X-Factor #33 (1988, October)
We open on Trish Tilby reporting on a heat wave in New York, along with muggings, riots, accidents and bizarre halucinations. Behind her, the Alliance of Evil is wrecking stuff. She doesn’t miss a beat. She doesn’t even bother talking about them. Which is fair: It’s New York, this sort of thing happens all the time. Much more interesting is the inanimate objects acting up – the Alliance even mention the jail they were in letting them out. Meanwhile, Jean and Bobby are taking the kids clothes shopping, to prepare them for summer school. The kids are griping, and are also annoyed at the clothes tangling themselves and all being the wrong sizes. Then Boom-Boom defeats a sweater.
Bobby starts to lecture her on being more responsible, and she has a huge grin which amuses me.
She’s downright proud to be so much trouble. Then Tower chucks a car at them. Meanwhile, Scott is on Ship, watching Hank switch back and forth between fleshy and furry. Ship lets him know the Alliance is on TV, protesting the Mutant Registration Act. Some people protest with marches, or rallies, or sit-ins. The Alliance of Evil protests by throwing cars. All good choices. So, fight!
Which we cut away from, to a Kansas suburb, where someone in a suit of armour grabs some kids and shoots their parents. Nanny and the Orphan-Maker! Now, back to the fight, which Rusty finally joins, wearing a make-shift mask to hide his identity. He actually brings the fight to a halt, as Frenzy recognizes him despite the mask, and they have a really neat conversation.
She tries to recruit him. Back on Ship, Hank finally wakes up, blue and furry and smart again!
Ship teleports Hank and Scott to the scene, and the fight resumes. With Boom-Boom showing why she’s awesome again.
The Alliance is quickly defeated, and Hank and Trish are just about to have a reunion, but Freedom Force shows up to arrest the Alliance, and to get X-Factor to register under the MRA. Hank’s identity is public knowledge anyway, so he signs. Scott says the rest will sign, too, using their superhero names, but will keep their private lives private. That leaves Rusty, who gets his single best moment in the entirety of his time with X-Factor.
And then the last page is Hodge and the Right preparing for Warren’s attack.
This is a really good issue. It’s part of the Inferno build-up, with things already starting to get weird in the city. This is the first we see of what’s coming. Pretty soon, of course, most of Marvel’s titles will have some sort of Inferno tie-in, with a lot dealing with the random madness throughout New York City. It’s only touched on here, hinted at, foreshadowed, but it’s really effective, and really creates a sense of tension for what’s coming. Of course, that’s all minor stuff here. The Nanny subplot also gets touched on again, which is cool. I like that subplot, and it’ll go to cool places. But, of course, the big things here are with the Alliance, and with Beast.
The Alliance of Evil are kind of a dumb group, which actually makes them work well for this issue. There isn’t that much tension to the battle – even aside from knowing that the heroes will win, it’s hard to see the Alliance as a legitimate threat – but that doesn’t actually hurt the story. Frenzy does come across as pretty menacing. She’s really cool. It helps that she’s built like a brick shithouse. But she’s also got a nice attitude to her. More important than that: The Beast is back! It’s good to see. The blue furry version was the best version of him, so it’s cool to see that playful, fun-loving version of Beast back to the fore. And I love seeing him delight in his return to intelligence. This issue also does a great job spotlighting Rusty, with him wrestling with his desire to live up to his dead sailor father, to show his courage and his responsibility. It’s the most interesting he’s ever been, and it’s when he decides to leave the book, which is kind of unfortunate. Ah, well.
As far as the art goes, it’s Walter Simonson. If you like his art, you’ll love it here. If, like me, you’re not a fan of his art, this issue won’t change your mind. He does what he does well, but what he does isn’t what I enjoy. So, no sense dwelling on it. On the whole, though, this is a great issue, and Louise Simonson has definitely found a groove.
And part of X-Factor also shows up in The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak & Dagger #1, by Terry Austin, Dan Lawlis, P. Craig Russell, Glynis Oliver and Ken Bruzenak. This spun off from a Cloak & Dagger feature in Strange Tales. You may have noticed the “Mutant” in the title. Around this time, with the X-Men being so massively popular, it was decided to try to tie Cloak & Dagger into it by saying the drugs they were given activated their mutant powers. Since then, of course, it’s been confirmed that, nope, not mutants. But let’s go over the story real quick.
Dagger is trying to kill Jean, Bobby and Hank. Hank tears up the street a little to create some cover, which also makes him dumber. Hank tries to attack Dagger, but Jean is worried he’ll kill her, so she holds him back telekinetically until Bobby can make him slip on an icy patch. Jean realizes that maybe going straight to punching isn’t a great way to operate, and she tries to talk Dagger down. It fails, but I’m proud of Jean for trying. Hank rips up the street again to knock Dagger over, so Dagger sends all the people she knocked out after X-Factor. Jean tells Hank not to move, while she and Bobby deal with the people, by putting them in ice pens. Then she notices Hank getting attacked by some people, not moving. She said not to move, so he didn’t move. Jean decides they have no choice but to attack Dagger. But before they can, Cloak shows up. He was being held by the young son of a ’60s Dr. Strange villain who’d retired and gone into insurance. That part of the story is really fun, though since it’s not X-relevant, I won’t talk about it. Regardless, he takes Dagger into himself, and she comes back out normal. But blind. I enjoy the issue. Austin does some good work with Jean, Bobby and Hank. He takes Hank’s stupidity maybe a bit too far, but it’s still fine. Jean ends up being the leader of the trio, which was cool to see. She’s seldom actually gotten to be a leader, but it makes sense to me that she would be an effective one. But of course, Scott was always the leader, and since they were a couple, it was always rare for her to be an X-Man without him. (There was a brief period where he was presumed dead, but she actually left the team to go searching for him.) If Adult Jean ever comes back, I’d like her to lead her own team of X-Men.