X-Factor #25 (1988, February)
The Horsemen are attacking Manhattan. Apocalypse monologues about humans and mutants being natural enemies, gives a recap of Angel being turned into Death and shows Reagan signing the MRA. Beast uses his increased strength to rip a piece of the table into his hand, then throws it to deactivate Iceman’s belt, unleashing his full power so he can free them all. So now they can confront Apocalypse, who is at least nice enough to move Caliban out of the way first. Which I find interesting, actually. He shows he actually does value Caliban, and doesn’t want him injured needlessly.
During the fight, Scott blasts a transformer, so the Ship is now sucking energy from Manhattan, which causes a blackout. Next, Scott and Jean are forced out. Now that they’re outside the Ship, it’s invisible to them. And people are dying, at Pestilence’s hands, but she moves away too fast for them to catch her. Don’t worry, she’ll get hers. Meanwhile, there’s screams coming from one direction, and explosions from another. So a quick kiss, and then Scott and Jean split up. And it’s actually a really nice moment.
I like that this is them deciding they’ve had enough of dancing around each other. They’re in love, they want to be together, so screw it. Jean goes to confront Famine, and tries to tell her what she’s doing is wrong, and get her to change But Famine teleports away. She shows up in Captain America, of all places, but I’ll talk about that in the next X-Factor review.
Scott goes to fight War, who’s smashing statues, ranting about the government spending money on statues instead of helping wounded soldiers. Gee, it’s really a good thing the treatment of veterans has improved so much as to make War’s anger seem quaint and outdated, isn’t it? Anyway, Scott actually does some pretty sweet acrobatics to get onto War’s horse, and blast it in the mouth.
Back on Ship, Apocalypse points out that people are already blaming mutants for the attack on the city. He does have a point: Given how many supervillains are out there, it’s a bit odd for people to just assume these ones are mutants. Maybe these are just the guys who blame mutants for everything, and assume everyone with powers is a mutant? Apocalypse is ranting, so Beast throws a chunk of machinery at him, but hits another chunk of machinery. So now Ship becomes visible, and out of control. People blame aliens for this one, and say it’s the end of the world. See, now that’s totally reasonable. A giant spaceship appears out of nowhere? Probably aliens. Aliens are a perfectly reasonable assumption here. Apocalypse finds it all hilarious.
Scott and Jean start heading back towards Ship, though they get attacked by Death first. The Ship smacks the Empire State Building, and Jean catches the antenna, but it’s massively heavy and has momentum. Power Pack show up to help. Pestilence shows up to do the opposite of help, but Julie knocks her off her high horse. And then Death slices the antenna in half so Jean can’t hold it any more.
Back in the Ship, Beast an d Iceman are working together against Apocalypse. Apocalypse is impressed, so he decides they’re reached the Second Level of Difficulty.
Scott and Jean tell Power Pack to keep helping the city. Which gives another panel I like.
Scott and Jean get back to the Ship, just in time to save Iceman from Death’s feathers. Iceman comes up with a plan. Death rants a bit, and then shatters Iceman. That snaps Warren out of his evil mindset, and he instead tries to kill Apocalypse. Who’s pleased that Warren’s strong in mind, as well as body. Of course, it turns out Iceman’s still alive, and Warren just smashed an ice dummy. Scott declares Apocalypse is now alone, but Apocalypse reminds them of Caliban, saying they’ve always discounted him. Which, again, is interesting. Apocalypse leaves with Caliban, but gives X-Factor his Ship, saying it’ll test them and force them to grow. The Ship crashes, and actually lands right on the X-Factor complex. Two security guards and a three-person janitorial crew were lost. Their lives go unmourned, and their families will never know what happened to them. OK, that’s all a lie. As far as we know, there was no one there. They never had any staff, after all. But still, they could have.
Regardless, they’re pretty excited about their old headquarters being destroyed. They invite Warren to rejoin them, but he’s got a lot of angst going on. He’s mad at them for not searching for him. You know, after the plane he was in blew up. They never searched for the invisible Ship they had no idea even existed. What a bunch of jerks, right?
Anyway, they go back outside to talk to some reporters and spread their message that mutants are pretty cool and deserve to be treated with respect. And yes! Yes! This is what they should have been doing all along! Get in front of cameras and say stuff! Interestingly, but X-Factor and UXM made use of that during Fall of the Mutants. I wonder if that was something Claremont and Simonson worked out together, or if they both just came up with ideas for using TV for their stories. Either way, it’s great to see, because it’s a pretty integral aspect to how any civil rights movement works. It needs people to go out and speak. So I really liked that aspect.
This is a bit of a mixed issue, for me. There’s a lot of great stuff. But there’s also quite a bit that made me roll my eyes. I still find Simonson’s dialogue too cheesy. There are some absolute gems in this issue, though. I actually also dislike Warren’s turn from bad to good. It was too sudden. I think it needed a couple more panels of breathing room, to show the dawning realization of what Warren had done. A panel of him looking smug, then a panel of him looking confused, then a panel of him looking angry. That would have been the way to handle it. The way it’s shown here, it feels a little unsatisfying. Like we’re missing a lot of emotional beats.
I think that’s a result of Simonson’s writing on this book. Everyone is turned up to 10 all the time as it is. There’s not much room for subtlety, or for building emotions. So when a moment like this happens, it doesn’t feel like an elevation.
I’ve made it clear how I feel about Walt’s art. If you like his style, then this is a fantastic example of it. I don’t like his art, so I wasn’t into it here, either.
So, overall, this is a comic that I respect more than I enjoy.
And there’s also Power Pack #35, a Fall of the Mutants tie-in featuring X-Factor. It’s by Simonson, Bogdanove, Barta, Oliver and Rosen. They get caught in the blackout caused by Apocalypse and his Horsemen. They worry about their mom, so Katie – who was Lightspeed at the time – heads to the subway to look for her. There, she sees Pestilence, inflicting sickness on people in the train. She lures Pestilence away, but gets touched, and so gets sick. Though Pestilence also flies directly into a wall. The other Power kids are still at home, since they’re grounded, and when they look out the window, they see Ship above them. They go out to look for Katie, with Jack throwing a power ball to show her the way to them. When she gets to them, they catch the disease Pestilence inflicted on Katie. But they can use their powers to heal themselves.
Ship starts going out of control and smashing buildings, including smacking the top off the Empire State Building. Jean catches it with her telekinetics. Alex points out the antenna probably weighs thousands of tons. If that’s true, then damn, Jean’s a powerhouse. Pestilence shows up to attack, and Julie, who can control her density stops her by dropping on her head at her densest. That knocks Pestilence off her flying horse. Katie tries to save her (while Archangel cuts the antenna in half). Katie, sadly, fails to save Pestilence, and she feels awful about it. It’s really sad.
Jean comforts her by saying she did her best, and by suggesting that Pestilence may have hated what she’d become and wanted to die. Scott asks the kids to look after the city while he and Jean get back to the fight. Ship is still out of control, and now it’s the Statue of Liberty that’s about to get hit. Man, what does ship have against liberty? Damn commie ship! Go back to Russia! Alex saves the Statue by blowing up just enough of the tailpipe for it to miss the Statue.
A bit later, Power Pack sees X-Factor come out of the downed Ship, and reveal their secret.
Power Pack was such a great series. Simonson handles the tie-in really well – as she should, considering she was writing X-Factor, as well. These were the kind of event tie-ins I always loved. It ties in naturally, using one story as a springboard for another, and showing the interconnectedness of the Marvel Universe. The issue itself is great. Really exciting stuff. And some nice emotional stuff, too. Katie’s reaction to Pestilence’s death was especially emotional. She was always great for feels. On a side note, Julie is the only member of Power Pack to actually kill someone. It would’ve been nice to get some exploration of her feelings on what happened. But that didn’t happen, to the best of my recollection. The events of this issue don’t really have much bearing on future issues.
Bogdanove’s art is a perfect match for the title. It’s got a cartoonish quality that works for a kids’ book. The colours are darker here than they normally would be, which is unfortunate but understandable. So, yeah, it’s a really good comic, from a really good series.