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Friday, April 4, 2014

X-amining X-Factor #27

"Gifts!"
April 1988

In a Nutshell 
X-Factor celebrates Christmas. 

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

Plot
On a rooftop near the Empire State Building, Marvel Girl and the X-Factor kids join the rest of the team and a group of reporters. The kids introduce themselves to the reporters, including Trish Tilby, before Iceman creates a massive ice Christmas tree to replace the Empire State Building's damaged antenna. As X-Factor heads back to the ship, Cyclops spots a TV broadcasting Madelyne's message imploring him to find their son. Shocked, he leaves to be alone. Meanwhile, Iceman brings the kids past the children's ward of Roosevelt Hospital, containing children injured or orphaned by Apocalypse's attack, en route to the ship. Arriving, the kids acclimate themselves to the ship's computers while Jean, motivated by Maddie's message, visits her parents, revealing her resurrection. Back in Manhattan, the kids are surprised by a massive delivery of Christmas gifts donated by the public following their earlier interview.


However, led by Leech, they decide to donate the gifts in turn to the children at the hospital. Later that night, they sneak out, just as Jean arrives back at the ship only to find them missing. She rouses Beast and Iceman as the kids are confronted by a gang of muggers on their way to the hospital. They defend themselves, but X-Factor arrives before the situation escalates, scaring off the muggers. Once they explain what they're doing, Jean's anger abates, and they all deliver the presents to the joyous children at the hospital. While there, Cyclops appears, telling Jean he's leaving immediately for the airport to try and find his son. Meanwhile, Apocalypse watches as his former ship completes repairing itself. His gift to X-Factor now ready, he toasts what may well be their final Christmas.

Firsts and Other Notables
Last seen in issue #23 in Virgina as X-Factor was teleported away by Apocalypse, this issue features the return of the X-Factor kids, as they adjust to their new home and the public spotlight on them in the wake of X-Factor's newfound fame. It's established that X-Factor asked the police to retrieve the kids from Virgina after the battle with Apocalypse and bring them to New York.

Throughout the issue, there are panels along the bottom of certain pages depicting Apocalypse's ship repairing itself. As the issue ends, Apocalypse and his Horsemen, watching from afar, declare the ship fully repaired and ready to strike - which leads into the events of next issue. 


We get a brief scene with Dark Angel, watching from afar and pissed off at the way X-Factor has embraced their fame.


Scott finally sees Maddie's message to him from Uncanny X-Men #227, learning that she wasn't dead after all (though now, of course, he thinks she is again), and that their son is in fact alive. This kicks off a "search for Cyclops' still unammed baby" plot thread that will carry us all the way into "Inferno".


The rest of X-Factor also learns the X-Men have died, and are given a chance to react to it. Iceman, somewhat smartly, refuses to believe it.


Motivated by Maddie's message, Jean decides to finally tell her parents she's alive.


This issue takes place around Christmas (it was on sale in December of 1987). Uncanny X-Men #230 will also be set at Christmas, though it was on sale later and obviously doesn't quite line up with this issue.

A Work in Progress
In public, Rusty is seen wearing a little domino mask (since he's still technically a fugitive).

Leech is shown being able to be carried telekinetically by Jean, so long as he stays far enough away from her, suggesting his power only stops someone from using theirs, rather than negating the effective of the power itself (though later, Jean is seen hugging Leech while floating, so I guess he's gotten really good and tightening up his dampening field).


Jean's missing sister Sara, her kids, and Candy Southern, as well as Scott's son, are also acknowledge as still missing, and Jean wonders if Scott's grandparents really are on a cruise, or if they've disappeared as well.


I Love the 80s
The reporters ask the kids to explain what a mutant is, just in case any of their viewers, or anyone on the other side of a fourth wall that is overhearing this, didn't already know. 


The kids drop what is either 80s slang or made-up Simonsonian 80s slang like "crush" and "treacherous". Rictor also compares the ship to something out of a Star Wars movie, and later, they're able to pickup a broadcast of A Charlie Brown Christmas.


"Professor Xavier Rusty Collins is a jerk!"
Seeing Scott and Jean together, Rusty starts babbling about how Scott never loved Maddie, like he has the first clue what's going on.


Human/Mutant Relations
A group outside Apocalypse's ship chastise the cops for helping X-Factor, saying they should be looking after their own kind. 


Teebore's Take
Rather than a fill-in story or a check-up on a departed character, Louise Simonson uses her first post-"Fall of the Mutants" issue to give us a Classic Claremont Quiet issue. Set at Christmas, this one is jam packed with subplot and character development, as X-Factor continues to adjust to their new status quo as public heroes, the kids get introduced to their new headquarters, which may not be as benign as it appears, Cyclops learns his son is still alive and Jean finally tells her parents she's alive.

Though this isn't a "kids-centric" issue on the same level as issue #16 or #20, it is one of the better uses of them. Maybe it's just because I'm a sucker for sappy Christmas sentimentality, but most of the beats here work for me: Leech realizing the kids at the hospital don't have any gifts, even though he's never had a true Christmas himself, is genuinely touching, and Boom-Boom, who is usually insufferable, hits just the right level of indignation at giving up her presents (having of course suffered through some bad Christmases on the streets herself) before ultimately acquiescing. Even if you roll your eyes at the sentiment, there's enough little tidbits of other stuff, rendered in that classic style of the downtime issue, to ride it out.  

Next Issue
Uncanny X-Men #229 finds the X-Men eating some Vegemite sandwiches, New Mutants #63 is another fill-in, and X-Factor #28 has the team battling their new headquarters.

18 comments:

  1. I liked Scott's "Why didn't Maddie tell me she was alive?" I don't know, Scott, maybe she assumed that if you thought she was dead, you would have told your brother and her friends in the X-Men. Besides, Maddie's last speech was "Wherever you are.."-that would imply that she didn't know where Scott was.

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  2. Maddie knows exactly where Scott is, he's in NY playing mutant hunter with his friends. Maddie saw the ad in #1 and as Callisto had it their number can be found from the yellow pages. "Wherever you are" is more like something Maddie throws in in the spur of moment when making an impromptu on camera message.

    Or maybe she's ashamed to have such a dick for her husband that at no point he has even called the X-Men to tell them she's dead which they could then have corrected. Though she didn't perhaps know of the other body in Alaska, which can make the line a nasty quip at Scott for seemingly just not caring wherever she is.

    Scott's so like Mr. Sinister in Inferno finale really: no interest on the clone now that he has the original in his hands. And they say Rusty Collins is a jerk... and yet she's telling him she loves him. Scott, not Rusty.

    My willful suspension of disbelief is creaking over Jean thinking Maddie is dead just after they found out she wasn't in the first place and when Jean herself is about to go tell her parents she's alive after all. This is why we can't have people mourn over people in comic books.

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  3. "before Iceman creates a massive ice Christmas tree to replace the Empire State Building's damaged antenna"

    Oh, those mutants and their deeds. I'm sure initially people might appreciate him doing up, until the damn thing starts melting...

    "As the issue ends, Apocalypse and his Horsemen, watching from afar"

    And sipping on some champagne as well. Nothing but the best for Apocalypse and his Horsemen!

    "Why didn't Maddie tell me she was alive?" I'm sure if Maddie heard you asking that, Scott, her answer would probably be along the lines of "Because you walked out on me and our child, asshole".

    "at no point he has even called the X-Men to tell them she's dead which they could then have corrected."

    Yes, but that would have required the 2 teams to interact with other, and...*sigh*.

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  4. di>Vol@wwk5d: "Why didn't Maddie tell me she was alive?"

    Oh, right... I read it and I kind of commented on it too, but it seems my brain refuses to cooperate with me on this one, probably for some self-protective reasons.

    Maddie has no reason to believe Scott believes her dead, right? Scott leaves for NY (and Maddie tells him he can stay away if he goes), Maddie gets duped to San Francisco with her baby and is targeted by Marauders, Scott returns to find her and is shown the body.

    Afterwards Maddie wakes up from coma and calls the X-Men "asking where Scott went and why he took the baby" (UXM 221).

    So it looks like she doesn't know where he is after all and for some reason thinks Scott has the baby. Has her abandonment and the assassination attempt and losing the baby all fused into an incoherent jumble in her comatose head or at least caused amnesia on some points?

    There is of course the scene in the end of XF 1 where Maddie is sad while the X-Factor commercial is on TV, but it's very possible that Scott is not on it and Maddie has no reason to connect Scott to X-Factor. Likely it was the same commercial that Scott was shocked to hear in the X-Factor opening meeting they were already running.

    It is just possible we (I at least) have been misinterpreting that panel all that time and Maddie is sad just because of her marriage having fallen apart and happens to side-eye the anti-mutant commercial that's going to be bad news for all her mutant friends who actually can use a phone.

    Scott also can be forgiven for failing amongst his emoting to logically comprehend why exactly Maddie hasn't told him she was alive: she had no reason to suspect he would be thinking she's dead. All she knows Scott Summers is a jerk for not trying to contact her after she told him never to come back.

    Stripping away all the comic books trimmings it's just a story of a marriage failing and/because of people being stubborn. It may just be Scott has been needlessly vilified all this years. Hankpymed should be a term in English language. He's not without faults, generally and in this matter specifically, yes, but on the other title they are forgiving Empath so.

    Not that Maddie wouldn't be justifiedly pissed off for Scott leaving her and the baby for Jean Grey (even if they were already doing great job breaking their marriage all by themselves). Jean Grey, who, let us be frank about matters, neither has told her loved ones in her family and the X-Men that she's alive. Not even to her parents who at this point seem to have lost another daughter.

    I'm sure if Maddie heard you asking that, Scott, her answer would probably be along the lines of "Because you walked out on me and our child, asshole".

    I fairly certain her answer would been the same as to Scott's question "Are you the reincarnation of Jean Grey? Are you Phoenix?" in UXM 174. After which Scott, bless his ignorance of things to come, asks how could he have been such a jerk.

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  5. All joking aside, the whole "Why didn't Maddie tell me she was alive?" plotline kind of has to play out the way it does in order to feed into the plot contrivance of keeping the 2 X-teams apart at this point.

    Scott should have told them X-men that his wife and child are missing and/or dead. And the X-men should have told him that wife turned up in a hospital room after the Marauders tried to kill her, and nobody knows where his son is. Despite whatever feelings X-factor has about the X-men's alliance with Magneto, I can't believe Scott wouldn't at least inform Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and his brother about what was happening. Of course, if the teams did interact at this point, the X-men would find out Jean was alive, and we couldn't have that at this point, could we?

    And about Scott not contacting Havok...again, you'd think he'd also try and contact Lorna to console her after Havok's "death". But, being a Summers, he probably tried calling them a couple of time (once when he found Maddie "died", then once again when Havok "died"), got no signal both times, and then just gave up...

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  6. That panel of Rusty the douchebag whining about Scott reminds me of another Simonson writing tic that I've always disliked, where she puts an "and --" and the end of a sentence to make it seem like the character was rambling and about to say more stuff, but really what else would they have said? "He only married her because he thought Jean was dead and --" ... and what, Rusty? And nothing. That's the end of the thought. Weezie does it a lot. Always bugged me.

    "Uncanny X-Men #230 will also be set at Christmas, though it was on sale later and obviously doesn't quite line up with this issue. "

    It's puzzling that Claremont did a Christmas story for an issue published in February and--

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  7. @wwk5d: Scott should have told them X-men that his wife and child are missing and/or dead.

    That was in X-F 15 and if we go by Supermegamonkey chronology it happens after UXM 214 when the X-Men pretty much stop hanging at the Mansion. Alex visits there in 219 to see the place is empty. So... if we allow that it was the 80s phone era and there was no one to take message and they have agreed not to use the answering machine on anything important after the New Mutants got themselves in trouble in Massachusetts and Rogue jumped to save Michael Rossi from SHIELD helicarrier and losing their message in process, I could think letting it fly past.

    And the X-men should have told him that wife turned up in a hospital room after the Marauders tried to kill her, and nobody knows where his son is.

    It's been quite busy for them after that, hasn't it? They go to Dallas straight from San Francisco while hatching the Plan Omega, and anyway as per Maddie's report they're thinking Scott is unfindable and has taken the kiddo... aaand

    1) are planning to address the matter in some other way than merely phoning and possibly warning Scott the mutant-hunter but Dallas business comes in way, and/or

    2) feel they need to consult Storm on the matter rather than let their acting leader Wolverine decide, remembering how it worked last time when Wolverine solved a Summers-related issue, and possibly

    3) don't want to use a phone booth because they would only break it.

    Yes it's quippy but in my heart I'm genuinely trying to make it work. Hoping, praying, just somehow there must be a way to no-prize this away. Is it in any way possible the mutant hunting ruse is so convincing the X-Men are cutting them completely off and on the other hand the X-Factor don't want to endanger their ruse which is so convincing? Or has Cameron Hodge been redirecting the numerous calls made from X-Factor HQ to X-Mansion to an unconnected number and the other way around too since the beginning?

    Though as for Scott contacting Lorna for consoling her, don't you feel that would be a bit uncharacteristic? For dating her, rather perhaps, But Lorna of course is maraudering somewhere at this point and not at home to answer her 80s' phone.

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  8. "Uncanny X-Men #230 will also be set at Christmas, though it was on sale later and obviously doesn't quite line up with this issue."

    The Maddie message was being broadcasted already in the previous issue during the parade, so this must be a re-run. The X-Men of course were taken by Roma directly to confront the Reavers, because where else would they have gone in the mean time and it's hasty enough business to not take more than one day.

    The Dazzler fill-in and it's peculiar usage at this point for reasons we don't know has just pushed the publishing timetable.

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  9. "That was in X-F 15 and if we go by Supermegamonkey chronology it happens after UXM 214 when the X-Men pretty much stop hanging at the Mansion. Alex visits there in 219 to see the place is empty. So... if we allow that it was the 80s phone era and there was no one to take message and they have agreed not to use the answering machine on anything important after the New Mutants got themselves in trouble in Massachusetts and Rogue jumped to save Michael Rossi from SHIELD helicarrier and losing their message in process, I could think letting it fly past."
    In all seriousness, Maddie was able to contact the X-Men, so there's no reason to assume Scott couldn't. Of course, not being a Summers by blood, she probably called more than once after not getting an answer.
    "Has her abandonment and the assassination attempt and losing the baby all fused into an incoherent jumble in her comatose head or at least caused amnesia on some points?"
    In issue 215, we find out that Scalphunter and Arclight told Maddie they took the baby "because of" Scott. Most likely, the X-Men were unsure if "because of" meant Scott told them to take the baby or they took the baby because Scott had pissed them off. After all, from their perspective, Scott was responsible for Larry Bodine's suicide and was completely unrepentant.

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  10. "In all seriousness, Maddie was able to contact the X-Men, so there's no reason to assume Scott couldn't. Of course, not being a Summers by blood, she probably called more than once after not getting an answer."

    Exactly.
    "Is it in any way possible the mutant hunting ruse is so convincing the X-Men are cutting them completely off and on the other hand the X-Factor don't want to endanger their ruse which is so convincing? Or has Cameron Hodge been redirecting the numerous calls made from X-Factor HQ to X-Mansion to an unconnected number and the other way around too since the beginning?"

    Too bad the X-men didn't have a telepath on the team at the time to bypass all that drama...

    "Though as for Scott contacting Lorna for consoling her, don't you feel that would be a bit uncharacteristic?"

    In hindsight, given that he never seemed to give a shit when Havok "died" the second time in the 90s, I can see that.

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  11. "For dating her, rather perhaps"

    Given his relationship and history with Lorna, I'm surprised Iceman didn't hop on the fist plane to New Mexico to try and "console" her...

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  12. In issue 215, we find out that Scalphunter and Arclight told Maddie they took the baby "because of" Scott.

    Oh yes, I meant to tangentially comment on that: even without anyone commenting on it Maddie would most likely have deducted that being married to Scott is a massive reason behind why she is being targeted by mutant villains. Of course if they downright say it to her face and she by any chance happens to already be a bit bitter it's easy to blame it all on Scott.

    wwk5d: Too bad the X-men didn't have a telepath on the team at the time to bypass all that drama...

    First, I have always wondered how every other super team manage to do without a resident mind witch. The Avengers only got their act messed by one. And the X-Men have one on the roster all the time. But we can't allow ourselves to stop to dwell on the reasons why there is a blog called "Claremont Mind Control Central", because:

    At the time of X-factor being formed they have Rachel who is an utter mess because of the Beyonder and being reborn Phoenix and anyway she stops hanging around the X-Men in UXM 207 because of developments.

    They really start noticing the X-Factor only around UXM 210, and Betsy who tags along in UXM 213 has no history with the original X-Men, for to notice their mind waves or whatnot from distance, and Cerebro is in shambles from the start. Plus, they have more pressing matters to attend.

    Of course on some level it's vaguely possible Storm doesn't want to meet Cyclops in case he does have a plausible explanation and why, now that they're together why shouldn't he assume his rightful place as the leader of the X-Men, without really even asking.

    Given his relationship and history with Lorna, I'm surprised Iceman didn't hop on the fist plane to New Mexico to try and "console" her...

    I love his pessimism on the matter: nah, no use, bet he's alive anyway. They always are.

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  13. "Betsy who tags along in UXM 213 has no history with the original X-Men, for to notice their mind waves or whatnot from distance, and Cerebro is in shambles from the start. Plus, they have more pressing matters to attend."

    Considering how she "shouts" to Storm from San Francisco to New Mexico (I think?) and Storm almost hears, she could have easily tried to scan X-factor headquarters and see what was going on when they were in Manhatten in #219. True, they had pressing matter what with the fallout from the Mutant Massacre and the Marauders on the loose, but you'd think worrying that their former teammates in X-factor might also be hunting them down one day might be something they should look into, and -

    "I love his pessimism on the matter: nah, no use, bet he's alive anyway. They always are."

    Like that would have stopped him. I mean, it never did otherwise lol

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  14. Easter for Christmas at the Grey house!

    // Iceman creates a massive ice Christmas tree to replace the Empire State Building's damaged antenna. //

    'Cause that won't be incredibly heavy or make a complete mess when it melts.

    I like to think that after Trish distracts Hank so he won't see the news about the X-Men on TV, she gently breaks it to him that everyone relocated to a farm upstate where they're very happy but they can never, ever visit.

    // Rusty starts babbling about how Scott never loved Maddie, like he has the first clue what's going on. //

    Yeah. That is some of the most ham-fisted, inappropriate exposition I've ever seen and -- (Jason FTW).

    // this one is jam packed with subplot and character development //

    I was kind-of impressed by that, just in the literal sense of it feeling notable. Overall, though, I have to say that while I know you have a nostalgic attachment to it, Teebore, if you can take this material in stride you will have no trouble getting through even the most of-its-day Wolfman/Pérez Titans. Not to be a Grinch myself; even though it's a standard trope, I do appreciate the move by Artie et al. to bring Christmas to the kids in the hospital.

    The last panel of Apocalypse and his remaining Horsemen, including Caliban, hoisting glasses of club soda is hilarious.

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  15. @Teemu: This is why we can't have people mourn over people in comic books.

    Yeah, that's one of the reasons I like Iceman's reaction. He's literally talking to someone once believed dead who has returned; he's got pretty good reasons for taking the apparent death of the X-Men with a grain of salt.

    The Dazzler fill-in and it's peculiar usage at this point for reasons we don't know has just pushed the publishing timetable.

    It all fits together fine chronologically (you just read #228 and #229 before this issue), I was just pointing out that publication-wise, Claremont ends up doing a Christmas story that comes out in February.

    @wwk5d: I'm sure initially people might appreciate him doing up, until the damn thing starts melting...

    ...thus flooding all the floors below.

    But, being a Summers, he probably tried calling them a couple of time (once when he found Maddie "died", then once again when Havok "died"), got no signal both times, and then just gave up...

    Or he just "called" by yelling out a window and figured that was good enough.

    @Jason: "He only married her because he thought Jean was dead and --" ... and what, Rusty? And nothing.

    "and Maddy looked just like her, so marrying her was pretty much the same as marrying Jean. Then when Jean came back, of course he went in for the genuine article, because he didn't need Maddy anymore. Who could blame him?" :)

    It's puzzling that Claremont did a Christmas story for an issue published in February and--

    and nobody in editorial thought to point this out to him and suggest maybe moving it up or changing the setting. :)

    @Blam: Easter for Christmas at the Grey house!

    Heh. Nice.

    I like to think that after Trish distracts Hank so he won't see the news about the X-Men on TV, she gently breaks it to him that everyone relocated to a farm upstate where they're very happy but they can never, ever visit.

    Haha!

    Yeah. That is some of the most ham-fisted, inappropriate exposition I've ever seen and --

    ...

    Nope, I'll give you and Jason that one. :)

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  16. That panel of Apocalypse and his Horseman toasting their champagne glasses is amazing. Nothing says Christmas like Apocalypse!

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  17. ""and Maddy looked just like her, so marrying her was pretty much the same as marrying Jean. Then when Jean came back, of course he went in for the genuine article, because he didn't need Maddy anymore. Who could blame him?"

    What do you mean "Who could blame him?" Maddie was better than Jean! Just shut up, Rusty, you never even met Maddie and --

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  18. Madelyne Pryor is the ultimate expression - and quite probably also the focused totality - of that knack of Chris Claremont's for writing female characters. Who else could by taking quite an ordinary woman and putting her into a stripperific costume showing the biggest underboob in comics history have the fandom consisting mostly of teen males yell: "No! You ruined her! Everything's ruined!"

    (yes, I put my "-"s in the middle of the text instead the end of it, those offended can go and --)

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