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Friday, October 31, 2014

X-amining X-Factor #43

"Kidnaped!"
August 1989

In a Nutshell 
X-Factor gets embroiled in a war on an alien planet. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Breakdowns:Paul Smith
Finisher: Allen Milgrom
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Tom Vincent
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Compelled by some unknown force, Ship suddenly takes off, blasting into space. It creates a dome to protect X-Factor, but Marvel Girl smashes through it, possessed by the memories of Phoenix to fly into space. Working together, X-Factor manages to retrieve Marvel Girl and repair the dome just as Ship enters hyperspace. Emerging seconds later but light years from Earth, X-Factor finds themselves in orbit around an alien world. Just then, a massive Celestial appears and silently takes Ship in its hand. Suddenly, X-Factor finds themselves transported down to the planet, landing in the middle of a massive battle between two different groups of super-powered individuals.


Springing into action, Archangel rescues a princess from a massive one-eyed creature, but is knocked unconscious by the princess' ally Lord Rask for daring to touch her. Iceman battles a fire-wielding woman and is also knocked out as the Celestial slowly begins to land on the planet. Marvel Girl is attacked by a group of telepathic Jammers, and as the Celestial draws closer, the battle begins to breakup. Beast is befriended by a one-eyed woman while Iceman regains consciousness but can't remember who he is, and is helped by the fiery woman who believes him to be like her. With the forces on both sides fully scattered, only Cyclops is left. He blasts the foot of the Celestial above him, which does nothing as it draws ever closer.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue kicks off the multi-part "Judgment War" storyline, which will last through issue #50 and finds X-Factor (including Christopher) embroiled in a war on an alien planet that is in the midst of being judged by the Celestials. It was billed as revealing the origin of Ship (which, granted, it does), but it's less about that than perhaps the buzz at the time suggested. 

As a result, this issue throws a bunch of characters and ideas at us for the first time that will become regular fixtures of the book over the course of this story: there's the Chosen, who have superpowers but look traditionally human, represented by Lord Rask and an unnamed princess, the Rejects, who are basically alien Morlocks, led by an unnamed woman with one eye, zand Dualers, Chosen whose powers gives them an alternate form (like Iceman when he's iced up) and thus lands them somewhere between the Chosen and the Rejects in terms of societal standing, represented by the Human Torch-like Lev.

In orbit around the alien planet, X-Factor encounters one of the Celestials, Marvel's massive space gods, who proceeds to land on the planet. His presence ultimately serves as the catalyst for the escalation of the war on the alien planet, but the Celestials presence will mostly be of the looming variety until closer to the end of the story


Paul Smith joins the book, billed, I believe, as the series new regular penciller (though he really only draws this story before leaving the book). He's inked by the book's regular inker, Al Milgrom, who, per usual, does his best to drag down the overall quality of the art.

A Work in Progress
As seen in New Mutants #78, this issue shows us Ship taking off into space from his and X-Factor's perspective.

Jean is having issues reconciling the recently-acquired memories of Phoenix and Madelyne, which will become a recurring beat for her character during this story, with each set of memories essentially acting as an independent personality. She believes that while it was Phoenix who wanted to fly through space, it was Madelyne who prevented her from returning to Ship. 


Ship provides translators to X-Factor before they're beamed down to the planet; we can thus assume these translators are enabling them (and us) to understand their alien language for the duration of this story.


It's suggested that Jean has recovered at least some rudimentary telepathic ability.


We learn that telepaths on this world are called Jammers, and that the Chosen reproduce via science (as opposed to the Rejects, who make babies the old fashioned way) and generally don't touch one another.

By the end of the issue, Archangel and Marvel Girl are unconscious and prisoners of the Chosen, along with Christopher, while Beast is with the Rejects, an amnesiac Iceman is taken in by Lev, who assumes he's a Dualer like she is, and Cyclops is about to be crushed by the foot of the landing Celestial, establishing their relative positions for the duration of the story (barring Cyclops. Spoiler: he doesn't spend the entire story under the Celestial's foot).  

Teebore's Take
With the beginning of "Judgment War", I fear we may have reached a temporary parting of the ways with this series. I know the multi-part storyline which kicks off this issue isn't very well regarded;  "X-Men in Space!" stories are already divisive enough, and like the contemporaneous "New Mutants in Asgard" story, I can't deny this one runs on far too long (then again, that's true of most of the big multi-part stories Marvel put out all over the place in 1989). Plus, dropping X-Factor onto an alien world for eight months of publication time doesn't do the book's supporting cast nor the development of the characters still-new status quo as the Marvel Universe's public mutant heroes any favors. And as I recall, Marvel Girl spends most of this storyline either unconscious or insane, which is troubling.

But I also recall really enjoying this story. Certainly, that can easily change as it goes on - I haven't actually re-read it in years, and when I did, I read it in close to one sitting rather than doled out over time in individual chapters, but nothing in this first part immediately dissuaded me of my recollections. It's big, fun space opera (which I generally enjoy), Paul Smith's art certainly isn't as on as it was during his earlier Uncanny run (I blame Milgrom, of course) but it's still very sharp and enjoyable, and both he and Simonson do an admirable bit of quick and dirty world building in the closing pages of this issue. There's more to come regarding all the new characters and their society that are thrown at us (with Simonson splitting up the main characters amongst each of the various factions to serve as vehicles for such), but we're given an immediate impression of the major players and their conflict, and it's enough to hook me, even now. But we'll have to see if it can continue to hold up as the story progresses.

Next Issue
Next week, Daredevil #269, Excalibur #11 and Wolverine #10. 

26 comments:

  1. If this series was a few issues shorter, and had a better inker than Milgrom, it might have been remembered as a better story. I guess they wanted it to end on #50...

    Man, Weezie wasn't satisfied with throwing Maddie under the bus, now she wants the bus to back up and run over her a few more times...

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  2. I think we now need a new section: "Maddie was a jerk! A jerk!" (TM & copyright jean grey).

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  3. This thing dragged on for eight issues? I remember it as four, tops.

    Also, does Marvel's insistense on spelling kidnaped with only one P make anyone else irrationally angry?

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  4. I wonder if this, the Cross Time Caper, and the Asgard storyline in New Mutants were all created as contrivances to keep the teams away from the X-Men, for as long as possible? It seems like weird timing for it (since the X-Men are about to cease to exist very shortly) but it doesn't seem like it could a coincidence that all of the non X-Men X-Teams are being taken off-world for extended periods.

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  5. Yeah, Scott, you truly loved Maddie- that's why you waited months to report her missing.
    @Anonymous- there's a huge debate about how to spell kidnapped/kidnapped.

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  6. Ben: I wonder if this, the Cross Time Caper, and the Asgard storyline in New Mutants were all created as contrivances to keep the teams away from the X-Men, for as long as possible?

    At least it's chuckleworthy that both the covers of the New Mutants and the X-Factor has the contrivator reaching his/her hand towards the team to take them away.

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  7. Also, does Marvel's insistense on spelling kidnaped with only one P make anyone else irrationally angry?

    OH MY GOD YES.

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  8. "Kidnapped" is such a conservative spelling. It's how Superman would spell it. Marvel are the rebels, spelling stuff with only one P. Aw yeah. That's why I so worshiped them as a child.

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  9. You omited appreciating that Superman is a newspaperman and thus knows how shit is writen correctly.

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  10. Smith & Milgrom is for the most part not a favorable pairing.

    // as the Celestial slowly begins to land on the planet //

    I did like how that progressed on the right-hand vertical panels of the last several pages.

    English is quirky, sure, but "Kidnaped" is just wrong unless you're making some kind of play on words with kidnapping and the nape of someone's neck; short vowels (with "a" and/or "o" particularly) nearly always get the ending consonants doubled up in the "-ed" and "-ing" and "-er" forms. I don't recall ever hearing of a debate about this, although I did just check the dictionary and to my surprise the single-"p" usages are indeed given as alternate spellings.

    Anyway.

    Celestial's Presence is my new band name. Look for our album Of the Looming Variety next year.

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  11. @Teemu: // You omited appreciating that Superman is a newspaperman and thus knows how shit is writen correctly. //

    I'm with you 100%... except it's "omitted".

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  12. "'Kidnaped' is just plain wrong, although I just looked it up and it isn't wrong."


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  13. Also, Teemu misspelled "omitted" as a joke, playing off my misspelling of "worshiped" and he continued the gag with "writen" later in his same post.

    Now the joke is ruinned!

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  14. Uuh I hate when that hapens!

    the Rejects, who are basically alien Morlocks, led by an unnamed woman with one eye

    Like our Earthly Morlocks then. Also, "Goddamn Paul, why did you have to draw so many of them! I ain't gonna come up with names for all of them, I ain't! For any of them!"

    Beast is with the Rejects, Beast is befriended by a one-eyed woman

    Yay regular-hue Beast of Earth-616! Boo Dark Beast of AoA variety!

    the Chosen reproduce via science

    Nice I guess if you get do the choosing yourself, less so if it's the Genoshans.

    a massive Celestial appears

    The Simonsons were as some point working on a Havok&Polaris limited series that would have featured Celestials, but the plans fell through. It seems like something they badly need to get out of their systems, seeing what Weezie does here and Walt starting his FF run with the Sleeping Celestial.

    Also, “When Havok went back into the X-Men, that sort of took care of the Havok And Polaris series we’d planned,” X-Factor artist Walter Simonson told Marvel Age #68. “Some of the ideas for that will in fact be turning up in the Avengers (which I’m writing).” (http://secretsbehindthexmen.blogspot.fi/2012/03/all-different-x-men-went-to-australia.html)

    I wonder what ideas and now I'll have to find out which Avengers issues.

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  15. The lay out on this cover really bothers me. I don't understand covering up the Celestial with "buildings" aka windowless grey boxes, as well as the title. He's the focus of the action and you can barely see him because he's behind a bunch of crap.

    I never realized how much Uncanny X-Men 284-286 are basically this story only with Scott and Beast swapped out. It's almost exactly the same!

    Oh, sorry, swaped out.

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  16. The Celestial is looming there, Jeff. Being somewhat hiden while at the same time overarching. Very Stay Puft Marshallow Man, peeking behind the buildings. Works for me.

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  17. Blam: Celestial's Presence is my new band name. Look for our album Of the Looming Variety next year.

    Late 80's UG synthesizer pop with minor gospel influences?

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  18. @wwk5d: I guess they wanted it to end on #50...

    Could be, though like the NM Asgard story, there's an unrelated fill-in issue smack dab in the middle of it. Which would suggest it would have been done prior to #50 if they hadn't fallen behind.

    Or maybe that fill-in was slotted in specifically to push the climax of the story to #50? Or #50 became double-sized in order to keep the story from spilling over into #51 after the fill-in became necessary?

    @Anonymous: Also, does Marvel's insistense on spelling kidnaped with only one P make anyone else irrationally angry?

    Yes. Though in Marvel's defense, some of that anger is directed at the loosey goosey English language that allows for two different spellings of the same word, meaning the same thing, to be acceptable.

    @Ben: I wonder if this, the Cross Time Caper, and the Asgard storyline in New Mutants were all created as contrivances to keep the teams away from the X-Men, for as long as possible?

    It could be, though there's less reason to artificially keep them separate now as there was pre-Inferno (other than Claremont clearly wanting to break down the team). I think it's just a case of Marvel really pushing the idea of filling the summer with clearly defined (Part 1, Part 2, etc) multi-part storylines in 1989.

    I mean, all five of the X-books do it, with Uncanny as the least formally structured, but that's largely because eschewing formal structure is what their Summer '89 storyline is all about. And the X-books certainly weren't the only ones doing the same kind of "Part X of Y!" stories that summer, either.

    @Blam: Smith & Milgrom is for the most part not a favorable pairing.

    "Anyone & Milgrom is for the most part not a favorable pairing."

    You're not wrong, but I fixed your statement to be more accurate. :)

    @Jason: "'Kidnaped' is just plain wrong, although I just looked it up and it isn't wrong."

    I typed out the title with the one P because that's how it is in the issue, fully expecting it to earn a little red squiggly line from Google, yet Google was just fine with that spelling. I was surprised.

    @Teemu: I wonder what ideas and now I'll have to find out which Avengers issues

    I don't think any stuff with the Celestials ever showed up in Walt's Avengers run, though I believe it did get cut short when he left due to editorial interference, so maybe it was something he had planned but then left before getting to it.

    @Jeff: I never realized how much Uncanny X-Men 284-286 are basically this story only with Scott and Beast swapped out. It's almost exactly the same!

    Huh. I never realized it until just now too. And what's odd, despite the UXM story being way shorter, I much prefer this one. The UXM one has always just seemed like a boring mark of time between when Bishop shows up and when Bishop joins the team. And I've never understood 90s comics' fascination with Mikhail Rasputin and his vague energy powers.

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  19. Teebore: I don't think any stuff with the Celestials ever showed up in Walt's Avengers run, though I believe it did get cut short when he left due to editorial interference, so maybe it was something he had planned but then left before getting to it.

    Oh, right. He did talk in future tense, and will carry on the Kang thing over to his FF (with Thor and Iron Man) which will turn into the Sleeping Celestial thing then. I kind of have to love this writer thing where getting kicked off a title/seeing it end is no biggy and the story line will just be continued on the writer's other title without missing a beat and the readers just have to suck there being Inhumans on Daredevil.

    "Anyone & Milgrom is for the most part not a favorable pairing."

    Funny you should say this now that Matt has just done a Mantlo & Milgrom Spectacular #85 on his "Not a Hoax..." blog and it seems like a great issue really on both accounts. I've been chuckling over that, I can tell you.

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  20. Teebore: And I've never understood 90s comics' fascination with Mikhail Rasputin and his vague energy powers.

    "Let's see... they brought in his younger sister, and she got a miniseries, totally stole the spin-off book and massive crossover... now, if I bring in his older brother... ooooh, fortune and fame and jeans commercials, here I come!"

    But then again, the other guy did turn Fenris into Team Rocket around that time, so... (and ten years early, at that!)

    On comp-letely unrelated news, Rob Liefeld has recently been creatively consulting the upcoming Deadpool movie and has advised against them bringing Cable in it, "cos the guy totally deserves his own movie".

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  21. @Teemu: Funny you should say this now that Matt has just done a Mantlo & Milgrom Spectacular #85 on his "Not a Hoax..." blog and it seems like a great issue really on both accounts.

    Well, I've not much read Spectacular, so maybe that's the rare exception, but also, to be clear, Milgrom's presence on art (pencils or inks) doesn't mean the *writing* can't still be good. Some of my favorite runs or stories have Milgrom art (parts of Stern's Avengers, Englehart's "Lost in Space Time" WCA story, this one).

    My point was more that no matter who the penciller is, Milgrom's inks will drag their work down (Art Adams in XF #41&42 being the possible exception).

    "Let's see... they brought in his younger sister, and she got a miniseries, totally stole the spin-off book and massive crossover... now, if I bring in his older brother... ooooh, fortune and fame and jeans commercials, here I come!"

    Sure, I can see the appeal to the Image guys of bringing back Mikhail, but he hung around well after the Image Exodus and got trotted out by plenty of other writers and artists too.

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  22. That's how I have understood it, Teebore, the funny bit was that having read your and Matt's blogs, Mantlo & Milgrom sure is like the ultimate creative team anyone could hope for. ;) All in good fun of course, as no one really is hating anyone's guts never mind the occasional and earned hyperbola.

    On Mikhail, my base knowledge failed me. I've seen him in the UXM story that was mentioned, and know of his role in Age of Apocalypse and thought that was mostly that for him. Our native X-book fared poorly through the 90's X-pansion of X-titles up to it's cancellation in 1996, and they didn't see it fit to use the tight publication space still available for Mikey stories. It was a quick downhill after the last Claremont stories were published in 1993, which may sometime be seen through in my commentary.

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  23. I missed all the posts here last week, but aside from the UXM issue, it doesn't appear I missed much.

    Thanks for the plug, Teemu. To be clear -- I don't think everything Al Milgrom ever did was bad... just most of what he ever did.

    At any rate, hooray for Paul Smith drawing Cyclops again!

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  24. @Jason: // Also, Teemu misspelled "omitted" as a joke, playing off my misspelling of "worshiped" and he continued the gag with "writen" later in his same post. //

    I debated on whether to include a "8^)" after my comment. First I typed it, then I deleted it, then forth and back once more. Clearly I should've left it there.

    @Teebore: // "Anyone & Milgrom is for the most part not a favorable pairing."
    
You're not wrong, but I fixed your statement to be more accurate. :) //


    @Teemu: // Funny you should say this now that Matt has just done a Mantlo & Milgrom Spectacular #85 on his "Not a Hoax..." blog and it seems like a great issue really on both accounts. //

    While I haven't read it in ages, Mantlo & Milgrom's run on Spectacular was a favorite of mine at the time — not a top-tier favorite, maybe, but the only Spider-Man title that 12-year-old me was getting somewhat consistently. I keep wanting to check out Matt's take but haven't learned how to manipulate time yet.

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  25. Blam: I debated on whether to include a "8^)" after my comment. First I typed it, then I deleted it, then forth and back once more. Clearly I should've left it there.

    I'm glad you didn't. Jason accurately recapping what I was doing there was a power trip for me really. That sort of thing is usually reserved for millionaire sportsers only and not geeky comedian wannabes over the 'net.

    Which coincidentally is my actual male power fantasy, and not the people who get beaten up in tights and have their powers amount to nothing but great responsibilities.

    Matt's doing mostly Stern Spider-Man though, but that particular Spectacular was Hobgoblin-intensive. (which you can't have for a band name, as I'm currently in negotiations over it with the Big Bang Theory crowd)

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  26. Also, Peter Parker, the Stern Spider-Man and The Mantle of Spider-Man should so totally have seen publication. PPtSSM would have been those stories where people get a life-lesson lecture from Spidey after all the action, and Mantle would have been just what Mantlo did.

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