Friday, June 10, 2005

It Came From the Long Box: X-Factor #4 May 1986 ($.75)


Other than during the seminal Claremont/Byrne run, during which in many ways the modern superhero comic came into its own, I’ve never been a gigantic fan of The X-Men. I like the early Lee/Kirby run, of course, because who doesn’t love all the early Lee/Kirby stuff? And the X-Men had plenty of good bad guys, including the Sentinels, the Blob, Unis the Untouchable, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and, of course, Magneto, perhaps the greatest villain in the Marvel stable, barring Dr. Doom.

Anyway, during the mid-80s the X-Men, the newer team with Wolverine et al, were Marvel’s hottest property. Soon a plethora of related titles were inaugurated, one of which was X-Factor. X-Factor reunited the members of the original X-Men, which wasn’t a half bad idea. However, if the issue I have before me is any indication, the execution was less than spectacular.

Frankly, I have only vague memories of this group. If I remember correctly, the original X-Men got back together for whatever reason and established a fake anti-mutant group called X-Factor for their cover, their real purpose being to protect mutants. Wait, can that be right? Because now it sounds really dumb.

We open mid-battle, with the then unfurred* Henry McCoy/The Beast leaping up to deliver a kick to the face of a generic two-story foe named Tower (who actually, it seems, can grow any size, from very small to very big). Since an on-running theme of the various X-Men comics was the regular humans fear of mutants, I found it funny that the battle was taking place in a crowded airport, with the X-Factor crew endangering hundreds of civilians with their antics. Despite this, the humans are portrayed as unthinking bigots, calling their supposed ‘protectors’ “muties” and “freaks” and other bad words.

[*Apparently this was a period during which he was de-furred before being re-furred some time down the line.]

Anyhoo, Tower gets away by shrinking (in a better book he would have been casually stepped on by somebody and killed), leaving the heroes to endure the catcalls of those they risked their lives to safeguard, blah blah. However, he is accosted by his putitive co-worker Frenzy (boy, what a nondescript rogue’s gallery).

Frenzy is a seven-foot tall imperious—which in comic book speak means she calls everyone ‘fool’—black woman with Bride of Frankenstein streaks in her corn-rowed hair. She wears a short leather dominatrix outfit that emphasizes her typically oversized cleavage. Yawn. She’s apparently superstrong and semi-invulnerable, blah blah. Apparently she’s a somewhat more powerful female analog to Luke Cage, but with really big boobs.

X-Factor actually runs a school for young mutants, carrying on the work of their mentor, Prof. Xavier. Jean Gray/Marvel Girl and Bobby Drake/Iceman are working with Rusty, a pyrokenetic kid, who is distracted when Scott Summers/Cyclops enters with a new student, a kid who looks like a Saucerman. This results in Rusty nearly charbroiling some of them, and Jean reams him out. Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “Good work, Scott, for walking in the door in the middle of a potential lethal training session, you moron.”

After that I frankly got bored and starting skimming stuff, especially since a lot of it entailed the wearisome sort of soap opera material that helped keep me from being a huge X-Men fan in the first place. He loves her, but she loves him, and that girl loves the first guy, and so on. Yawn.

Eventually…and I mean eventually…Rusty runs away, and comes across Frenzy, who is trying to recruit him to join an apparentl second grade knock-off of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Then X-Factor shows up and there’s the standard throw-down. After she takes a bit of a beating, she tears down a building façade (!) to escape. (Which means that, yes, the above cover art in no way bears relation to the comic's actual content.) X-Factor takes Rusty back to their school, and tears are shed and Important Life Lessons learned and so forth.

The writing by Bob Layton is typically professional, as is the art by Keith Pollard and Joe Rubinstein, which has a sort of John Buscema meets Neal Adams feel. The book is by no way awful, but for the hardcore fan, it reads as distressingly ‘been there, done that.’


At 8:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

X-Factor has the notorious distinction of being the comic that resurrected Jean Grey, who was supposed to have died during the Dark Phoenix Saga. I would place Jean Grey's return behind only Gwen Stacy's resurrection as the most egregious comeback of a dead character. (Gwen Stacy was recently brought back, along with Norman Osbourn and Aunt May. What makes Gwen's return especially offensive is the fact that she was supposedly sleeping with Norman when she was dating Peter way back in the early days of Amazing Spider-Man and is now pregnant with his child. With all this going on, is it any wonder I haven't picked up a single comic since Cerebus ended?)

At 7:25 AM, Blogger BeckoningChasm said...

"Mutants," Ken, "Mutants." The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

Has anyone ever referred to him or herself as a "villain"?

Of course, you have to wonder if anyone ever referred to him or herself as "evil," either, but then, you had to have a name for your club that would attract the right members....


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