I think I might be a little bit in love with Peni.
I also need to talk a little about Thor #378, by Walter Simonson, Sal Buscema and Max Scheele. Iceman is still Loki’s captive in Asgard, but he’s pushing his power past its limits in order to overload Loki’s machine. It also makes him pass out. Even unconscious, he keeps generating cold that attracts Frost Giants. And, uh, that’s pretty much it for Iceman’s role in that comic. I will repeat, however, that Walter Simonson’s Thor is well worth reading. It’s the definitive Thor run. #379 has some spectacularly epic . . . talking. I’m not being sarcastic, it actually is epic. I’ll try to remember to talk about it a little more when I talk about the next issue of X-Factor. But seriously, so frigging good.
And in case you were wondering what I got for Christmas: Zeus Is Dead, by Michael Munz; The Bookstore Book, by Jen Campbell; a Storm bobble-head and a comic shop gift certificate; and Amazing Fantastic Incredible, Stan Lee’s memoir in graphic novel format, by Peter David and Colleen Doran.