X-Factor #34 (1988, November)
Death is tearing through Right Smileys, in search of Candy Southern. Below, Hodge has Candy strapped to a table. He’s been experimenting on her. He is not a nice man. Then a bunch of demons arrive, sent by N’astirh. Meanwhile, in Tokyo, Nanny and the Orphan-Maker are about to hit another target. Nanny’s also picked up transmissions between the Right and N’astirh. Nanny and Orphan-Maker are going to try to beat the Right and the demons to the babies. And back to Hodge, and a moment that makes me a little ehhh.
So, the implication I get here is that Hodge was always in love with Warren, but couldn’t face that idea and so convinced himself he hated Warren. Now, on the one hand, it may be unfair to judge this moment from the viewpoint of modern cultural mores. On the other hand, screw it. This sort of thing is harmful. Weezie didn’t mean it to be harmful, of course. Maybe she was trying to show the dangers of suppressing one’s sexuality. But just the same, this is implying that the villain is a gay man. What’s more, he’s a villain because he’s gay. His aberrant sexuality drove him to anger and hatred and evil. That’s what’s going on here. And that’s harmful, especially because mainstream culture – mainstream comics included – wasn’t exactly brimming with positive depictions of gay characters at the time. So Weezie’s decision to imply that Hodge is a gay man fed into harmful stereotypes of gay men. It was a poor decision to make.
Anyway, Hodge and N’astirh talk, with a mention of an orphanage, with Hodge saying to check the lower levels for mutant babies. There’s also some weird religious discussion, with Hodge using the Bible to defend his hatred of mutants. Not any particular verse from the Bible, just the existence of the Bible itself. OK then. Man, his motivations just keep bouncing around, to the point where I genuinely have no clue what the hell his real motivation is. On the screen, Death is threatening Hodge, and N’astirh withdraws with his remaining demons. He does promise that Hodge won’t die.
Jean returns to Ship, after dropping off Artie and Leech, and finds Scott about to head to Nebraska, to check out the orphanage where he grew up. She invites herself along for the trip. Surprisingly, Scott doesn’t object.
And then it’s time for Warren and Hodge to have their confrontation. Lots of yelling at each other. And the final fate of Candy Southern.
Hodge pulls out the life support systems keeping Candy alive, and forces an end to the conflict.
And that’s the end of Cameron Hodge! Actually, it’s not. It’s the end of Cameron Hodge as a villain who isn’t really creepy. This issue is OK, but it’s not great. It’s a bit of a mess, in some ways. There’s some good stuff in here. Warren tearing through all opposition is exciting. The confrontation between Warren and Hodge is handled really well, showing the hatred, but also showing Warren’s desire to remain a good person. He’s reluctant to actually kill Hodge. But, on the flip side of this, Hodge’s characterization is a mess. Is he motivated by religion? By self-hatred of his sexuality? Is the religious stuff just self-rationalization? Is it just lies for N’astirh’s sake? Who the hell knows! It makes him less compelling as an antagonist. The implication of Hodge being gay was especially bad.
Beyond that, this issue also fridges Candy Southern, which I feel was a shame. She was an interesting character. And in general, it’s disappointing when female characters are killed for the sake of drama for male characters. And this shows that female writers were just as capable of taking that route as male writers were. The fact that it’s a female writer doesn’t really make this any better, really. Candy was stripped of agency and murdered to cause Angel grief. Scott Lobdell may have shared this disappointment at Candy’s lack of agency, since he did do a story where she seemed to come back, only to die again, but this time on her own terms.
The art is Walt Simonson. I like it more here than usual. It works a bit better. The action is drawn well. So from an art standpoint, this is a solid issue. (Wiacek and Scotese do their usual solid jobs, as well, of course.)
This issue’s OK, but it has some definite problems, especially by modern standards.
I may as well note that Beast was in Avengers Annual #17, the climax of the Evolutionary War event. He actually does get to be pretty integral to the plot, and also gets to be useful in fighting. And he gets to be funny. Still, I won’t actually recap or review the issue. All I’ll say is that Beast comes across well, which was always incredibly rare for Beast in an Avengers title. For all that some people have fond memories of Beast’s time in the Avengers, he spent the first half bitching about how he wasn’t pulling his weight, and the second half gloating about his partying. He was almost never actually useful.