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Friday, September 19, 2014

X-amining X-Factor #41

"Golden Boy!"
June 1989

In a Nutshell 
The first appearance of the winner of the Mutant Registration contest. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciler: Arthur Adams
Inker: Allen Milgrom
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Tom Vincent
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In London, a troll emerges from his lair, attracted to the scent of gold. It leads him to the house of Thomas Jones, and the troll watches as Thomas, studying for a chemistry test, unknowingly transforms his pen into gold. Called to dinner, Thomas leaves and the troll enters his room, determined to snatch the boy and use him to expand the Troll Associates treasure trove, thus restoring England to those who live by the old magical ways. Meanwhile, aboard Ship, X-Factor oversees the training of the newly-integrated X-Terminators and New Mutants. Back in London, Thomas returns to his room and his grabbed by the troll, prompting his mother to call X-Factor for help.

 

The New Mutants promise to be good and return Illyana to her parents while X-Factor is away, and though they offer to watch baby Christopher as well, Jean suggest bringing him along, saying he should stay with his father. Arriving in London, X-Factor meets with Thomas' mother, then follow a trail of golden objects left by the boy to the troll's lair. Inside, they find a vast store of gold and a group of five trolls with various abilities, who manage to overpower X-Factor. The trolls explain that they plan to use Thomas to flood the world with gold, thus destroying the economy via inflation. Marvel Girl insists they need to free Thomas, then realizes Christopher has gone missing as well.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the first appearance of Alchemy aka Thomas Jones, a young British mutant with the ability to transmute metal. Alchemy is the winner of the Mutant Registration contest from "Fall of the Mutants", in which contestants filled out the Mutant Registration card inserted in various comics to "register" a mutant of their own creation, one of which was then chosen to appear in this issue (the contest originally said an issue of New Mutants, but here we are). Alchemy'll pop up a couple more times after this story, but that's about it.


Art Adams serves as the guest artist for this issue and the next. While we've seen plenty of his work on various X-Men annuals, this marks a rare bit interior art on a regular series for the artist (though it's not the last time we'll see his pencils on an issue of a regular series). 

The New Mutants, having been "adopted" by X-Factor in issue #76 of their series, guest-star in this issue; unfortunately, despite this new status quo, this is pretty much the only issue of X-Factor in which the New Mutants appear while under their care. 


X-Factor battles a bunch of trolls in this issue and the next, a group which calls themselves Troll Associates. They plan to destabilize the world economy and retake England for magical beings. I'm pretty sure this story is their only appearance.


The Chronology Corner
The New Mutants appear here between issues #76 of their series and New Mutants Annual #5.

A Work in Progress
Dani's headaches continue to be a problem, and she's running a fever, while Brightwind is now feeling poorly as well. The kids agrees to take her to a doctor while X-Factor is gone, which they'll do in New Mutants #77. 


Jean and Warren discuss all the changes wrought on the team of late, and Jean has the gall to suggest to the person with blue skin and razor sharp wings with an evil mind of their mind that she's changed most of all due to the darkness she's inherited from Maddie and Phoenix.


The New Mutants agree to do a bunch of stuff while X-Factor is gone, much of which we'll see them do in future New Mutants issues.


X-Factor decides to bring Christopher along with them, for a variety of relatively dubious reasons, though their arguments for bringing him aren't entirely unfounded. Basically, it's a reminder of how much it sucks to be the child of a superhero in the Marvel Universe.


This leads to a joke about X-Factor trying to win a contest for having the youngest team member, which sparks another joke about how competitive Americans are. 


I Love the 80s
Beast references Voodoo Economics. 


The Reference Section
Ahem, I think you mean Sorcerers Stone. I am American, and thus wouldn't possibly want to read about something as stuffy-sounding as a Philosopher's Stone.


Young Love
Boom-Boom continues to crush on Sam, and is irritated that he doesn't seem to notice her. 


Teebore's Take
This issue kicks off an odd little two part story, in that it's wedged between long running story arcs ("Inferno" and the upcoming "Judgement War") and sets up a new status quo (the New Mutants as wards of X-Factor) that pretty much only appears in this issue (New Mutants will get a little more mileage out of the idea, but not much). Yet, it's impossible to entirely disregard it as a pointless fill-in story, thanks to Art Adams providing all-too-rare interior pencils to a regular series.

Unfortunately, the best material is in the first half of the issue, in which the new status quo is being shown off as the New Mutants integrate with X-Factor and the X-Terminators. It's reminiscent of the Claremont/Smith/Romita Jr. eras of Uncanny X-Men, when the New Mutants were essentially supporting characters in that book, and in those few pages, a ton of upcoming subplots are setup and we even get some character development. Even knowing retroactively that it's pretty much a false start, it's still fun to see the characters just hanging out together. After that, things settle into a fairly ho-hum action story as X-Factor confronts the trolls, but Simonson does have a little fun at the expense of superhero tropes and, of course, Art Adams livens it all up appreciably. You just can't go wrong with Art Adams. 

Next Issue
Next week, X-Men Annual #13, Excalibur #9 and Wolverine #7.

19 comments:

  1. Sorry, but Philosopher's Stone is correct, especially when discussing classical alchemy.

    I remembered this as an Excalibur story. Either way I hated it.

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  2. @Anonymous: Sorry, but Philosopher's Stone is correct, especially when discussing classical alchemy.

    Yes, I'm well aware of that. I was making a joke at the expense of the US publishers of the first Harry Potter book, which insisted that the Philosophers Stone be changed in the title (and all references therein) to the Sorcerers Stone, because US kids wouldn't want to read anything with the word "philosopher" in the title, even though that's the name of the dang thing and is a pretty well-established element of folklore, even in the US. Which is why I linked to the Wikipedia page for the first book, where that notion is discussed.

    I remembered this as an Excalibur story. Either way I hated it.

    One of Alchemy's two next appearances is in a two-part Excalibur story, so maybe that's what you're remembering. I've never read, but I assume Art Adams didn't draw it, and thus it lacks the thing that makes this one enjoyable.

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  3. While always a treat, the Art Adams interiors on this story were largely wasted. I'm not completely against largely inconsequential fill-ins, but this shit with the trolls and the gold is just too off-the-radar. Get it together, Weezy!

    But as you point out, the first part of the story exploring the new X-Factor / New Mutants status quo is the highlight. Just a pity Art didn't take the opportunity to revert the New Mutants out of those butt ugly Blevins designs and back to his graduation costumes, or at least into some spare X-Factor suits.

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  4. I was making a joke at the expense of the US publishers of the first Harry Potter book, which insisted that the Philosophers Stone be changed in the title (and all references therein) to the Sorcerers Stone, because US kids wouldn't want to read anything with the word "philosopher" in the title, even though that's the name of the dang thing and is a pretty well-established element of folklore, even in the US.

    So not looking to start anything here, but for a third country person this idea of English/English translation is a bit mirthful... until the moment one remembers how entire British TV shows get "translated" for the US market, language, actors, location and all.

    I have a theory it's a scheme by the American production companies to have acclaimed foreign shows remade into crappy American shows, then have those shown to the American audiences with smug notion attached: "See how this foreign stuff is nothing to get excited about, better just trust the red-white-n-blue... no, not the Brit one... no no, not the French one either."

    Oh yeah... there's the comic too. This one they did publish on my native X-Men book. There's the Art o' Adams, of course, but nothing much else to sing about. Somewhat excalibury, happening in the Brits and all.

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  5. The idea that X-Factor have been superheroes for years and still don't realize that a superhero battle is no place for a baby is too dumb for words.
    "So not looking to start anything here, but for a third country person this idea of English/English translation is a bit mirthful... until the moment one remembers how entire British TV shows get "translated" for the US market, language, actors, location and all.

    I have a theory it's a scheme by the American production companies to have acclaimed foreign shows remade into crappy American shows, then have those shown to the American audiences with smug notion attached: "See how this foreign stuff is nothing to get excited about, better just trust the red-white-n-blue... no, not the Brit one... no no, not the French one either.""
    The problem is that many Americans have trouble understanding authentic British accents. If your hearing isn't perfect, some British accents can be difficult for an American to understand.

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  6. One of Alchemy's two next appearances is in a two-part Excalibur story, so maybe that's what you're remembering. I've never read, but I assume Art Adams didn't draw it, and thus it lacks the thing that makes this one enjoyable.

    It's Joe Madureira in his Art Adams rip-off phase, so a fairly easy point to confuse! At any rate, if Alchemy can suck even with Art Adam drawing him (and, later, with Alan Davis writing him) he must really suck. And he does.

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  7. Jean really doesn't come off all that well in this issue, does she?

    This issue is a glimpse of what might have been, I suppose, had the status quo not be derailed by sending X-factor and New Mutants off on long story arcs set off world. And you can almost hear Bob Harras answering Jean's question in that panel you posted ("Why, they'll be sent off for military training with a militaristic version of Professor X, naturally!).

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  8. Anonymous: The problem is that many Americans have trouble understanding authentic British accents. If your hearing isn't perfect, some British accents can be difficult for an American to understand.

    That I can understand, though elsewhere in the world such problem is generally solved by using subtitles or dubbing, without going through the problem of filming the whole series anew and to be culturally more close, and of course as literature goes that reason cuts poorly. I must stress I'm commenting on understanding that in many (most?) cases also the American audience generally seems to find these American versions paling in comparison to the original if they re familiar with them,

    Also, anyone not leaving his/her name shows as "Anonymous", right? Because otherwise I have been quoting fellow discusser Anonymous poorly.

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  9. It really is nice to see the teams mingle and consolidate under one roof. What a shame to hear that little to nothing comes of that.

    Dani and her Asgardian winged horse are under the weather. So you'd think that Scott or Hank, at least, if probably not the kids themselves, might suggest a trip to Stephen Strange instead of some mundane family doctor — I'd say that Strange in turn might refer them to Don Blake but I don't think he exists right now.

    The whole Troll Associates deal feels more like something Claremont & Davis would've come up with for Excalibur — which makes it all the weirder that we don't get that reunion, with X-Factor in London. But, hey, Art Adams.

    // I am American, and thus wouldn't possibly want to read about something as stuffy-sounding as a Philosopher's Stone. //

    Ha!

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  10. In fairness, when Xavier invited a "doctor" to see presumed-dead Nightcrawler, he too talked only of a doctor and left it for Dr. Strange to reveal exactly what sort of doctor he was. Maybe Jean's thinking along the same lines here and Strange is who she has in mind too. Standard procedure for young mutant wards, like.

    I do not claim to know much of female doctory, but I'm in impression "have Sigurd Jarlson and call me in the morning" might be in some under the weather cases much more welcome recipe than appointment with Dr. Blake. My favorite Marvel doctor moment still is the Secret Wars and Volcana asking Doctor Octopus if he can do anything for clawed and bleeding Molecule Man.

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  11. "Dani and her Asgardian winged horse are under the weather. So you'd think that Scott or Hank, at least, if probably not the kids themselves, might suggest a trip to Stephen Strange instead of some mundane family doctor — I'd say that Strange in turn might refer them to Don Blake but I don't think he exists right now."
    At this point, the other heroes think Strange is dead due to events in his own title.

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  12. @James: Just a pity Art didn't take the opportunity to revert the New Mutants out of those butt ugly Blevins designs and back to his graduation costumes, or at least into some spare X-Factor suits.

    Seeing the kids in the X-Factor suits would have been neat.

    @Teemu: Somewhat excalibury, happening in the Brits and all.

    Good point (made by you and Blam, later). Between the setting and the general tone, this does seem very Excalibur-y. Beast's conversation with Thomas' mother seems especially like something we'd see in that series, very self-aware.

    For what it's worth, regarding US vs. British TV, as an ignorant American, I've always been slightly unsettled by the higher frame rate many non-US shows film in.

    Also, anyone not leaving his/her name shows as "Anonymous", right? Because otherwise I have been quoting fellow discusser Anonymous poorly.

    Correct - anyone who posts without giving their name/using a login shows up as anonymous, so there could be different people posting as anonymous or it could be the same person on any given post.

    @Anonymous: The idea that X-Factor have been superheroes for years and still don't realize that a superhero battle is no place for a baby is too dumb for words.

    I'll give them some credit for pointing out that left alone, he's easier prey to some villain, but yeah, pretty much. I mean, it isn't like the Richards are constantly taking Franklin into battle.

    @Ben: It's Joe Madureira in his Art Adams rip-off phase, so a fairly easy point to confuse!

    I did not know that. Crazy!

    @wwk5d: Jean really doesn't come off all that well in this issue, does she?

    No. She does.

    Simonson seems to have issues writing Jean. I thought maybe it was just the whole Maddie/Jean thing, but that's behind us now, and there's this issue. Plus, she more or less writes her out of most of "Judgement War". I'm curious to re-read the 50s (which I remember liking for being very soap opera-y) and see if she comes off better there.

    This issue is a glimpse of what might have been, I suppose, had the status quo not be derailed by sending X-factor and New Mutants off on long story arcs set off world.

    Which is funny, because Weezie is writing both titles. I wonder if editorial forced those long running stories on her? This summer and the next are the Summers of Highly Serialized stories at Marvel, maybe they wanted these series in on the action too?

    Otherwise, it seems odd that she would setup this new status quo even though she had to know it was going to get torn apart within a month. Maybe she just thought she'd get back to it after those stories ran, but then Cable, Liefeld and Portacio happened?

    @Blam: So you'd think that Scott or Hank, at least, if probably not the kids themselves, might suggest a trip to Stephen Strange instead of some mundane family doctor

    as Anonymous pointed out, the MU (or parts of it, at least) think Strange is dead at this point, though the New Mutants do seek out his help in their next issue (Ship's database is apparently not up to date, as he directs them there to seek help for Dani), and there's a bunch of "Dr. Strange helps them without revealing himself" business that ensues.

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  13. @wwk5d: Jean really doesn't come off all that well in this issue, does she?

    @Me: No. She does.

    That should be "No. She does NOT". As hopefully my later context made clear. But still. Shame on me for not proofreading.

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  14. Having let my thoughts ferment a bit, I think the main reason for me getting the excalibur-y vibe is the panels outside the main characters being a gorgeously drawn London sight-seeing tour, both in this story and in Excalibur. Do we have any proof anywhere that Art Adams' art can't elevate a genuinely crappily-written issue by some total hack, because currently I have hard time believing it?

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  15. "I'll give them some credit for pointing out that left alone, he's easier prey to some villain, but yeah, pretty much."
    But the point is they weren't planning on leaving him alone- they were planning on leaving him with New Mutants. And if it's so dangerous leaving a kid there, then why do they leave ILLYANA there?

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  16. Possible explanations re: Illyana:

    1) X-Factor and X-Men still don't communicate and thus no one told the X-Factor it's a bad idea to leave kid Illyana out of your eyes even for a moment;

    2) X-Factor and X-Men have finally started to communicate, and X-Factor thinks it's no biggie as Illyana is quite capable to take years worth of abuse if a villain kidnaps her, and anyway New Mutants could use a teleporter;

    3) They have to leave someone with the New Mutants, who by their senior years outrank Excalibur, in the custody of one of whom young Nate will be left soonish enough;

    4) She's old enough, Franklin Richards had disintegrated Mephisto by her age;

    5) The 90's is upon us, why bother to pretend it's not all about Nathan and develop any sort of fatal attraction with Illyana at this point;

    6) One de-aging here or there, she's a New Mutant, and it's not like they all won't get ditched into the custody of the first militant willing to train them as soldiers in his army anyway;

    7) It being Nathan who in this reality carries the famed Summers-Grey genetic combo, and Rachel not going to happen, and there's still bound to be some nutjob going for the next great prize of Summers-Grey-Richards genetic combo, any risks can't be taken, because 80's Marvel don't fly with that sort of thing. Even if Nathan would be a family name from both sides.

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  17. Okay, I'm gonna say it: To me, at least, Adams's artwork here looks SO so so so soooo SO much better inked by Al Milgrom than by Terry Austin as we've seen in many of his previous X-jobs. The Austin issues all looked light and scratchy to me. This issue looks much more solid.

    Teemu -- "My favorite Marvel doctor moment still is the Secret Wars and Volcana asking Doctor Octopus if he can do anything for clawed and bleeding Molecule Man."

    I love that scene. "You're a doctor -- can't you help him?"

    "I'm a nuclear physicist, Volcana."

    I always get a little chuckle from it.

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  18. @Teebore: // and there's a bunch of "Dr. Strange helps them without revealing himself" business that ensues //

    Y'know, I almost bit my tongue and waited to see if events in coming issues made this comment moot (cf. my remarks on last week's Wolverine #8); turns out, yes.

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  19. @Matt: Okay, I'm gonna say it: To me, at least, Adams's artwork here looks SO so so so soooo SO much better inked by Al Milgrom than by Terry Austin as we've seen in many of his previous X-jobs.

    You know I'm no Al Milgrom fan, but he does seem to compliment Adams really well in this issue.

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