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X-Factor Annual #2 (1987, October)

March 8, 2016

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by Jo Duffy, Tom Grindberg, Joe Rubinstein, Petra Scotese and Joe Rosen, “The Man In the Moon.”

The Man In the Moon

Ugh, the Inhumans. Slave-owning monarchist bastards.

Franklin Richards is in some mist, then Quicksilver grabs him and runs to the moon, until the moon falls apart. It was a dream, of course, and he’s telling Power Pack about it. They talk about his dream, and get joined by Artie and Leech. They were taken there by Scott and Jean. Scott wants to talk to Jean about something, but she’s not interested. Artie sticks with them, since he’s nervous about the Marauders. And Scott makes a bitter remark about the X-Factor scheme. And they argue a bit more about Phoenix.

We then cut to the moon, for some Inhuman crap. They probably miss having a slave race serving their every need. There’s something going on with the Inhumans, some kind of illness that’s making them weak. Medusa says she’s more concerned with Crystal, who cheated on her husband and then joined the Fantastic Four, leaving her daughter, Luna, behind. Triton says that Quicksilver was an arrogant prick, and mentions that he’s been attacking his friends.

I should give some context. Steve Englehart, for some reason, developed a weird hate-on for Quicksilver, and decided to turn him into a villain. And, you know, fair enough. Villain-to-hero stories are common enough, so why not do a hero-to-villain story. The problem is in how Englehart went about it. As mentioned here, he had Crystal cheat on him (in the Vision & Scarlet Witch 12-issue series). Quicksilver couldn’t bring himself to forgive her, and he ran off and went completely insane. Seriously, that’s what happened: His wife cheated on him, so he went completely insane and started trying to kill all his old friends. Englehart had Quicksilver keep popping up in different books, being a crazy jerkhole. It was a character assassination of the worst sort. He wasn’t even a good villain – he was petty, pathetic and ineffective. I really did get the impression that Englehart just plain hated the character. Regardless, that’s the necessary context here: Quicksilve,r having been cuckolded, is now a villain.

So, back on Earth, Quicksilver tries to grab Franklin, but Leech stops him from being able to run fast, so Power Pack fights him. Katie goes to get help from the X-Terminators, and they confront Quicksilver. He does reveal that he was sent to retrieve Franklin. In the end, Lockjaw teleports Quicksilver and X-Factor back to the moon. When Quicksilver sees Luna, he gets a severe headache. He ends up escaping with Franklin, while Lockjaw teleports away with Medusa and Gorgon.

X-Factor and the Inhumans chat a bit, and they learn Luna is Quicksilver’s daughter. Scott says Quicksilver must have a wife, which reminds Jean that Scott’s married and makes her sad. Triton explains that Crystal went back to an old lover, which reminds Jean of Scott leaving Maddie for her. Duffy’s really working to hammer in some parallels here. And they also learn they’re on the Blue Area of the moon, where Phoenix died. This might be one of the worst conversations of Scott’s life. It sucks for Jean, too, since she figures she can’t compete with dead versions of herself for Scott’s love.

Jean leaves, and the others go back to talking about Quicksilver, pointing out that he’s acting like a madman. And the Inhumans figure out who’s probably behind it all. It is, of course, Maximus, who’s mind-controlling Quicksilver and Lockjaw. Side note: Maximus is the one responsible for the “Alpha Primitives” – the slave race the Inhumans kept – being freed from slavery. He’s the villain. The Inhumans needed an insane, power-mad villain to force them to stop keeping an entire race of slaves. I don’t like the Inhumans. Some blah blah blah goes on, back to Attilan!

Beast remarks to Jean on how much the Blue Area has changed, and Jean reminds him she wasn’t here before, and that what died was a monster. Black Bolt figures out where Maximus is, and everyone rushes off. (We also find out Maximus has learned to drain his madness into others, and control their minds that way. That’s why Quicksilver’s been acting crazy!) So now we get some fighting, blah blah blah. Quicksilver hears Jean saying Medusa might have to fight the mind-controlled Black Bolt, and the thought of lovers fighting hits him right in the brain. He thinks of himself and Crystal in happier times, and of Scott and Jean in happier times, before things came between each couple.

So, happy endings. Quicksilver leaves without anyone noticing. Medusa doubts that he’s been under Maximus’ mind control. But he’s seeing Luna, apologizing for what’s happened, saying he’ll try to return Crystal to normal. And we end on Jean asking Scott if he wants to go pay his respects to Phoenix.

This . . . wasn’t great. Honestly, the issue feels very editorially-mandated. I could be wrong, maybe this was a story that Duffy wanted to write. But I do know that, not long after this, Englehart was basically forced to redeem Quicksilver, in West Coast Avengers. So I’m guessing that was happening here, too, with Duffy being told by editorial, “You have to include Quicksilver, and you have to make it clear that he’s been manipulated into being a villain.” Either way, the issue is dragged down as a result of the attempt to redeem Quicksilver. It’s a bit blatant that that’s the point of the story. Duffy does try to connect it all to Scott’s . . . complicated love life. That part actually works a bit better, but the melodrama does get pushed maybe a bit too hard, and the entire scene of Scott and Jean being reminded of Maddie and Phoenix was almost comedic in how it played. Like at any moment, Scott was just going to say, “Please stop saying things.” It got pretty cringe-worthy.

The characterization overall was . . . OK. Fairly accurate to Simonson’s take on the characters, but I’ll confess to never having been sold on her take, so I’m also not sold on Duffy’s take. Everyone feels a little off, in subtle ways I can’t place my finger on.

Then there’s the art. Grindberg’s not an artist I’m very familiar with. I did look up some of his other stuff just now, and it seems a lot better than this. I don’t know if it’s just because he was still relatively early in his career and he was still developing his style, or if it’s just a matter of Rubinstein’s inks conflicting with his pencils. But the art here is generally not very strong. The thing is, I can see what he’s going for. He’s clearly influenced by Neal Adams – the faces here are a lot like the kind of faces Neal Adams always did. But Grindberg isn’t at Adams’ level, so the faces look weird and deformed and gross. It’s not quite dynamic enough a style to justify its oddness. I also feel Scotese’s colours don’t do it any favours. Don’t get me wrong, Scotese is a talented colour artist. Reliably solid. But I feel like her colours don’t quite work here, for the most part. I’m not good at analyzing art, so I can’t really say why, or what might have worked better. But I don’t like the art on any level.

So, yeah. This annual is not particularly good, at all.

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