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Friday, December 20, 2013

X-amining X-Factor #17

"Die, Mutants, Die!"
June 1987

In a Nutshell 
The first appearance of Rictor and the Right. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciler: Walt Simonson
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Thor returns Iceman, his powers now amplified by Loki, to X-Factor headquarters on the day of Angel's funeral. Learning of Warren's suicide, Bobby is enraged at the thought of Warren killing himself because humans cut off his wings. When X-Factor arrives at the funeral, they find pro- and anti-mutant demonstrations being waged, and only the timely arrival of Leech and Caliban prevent Bobby from blowing X-Factor's cover when he's confronted by reporter Trish Tilby and has difficulty controlling his power. When X-Factor enters the church, they discover an anti-mutant screed spray painted across the altar. Meanwhile, Apocalypse prepares his fourth horseman. As X-Factor arrives back at their headquarters, Cameron Hodge receives a call from the governor of California, saying that the X-Terminators are threatening to destroy San Fransisco via a mutant named Rictor. Though Hodge turns the governor away, X-Factor insists on helping, and Bobby suggest they go as the X-Terminators, rather than X-Factor, to show that not all mutants are evil.


Flying to San Fransisco, X-Factor is joined by Caliban, helps them locate Rictor at a skyscraper in the center of the city. As they approach the building, they're attacked by a group calling themselves the Right. Fighting off the Right's helicopters, they enter the building just as it starts to shake. Inside, they discover that Rictor is just a teenager, captured by the Right and tortured into activating his power. Iceman freezes the building to stop the shaking as Marvel Girl briefly cuts off the blood flow to Rictor's brain, shutting down his power and stopping the earthquake, a display of power that leave Cyclops believing Marvel Girl really is Phoenix. As X-Factor flees the scene, they are pursued by the police, but Iceman gives an impassioned plea over the radio, explaining that people, not the X-Terminators, tried to destroy the city, that mutants saved it, and that people should know mutants by their deeds and be glad they exist. At X-Factor headquarters, Hodge watches, upset that Iceman's speech was picked up by the media. Admitting it's a setback, he nevertheless continues to plot against X-Factor, believing that if he can topple Scott, the rest will follow. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue is the first appearance of Rictor, a young mutant with the ability to create vibrations and trigger earthquakes. Setup as the villain of the issue but revealed to be an unwilling pawn of the Right, Rictor will become another X-Factor trainee before joining the New Mutants and, later, X-Force and the Jamie Madrox-led X-Factor. He is also notable for eventually coming out as gay, and for being one of the mutants with a higher profile to lose their powers on M-Day and not regain those powers in some manner for a long while (almost to the point that M-Day was more or less fully reversed).  Also, we will eventually learn that his real name is Julio Richter. By that logic, Cyclops' real name should be "Scott Cychleps",


The Right make their first appearance, the latest anti-mutant human organization to openly target mutants, following in the tradition of Reverend Stryker's Purifiers from "God Loves, Man Kills." The Right will eventually be revealed as responsible for triggering the explosion that seemingly killed Angel, remain a significant thorn in X-Factor's side up through "Inferno", and they continue to be one of the got-to anti-mutant organizations the X-Books will occasionally dust off. 


Though the full extent of his eventual villainy isn't yet made clear, this issue establishes that Cameron Hodge is up to no good, as he's seen spying on Scott and talking about destroying X-Factor, and the final pages suggest an involvement with the the Right.

 
Iceman returns to the series following his three issues jaunt in Thor, dropped off at X-Factor HQ by Thor (sporting his new armor). As a result of Loki's machinations, Iceman's power has been supercharged and become more difficult to control (he needs Rusty's help to unfreeze himself, and later manages to completely ice up a skyscaper), a condition with which he will wrestle for a while.


Caliban effectively joins X-Factor in this issue, helping them track down Rictor and donning an X-Terminators uniform and mask. 


Angel's funeral is held in this issue, though of course there's no body, and the scene is turned into a media frenzy and comes to an early end when X-Factor enters the church to find an anti-mutant epitaph scrawled across the wall.


It's noted that neither Candy nor the X-Men are at Angel's funeral; the former, I believe, will eventually be given a good excuse (she's been kidnapped by the Right), while the later is never really explained, beyond a general notion (from reading the other title) that they're busy and out-of-the-country at the time (though you'd think eventually the X-Men'd catch up on the news and be shocked to learn their former teammate has died and was the financial backer of X-Factor, but we can't possibly have the two teams interact with one another this soon, now can we?).


Boom-Boom disappears in this issue, teleported away by the mutant Ariel to get involved in the events of the Fallen Angels limited series. 


A Work in Progress
Even the narrative captions are suggesting that posing as mutant hunters perhaps wasn't the best idea.


Between last issue and this one, Skids has gotten better at lowering her force field. 


This issue finds several characters, but especially Iceman, referring to humans as "the humans", which is an odd bit of phrasing that sticks out and seems out-of-character (it comes off as a little too "us vs. them", even moreso than I think Simonson intends it to).

Bobby says that Warren was the most peaceful person he knew; so, like, the most peaceful of his four friends who were trained as paramilitary superheroes then? He really didn't know anyone more peaceful than that?


Trish Tilby is covering Angel's funeral, and her cameraman gets in a funny line, noting that his camera always seem to have problems when he's around X-Factor.


I Love the 80s
Jean spews some exceptionally-expository dialogue in this issue. 


Two panels after Caliban says he's never flown in a plane before, he wonders why X-Factor keeps spare costumes under the seats where the lifejackets usually go...


The Awesome and Terrible Power of CyclopsOnce again, try not to make everything about you, Scott. You're at Angel's funeral. 


This issue finds Scott on the verge of a mental breakdown, as he hallucinates Angel and Maddie, then becomes convinced that if Jean was Phoenix, none of this would have happened. Then, after a significant display of power from Jean (stopping the blood flow to Rictor's brain), he starts to act as if she is Phoenix after all.


Human/Mutant Relations
Thor suggests dropping Iceman at a hospital, but Iceman says that, as a mutant, there's no way he could go to a hospital. 

The issue ends with Iceman giving an impassioned speech as X-Factor flees the local police, saying that not all mutants are bad and should be judged individually by their actions, and that people should be glad mutants are around, especially since a group of them just saved San Fransisco from being destroyed.


Teebore's Take
After the relatively quiet and low key previous issue, the volume is cranked back up to "11" in this one, with enough exclamation points to put Stan Lee to shame. Featuring the funeral of Angel and ostensibly the immediate fallout from his death, this issue is notable for setting up the next step in Simonson's rehabilitation of the title: giving X-Factor a human, anti-mutant adversary that can eventually be tied to the book's initial, ill-advised premise. As Iceman notes in this issue, for all they've said their goal is to help mutants, all X-Factor seems to do is fight evil mutants (and most of the histrionics this issue come from Iceman, as he rails against anti-mutant prejudice and the futility of X-Factor's mission in the wake of Angel's death).

To his point, X-Factor as yet to fight any Sentinels (traditionally used as a physical representation of humanity's prejudice toward mutants, making the metaphor physical so the superheroes have something to punch) or any agents of the government, no Stephen Langs or Reverend Strykers: they're trying to combat anti-mutant prejudice, but the conventions of the genre have forced them mostly into conflicts with fellow mutants. With the introduction of the Right, X-Factor finally has a specifically anti-mutant villain its characters can physically fight, and this is an important step in Simonson's gradual attempt to extricate the characters from their mutant hunter schtick and find them a new role. 

Next Issue
The battle we've all been waiting for: Warlock vs. the Impossible Man in New Mutants Annual #3. 

8 comments:

  1. "Also, we will eventually learn that his real name is Julio Richter."

    Oh...earthquakes...Richter...now I get it!

    "X-Factor enters the church to find an anti-mutant epitaph scrawled across the wall."

    Not that graffiti hate speech has ever been eloquent or well thought out but isn't writing "Die Mutant Scum" at the "mutant scum's" funeral a bit redundant?

    "Iceman gives an impassioned plea over the radio"

    I'm surprised they didn't ship in Kitty for that one.

    "but we can't possibly have the two teams interact with one another this soon, now can we?"

    Which is ironic because the funeral of a major character is the exact type of event where multiple groups of heroes SHOULD end up interacting. And while some of them may be overseas the two X-Men who should be there the most (Wolverine and Storm) are still stateside, aren't they?

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  2. It just means "the, mutant, the" in German. No one who speaks German could be an evil man!

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  3. Forget the X-Men not being at Warren's funeral for a second- shouldn't X-Factor call them (and Alex and Lorna) to let them know that Maddie and the baby have been mysteriously killed and they should watch their loved ones?

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  4. So this is the issue where Iceman says "know mutants by their deeds." I've never read that issue, but I've read the half-dozen that follow, and ... man. Weezie seems REALLY proud of that bit. I don't think she goes a single issue over the next half-year without someone referencing it, as if it's the most profound bit of dialogue ever delivered in an X-comic. Excruciating.

    Tee, can I request that you flag these moments up as you see them? :) (I might be misremembering how much she hammered that bit, but I don't think so. These next five or six issues are exemplars of why I think her X-Factor is just the worst, and would much rather read her New Mutants.)

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  5. @Dr. Bitz: Not that graffiti hate speech has ever been eloquent or well thought out but isn't writing "Die Mutant Scum" at the "mutant scum's" funeral a bit redundant?

    Ha! I never considered that before. Chalk it up to the ignorance of bigots, I suppose. :)

    I'm surprised they didn't ship in Kitty for that one.

    Ha! If Claremont had been writing it, he probably would have...

    And while some of them may be overseas the two X-Men who should be there the most (Wolverine and Storm) are still stateside, aren't they?

    Yeah, and depending on how you want to look at the timeline, the other X-Men could be back in New York by now as well (we'll see in issue #219 that they've returned to America between issues).

    You can certainly make a case, given where the X-Men are heading, that they're too "underground" at the moment to be paying attention to current events, but it's not like Magneto isn't just hanging around the mansion, teaching the New Mutants, and the death of Angel would be headline news, so it would seem odd to suggest that nobody either saw a newspaper, watched the news, or was told of the event by someone who did.

    @Anonymous:It just means "the, mutant, the" in German. No one who speaks German could be an evil man!

    Ha! Well played. :)

    @Jason: Tee, can I request that you flag these moments up as you see them?

    Definitely. I don't recall offhand either way whether she beats the phrase to death or not, but I'll keep an eye out for it as we move forward.

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  6. Comment from wwk5d:
    "So this is the issue where Iceman says "know mutants by their deeds." I've never read that issue, but I've read the half-dozen that follow, and ... man. Weezie seems REALLY proud of that bit."

    And didn't CC use that phrase first, or something similar to it, by Nightcrawler when we first meet the Morlocks?

    "but we can't possibly have the two teams interact with one another this soon, now can we?"

    What for? Why should the X-men learn that Maddie is "dead" and that Jean is back and alive?

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  7. @wwk5d: And didn't CC use that phrase first, or something similar to it, by Nightcrawler when we first meet the Morlocks?

    Something similar to it, though not quite in the same context.

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  8. Wait... He (or his captors) chose "Rictor" for a codename because of his seismic powers even though the "Richter" in "Richter Scale" is spelled like his actual last name?!?

    // Thor suggests dropping Iceman at a hospital, but Iceman says that, as a mutant, there's no way he could go to a hospital.  //

    It's a shame Thor doesn't know any doctors personally. (Yeah, I realize that this is the Sigurd Jarlson era, but still.)

    // with enough exclamation points to put Stan Lee to shame //

    Cross my heart, I didn't go back through the issue again to figure out a true ratio, but well before I got to this point in your post I actually went back through the panels you included and verified that nearly every single would-be "declarative" sentence ends in an exclamation point. Weezie appears to have taken more cues from Shooter than from Claremont.

    Dr. Bitz for the win!

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