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Friday, July 4, 2014

X-amining X-Factor #35

"Go to the Orphan Maker!"
December 1988

In a Nutshell 
Cyclops & Marvel Girl battle Nanny & the Orphan Maker.

Writer: Louise Simonson
Guest Penciler: Terry Shoemaker
Guest Inker: Joe Rubinstein
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Manhattan, Beast and Iceman patrol the streets, protecting citizens from inanimate objects run amok. In Nebraska, Cyclops and Marvel Girl arrive at the orphanage where Cyclops grew up, and sneak in through the attic. Their subterfuge soon turns out to be unnecessary though, as the staff and children at the orphanage don't seem to notice their presence. As they head towards the basement, Cyclops is bombarded by jumbled memories of his childhood. Meanwhile, above the orphanage, Nanny arrives, seeking to rescue the mutant babies inside, and she sets Orphan Maker and her super powered Lost Boys and Girls to the task. Below, Cyclops and Marvel Girl discover a massive subterranean complex beneath the orphanage, inside of which are scientists tending to babies within suspended animation pods. Above, a group of demons dispatched by N'astirh arrive, also seeking the mutant babies and Cyclops' son.


Somehow drawn to him, Marvel Girl locates baby Christopher, and she and Cyclops set about freeing him from his pod. Just then, Nanny arrives, leading her charges. As the Lost Boys and Girls attempt to rescue the other infants, Nanny and the Orphan Maker battle Cyclops and Marvel Girl. In the course of the fight, the demons arrive and take the babies, including Christopher. Learning of this, Nanny orders a retreat, and as she leaves, Marvel Girl realizes two of the children with her are Marvel Girl's missing niece and nephew. As Nanny flies off with them, Marvel Girl suddenly hears Christopher screaming in her mind. Realizing she's hearing his thoughts, she tells Cyclops they need to get back to Ship so they can save Christopher, because the demons mean to kill him.

Firsts and Other Notables
Cyclops is briefly reunited with his son this issue, as he and Marvel Girl discover the baby in the basement of the orphanage where Cyclops grew up, and remove him from the pod in which we saw him in Uncanny X-Men #239. Demons under orders from N'astirh then capture the child, in order to fulfill N'astirh's promise to Madelyne. The early part of X-Factor's involvement in "Inferno" will deal with them trying to find the baby.


Cyclops also refers to him as Christopher, his second name; we'll soon learn that Madelyne pushed for the name Nathan and Cyclops preferred Christoper, and as such, that's the name used most often for the remainder of the baby's time in X-Factor, though Cable, who will eventually be revealed to be Cyclops' grown son, usually answers to "Nate" or "Nathan", making the use of Christopher somewhat anachronistic.

As Cyclops walks through the orphanage, he has conflicting memories of his childhood, remembering events out of sequence or occurring in places they couldn't have; this all ties in to the eventual reveal that Cyclops was manipulated by Mr. Sinister while at the orphanage, and had his memories tampered with as a result.


Cyclops also mentions being picked on by a boy named Nathan as a child. A later Classic X-Men back-up story written by Chris Claremont will embelish this mention, and strongly hint that the boy was Mr. Sinister, which is all part of Claremonts unused origin for Mr. Sinister.


This issue marks the first appearance of the Lost Boys (and Girls), a group of pre-teen mutants that have been captured by Nanny and brainwashed into working with her (like the Orphan Maker). They'll appear once more in the near future.


Amongst them are Joey and Gailyn, Marvel Girl's niece and nephew. Presumably, Nanny rescued them after their home was firebombed (as seen in X-Factor #12 & X-Men #215). The implication here is supposed to be that Nanny had Orphan Maker kill Jean's sister Sara before taking the children (if she wasn't already dead from the firebombing), but later stories will reveal that Sara was kidnapped by the Right and eventually became part of the Phalanx.

The demons note that N'astirh has lured out the usual guards of the babies. As we'll see in X-Men #240 when they battle the X-Men, that presumably means the Marauders.


Terry Shoemaker fills in on art, making him 2-for-2 in Louise Simonson-written X-titles with a cover date of December 1988.

A Work in Progress
With Cyclops and Marvel Girl tracking down Cyclops' son, Iceman and Beast are in Manhattan doing what they can to protect people from the onslaught of possessed inanimate objects, with Iceman noting that the city seems to be under some kind of spell.


Cyclops notes the brain damage he received as a child which is believed to have prevented his ability to control his blasts.

Nanny notes that Jean possess a low level telepathic ability, while Jean figures out that Nanny is herself a weak telepath who uses chemicals to enhance her abilities, enabling her to control the children she's taken.


Despite her lack of telepathy, Jean is able to telepathically hear the cries of the kidnapped Christopher, enabling her to track his whereabouts. 


Teebore's Take
Again with the Terry Shoemaker art? You're killing me, late 1988 X-office!

Thankfully, the guest-art in this issue is paired with a better story than New Mutants #70, as Simonson brings together three of the book's running subplots (Cyclops' search for his son, Nanny & the Orphan Maker, and the demons' quest for mutants babies) and sends them crashing into one another in a three way melee set against the backdrop of the creepy orphanage where Cyclops grew up. In doing so, she also sets the book up for "Inferno" and the eventual revelations regarding the role of Mr. Sinister in Cyclops' childhood.

The end result is, essentially, an issue-long fight scene, and one that would be much improved by the energy and dynamism of Walt Simonson's art, but there's enough of a sense not only of forward movement regarding some long-running plot threads, but also of anticipation, of being on the cusp of big events and significant changes. Just as the title emerged from "Fall of the Mutants" changed, so too will the post-"Inferno" X-Factor be noticeably different from what came before, making this issue the last gasp of its brief, loose, and somewhat-free-form between-crossovers run. That in and of itself gives the issue enough there to overcome the lackluster art.  

Next Issue
X-Terminators #1-4 finds the X-Factor kids embroiled in "Inferno", the X-Men strike back at the Marauders in Uncanny X-Men #240, Illyana fights for control of Limbo in New Mutants #71, and the rest of X-Factor joins the hunt for baby Christopher in X-Factor #36.

6 comments:

  1. Wait, so when Madelyne is taken to the underground orphanage in the next issue of Uncanny, little Nathan Christopher is no longer a prisoner? I can't believe I never noticed that.

    I'm tempted to buy these last couple X-Factor issues you're reviewed ... I'm realizing how my "Inferno" knowledge is terribly incomplete.

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  2. "sinister" literally means left handed- naming the kid "lefty" is a pretty big clue in who he was supposed to be.

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  3. Yeah, I actually bought issues 36-39 to read along with the reviews, but this one really should have an Inferno tag on the front. There are some pretty major plot points here. With no Walt Simonson and the presence of Nanny and Orphan Maker, I'm happy to just read your summary, Teebore.

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  4. @Jason: Wait, so when Madelyne is taken to the underground orphanage in the next issue of Uncanny, little Nathan Christopher is no longer a prisoner?

    He shouldn't be. I honestly can't remember if they got that right or not.

    I'm tempted to buy these last couple X-Factor issues you're reviewed ... I'm realizing how my "Inferno" knowledge is terribly incomplete.

    They're on Marvel Unlimited, FWIW, but I also doubt they'd be very expensive on their own.

    @Branden: "sinister" literally means left handed- naming the kid "lefty" is a pretty big clue in who he was supposed to be.

    True story: I know the relationship between sinister and left-handed entirely because of The Simpsons. But yeah, once you know that, it is a pretty big clue.

    @Jeff: Yeah, I actually bought issues 36-39 to read along with the reviews, but this one really should have an Inferno tag on the front. There are some pretty major plot points here.

    It really does deserve at least an "'Inferno Prologue" note or something to that effect.

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  5. "He shouldn't be. I honestly can't remember if they got that right or not."

    He isn't. But N'astrah does him give to Maddie...

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  6. Cyclops says that they should enter through the attic because it's "empty ... Nothing but cobwebs and junk." Which he knows because he used to hide there. A decade ago.

    I've never heard that "Here comes a poor woman from baby-land" nursery rhyme. A Google on the Interwebs tells me it's British, which given Claremont makes sense, but it's still weird to be completely unfamiliar with it (particularly having studied childrens' literature and folklore) when it's presented as something the reader should take in stride.

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