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Friday, April 11, 2014

X-amining X-Factor #28

"Countdown!"
May 1988

In a Nutshell 
X-Factor battles Apocalypse's ship. 

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

Plot
On the Hudson River, Apocalypse's ship suddenly smashes into a tugboat. Inside the ship, X-Factor's wards feel the impact, but then then the floor suddenly opens up beneath them. Marvel Girl and Iceman, meanwhile, race outside the ship to investigate the impact, with Iceman freezing Beast's feet in place to ensure he doesn't risk his remaining intelligence helping them. Outside, they rescue the crew of the tugboat, but are then attacked by the ship. At the airport, waiting to fly out in search of his son, Scott hears a news report on the melee, and rushes back to help. Inside the ship, the kids are dropped into individual cells, but Artie bounces free. After Boom-Boom frees everyone else, they follow Artie's mental pictures deeper into the ship. Outside, Marvel Girl and Iceman are about to be overwhelmed when Beast breaks free and intervenes, followed by the arrival of Cyclops.


Elsewhere in Manhattan, Angel arrives at Candy Southern's apartment. He finds it deserted along with evidence that Candy has been kidnapped. Back inside the ship, the kids, led by Artie, unlock the ship's brain, allowing it to communicate with them, but also triggering a countdown set by Apocalypse. The ship directs X-Factor in locating and removing the bomb Apocalypse set, which they do just as time is about to expire. As X-Factor reunites with the kids, Ship pledges his loyalty to them and offers to be their home. Outside, Cyclops speaks to the gathered media, explaining that they've neutralized the threat from the ship left behind by Apocalypse. Watching from afar, Apocalypse concedes to Caliban that X-Factor has won this hand, but not the game, and tells Caliban his transformation is about to begin. At a Manhattan bar, a young woman watches the press conference. As a man says he wishes he had powers, she invites him back to her place, saying he can tell her all about the kind of power he wants, while she'll tell him why she needs X-Factor's adorable ship.  

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue reveals that Apocalypse's ship contains an artifical intelligence , which Apocalypse had enslaved and kept subdued while in control of the vessel. Freed by the X-Factor kids and dubbed simply Ship, this A.I. will become a recurring character in the book for as long as X-Factor uses the ship as a headquarters. Eventually, it will be revealed that Ship evolves into the Professor, the similarly-sentient computer program which operates Cable's Graymalkin space station, and after that, into Prosh, a techno-organic being containing Ship's mind, who plays a role in the X-Men Forever miniseries.


As a result, this is the issue in which X-Factor more or less formally adopts Apocalypse's ship (henceforth to be referred to as Ship) as their new headquarters, having been staying theew the last several issues, as mentioned in this issue, simply because they had no place else to go. 

Dark Angel has begun trying to track down Candy Southern (last seen storming out of the hospital after seeing Warren and Jean embracing in issue #12); here, he arrives at her apartment, and finds evidence suggesting she's been kidnapped, then chooses to continue his hunt for her rather than help X-Factor against Apocalypse's ship.


Though unnamed, Infectia, who will serve as the villain of the next story, makes a brief first appearance in the closing panels of this issue. More on her next issue.


Louise and Walt Simonson share the plot credit for the first time this issue.

The Statement of Ownership in this issue lists the average number of copies of each issue sold during the preceding 12 months as 568,382, with the single issue nearest to the filing date selling 554,164, putting the sales of this title ahead of New Mutants

A Work in Progress
In search of his son, Scott tries to head to Dallas, where a newscaster reports that a freak blizzard (as seen in Incredible Hulk #340 and Uncanny X-Men #225) has trapped Freedom Force there (Scott's idea being that he'll start his search with the last place Maddy was seen alive and the last people to see her). However, this doesn't gel with Captain America #339, which showed Freedom Force already back in DC and referencing the death of the X-Men at a time prior to the events of this issue. 


Apocalypse is disappointed that the booby traps he left on his ship didn't destroy X-Factor, but he nonetheless considers them worthy to continue using.


Teebore's Take
This issue is mostly concerned with turning Apocalypse's ship into X-Factor's ship, revealing, in the process, that inside the ship is, well, Ship. As another step in the establishment of X-Factor's new status quo, that's all well and good (and for being an intelligence housed inside a massive alien space ship, Ship will go on to have a surprisingly long life in the X-Universe), but in execution, the end result is an issue where X-Factor fights a lot of nondescript booby traps and sci-fi guns and whatnot, which is at this point all fairly routine.

The kids are mostly used well here again, though, getting captured at first but easily escaping under their own power and then helping unlock Ship's consciousness. It's nice to have them function as something more than just hostages, and to contribute to X-Factor's success without outright saving the day. Other than that, there's not much to this. It's an acceptable (and arguably necessary) step in the creation of X-Factor's new role as public heroes, but it's hard to get too excited about on its own terms.  

Next Issue
The X-Men celebrate Christmas in Uncanny X-Men #230, the New Mutants mourn Doug in New Mutants #64, and X-Factor meets Infectia in X-Factor #29. 

8 comments:

  1. The kids are mostly used well here again, though, getting captured at first but easily escaping under their own power and then helping unlock Ship's consciousness. It's nice to have them function as something more than just hostages, and to contribute to X-Factor's success without outright saving the day.

    I dare anyone who didn't like the similar bit in W. Simonson's Thor where Hildy takes down the troll that's blocking the bridge and threatening Frigga and the kids of Asgård to own up.

    (The second awesomest bridge scene in that run.)

    It's tricky business really to make kids work well in comics, the kids' media about primary colored superpowered grown-ups.

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  2. "...the end result is an issue where X-Factor fights a lot of nondescript booby traps and sci-fi guns and whatnot..."

    Which should be old hat to them, since they grew up doing it every day at Xavier's.

    Teemu -- "(The second awesomest bridge scene in that run.)"

    I'm sure I'm not alone, but the line "He stood alone at Gjallerbru" gives me chills anytime, anywhere. I don't even need to see the pictures that go with it (partly because I have them memorized, I guess).

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  3. ... and that answer is enough, Matt.

    I have to wonder... Walt Simonson quite didn't manage to wow people with his work on X-Factor, but should that be largely put on the fact that with his Thor he just set the bar too damn high?

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  4. I think the most logical explanation is that Freedom Force was called back to Washington and then some bureaucrat decided to send them back to Dallas to help with the aftermath. It makes more sense then Freedom Force being snowed in, since a blizzard wouldn't stop Spiral from teleporting.

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  5. So is Hank not regaining any of his intelligence over time? He just uses more strength and gets dumber, period? No going back? 'Cause if that's the case then he should definitely be strong enough to break out of the ice-boots already without jumping up a level. Or maybe I'm not interpreting this right.

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  6. @Teemu: It's tricky business really to make kids work well in comics, the kids' media about primary colored superpowered grown-ups.

    It is. I think Simonson manages to both do it well and poorly in the course of her run.

    @Matt: Which should be old hat to them, since they grew up doing it every day at Xavier's.

    Indeed. And for the most part, I think this issue does a decent job of not suggesting this is a much of a challenge for them, especially once Beast and Cyclops join in and it's not just Marvel Girl and Iceman.

    @Anonymous: I think the most logical explanation is that Freedom Force was called back to Washington and then some bureaucrat decided to send them back to Dallas to help with the aftermath.

    That does seem like the easiest, most logical answer.

    @Blam: So is Hank not regaining any of his intelligence over time? He just uses more strength and gets dumber, period? No going back?

    Correct. Strength goes up, intelligence goes down, and everything stays at those levels, until the next time he uses his strength and the whole transition happens again.

    So yeah, he should definitely be able to break out the ice boots without a problem. And he does. So I'm not sure what Iceman's endgame was. I mean, even if he *really* iced him up, he had to know that Beast was going to try to get free and help his friends, *especially* because he's too dumb to know better.

    So when you've got someone who possesses the ability of not just super-strength but the ability to increase his strength, and you specifically don't want him to do so, then maybe trying to stop him via a means that either wouldn't stop him or would force him to increase his strength to get free isn't the brightest idea. Now who's the dummy, Iceman?

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  7. @Teemu: // Walt Simonson quite didn't manage to wow people with his work on X-Factor, but should that be largely put on the fact that with his Thor he just set the bar too damn high? //

    Maybe. I wonder if he just wasn't stretched too thin — and/or a little burnt out, as he'd stopped drawing Thor at this point, so I think X-Factor was his only regular art gig. Thor #337 and thereafter was a game-changer worthy of that logo-busting cover, but Walt had already turned in career-making stuff with the Manhunter back-up feature in Detective Comics at DC and similarly original (if relatively brief) work on the Alien graphic novel and DC's Metal Men, Hercules Unbound, and Doctor Fate. Given not only that and Thor but his stint on Fantastic Four and, especially, Orion, my own assessment is that, be it lack of time or lack or enthusiasm or whatever, Simonson's X-Factor just doesn't quite hold up in terms of his potential in general.

    Walt's Star Slammers, first seen (not counting its original incarnation as his art-school thesis) in a Marvel graphic novel shortly before his Thor run started, just began a serialized "remastered" release from IDW, by the way, also home to his upcoming project Ragnarok. If you have access to current American comics, I think both are worth picking up.

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  8. @Teebore: // So when you've got someone who possesses the ability of not just super-strength but the ability to increase his strength, and you specifically don't want him to do so, then maybe trying to stop him via a means that ... would force him to increase his strength to get free isn't the brightest idea. //

    No kidding.

    For some reason I got the impression that if Hank exerted himself to the point that his strength increased he'd get dumber for a while, the more so the more strength he summoned, but when he stopped the physical activity his intelligence would begin reverting back to normal. Thanks for clearing that up. I feel like we don't have much further to go, then, before he gets really, really, really strong and is left almost completely witless, although by the same token like I said regarding the "ice boots" I also feel like he's about as strong as he'll need to get.

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