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Friday, February 20, 2015

X-amining X-Factor #49

"Power Struggle"
December 1989

In a Nutshell 
Iceman and Archangel battle in the arena. 

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

Plot
As the Chosen stream into the arena in anticpation of the Archangel/Iceman match, Lev continues to take bets against Iceman before flying off to visit him, where he tells her he'll kill Archangel if he can, and assure the ascendancy of the Dualers in the process. Meanwhile, Beast and Agrom lead a group of Rejects into the city through the sewers. They attack a group of guards, hoping to use their uniforms as a disguise, but the guards turn out to be Cyclops and his band of Beginagains, having already done the same. Meanwhile, Palik visits Archangel and blinds him. That way, he explains, Iceman will easily win, foiling Rask's grab for power, but an autopsy will reveal the blindness, which Palik can blame on the Dualers, thus crushing their newfound power. However, a Dualer overhears this and rushes off to warn Lev, but he arrives just as Iceman enters the arena and the fight begins. Meanwhile, on Earth, Apocalypse ponders if the strange alliances amongst Earth's villains are of a sign of the armageddon he's long anticpated.


Inside the Chosen city, Cyclops and Beast split up, with Cyclops to rescue Marvel Girl and Christopher while Beast attempts to restore Iceman's memory and end the arena battle. In orbit, Ship heads down towards the planet, determined to save X-Factor if he can. In the arena, Iceman easily overpowers the blind Archangel, until Beast, Agrom and Dykon burst into the arena from below. This ends their fight and forfeits all bets. Rask attempts to kill Seera in the ensuing confusion, but Lev blasts him into the arena and frees Seera, urging her to restore Iceman's memory. She does, and as Iceman comes to his senses, Rask orders the guards to kill everyone in the arena. Back on Earth, Apocalypse is visited by the united villains' servant, who offers Apocalypse the opportunity to join him and lead his Acts of Vengeance on Earth.

Firsts and Other Notables
Apocalypse pops up in this issue, appearing in the series for the first time since issue X-Factor Annual #3, noting the events of "Acts of Vengeance". He'll continue to be a lingering presence in the book for the next few issues, but won't be the chief antagonist of a storyline again until issues #65-68.

Later, Loki appears before Apocalypse (in his guise as the assistant to the Prime Movers, so readers may not have known he was Loki at this time) to offer him a place with the Prime Movers, which provides Apocalypse with an opportunity to make some metatextual comments about "Acts".  However, this issue doesn't get an "Acts of Vengeance" tag on the cover, despite being more connected to the overall story than New Mutants #84 was (or Uncanny X-Men #256 for that matter).


A Work in Progress
It's revealed that both Palik and Rask know that Archangel and Iceman (and presumably Marvel Girl and Christopher) are aliens from another planet, as they've been so informed by the Chosen scientists.


Blinded, exhausted, and still a little drugged, Archangel has to fight to keep his wings from taking control and savagely attacking Iceman.


Iceman's memory finally returns by the end of the issue, as Seera is able to use her telepathy to help him remember who he is. 


Teebore's Take
Like New Mutants #84, this is the penultimate issue of a long-running storyline. Unlike New Mutants #84, the pacing in this issue and the story overall is much better (or, at least, much more consistent). The Archangel/Iceman arena battle at the center of this issue has been building for several issues now, with the fate of several different characters and factions (as well as any hope for an X-Factor reunion) tied to its outcome. That, combined with the increasing presence of the Celestials, creates a sensation of climax, that all the plot points and disparate characters are starting to come together. It may have been too long in coming, but now that the end is here, it at least feels satisfying (and earned) to get there.

Next Issue
Next week, "Acts of Vengeance" Part 2, Excalibur #17 and Wolverine #19.

Collected Edition

9 comments:

  1. On that second set of panels, Apocalypse is surely talking of John Byrne?

    No Life of Brian nods on the scene where two gangs meet each other in the sewers on their way to shenanigans?

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    1. I did find myself also wondering if Apocalypse was referring to Byrne. Certainly this does feel like a writer's frustration and disagreement with the premise.

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  2. You know, if this story had been one or 2 issues shorter, and if Smith had a better inker, this story would probably be much better remembered. It's not as bad as the New Mutants Asgard story, but it's as it is, it isn't great either. Of course, as the cover shows, at least we didn't have Bogdanove illustrating it...

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  3. @wwk5d: // Of course, as the cover shows, at least we didn't have Bogdanove illustrating it... //

    Huh. I can't stop admiring the figures, myself — I'm not so fond of the cover's text elements but I think the art itself is great. Diff'rent strokes.

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  4. I meant to add how criminal it is that Marvel Girl is just completely out of the action — she isn't even seen in this issue. When Claremont & Cockrum kept her in the hospital post-#100, it was because they didn't know what her powers would be more than that they couldn't write around them. Jean wasn't bogusly absent from plot this much even when she was Phoenix.

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  5. I'm not the biggest Bogdanove fan, but I agree with Blam on this one. I think that cover is pretty sweet.

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  6. @Teemu: No Life of Brian nods on the scene where two gangs meet each other in the sewers on their way to shenanigans?

    Not familiar enough with Life of Brian to catch the reference, unfortunately. Watched it once when I was a kid, and that was about it.

    @wwk5d: It's not as bad as the New Mutants Asgard story, but it's as it is, it isn't great either.

    I'll touch on this in the wrap-up, but so far, I've still mostly enjoyed this one as much as I remember enjoying it as a kid, whereas the New Mutants Asgard story has thus far failed to even live up to my generous recollections.

    @Tim: Certainly this does feel like a writer's frustration and disagreement with the premise.

    It does, and we'll get some more of it next issue, but it seems odd coming from Simonson, who has always struck me as being an easy going sort. I'd expect that kind of thinly-veiled criticism from Claremont or Byrne, but she's never really seemed like the sort to get too riled up about stuff.

    But that's just my impression of her, of course. I could be totally wrong and she spent much of this time fuming.

    @Blam: I'm not so fond of the cover's text elements but I think the art itself is great. Diff'rent strokes.

    I'm curious to see what you think of Bogdanove's upcoming interior work on X-Factor. It inspires Milgrom-esque levels of distaste in me, but I have liked his work elsewhere.

    I meant to add how criminal it is that Marvel Girl is just completely out of the action — she isn't even seen in this issue.

    Yeah. She finally gets back in the action in a significant way next issue, but her large absence from this story is, running length aside, it's biggest problem.

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    1. @Teebore
      You've only seen the Life of Brian once?!?!

      The scene in question is on YouTube: http://youtu.be/kHHitXxH-us

      Delete

  7. @Teebore: // I'm curious to see what you think of Bogdanove's upcoming interior work on X-Factor. It inspires Milgrom-esque levels of distaste in me, but I have liked his work elsewhere. //

    Me too. I think I'd seen his work on a random Power Pack, but the first time it stuck out for me was his pin-up in Action Comics #600 [Wrightson's credit there is for the next piece]. Based on that I was really disappointed when the Superman: The Man of Steel monthly launched, because his stuff quickly became exaggerated in ways I didn't care for, and from some later art he did aping the Joe Shuster studio look he was still capable of the style I preferred. I've liked some if not most of what we've seen of his work here so far, on Power Pack and X-Terminators, so I'm curious about the upcoming stuff as well.

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