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X-Factor #21 (1987, October)

March 7, 2016

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by the Simonsons, Wiacek, Scotese and Rosen, “For Every Action. . . .”

For Every Action . . .

It’s the smiley-face guys!

We open with Hank tackling Cameron Hodge, and Iceman putting him in an ice-chair. Angel’s will is going to be read that day, and Hodge figured he should be there. He keeps putting on the pretense of being on their side, and denies the accusations about the holograms that made Scott think he was crazy. And Scott decides there’s only one way to deal with someone like Cameron Hodge: He fires him! Which is amusing.

Outside, intrepid reporter Trish Tilby is reporting on protests outside X-Factor HQ. In the infirmary, Hank’s playing chess against the kids. And then they talk about Angel killing himself. A little later, Hodge watches everyone getting ready for the reading of the will. The will leaves everything to X-Factor . . . to be administered by Hodge. When they storm out, they’re confronted by Trish, who reveals Hodge handled Angel’s incompetency hearing – he’s the one responsible for Angel’s wings being amputated. She also says she’s figured out the truth about X-Factor.

Hodge comes out, and X-Factor all say they quit. They’re ready to tell the truth on TV, but there’s an attack by guys in armour suits, claiming to the mutants. The helmets look like smiley faces. Which is just awesome.

X-Factor #21

They look so friendly!

Iceman uses his power openly, no longer giving a damn about keeping it a secret. Good for you, Bobby. Jean and Scott are doing the same, with Scott blasting at a seam. He’s got very good aim. After the smileys run, X-Factor retreats, and Hodge delivers a statement on how dangerous mutants are. Apocalypse watches his speech on TV, and admires Hodge as a worthy adversary to test mutants.

In X-Factor HQ, the kids rush to the tunnels to let the team back in, but the smileys burst in, instead.

This is pretty good. I do still find Weezie’s dialogue to be too overblown, too melodramatic. It gets downright cheesy, quite regularly. But the story she’s telling is great. I may not like the dialogue, but the plotting is fantastic. There’s some great twists here, with Angel’s will giving everything to Hodge, the same guy who killed him. And the entire “mutant hunter” angle is pretty much ended at this point – they don’t quite get the chance to expose the scheme to the media, but they’re definitely not continuing it. Which is good, because it was always a pretty stupid idea. Intrepid reporter Trish Tilby is on her way to becoming a part of the cast, which is neat. I do like her. This issue also introduces the smiley-face guys, who have such a fantastic design. It’s one of my favourite villain designs, I think. It makes them even more menacing.

Walt’s art is something I still have trouble connecting with. As I said, I love the design of the smileys (the Right, we’ll soon learn, but I prefer calling them “smileys”). But other than that . . . I don’t know. I don’t find his style very expressive. I mean, he can do “righteous scowling” better than pretty much anyone. But that’s about all he does. I think my problem with Walt’s art is that everyone looks Very Serious. It’s as melodramatic as the writing. And it’s just how he draws people. When he tries to do other moods, they always look a little off.

So, while I love the story, I’m less enamored of the overdone melodrama.

I should also talk about Incredible Hulk #336, by Peter David, Todd McFarlane, Jim Sanders, Petra Scotese and Rick Parker. Quick background: At this time, Banner turns into a grey Hulk at night, and back to Banner during the day. In this issue a guy sees it happen, and thinks he’s a mutant, so calls X-Factor. Iceman is trying to get his power under control. He tries creating a simple iceball, but it’s way too big. Then Scott, Jean and Bobby head out to Illinois to check out the call they got. A little later, Bobby talks about hating the mutant-hating disguises. Jean agrees, and Scott admits to having the same thoughts. Jean suggests they try to soften their image, say mutants aren’t threats.

They find the guy who called, but Bruce has wandered off. While Scott and Jean deal with the dude, Bobby goes for a walk, and comes across Banner, who thinks he must be SHIELD (who’s been hunting him). X-Factor gives chase, though I don’t think they even know why, and Jean says it’s pointless. They decide to give it up as the sun goes down.

Which is also when the Hulk comes out! So now it’s X-Factor vs. the Hulk. They switch to their X-Terminator costumes, but the Hulk recognizes them as the X-Men. This proves the Hulk is smarter than almost everyone, since virtually no one actually made that connection. The fight is pretty awesome. It includes Scott delivering a ricochet blast that knocks the Hulk into paper roll stacks. It ends when Iceman freezes him. This Hulk is less powerful than the green Hulk, so it actually works.

It’s a great issue. I mean, it’s Peter David’s Incredible Hulk. Of course it’s great. He does good work with X-Factor, too, exploring their doubts about their mission, coming up with a way they can try to make their disguise work for them. And also really good work with Iceman’s struggles with his power. I should also mention the guy who calls X-Factor. He’s really sympathetic. He’s not a bad guy, he doesn’t hate mutants, he just sees an opportunity to make some money, and he feels awful about doing it. (Of course, X-Factor doesn’t pay a finder’s fee, so he doesn’t get what he’s hoping for. Oh well.) I thought that was a nice touch. Added a little more nuance to the usual mutant-hating jerkasses that were so prevalent at the time.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the art. Incredible Hulk was McFarlane’s first notable Marvel work, and man, he proved he deserved to be a superstar. His art’s got a good energy and dynamism, and it’s really expressive. He got his Marvel career off to a big start, and it’s easy to see why he became as huge as he did. He did Canada proud!

  1. The only part of the old X-Factor series is what Peter David wrote, and the first issue since it’s part of the old Phoenix Rising Trade Paperback. Is it worth looking into overall?

    Also I’m curious to try out Peter David’s Hulk run but it’s very hard to track down since all the paperbacks are out of print at the moment. I do have the one issue that’s basically a parody of Casey at the Bat though – that one’s great.

    • Parts of the original X-Factor are probably worth looking into. The Mutant Massacre tie-in issues. The Fall of the Mutants stuff is good. There’s a few good stories here and there. But for the most part, I find it tends to be too melodramatic for my tastes.

      PAD’s Hulk, on the other hand, is fantastic stuff. It is one of the definitive Hulk runs. It is available on Marvel Unlimited.

      • I’d rather get it in trade because I already spend a lot of time writing on a computer, and I tend to get bad eye strain if I spend too much time on a screen.

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