X-Factor #27 (1988, April)
Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by the Simonsons, Wiacek, Scotese and Rosen, “Gifts!”
Jean is levitating the kids towards the Empire State Building, still missing its antenna. Scott, Hank and Bobby are already there. Also, reporters. Who ask some really stupid questions. Wolf Blitzer would think these are dumb questions. “What exactly is a mutant?” They ask the kids what their powers are, and they all demonstrate. Boon-Boom, as always, is adorably psychopathic.
I love Boom-Boom. Anyway, Iceman gets everyone on track for why they’re there, and I love some of the dialogue bubbles. “That’s Iceman!” “What’s he gonna do?” “Ice stuff up?” Good guess, guy! That describes pretty much 90% of what Iceman does. The other 10% is be annoying. Anyway, he makes a big ice-sculpture Christmas tree, on top of the Empire State Building, where the antenna used to be. So, just to make it clear: He put a massive pile of heavy ice on the top of a building that had already suffered some structural damage. There’s no way this is a good idea. Right? And what happens when it starts to melt? It’s not going to melt uniformly, so the weight distribution will be thrown off, and then it’ll fall right into the streets below and kill people. I mean, it’s a cool visual and everything. But it’s going to turn out poorly.
Regardless, no one points that out, so X-Factor decides to leave before anyone can think of it. They go down telekinetically, with Beast carrying Artie, Leech and Trish, the only reporter who decides to take them up on their offer of a quick ride. While they all walk down the street so Leech can admire the Christmas displays, Archangel – not yet named that, but whatever, I’ll still call him that – watches all broody and dark. He’s so emo. “Look at them, being all happy! Don’t they know the world is a dark and miserable place full of dark and miserable people? Let me read this poem I wrote about it.”
And this is when X-Factor finally learns about what happened in Dallas. An electronics store has the requisite display of TVs, and they happen to be showing footage from Dallas. In fact, Scott turns to it just in time to see Maddie’s final message to him! Because he was getting entirely too happy and needed a reminder that his life is an unending series of tragedies. He loses the ability to even think coherently, and leaves so he can digest it. Jean is shaken up by everyone being dead. Iceman comes over and says he doesn’t believe they’re dead, that they’ve all survived worse. Which is hilarious because he’s right. He’s pretty genre savvy. “Dead? Psh! They’re fine! They’re probably relaxing in, like, Australia or something.”
Anyway, Jean’s feeling messed-up and also begs off, thinking about how Scott will have to find his baby and she wants to help him. Iceman starts taking the kids home, going past some of the ruined buildings from Apocalypse’s attack. The police have brought a spare Christmas tree and a box of ornaments. Inside the Ship, the kids immediately start pushing buttons. With Leech even shouting “Buttons!” Can’t blame them, pushing buttons is fun. Rusty manages to get TV – a Snoopy Christmas special, looks like – and Beast freaks out over not knowing how any of it works. He calms down, just in time to hear Trish doing a report on X-Factor, where she mentions Hank losing his intellect. Not cool, Trish! Not cool at all! Total dick move! You know it’s upsetting him, and it’s not anyone’s business but his, so why’d you go and tell the world about it? This is one of the few times I dislike Trish, because what she did here did cross a line.
Meanwhile, in Annandale-On-Hudson, Jean’s parents are watching the news, and missing their daughter. Jean shows up, and actually knocks on the door. Usually, people just bust right in, with no consideration for Jean’s parents. Jokes aside, it’s a really sweet, touching reunion. Until Jean asks about Sara, who’s still missing. Jean promises to find her. It’ll be a little longer before that plot point actually gets resolved, though.
Back at the Ship, trucks keep delivering presents from people all over the city. Leech suddenly feels bad about how much they have, while some sick kids they saw earlier have nothing. Boom-Boom doesn’t want to give the presents away, but gets guilted into it. She keeps a sweater she already unwrapped, though. The kids load the packages onto a ski and slide it out that night, to deliver them in secret. Jean, Bobby and Hank find them, and Jean yells at them for sneaking off without telling them. Boom-Boom blames it on Leech.
Jean decides she can’t stay mad, and they all deliver the presents to the sick kids in a hospital. They were injured in the battle with Apocalypse. It’s cute and sweet, and then Scott shows up to not have any fun. He’s there to tell Jean he’s leaving, to go look for his son.
And meanwhile, while all this was going on, the Ship has repaired itself, and Apocalypse looks at it on a screen and declares it a gift for X-Factor, but one which is ticking.
So this issue’s pretty good. You know I can be pretty hard on X-Factor, but I don’t actually have many complaints here. It’s a quieter issue, and while there’s still some melodrama, it’s not as out of control as it had been getting. Actually, I think Weezie hits a really good stride for a while after this, if I’m remembering right. We’ll find out together! Either way, I enjoyed this issue. It had some definite fun stuff. The stuff with the kids was actually really good. Rusty and Skids still come across a bit wooden (especially Rusty). But I liked the overall story of the kids in the issue. And Boom-Boom makes everything better. So there was some fun with that.
But the drama in this issue was also well-written. Scott learning Maddie hadn’t died when he thought, but was now dead (even though she’s not), was especially good, as his reaction was believable. Just absolute shock. Jean’s reaction was also handled well, and I do like that it caused her to go see her parents. Their lives are awful, so it’s nice to see them get some joy, and it’s a really touching moment.
Where the issue drags, for me, was the art. I find Walt’s art really wooden. It’s not particularly expressive, and it’s not very fluid. And it’s especially obvious in this issue. There are a few panels where I felt the art hurt the moment by not selling the dialogue well. His style worked well with Thor, where it was all larger-than-life and epic and mythological. But it’s not as good at capturing people, I find. It doesn’t convey emotions very well.
Still, this is a very strong issue.
Oh, while it’s not X-Men related, I actually want to very briefly mention Strange Tales #13. Specifically, the Cloak & Dagger story, by Austin, Brigman, Wiacek, Oliver and Bruzenak. In the story, the Punisher is hunting Cloak and Dagger, mistakenly believing them to be supplying drugs to local dealers. And on his trail to save Cloak and Dagger – Julie and Katie Power! Which leads to something adorable. As usual for Punisher stories, there’s narration in the form of Punisher’s War Journal. But this story also has narration from Katie’s War Journal. The story continues into #14 from the following month, where it continues to be adorable and endearing.