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Friday, January 17, 2014

X-amining X-Factor Annual #2

"The Man in the Moon"
1987

In a Nutshell 
X-Factor and the Inhumans battle Quicksilver and Maximus the Mad. 

Writer: Jo Duffy
Penciler: Tom Grindberg
Inker: Joe Rubinstein
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
X-Factor is in Central Park as Artie and Leech play with Franklin Richards and the Power children. Suddenly, Quicksilver and Lockjaw appear, and Quicksilver grabs Franklin. However, the pair is unable to flee as Leech is blocking Quicksilver's super speed and Lockjaw's teleportation ability. The Power kids attempt to help Franklin and call out to X-Factor, who join the fight, but all are rendered equally powerless by Leech. Eventually, the fight strays far enough from Leech that everyone's powers return, and Quicksilver orders Lockjaw to take them home. Lockjaw proceeds to teleport Quicksilver, Franklin and X-Factor to the court of the Inhumans on the Blue Area of the moon. Quicksilver, frustrated that Lockjaw took them there instead of to their master, tries to run off with Franklin, but is attacked by X-Factor and the Inhumans. Eventually, Lockjaw teleports again, taking Quicksilver, Franklin and Inhumans Medusa and Gorgon with him.


X-Factor introduces themselves to the Inhumans, and learn of Quicksilver's recent return to villainy while devising a means to track Lockjaw's teleportation signature. Meanwhile, Quicksilver presents Franklin to his master, Maximus the Mad, who imprisons Medusa and Gorgon and intends to unlock Franklin's psychic potential and use it take over the Inhumans. However, X-Factor and the Inhumans manage to track Lockjaw to Maximus' hideout, and in the ensuing battle, Maximus' control device is destroyed and the villain is apprehended. Quicksilver escapes, however, though with Maximus' defeat, he is more clearheaded. He visits his estranged daughter, and promises her he will try to do right by his recent actions. Elsewhere, in the aftermath of the battle, Scott and Jean discuss Phoenix, and Jean asks Scott to show her the place where Phoenix died. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue guest stars the Inhuman, a race of genetically-modified humans created by the alien Kree by experimenting on early man. They first appeared in Fantastic Four during Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's legendary run on that title, and though they've rarely carried their own series for very long, they remain a staple of the Marvel Universe. They'll meet up with X-Factor again shortly before the title gets revamped and a new cast of characters comes aboard. 

The villain of this story is Quicksilver, who at the time was coming off an extended period of time in which he returned to villainy after years as an Avenger, triggered by his wife, the Inhuman Crystal, cheating on him (with, if I recall correctly, a realtor or some other relatively mundane person). This foray into villainy was most notable for his attempt to turn the government on the Avengers, leading to their arrest by Freedom Force in Avengers Annual #15 (it was this act that ultimately led the second Spider-Woman to leave Freedom Force).

In the course of this story, it is revealed that Quicksilver is under the control of Maximus the Mad, the evil and (as the name suggests) insane brother of the Inhumans' king, Black Bolt, a revelation that helps set Quicksilver on the path to redemption (suggesting as it does that he's not solely responsible for all of his recent villainous actions), allowing him to rejoin the Avengers and, ultimately, the government-sponsored iteration of X-Factor. To that end, the issue ends with a now-clearheaded Quicksilver promising the perpetual plot device that is his daughter that he'll try to do better.  


The Chronology Corner
This issue takes place between pages of X-Factor #18, after X-Factor returned to their headquarters with Rictor, but before Iceman, Beast and Caliban leave to search for Boom-Boom. As a result, the understanding Scott and Jean seem to reach at the end of this issue regarding Phoenix is somewhat overshadowed by their coming to blows over the creature immediately after returning to Earth following this story. 

A Work in Progress
Scott and Jean discuss whether or not X-Factor posing as mutant hunters has made things worse for mutants (Scott's right, it has).


Iceman continues to have problems controlling his powers, taking a chance on using them and getting frozen in a block of ice, from which the Inhuman Karnak must free him and prompting a genuinely humorous comment from Maximus. 


I Love the 80s
When Quicksilver grabs Franklin, he calls him the man from his special dream (he had a prophetic dream of the encounter earlier in the issue), imbuing that scenario with even more reasons for Child Protective Services to be called in.


Scott Summers, Husband of the Year
Cyclops puts his foot in his mouth a bit when he learns the details of how Quicksilver's wife left him.  


Like a Phoenix, From the Ashes
As the story ends, Marvel Girl asks Cyclops to take her to the place where Phoenix died.


Teebore's Take
Unfortunately, there's not much to this issue. It's ostensible purpose is to put Quicksilver on the path of redemption following some time spent as a relapsed villain, and while that redemption will become significant to the larger Marvel universe (and, eventually, X-Factor itself), at the moment there's no reason this story had to occur in an X-Factor annual. Lip service is paid to Iceman's recent power boost while Scott and Jean briefly come to terms with the role of Phoenix in their lives (something which is ultimately rendered more or loose moot by the end of issue #18) and there's some novelty in seeing Jean visit the Blue Area of the moon (where Phoenix died), but there's little about the story itself that requires X-Factor's presence, and the art is a mixed bag. I don't believe I've ever encountered Grindenberg's work before; at times it's somewhat cluttered, his figures distorted, yet at other times, it almost reaches a Neal Adams-esque level of expression and composition, which at least makes parts of the issue nice to look at it. Overall, though, this is little more than another forgettable annual. 

Next Issue
Next week, we look at X-Men vs. the Avengers #1-4, in which Magneto's legal status is once again called into question, followed by X-Men Annual #11.

18 comments:

  1. In theory, this should be more important than it ended up being. First, Quicksilver being on the road to redemption should be a big deal...but as you said, it shouldn't happen here. Maybe in an Avengers annual, but definitely not here.

    And the whole Scott/Jean/Phoenix resolution is a nice idea, in theory. I like the idea of Jean suggesting in that last panel that Scott pay his last respects to "Phoenix", because, that was a big part of Scott's life. I think this issue might have worked if 1) More of the issue was somehow devoted to this sub-plot and 2) Simonson had written it and worked it around the regular series.

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  2. @wwk5d: First, Quicksilver being on the road to redemption should be a big deal...but as you said, it shouldn't happen here. Maybe in an Avengers annual, but definitely not here.

    That's a really good point - as much as X-Factor feels shoehorned into a Quicksilver/FF story, from the perspective of Avengers and Fantastic Four readers, it must seem odd to see this plotline randomly pop up in X-Factor.

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  3. So Jean asks Scott to take her to the spot where Phoenix died...I think that might be problematic, because when John Byrne's FF had the Inhumans land their home on the Blue Area, it crushed a good amount of the Kree ruins "Burying for all time the fateful spot upon which a young woman from Earth once died to save the Universe." (FF#240)

    Quicksilver also had other issues: his dislike of sister Wanda's marriage to the Vision, Moondragon mind-raping him into accepting the union, Magneto revealing his paternity to him, his daughter Luna being born a human (a 'problem' he tried to fix by unsuccessfully attempting to expose her to the Terrigan Mist, an act that began his marriage problems). But yes, Crystal having an affair with a house salesman was the straw that broke the camel's back. We never saw the lover again after THE VISION AND THE SCARLET WITCH 2 LS ended.

    Franklin, Medusa, and Quicksilver all being together hues back to the last time this happened in FANTASTIC FOUR.
    Johnny (during his Golden Age Torch red costume phase) plans to rekindle thing with Crystal (a star-crossed affair caused by Inhuman intolerance to air pollution), only to find out Crystal had rescued, nursed, and fallen in love with Pietro! This ends up with Crystal and Pietro getting engaged.
    While one union was starting, another was troubled. Reed and Sue were having marriage problems: Sue was having trouble juggling being adventurer and mother, with Reed being insensitive (Mr. Fantastic certainly gave Scott a run for his money as Husband Of The Year!). By the time the FF joined Johnny to the Inhumans' home city, an estrangement had happened between the couple. Medusa decided to join the FF and take Sue's place, as some goodwill action to help foster Human-Inhuman relations.
    Shortly afterwards, Annihilus kidnaps Sue & Franklin, channeling the child's mutant power to overload and destroy the Universe. To stop this threat, Reed tries out for Father Of The Year: He blasts his only child with a device that turns Franklin's mind off, making him a comatose vegetable! (Anyone see THE ICE STORM? Tobey Maguire is reading this story). While Franklin's mother, uncle, and godfather dropped father for his action (although the latter two did come around), Medusa was the only one to be compassionate and understanding to Reed. Sue sued for divorce, and turned to Namor the Sub-Mariner for comfort. Namor then managed to pull a scheme that eventually reunited Reed and Sue.
    Crystal and Pietro have their wedding, guested by the FF (including veggie Franklin) and the Avengers (a late invitation, since Pietro deliberately decided not to inform them about it due to WandaXVision). Like most superhero weddings, this one got crashed by a villain: Ultron, who proceeded to zap the heroes via psionic means. This action restored Franklin's mind, causing the kid to unleash his powers and defeat Ultron. It also temporarily burned out said powers for a time.

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  4. @angmc43: I think that might be problematic, because when John Byrne's FF had the Inhumans land their home on the Blue Area, it crushed a good amount of the Kree ruins "Burying for all time the fateful spot upon which a young woman from Earth once died to save the Universe."

    If memory serves, when X-Factor ends up back on the Blue Area during their final story (scripted by Claremont) before the "Muir Island Saga", they come across weaponry similar to what Phoenix used to kill herself, so it seems that not everything was destroyed by Attilan/Claremont ignored (willfully or otherwise) that line of Byrne's.

    We never saw the lover again after THE VISION AND THE SCARLET WITCH 2 LS ended.

    I seem to remember him showing up in an issue of either Avengers or X-Factor (maybe an annual backup story?) in the 90s, during the period where Quicksilver & Crystal were reconciling.

    I could be remembering that wrong, though I think it's the only place I ever encountered the character (and learned he was a relative schlub), as I've never read the Vision/SW mini.

    As always, thanks for the background info.

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  5. "it crushed a good amount of the Kree ruins "Burying for all time the fateful spot upon which a young woman from Earth once died to save the Universe." (FF#240)"

    Oh, Byrne, you vindictive little SOB...

    Crystal also did bust up the marriage between Johnny Storm and (not)Alicia Masters. For someone who accuses other women of being sluts, she certainly enjoys a ride every now and then on The Floozy Express...

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  6. @Teebore- Real Estate Dude appeared in FF 311.
    The reason why Pietro's redemption appeared in X-Factor instead of Fantastic Four or West Coast Avengers was because Steven Englehart was writing those titles and Englehart wanted Quicksilver to remain a permanent villain. Englehart's redemption might have been backed by Harras- he always liked Pietro.

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  7. Sorry, that should be Quicksilver's redemption, not Englehart's redemption.

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  8. Indeed, there was a Johnny/'Alicia'/Crystal triangle in Englehart's FF run, but in the end Johnny chose his wife. A fan-letter in UXM#239 compared Johnny's situation to Scott, and thought the former handled the 'married man and his first love' situation better than the latter.

    But it's correct about Crystal and the Floozie Express. I found it interesting that mostly everyone put Gwen Stacy as star guest of that train, but decided to ignore other Silver Age passengers like Crystal, Clea (Benjamin Franklin), Betty Brant Leeds (affairs with Peter Parker and Flash Thompson), and Karen Page (during her porn-star/druggie phase), and to a lesser extent, the flirtatious Mary Jane Watson.

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  9. @Anonymous: The reason why Pietro's redemption appeared in X-Factor instead of Fantastic Four or West Coast Avengers was because Steven Englehart was writing those titles and Englehart wanted Quicksilver to remain a permanent villain.

    I did not know that. I generally really like Englehart's WCA run, but I never knew he wanted Quicksilver to remain a permanent villain. I forget - did Quicksilver pop up towards the end of Englehart's run and rejoin the team, or was that later, after the Byrne run?

    Quicksilver's redemption might have been backed by Harras- he always liked Pietro.

    I could see that.

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  10. "I forget - did Quicksilver pop up towards the end of Englehart's run and rejoin the team, or was that later, after the Byrne run?"
    He popped up at the end of Englehart's WCA run as a villain, with Wanda pondering about insanity being a family trait (...). In Byrne's run- during Wanda's 1st Evil trip- Pietro showed up and joined her and Magneto with seeming villain intent, but it turned out to be a trick, and that he aided the Avengers, redeeming himself to the team.

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  11. It was funny seeing Crytal make a snide comment once about how loose Tigra was, which is hilarious because when you think about it, given Crytal's own personal history when it comes to relationships.

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  12. @angmc43- The reason why Crystal is sometimes left off the Floozie Express is because the ending of that story implied Crystal's dalliance with Ben was merely an illusion. Since then, some writers have written it like it was real, others like it was an illusion.

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  13. Even without that story, she def deserves a first class ticket.

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  14. @angmc43: He popped up at the end of Englehart's WCA run as a villain, with Wanda pondering about insanity being a family trait (...).

    Ah, yeah, I remember that now. And of course, his role in the whole "Magneto's is evil again!" Byrne story.

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  15. I can't speak to Quicksilver's deal specifically, as this was a period of very low interest re (and therefore great ignorance of) the Marvel U on my part. All the stuff about him actually having gone bad, as well as Crystal stepping out on him, is news to me; while Pietro's always been imperious at best and often a flat-out jerk, I really wasn't aware he'd ever been classified as a villain again since ditching Magneto for the Avengers. But I will say that threading through various series the arcs of characters who don't have their own features seems not uncommon, either at the hands of a writer who had a particular affinity for that character or because editorial wanted certain groundwork laid in anticipation of an upcoming relaunch/spotlight of the character in a new series or storyline. We've seen it with Carol Danvers and Rogue to an extent right here. Yeah, I would expect to have Quicksilver dealt with in a Fantastic Four or Avengers issue sooner than an X-Factor annual, but once the Inhumans are involved he's right in the mix.

    Tom Grindberg is pretty much my least favorite Neal Adams clone/spawn ever.

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  16. @Blam: Tom Grindberg is pretty much my least favorite Neal Adams clone/spawn ever.

    Has he done other stuff? I don't think I've ever seen his work outside this annual.

    Glad I wasn't offbase in seeing him as an Adams' clone, though.

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  17. @Teebore: // Has [Grindberg] done other stuff? I don't think I've ever seen his work outside this annual. //

    Yeah. He worked at Continuity (where almost everyone in-house was an Adams clone), but I first saw his stuff on DC's Secret Origins and the last issue of my onetime fave All-Star Squadron in 1986, so right before this annual. Judging by the chronological sort of his credits at the GCD he did even more for Marvel than DC, but it wasn't stuff I was reading; I mostly remember him for those Roy Thomas collabs and the 1992 Batman: Bride of the Demon graphic novel, plus some later random Marvel cover where I noticed he'd switched from being a poor Neal Adams clone to a poor Mike Mignola clone.

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  18. @Blam: Judging by the chronological sort of his credits at the GCD he did even more for Marvel than DC, but it wasn't stuff I was reading

    Yeah, at the very least that list confirms that this annual is indeed the only place I've seen his work.

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