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Friday, August 9, 2013

X-amining X-Factor #1

"Third Genesis"
February 1986

In a Nutshell 
The original X-Men reunite to form a new team to help mutants: X-Factor. 

Writer: Bob Layton
Penciler: Jackson Guice
Inkers: Bob Layton, Jackson Guice & Josef Rubinstein

Colorists: Petra Scotese, 'Max' Scheele & Glynis Oliver
Editors: Mike Carlin & Michael Higgins
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In Alaska, a retired Cyclops watches news of the Mutant Registration Act with concern, but Madelyne insists his family is his only concern now. In New Mexico, Beast and Iceman leave Angel's home, bound for new jobs. After they leave, Angel receives a call from Reed Richards, and rushes off to New York. In San Diego, a young naval sailor named Rusty and his chief leave their ship for shore leave. The chief introduces Rusty to a woman named Emma, and when she kisses Rusty, he suddenly bursts into flames, burning her. In New York, Reed takes Angel to Avengers Mansion, telling him Jean Grey is alive. In San Diego, Rusty is arrested by the navy, while Angel contemplates calling Cyclops about Jean. The next morning he does, and when Cyclops rushes off, Madelyne tells him that if he leaves now, not to bother coming back.


Later that day he arrives in New York and is reunited with Jean, but is unable to tell her about Madelyne. After Cyclops learns the details of Jean's return, Jean admonishes the pair for doing nothing in the face of rising anti-mutant sentiment and flies off in a rage. Angel follows her, admits she's right, and announces he has a plan. Over the next few weeks, Angel recruits Beast and Iceman, and they convince a confused and reluctant Cyclops to join them as well. The next day, Angel unveils his idea: X-Factor, an organization that poses as mutant hunters but secretly trains the mutants they "capture" in the responsible use of their powers. Meanwhile, Rusty's chief visits him in jail and, angry over what Rusty did to Emma, tries to kill him, prompting Rusty to escape. The chief then proceeds to call in X-Factor to capture Rusty. X-Factor tracks Rusty to the countryside outside San Diego, where he's running from the military. In their costumed identities, X-Factor fends off the military, but a fearful Rusty attacks them. Working together, they're able to subdue him, and in the process, Cyclops realizes his place is with his teammates. En route back to their headquarters, X-Factor tells Rusty the truth about their operation. Meanwhile, in Alaska, Madelyne watches a commercial for X-Factor, alone.  

Firsts and Other Notables
Appropriately enough, this is the first appearance of X-Factor, a new team comprised of the original X-Men, including the newly-revived Jean Grey. The team is essentially born of Jean's desire to help protect mutantkind in the face of rising anti-mutant sentiment while being unwilling to work with the X-Men as a result of their continued association with Magneto, combined with the general aimlessness felt by Angel, Beast and Iceman in the wake of the New Defenders disbanding.

This issue proceeds to layout the initial premise of the series: within the Marvel Universe, X-Factor is being advertised as a mutant hunting agency (think the Ghostbusters but for mutants). When the public hires X-Factor, the team will proceed to capture the mutant, if necessary doing battle with it in their costumed identities, and once subdued, they will proceed to train the mutant and help acclimate it to normal society, while the general public believes them to be studying or disposing of the mutant.


This premise is, to be blunt, deeply flawed. The characters (chiefly PR man Hodge) suggest they are turning anti-mutant sentiment around on itself, using it to actually help mutants, but none of the former X-Men seem to realize just how much the seemingly-legitimate X-Factor business model will fan the flames of anti-mutant sentiment, reinforcing the public notion that mutants are something to be feared and hunted down. Furthermore, no one addresses what will happen when X-Factor is hired to capture a villainous mutant who needs to be locked up, as opposed to mutants being wrongly persecuted. Finally, while lip service is paid by the characters to the idea that the obviously-mutant Beast and Angel can't attend meetings with clients and that, while operating as costumed heroes, they need to be careful not to be associated with X-Factor, no one seems to recognize the fact that Angel is a known mutant, and that his money is all over X-Factor even while he operates alongside the others as a costumed hero, meaning it won't be too hard for anyone to make the connection.

When operating as costumed heroes, Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Angel all sport new costumes.


Originally, before Jean Grey was revived, the fifth female member of X-Factor was intended to be Dazzler, as detailed here. In fact, the final pages of the last issue of Dazzler's solo series (issue #42, which will actually be on sale at the same time as X-Factor #2) has Beast suggesting X-Factor as an option to Dazzler. 

In addition to the new team, this issue also marks the first appearance of Rusty, a young mutant who can create fire. He is the first mutant rescued by X-Factor, and will, in future issues, be the first of what will gradually become an almost New Mutants-like group of young X-Factor trainees who round out the book's supporting cast. In the first manifestation of his mutant power, he accidentally burns a woman (in a moment that makes the metaphor rather obvious, as it occurs when she gets sexually aggressive with him), and his guilt over that will color much of his early characterization.


Cameron Hodge, an old friend of Angel's from college, makes his first appearance as well. Though presented here as nothing more than a lawyer/PR man, future issues will reveal him to be rabidly anti-mutant and the leader of an anti-mutant terrorist organization known as the Right. He will eventually serve as the team's primary antagonist for several years, and continues to have a presence in the X-books, most recently working with Bastion as part of the group that menaced the X-Men in "Second Coming".


I don't know this for sure, but I suspect neither Layton nor Guice created the character with any intention of making him a villain, as his villainous side doesn't come out until after they've left the book. As casting Hodge as a villain secretly trying to eradicate mutants goes a long ways towards redeeming the initial "mutant hunters" premise of the book, it thus seems likely that his heel turn was the idea of future writer Louise Simonson.

X-Factor's riverside headquarters building appears for the first time; it will serve as the group's base of operations until shortly after "Fall of the Mutants".


The title of this story is a reference to Giant Size X-Men #1, which was titled "Second Genesis". 

The initial creative team of this series consists of Bob Layton, a writer and inker most well known for his work on Iron Man along with David Michelinie (the duo was responsible for the acclaimed "Demon in a Bottle", the story which first addressed Tony Stark's alcoholism) and Jackson Guice, whose work we saw in the X-Men/Micronauts limited series (and who will shortly become the new regular penciller on New Mutants). The cover of this issue is drawn by Walt Simonson, who will eventually replace Guice as the book's regular artist. This issue is edited by Mike Carlin, who will promptly leave the book, frustrated by overbearing hand of Jim Shooter (Carlin will go on to work at DC, eventually becoming a long time editor on the Superman books, including the famous "Death of Superman" story).

To that end, as detailed here, Shooter somewhat famously ordered this issue be completely redone only three weeks before its deadline, prompting Layton and Guice to hole up in a Manhattan hotel during a hurricane to complete it on time. This rushed rewrite may account for the generally pedestrian art (which features lots of standard six panel layouts) and bland dialogue (which lacks much in the way of unique voices, with many of the characters sounding indistinguishable from each other and at times barely recognizable compared to their more recent portrayals).

Additionally, it's worth noting that this is the second direct, ongoing spinoff of X-Men, and the first to lack Chris Claremont's involvement on any level. 

A Work in Progress
Not that it in any way excuses his later actions, but Maddy is written as much more of a shrill, hysterical wife in this issue than she ever was in any previous appearances.


She mentions understanding Scott not being present for their (still unnamed) child's birth, "present" being their home in Alaska, even though the baby was born in New York, beginning this series' apparent ignorance of that fact.

Candy Southern, Angel's childhood sweetheart and girlfriend from his early days as an X-Man, is on hand as Beast and Iceman depart in the wake of the New Defenders disbanding (Candy, I believe, helped manage that team at one point as well). Beast is going to interview for a position at Empire State University (Spider-Man's alma mater), while Iceman has gotten a job at an accounting firm.


It's revealed that Angel is the person Reed Richards called at the end of Fantastic Four #286, and it's once again stated that it was Richards' examination of Jean's cocoon which prompted her release.

Jean admonishes Cyclops for even trying to work with Magneto, while no one steps up to gently remind her that things have changed a bit since she was presumed dead and that perhaps she shouldn't be so quick to judge.


It's once again noted that, in the wake of the whole Phoenix situation, Jean has lost her telepathic abilities (which conveniently makes the whole "Scott won't tell Jean he's married" plotline possible), though her telekinetic abilities are stronger than ever. 

In a bit that I've always found neat, especially in light of Angel's otherwise low-powered mutant abilities, he reminds Jean that he also has exceptionally good vision.


This issue establishes "x-factor" as the term for the gene which gives mutants their powers.

Scott, torn up over Jean's return and whether he should join X-Factor or return to Maddy, receives counsel from his friends, but it's pretty crappy counsel (never once do they grab him, shake him, and shout "call your frickin' wife!"), born mainly of their desire to have Scott lead their team.


I Love the 80s
Angel, upon receiving Reed Richards' call and being told Jean is alive, tells Candy there's no time to explain before rushing off...for a four hour flight across the country. Given that, he probably could have taken thirty seconds to explain.


"You may have been there, Scott, but potential new readers of this series might not have been."


Scott Summers, Husband of the Year
The issue opens with Scott despondent, missing the life of the superhero and openly pining for Jean (even though he made peace with her death before her married Madelyne).


When he prepares to leave following Angel's phone call about Jean (a call he never shares the details of with Maddy), and Maddy tells him that if he leaves not to bother coming back, he apparently takes her at her word, as he proceeds to go to New York, reunite with Jean, contemplate joining X-Factor, agree to do so and then lead their first mission, all of which happens in the course of weeks, and all without either calling Maddy or telling Jean that he's married.


The issue ends with Maddy, home in Alaska, by herself, having not heard from her husband since he walked out the door weeks earlier, watching an X-Factor ad on TV. It is perhaps one of the saddest panels in X-Men history. 


Young Love
Angel, debating whether he should tell Scott about Jean's return and wondering what effect it will have on his marriage, also considers that not telling him could finally give Angel a shot with Jean...despite Angel having been involved with Candy for years at this point, and largely given up his one-time infatuation with Jean.


Jean is overjoyed to finally see Scott, and seeing her again prompts him to cry. He seems on the verge of telling her about Maddy when Angel interrupts, and by the end of the issue, he still hasn't told her that he's married, meaning he's jerking around two different (yet identical) women at the same time.


Human/Mutant Relations
The Mutant Registration Act, first mentioned in abstract in X-Men #141 and by that name in Uncanny X-Men #181, is gaining traction in the government, according to a news report Cyclops hears in the opening pages of this issue, and could be signed into law soon.


In addition to the act, this issue is filled with casual references to the general public's unease, fear and outright hatred of mutants: one of the construction workers at Angel's home is uneasy working for a mutant, Angel is greeted with catcalls at the airport, Rusty's naval chief more or less declares that all mutants need to die, and Beast is routinely turned down for jobs so as to avoid any controversy caused by hiring a mutant. 


Mike Carlin on X-Factor
"This is going to be a team idea that hasn't been seen before at Marvel. It's not a bunch of guys waiting for the Earth to be threatened. It'll deal with threats on a smaller scale and large scales. They're not the Avengers. They're not the X-Men, because they're public, very much so, the most public organization were going to have at Marvel. None of the others are going to advertise on TV, that's for sure."
 
Yarber, Eric."X-Men Redux." Amazing Heroes November 1985: p22

Louise Simonson's reaction to X-Factor

"I couldn't believe it. Chris called me. He was very upset. I said, 'oh, they wouldn't do that. That's just a rumor. Shooter told you he wasn't going to bring Phoenix back.' How wrong was I? Even then, I truly did not believe that Shooter would do a book like that without involving Chris. I was really appalled. I didn't think it was fair. That's my identifying with the creators, as opposed to thinking about X-Men as a commercial property. Maybe working with Chris affected me and made me believe that these were real, living, breathing people. Ripping those characters away from Chris just seemed like an appalling thing to do! I just felt terrible for Chris, knowing what those characters meant to him."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p143

Louise Simonson on Cyclop's characterization
"He had been turned into somebody that he wasn't. He had simply abandoned his wife and child to join this other team and be with his old girlfriend without any guilt or soul-searching. That was nonsense! You'd think he'd at least call his wife. We spent the next three years kind of putting Cyclops back where he belonged. It was one of those things where the editorial realities were having an influence on the fantasy world the characters inhabited, making them behave in ways that weren't right. I think everybody hoped I could help Chris straighten it out and we did straighten it out in the end."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p144
 
Teebore's Take
Let's start with the positive: as I've said before, I have a great deal of affection for this series, particularly this original iteration of it, largely born of its availability on the back issue market during my early days of collecting and because, as much as this series may have been conceived and executed with a strong marketing hand and made possible by a divisive and ultimately unnecessary retcon, there is no denying that there is fun in seeing all the original X-Men reunited and working together again for the first time since the original series went into reprints in 1970 (Beast having been absent from most of the Hiatus Years stories and Giant-Size X-Men #1, with Iceman missing out on the climax to "Dark Phoenix"). Unfortunately, most of my affection for this series doesn't start until Louise Simonson takes over as writer and begins dismantling the initial premise of the series, while the twisting and turning this issue goes through, in terms of characterization and the book's initial premise, sucks a lot of the fun out of seeing these characters together again.

So the bad, then. To begin, this issue is responsible for a tremendous act of character assassination on Cyclops. That he would rush off to New York upon hearing that his former girlfriend is alive is understandable; that he would proceed to stay there, agree to once again lead his friends as a superhero team and never discuss this decision with his wife, nor return to his newborn son or even make a friggin' telephone call to Madelyne for weeks, is absolutely ridiculous. Even worse, it's entirely unnecessary: there's no reason Scott has to be a complete dick to his wife and completely abandon her (in fact, an X-Factor in which he must balance his legitimate feelings for Maddy while working with Jean could have been quite interesting). Furthermore, with the exception of Jean, who remains blissfully ignorant, the other characters are drawn into the same muck as Cyclops through their complicity in the whole thing. No one bothers either to tell Cyclops to nut up and call his wife or fill Jean in on the situation, because, quite frankly, they seem more concerned that if Cyclops goes back to his wife or breaks Jean's heart, they won't be able to play with their friends anymore. 

Secondly, the premise of the book as presented in this issue, of the original X-Men fronting an organization that pretends to be mutant hunters, is deeply flawed. It's ridiculous that none of the main characters realize how such activity is only going to make things worse for mutants, and while, eventually, they will come to this conclusion, in the meantime, it makes them all look like idiots for not realizing it from the outset. Once again, there's potential in the idea of Xavier's original students willingly fanning the flames of mutant hatred in the interest of what they believe, rightly or wrongly, to be the greater good, but that's not what Layton and Guice seem to have in mind here (such a direction would, at the very least, require the characters to acknowledge the unintended side effects of their "brilliant" mutant hunter ruse, something they don't ever do in this issue).
 
There is definitely promise in the premise of this series, in the novelty of seeing these characters hanging out with one another once again, but unfortunately, it will take awhile before that promise is realized, before the character interactions and indeed, the very existence of the book, feels like something more than a marketing mandate. 

Next Issue
Our final Secret Wars II crossover comes in Uncanny X-Men #203, followed by the aftermath of the New Mutants' death in New Mutants #38 and the introduction of X-Factor's first original villain in X-Factor #2. 

23 comments:

  1. I love X-Factor. It was one of the first titles I followed as a kid (of course this was after the Simonson's came on board). Theses first few issues are quite atrocious however. I dislike the portrayal of Cyclops as a complete dick about his family, Maddie's portrayal as a nagging wife, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Jean comes off as a tad ditsy. I will give this particular issue credit in that it feels very Silver-Agey, which I suppose could be considered appropriate for the reunion of the Silver-Age X-Men.

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  2. I'm looking forward to the X-Factor reviews you do. I've always been more of a fan of the core X-Men titles, but X-Factor holds a special place for me. It's great to see the original team back together after almost 16 years.

    As I've mentioned on here before, the best thing about this series is that it really fleshes out the original team. In the Silver Age they were pretty cookie cutter and were basically D-listers. It says a lot that the only way to create completely new characters.

    Since the original 5 members were in and out of UXM after Giant-Size #1 they were still never really able to be fleshed out. Everything I enjoy about these characters came from X-Factor, and that helps when they're integrated back into the main team in the early 90's.

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  3. Never read a lot of X-Factor. Louise Simonson prose always seemed very loud and obvious to me, everything ending with excliamination marks and such, didn't have the kind of nuance or maturity that Claremont's characters had(nor did she have Tom Orz' wonderfully classy lettering). And Walt Simonson is all brawn no brain on this book, a lot of sketchy character design and big images, few backgrounds, not great at small character moments here. It made for a book that just seemed really juvenile in comparison to what Claremont and his artists were doing. The difference between the Claremont/Silvestri/Green/Tom Orz issues of Uncanny X-Men and the X-Factor issues during Inferno is like night and damn day.

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  4. @David: I think Jean comes off as a tad ditsy.

    Yeah, I seem to recall that as well. At the very least, it takes her way too long to figure out the whole Scott/Maddy thing (not that anyone else is doing her any favors in that regard).

    I will give this particular issue credit in that it feels very Silver-Agey, which I suppose could be considered appropriate for the reunion of the Silver-Age X-Men.

    That's a good point: there's definitely a Silver Age feel to this issue, especially in terms of the dialogue and panel layout. If that was intentional, I'll give Layton & Guice credit, even if I don't necessarily like the end result, though I wonder if that is more a happy coincidence than anything.

    @Ian: Everything I enjoy about these characters came from X-Factor, and that helps when they're integrated back into the main team in the early 90's.

    I'm right there with you: any affection I have for these characters as a group comes from X-Factor, and frankly, it made reading some of those Silver Age issues I'd never read before easier to get through.

    @Jeremy: It made for a book that just seemed really juvenile in comparison to what Claremont and his artists were doing.

    Keep in mind it's been many years since I last re-read these issues, but I seem to recall Simonson's X-Factor generally being more soap opera-y and melodramatic than Claremont's X-Men (Claremont having largely moved past a lot of the soap opera stuff by this point). I tend to like the soap opera stuff, so Simonson's writing in that regard didn't bother me as much.

    That said, her issues of "Inferno" definitely suffer in comparison to Claremont's, in large part because most of the heavy lifting in terms of the Maddy retcons fell to her (where Claremont did a lot of setup for it, which was fairly subtle, it was, as I recall, largely down to Simonson to pull the trigger on a lot of the Evil Maddy stuff).

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  5. I have to admit that I've never read much X-Factor. I have the first issue, tied as it is to the return of Jean and therefore qualifying as an "event" issue when I was younger, but after that, I've really only read the crossover stuff -- "Fall of the Mutants", "Inferno", and "X-Tinction Agenda". I've never even read the issues where Cyclops sends Nathan into the future, which are kind of important.

    (I have read the Peter David run, but it's basically a different book by then.)

    So, I look forward to your reviews of this series! It'll be interesting to see what I missed.

    Having read this issue, though, I have to say that I really wonder what the original version looked like before Shooter had it redone. I wonder if any of it survived?

    Also, I don't mind Jean's and Angel's costumes, but I really don't like Cyclops's. That yellow and blue combo doesn't work for me even though it's the same color scheme as his previous outfit (and in fact all the original X-Factor uniforms are the same colors as their wearers' previous looks; something I didn't notice for years).

    By the way, I hate to do self-promotion on someone else's site, buuut... I will be starting a blog soon. I finally decided that after years of being a commentor on others' blogs, I'd dip my foot in the water myself. I've already written a few things up, so watch for it soon (like hopefully maybe next week).

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  6. Not having access to the primo allowances, my best friend and I devised a system whereby I bought the Uncanny X-Men (and New Mutants) and he bought X-Factor (and maybe, I dunno, Groo the Wanderer?). We'd both take turns reading them, but he kept his and I kept mine. I remember thinking he really got the raw end of that deal.

    The first few issues are just... not that good. And yeah it definitely picks up when the Simonsons come aboard, but Weezie's basic deficiency in characterization is that she twists the character to fit the plot, usually by having said character do something idiotic. Witness Bobby's regression to class-clown practical joker, or the whole misunderstanding between Jean and Warren and Candy, or everything Scott says or does in relation to Maddie. Also Hank literally becomes stupid.

    It's not as horrendous as the de-aging that she inflicts upon the New Mutants -- turning them from believable teens into adolescents only slightly more mature than Power Pack. But they are acting like, say, college freshmen getting into petty squabbles, bad business decisions and romantic entanglements they are too old for.

    I eventually bought all of my friend's back-issues when he gave up in disgust following Peter David's entrance in the book, because they were no longer "his X-Factor."

    - mortsleam

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  7. This was such a mess. Between Jean coming back to life as something of a moron, Cyclops taking the prize for most dispicable husband and father, and Maddy jumping right into her new role as a nagging shrew of a woman, this series hit the ground running as the master character assassin. Beast and Angel are pretty damn stupid, too. I know a lot of you guys like the series this eventually became (and things certainly improved quickly), but sometimes I try to imagine what things would have been like if they just hadn't gone here. If they had just gone with Dazzler, X-Men history might have been vastly different and probably not as stupid. That's the "What If" I always wanted to see.

    I credit this book, or at least these few issues, as the beginning of the end (forget the 90's). In a lot of ways, there's just no going back from here. You couldn't retcon the damage done by X-Factor if you tried.

    That said, can't wait for Apocalypse in a few issues.

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  8. I know it's been talked about to death, but I'd just like to point out that Cyclops left Maddy and then apparently didn't even call her for weeks. Which means she had to think he was DEAD until she sees that he's alive on TV.

    That's...pretty abhorrent. And we're not even getting into the fact that HE HAS A CHILD!

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  9. @Matt: I have to say that I really wonder what the original version looked like before Shooter had it redone. I wonder if any of it survived?

    I wonder that too - and there's part of me that wonders if it isn't a case of Mr. Burns and Don Mattingly's sideburns - that this issue is largely the same as the original, and Shooter just kept insisting it get redone.

    That yellow and blue combo doesn't work for me even though it's the same color scheme as his previous outfit

    Yeah, I don't like it either (even though the same color scheme is largely used for everyone's costumes during Portacio's time on the book, and I like those); I much prefer is white and blue Simonson outfit.

    I've already written a few things up, so watch for it soon (like hopefully maybe next week).

    Welcome to the club! Once it launches, be sure to let me know and I'll put up a link.

    @mortsleam: We'd both take turns reading them, but he kept his and I kept mine. I remember thinking he really got the raw end of that deal.

    That's a pretty clever system (though yeah, you definitely got the better end of the bargain)!

    Witness Bobby's regression to class-clown practical joker, or the whole misunderstanding between Jean and Warren and Candy, or everything Scott says or does in relation to Maddie. Also Hank literally becomes stupid.

    The first one bugs me, the second one I don't mind, the third one obviously irritates me to no end, and the fourth one I actually kinda like - at least in that case, it's part of a clearly thought out story that eventually comes to an end.

    It's not as horrendous as the de-aging that she inflicts upon the New Mutants -- turning them from believable teens into adolescents only slightly more mature than Power Pack.

    That's the truth. And while Simonson has said she was asked by editorial to de-age the New Mutants, even she admits she took it too far.

    @Dan: sometimes I try to imagine what things would have been like if they just hadn't gone here. If they had just gone with Dazzler, X-Men history might have been vastly different and probably not as stupid. That's the "What If" I always wanted to see.

    Nah, What If was just a place to tell stories where everyone either lived happily ever after or died horribly. :)

    Seriously though, I too wonder how things would have turned out if Jean was left alone and Dazzler joined the team.

    That said, can't wait for Apocalypse in a few issues.

    Indeed. And can you imagine how much worse things would have been if they'd stuck with the Owl instead?

    @Dr. Bitz: I'd just like to point out that Cyclops left Maddy and then apparently didn't even call her for weeks. Which means she had to think he was DEAD until she sees that he's alive on TV.

    Hey, she said that if he left he shouldn't bother coming back. He's just doing what she said.

    But seriously, yeah, his actions are abhorrent. Even if he was torn up emotionally by Jean's return, you'd think his son would be enough to at least make him want to maintain communication with Maddy.

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  10. "Never read a lot of X-Factor. Louise Simonson prose always seemed very loud and obvious to me, everything ending with excliamination marks and such, didn't have the kind of nuance or maturity that Claremont's characters had(nor did she have Tom Orz' wonderfully classy lettering). And Walt Simonson is all brawn no brain on this book, a lot of sketchy character design and big images, few backgrounds, not great at small character moments here. It made for a book that just seemed really juvenile in comparison to what Claremont and his artists were doing. The difference between the Claremont/Silvestri/Green/Tom Orz issues of Uncanny X-Men and the X-Factor issues during Inferno is like night and damn day."

    I agree with every word of this. I actually recently read some issues I'd never read before, wondering if I was judging Simonson/Simonson X-Factor too harshly -- after all, I'd only read the issues that were part of crossovers.

    But man, they were even worse than the crossover issues! I honestly think they were maybe the worst superhero comics I've ever read.

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  11. "That said, her issues of "Inferno" definitely suffer in comparison to Claremont's, in large part because most of the heavy lifting in terms of the Maddy retcons fell to her (where Claremont did a lot of setup for it, which was fairly subtle, it was, as I recall, largely down to Simonson to pull the trigger on a lot of the Evil Maddy stuff)."

    I'll be interested to see how it holds up for you. I definitely think it was not just the retcons. The "Inferno" issues of X-Factor have terrrrible artwork, and everything feels -- as Jeremy said -- juvenile, with Maddy taunting the X-Men by calling them "wimpy."

    Later, Cyclops and Mr. Sinister start acting juvenile as a plot point, with schoolyard taunts and such, and it barely feels different from the dialogue leading up to it. :)

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  12. "It's not as horrendous as the de-aging that she inflicts upon the New Mutants -- turning them from believable teens into adolescents only slightly more mature than Power Pack."

    I disagree. X-Factor was far more horrendous. :)

    By the way, another note: It is true that Scott not calling Madeline for weeks is horrible. That said, anyone else notice how badly a character can be damaged by a single caption reading "Weeks later ..."?

    I'm pretty sure when he drew the issue, Guice meant for this comic to happen over a much shorter timeframe ... i.e., a day. Note that after "weeks" have gone by (according to Layton's scripting over the top) and they find Cyclops on the pier, he's wearing the same clothes he was wearing earlier. Has he not changed in several weeks?

    As someone pointed out to me, if he really has been wandering the city without changing his clothes or showering for weeks, then he's undergone some kind of mental breakdown. In which case, it's rest of X-Factor (or at least the three dudes) who are the true douchebags here. Not only are they showing a disregard for Maddy and the baby (as has been pointed out), but they also don't seem to care that their friend seems to be losing his sanity. X-Factor uber alles!

    (Or maybe Scott just happens to be wearing the same outfit. :) )

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  13. @Jason

    I'm pretty sure when he drew the issue, Guice meant for this comic to happen over a much shorter timeframe ... i.e., a day. Note that after "weeks" have gone by (according to Layton's scripting over the top) and they find Cyclops on the pier, he's wearing the same clothes he was wearing earlier. Has he not changed in several weeks?


    Cyclops has no idea how to do anything right outside of superheroics. This includes dressing himself. I'm sure if someone forced him to take a night off from his current terrorist activities and go out on the town, the first thing he'd do is put on his checkered suit and bowtie and go looking for the Cafe A-Go-Go. The man is a mess.

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  14. There's so much wrong with this book early on. Everything is so forced -- Jean's resurrection, the characters' behavior and motivations, even the basic premise of the book -- and its execution is so poor in comparison to contemporaneous issues of Uncanny that it lacks even basic excitement.

    Though the worst part about it is that it was all so unnecessary. I'm not talking about the book itself -- I understand that Uncanny was selling enough and its cast of characters was large enough to merit a second ongoing spin-off. I'm talking about all the stuff that doesn't work. There are so many easier and more obvious ways to launch a second spin-off using most or all of these characters that it's just insane to me that Claremont's counter-pitch to Shooter was "Let's have Jean's sister be a mutant who senses mutants and... and...."

    The first and most obvious: Just use Polaris instead of Jean. She and Havok were the only other pre-"Second Genesis" X-Men -- let's be honest, no one really counts Mimic -- and they weren't being used. Teaming her up with Angel, Beast, Cyclops and Iceman (it doesn't matter if Havok's there or not) would have allowed the Dark Phoenix climax to remain intact while still giving Marvel the ability to market a spin-off as Xavier's original students coming back together again.

    A second option: Just have Jean and Maddie be the same person. Shooter had already approved retconning the biggest and most famous storyline in Uncanny's history -- why not retcon "From the Ashes" at the same time? Have the big reveal be that Phoenix was some cosmic entity that possessed Jean and made her do terrible things. So, when Jean finally took control and tried to kill herself, the Phoenix spirited her away, erased her memories, and gave her a new life to live as Madelyne Pryor. Then, years later and long after she's met Scott and had a baby, they're attacked by some old X-Men villain who accidentally brings Jean's memories and powers rushing back to her -- and we learn that Jean and Maddie were the same person all along. Is it a little messy? Yeah. But it's a lot cleaner than what we got -- and it makes way more sense.

    As for the premise: Why not just pick up where Uncanny 201 left off? There, we see Cyclops confronted for the first time with the simple truth that he keeps superheroing because he has no marketable skills with which to get a job. And so, X-Factor picks up where that left off -- Cyclops, unsatisfied with being a stay-at-home dad, teams up with his old friends to go superheroing again. Their mission: save young mutants who are a danger to themselves and others -- and do it before the X-Men do because they can't stand to let any more young mutants come under Magneto's wing as New Mutants. Angel finances everything.

    There are just so many easy and obvious ways to make this happens without resurrecting people, having them abandon their wives, or having them sell themselves as humans who are hunting mutants... Reading these first eight or so issues before Wheezie takes over, I just find myself asking "Why?"

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  15. I'm showing my biases here, but I actually dislike Hank in this issue more than I do Scott. As has been said several times already, the whole X-Factor plan is monumentally stupid, and Beast should see that and shoot it down instantly.

    Editorial issues aside, this highlights one of the general problems with comics (and a lot of other fiction); writing exceptionally smart characters is really hard, and frequently it's done very badly. That's why, unlike mortsleam, I didn't mind the storyline where Hank lost his smarts. I'd rather have a character I love changed by plot device than changed by authorial inadequacy.

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  16. @Jason: The "Inferno" issues of X-Factor have terrrrible artwork, and everything feels -- as Jeremy said -- juvenile, with Maddy taunting the X-Men by calling them "wimpy."

    Yeah, I've always thought the X-Factor "Inferno" issues had bad art - there's a clear difference between Simonson's art in the preceding issues (which I generally like) and his "Inferno" stuff.

    I'd have to look and see if maybe he was being inked by someone else (which might explain the difference); otherwise, maybe he was just phoning it in since he'd leave the book at the end of the crossover?

    As for the juvenile dialogue, yeah, I remember that as well. I seem to recall thinking that it tied in with the later Scott/Sinister juvenile dialogue, but that may have just been my younger self trying to make sense of it. I too am curious to see how it holds up.

    Note that after "weeks" have gone by (according to Layton's scripting over the top) and they find Cyclops on the pier, he's wearing the same clothes he was wearing earlier. Has he not changed in several weeks?

    Good point. I wonder if that's something that got mixed up in all the various re-writes/re-dos of the issue. Maybe the original intention was never to let Scott go weeks without calling Maddy, but that got lost in the shuffle? Or that was always the intent, but Guice was never told/forgot?

    @Michael: it's just insane to me that Claremont's counter-pitch to Shooter was "Let's have Jean's sister be a mutant who senses mutants and... and...."

    To be fair, that's all I've seen quoted - it sounds like he came to Shooter with a full complement of counter proposals, all of which were shot down.

    But yeah, there are plenty of ways to make this series work without causing as many problems, from using Polaris or Maddy or Dazzler to bringing the team together as something other than fake mutant hunters.

    @SpaceSquid:As has been said several times already, the whole X-Factor plan is monumentally stupid, and Beast should see that and shoot it down instantly.

    That's a good point; of all the characters, Hank should realize how daft this whole idea is.

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  17. I have to admit that "Third Genesis" is a great title, at least in theory.

    What follows can't hold a candle to the story it's referencing, of course, despite the decidedly Bronze Age script of Wein's and Cockrum's rough art from today's perspective — in fact, X-Factor #1 looks all the poorer for the strides made in superhero comics between 1975 and 1983 — but points for the ballsy attempt to ride the coattails of the New X-Men in reuniting the original team.

    // It is perhaps one of the saddest panels in X-Men history. //

    Those last couple of panels, with Maddy sitting there Zip-a-Toned in the glow of the TV, are about the only ones I like in the whole book.

    I'm way curious as to what Shooter objected to in the first complete version of #1 and, if he wasn't just rejecting it because he could, then how Layton & Guice had any feeling of security that their rush-job second attempt would be accepted.

    Do you think not wanting or having the time to draw Angel's wings accounts for that giant red cape he's wearing for no reason?

    The only panels that have much life to them are Jean using her powers when she gets angry at the guys (mid/bottom Pg. 23), in which she — like Scott's face in one shot — looks to be swiped from earlier Byrne panels.

    Wouldn't you think that another black dress would be the absolute last thing Jean would want to wear at this point, even if she doesn't remember being comatose in one for the past however-many years?

    If Jean seems a little brain-dead, well, it's because she is in a way — something that's not brought up (in this issue at least; X-Factor is one series that I probably haven't read since I bought the first half-dozen or so when they were published). Not only do weeks of story time go by without reference to her feeling physically out-of-sorts in any way after her cocoon time, but there's not even lip service to the loss of her telepathic abilities. Given how direly her "psychic lobotomy" was discussed around #137 you'd expect her to feel even more isolated without that aspect of her power and without her rapport with Scott in particular.

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  18. I like the "hourglass" X costumes seen on the Amazing Heroes #44 cover better than the literal X ones, although on the cover of Marvel Age #33 the one on Cyclops (Marvel Girl's not there, and Beast isn't wearing one, while Iceman's all iced up as usual) simply looks like Angel's costume minus the halo imposed onto Cyclops' with his usual mask and visor.

    // Angel, debating whether he should tell Scott about Jean's return //

    I get the poetry of this kind of thing, but it's still a little ridiculous to suggest that he's been sitting in that pose for five hours, no matter how fascinating his codpiece must be to contemplate.

    // there's potential in the idea of Xavier's original students willingly fanning the flames of mutant hatred in the interest of what they believe, rightly or wrongly, to be the greater good, but that's not what Layton and Guice seem to have in mind here //

    The cherry on top of this what-the-fudge sundae is that it's happening at the same time that Magneto is genuinely trying to repent and embracing Charles Xavier's path. And their "Cerebro" is a toll-free 800 number.

    Michael's idea of Maddy having been Jean all along is actually something that came to mind as I reread #1 before coming to this post. Some fans would undoubtedly have cried foul, but if Jean coming back was a fait accompli editorially then you might as well deal with the giant Maddy coincidence in the same fell swoop. I'd probably have Maddy begin to get haunted by Jean's memories after Rachel's little purloining of the Phoenix spark in the holoempathic crystal, myself.

    I'd much rather think that Scott's gone a day without calling home than weeks. He's sporting more than an afternoon's worth of stubble when found down at the docks, though, and his shirt is now checked; then again, his tie is an argument in the other direction, because nobody in his condition would bother putting one on yet otherwise leave himself that disheveled.

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  19. @Blam: I have to admit that "Third Genesis" is a great title, at least in theory.

    Yeah. As you say, it fails to live up to what its referencing, but it is a great title.

    I'm way curious as to what Shooter objected to in the first complete version of #1

    Me too.

    Do you think not wanting or having the time to draw Angel's wings accounts for that giant red cape he's wearing for no reason?

    I've always taken it to be some kind of weird overcoat he's thrown over his wings, but yeah, not that you mention it, it probably was added to save time/effort.

    Wouldn't you think that another black dress would be the absolute last thing Jean would want to wear at this point

    Ha! Good point.

    Given how direly her "psychic lobotomy" was discussed around #137 you'd expect her to feel even more isolated without that aspect of her power and without her rapport with Scott in particular.

    It is somewhat shocking (and another knock against the series in its initial goings) that more isn't made of the loss of Jean's telepathy. That seems like it would be a big deal, even though we know why the change the was made, yet lip service is barely paid to it.

    I get the poetry of this kind of thing, but it's still a little ridiculous to suggest that he's been sitting in that pose for five hours, no matter how fascinating his codpiece must be to contemplate.

    Ha! Yeah, and I tend to assume its representative and that Angel didn't literally sit in that pose starting at his phone/junk for five hours.

    The cherry on top of this what-the-fudge sundae is that it's happening at the same time that Magneto is genuinely trying to repent and embracing Charles Xavier's path.

    That would make for an interesting juxtaposition: the original X-Men making things worse for mutants to make them better, while their greatest enemy has resorted to trying it their (old) way.

    Of course, I don't think this series is all that interested in "juxtaposing" anything, so...

    And their "Cerebro" is a toll-free 800 number.

    Huh. Good point. I never thought of it in that way before.

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  20. "A second option: Just have Jean and Maddie be the same person. Shooter had already approved retconning the biggest and most famous storyline in Uncanny's history -- why not retcon "From the Ashes" at the same time? Have the big reveal be that Phoenix was some cosmic entity that possessed Jean and made her do terrible things. So, when Jean finally took control and tried to kill herself, the Phoenix spirited her away, erased her memories, and gave her a new life to live as Madelyne Pryor. Then, years later and long after she's met Scott and had a baby, they're attacked by some old X-Men villain who accidentally brings Jean's memories and powers rushing back to her -- and we learn that Jean and Maddie were the same person all along. Is it a little messy? Yeah. But it's a lot cleaner than what we got -- and it makes way more sense."

    I always had that same theory. Just bite the bullet and admit Maddie was Jean and move on.

    Man, as much as Maddie was being written as a shrew here, she STILL comes off better than Scott, Jean, Warren, Hank, and Bobby do.

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  21. "This premise is, to be blunt, deeply flawed. The characters (chiefly PR man Hodge) suggest they are turning anti-mutant sentiment around on itself..."

    My headcanon is that he was always supposed to be evil, the foreshadowing just hadn't been planted yet. I love the idea that he's pulling the strings all along and is like, "Holy shit, they're actually going for my plan even though it'll make mutants look even worse? I am so fiendishly diabolical."

    "...no one seems to recognize the fact that Angel is a known mutant, and that his money is all over X-Factor even while he operates alongside the others as a costumed hero, meaning it won't be too hard for anyone to make the connection."

    There's also the fact that Beast was a member of the Avengers and the Defenders, and heck, the public should at least know of the gist of whom some of the early X-Men were. It's ridiculous that they still use the same codenames and openly use their powers as the X-Terminators - anyone who followed the X-Men/mutant related news stories could easily work out that the original X-Men are the X-Terminators (even if they didn't know their real identities). Hell, Beast is lucky that the Avengers don't give him a call asking him to stop with the 'terrorism'.

    "The title of this story is a reference to Giant Size X-Men #1, which was titled "Second Genesis". "

    If memory serves, the first issue of Generation X was called Fourth Genesis.

    "In a bit that I've always found neat, especially in light of Angel's otherwise low-powered mutant abilities, he reminds Jean that he also has exceptionally good vision."

    I also like that, in addition to the fact that he can also fly well in cold temperatures and has hollow bones. They don't exactly make him more powerful, per se, but they feel realistic.

    @Teebore:"Indeed. And can you imagine how much worse things would have been if they'd stuck with the Owl instead?"

    Obviously this wouldn't have happened, but it's hilarious to picture arcs such as X-Cutioner's Song, Age of Apocalypse, and The Twelve with the Owl being used in place of Apocalypse.

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  22. "If memory serves, the first issue of Generation X was called Fourth Genesis."

    Actually I think they just ignored X-Factor and titled their story "Third Genesis" as well. :)

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  23. This points out another unique fact about this medium. Retcons! So much of the characters' motivations and behaviors can be interpreted justifiably and even diametrically if you consider them before and after the retcon.

    Scott before the retcon: douche.

    Scott after the retcon: tortured hero.

    All's been said about this here and elsewhere. I will only add that like someone above I too had to have issue 1 because it was important to my 13yo self. Never read Simonson's run till later. Still don't like it.

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