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Friday, March 20, 2015

X-amining X-Factor #51

"Home!"
February 1990

In a Nutshell 
X-Factor returns to Earth and settles back in New York. 

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

Plot
In New York, two surviving Morlocks, Mole and Chicken Wing, are hunted by Sabretooth. Chicken Wing is killed, but Mole uses his power to escape into a building. Watching from Apocalypse's base in the Himalayas, Caliban yearns to go to New York and use his new powers to kill Sabretooth, but Apocalypse insists he must have patience. Meanwhile, X-Factor returns to Earth, and Ship lands himself upright where the old X-Factor building was, transforming himself into a skyscraper. Elsewhere, Opal Tanaka discovers Mole in the basement of the record store where she works, but agrees to let him stay. Back at Ship, X-Factor's return has caught the attention of the press and the police, but their helicopters are caught in a scrum and X-Factor springs into action to rescue everyone, including police officer Charlotte Jones.


On the ground, they hold a press conference, where Beast is reunited with Trish Tilby. But Archangel is uncomfortable with the attention, and feeling his wings responding to his fury, he flies off before he hurts someone. The press is dismayed, but Charlotte Jones sticks up for him. Sabretooth watches from a nearby rooftop as Archangel flies by, while in the Himalayas, Caliban disobeys Apocalypse and teleports himself to New York. However, this pleases Apocalypse, who wanted Caliban to take the initiative, believing that, in time, Caliban's predations will cause all mutants to come together in strength to stand against him.

Firsts and Other Notables
Returning to Earth, Ship lands in Manhattan, positioning himself as a skyscraper to give X-Factor a permanent home. In a couple nices detail, Ship lands on the spot of X-Factor's old headquarters (which Ship destroyed during "Fall of the Mutants"), so he's only taking up land X-Factor already owns, and he mentions that he's not putting his full weight down on the land, so as to avoid damaging the bedrock. Ship will remain in place as a building pretty much through to the end of this iteration of X-Factor, just prior to the '91 relaunch.


This issue introduces two new women who will become supporting characters in the book. Opal Tanaka is an Asian woman who works at a record store and will become romantically involved with Iceman.
 

While Charlotte Jones is an African-American police officer who will become romantically involved with Archangel.


Reporter Trish Tilby, Beast's quasi-love interest, also returns in this issue. 
  

This issue ends with Apocalypse monologuing about his plans for Caliban and how he will bring about unity amongst mutants in the face of his ferocity. Pretty much none of what Apocalypse is blathering on about ever really comes to fruition.


Sabretooth pops up in this issue, hunting down surviving Morlocks. This is the first time we've seen him in the present, on panel, in an X-book since his brief appearance in New Mutants #75 (between that issue and this one he appeared in a pair of Amazing Spider-Man issues). 

This issue introduces a pair of Morlocks, Chicken Wing and Mole. The former is killed by Sabretooth, the later befriends Opal and will stick around for a few issues. 


Terry Shoemaker provides the art for this issue, and while I don't think he's ever named the official regular artist for the book, of all the various fill-ins between now and Jon Bogdanove's brief run he is the most ubiquitous.

A Work in Progress
Apocalypse has no issue with the Marauders, as they do the work of culling the strong from the weak, which makes sense. 


Archangel notes that though he lives, Apocalypse did kill the wealthy playboy he once was.


In addition to souping up Caliban's strength, speed, and endurance, Apocalypse has also modified Caliban's power such that he can absorb the psionic energy created by fear and use it against his enemies.


Teebore's Take
After eight issues on an alien world and a few before that puttering around in London, X-Factor arrives in New York for the first time since "Inferno", finally in a position to do once again do something with their role as the public mutant heroes. To that end, this issue sees Ship transform himself into a massive skyscraper, once more giving X-Factor a permanent, New York-based headquarters. In the process, Simonson begins to lay the groundwork for the next dozen or so issues of the series (give or take crossover tie-ins). More importantly, with the introduction of Opal Tanaka and Charlotte Jones and the return of Trish Tilby, Simonson is broadening the supporting cast of the series, which will help take some of the focus away from Scott and Jean while returning soap opera elements to the series, something which had once helped X-Factor stand out in its early goings. While the main plots over the next stretch of issues leading up to "X-Tinction Agenda" are pretty hit or miss (and the art will consistently "miss"), the interpersonal relationships that develop in that time provide some redeeming qualities to this latest era of the series. 

Next Issue
Next week: "Acts of Vengeance" Part 4, Excalibur #19 and Wolverine #21.

Collected Edition

11 comments:


  1. // Mole uses his power to escape into a building. //

    I don't know what the education situation is among the Morlocks, but despite what he says Mole does not "burrow ... just like a mole."

    // Ship lands in Manhattan, positioning himself as a skyscraper //

    The explanation that Ship was using anti-gravity to counteract its weight was a nice touch — in fact, when it landed, I wondered about that, so points to Simonson. Debits to Shoemaker, though, for the panel where Ship is descending horizontally behind the World Trade Center and looks impossibly, or at least very improbably, huge; it's easily longer than the towers are tall, never mind its enormous girth.

    // Apocalypse has also modified Caliban's power such that he can absorb the psionic energy created by fear and use it against his enemies. //

    I don't understand why Caliban refers to this as "mastery of his shadow power" like we've heard of it before, unless I just totally forgot about it, although I will say that if your primary power is locating mutants then this is a handy secondary ability because if you can find the one you'll probably get the other.

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  2. "I don't understand why Caliban refers to this as "mastery of his shadow power" like we've heard of it before, unless I just totally forgot about it, although I will say that if your primary power is locating mutants then this is a handy secondary ability because if you can find the one you'll probably get the other. "
    You did forget about it- we saw it before in Uncanny X-Men 148, although Simonson had previously ignored it during Caliban's previous appearances.

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  3. @Blam: Debits to Shoemaker, though, for the panel where Ship is descending horizontally behind the World Trade Center and looks impossibly, or at least very improbably, huge; it's easily longer than the towers are tall, never mind its enormous girth.

    Yeah. The scale on Ship is consistently wonky, but possibly never moreso than in those panels.

    I don't understand why Caliban refers to this as "mastery of his shadow power" like we've heard of it before, unless I just totally forgot about it

    Yeah, as anonymous says, it was his power in his initial appearance, though it is curious that Simonson is dusting it off given how she's previously ignored it. Maybe someone reminded her of it between appearances?

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  4. @Anonymous: // You did forget about it //

    Huh. I'll admit that the Return of Cockrum era is a weak spot among what's otherwise "my" X-Men run (#98-205). A pull list was still a ways off, so I was buying off the racks at newsstands and comics shops when I could get there — and what I could afford, with X-Men not always making the grade. Smith really jump-started the X-Men fervor that I'd had during the Byrne years, which prompted me to go ahead and fill in holes in my run. And Caliban's introduction was definitely a back-issue buy; I've probably only read it a few times, versus something like Kitty's Fairy Tale.

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  5. Even though this doesn't reach the height of fall of the mutants, I rather enjoy this period of X-Factor. One of the reasons I enjoy this issue is because it gets around the usual flaw of the X-universe: did you know that humans begin to like you a lot more once they begin to (gasp!) interact with them and live among them? For all the whining the x-books do about "mutant persecution", they certainly don't seem to be meeting humans halfway, with their tendency of isolating themselves from the public and rarely doing any "outreach." I know they have to preserve the Status Quo, but real-life minority groups can deal with racism while making a least SOME change in the right direction. It doesn't always have to reset back to square one.

    In the same vein, notice that 60% of X-Factor has human girlfriends at this point...who all get swiftly kicked to the curb once the cast is reintegrated into X-Men?

    One thing Teebore didn't mention was that we're getting back into the "unofficial crossover" period of the X-books (see Uncanny #180-200 for past occurrences) as the Sabertooth/Morlock story spraws out through Uncanny and New Mutants.

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  6. "In the same vein, notice that 60% of X-Factor has human girlfriends at this point"

    Technically, 75% ;) Better to say 60% have a human significant other...

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  7. @Jonathan: Even though this doesn't reach the height of fall of the mutants, I rather enjoy this period of X-Factor.

    Huzzah! Someone else besides me who's a fan of this period in the series!

    did you know that humans begin to like you a lot more once they begin to (gasp!) interact with them and live among them?

    This is why I've always liked the "public mutant heroes" aspect of X-Factor, and this chunk of issues brings that idea back to the series.

    Incidentally, it's also one of the things I liked about Matt Fraction's San Fransisco/Utopia setup, though that eventually turned into another isolation state (albeit a more publicly known one) for the X-Men.

    One thing Teebore didn't mention was that we're getting back into the "unofficial crossover" period of the X-books (see Uncanny #180-200 for past occurrences) as the Sabertooth/Morlock story spraws out through Uncanny and New Mutants.

    I've never really thought of it in those terms, but yeah, this next stretch of issues (culminating in "X-Tinction Agenda") really does have the feel of the old UXM/NM narrative handoffs, with the Caliban/Sabretooth stuff moving from here to NM, the Morlock stuff from here to NM to UXM, post-Siege Colossus showing up here, Beast, Jean and Ship showing up in UXM.

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  8. The Sabretooth/Morlock thing also leads to a Wolverine/Cable teamup-dealie in Wolverine 41-42. Actually the main reason I bought that Cable TPB was to read the setup for that very Hama/Silvestri story.

    Anonymous' math confuses me.

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  9. @Jason:

    Ah yeah, that's one where Hama establishes that Wolverine and Sabretooth are NOT blood relatives, right? I've never actually read it, but I've read about it.

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  10. @Anonymous: // Technically, 75% ;) Better to say 60% have a human significant other... //

    Nope. Technically, 60% of X-Factor has human girlfriends. Whether or not Jean is a heterosexual female who'd ever/never have a girlfriend, human or otherwise, doesn't change the math based on the premise given, although your "significant other" corrective is a better reflection of the whole truth. Lies, damned lies, and statistics. 8^)

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  11. Unless Jim Shooter's hetero-normative maxims are still in effect at this time in Marvel, in which case the official maths at least would point at the direction of Anonymous's model. We're still some months shy of Destiny being called Mystique's 'leman', but already have been strongly hinted of Northstar's... secret, so could go either way.

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