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Friday, April 3, 2015

X-amining X-Factor #52

"Celebrity!"
March 1990

In a Nutshell
Archangel battles Sabretooth

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

Plot
Archangel watches from above as Officer Charlotte Jones discovers the body of the Morlock Wings, then saves her from a gang of crackheads before flying off, fighting the urge to kill the criminals. As he leaves, Sabretooth, watching from a nearby rooftop, shoots him down with an assault rifle. Meanwhile, Scott, Jean, Hank and Trish Tilby are on a double date when the restaurant is attacked by giant cockroaches. Meannwhile, Opal arrives at work and drops off dinner for Mole, who is still hiding in the basement of the music store. On a snowy rooftop, Sabretooth checks the fallen Archangel, but gets his face slashed by Archangel's wings.


At the restaurant, Scott, Jean and Hank battle the massive bugs, finding it all familiar, as Bobby, babysitting Christopher, arrives at the music store where Opal works. Smitten with Opal, who's angry at Ship for blocking the sunlight from her apartment, he asks her out. Elsewhere, Archangel and Sabretooth continue to fight, with Sabretooth gutting Archangel. At the restaurant, Jean heads to the roof, where she discovers the Locust coordinating the attack, and she & Hank quickly defeat him. At Power Records, Opal and Bobby leave on their date, followed by Mole, who fears for Opal's safety with Sabretooth on the loose. Elsewhere, Sabretooth taunts Archangel, telling him he laced his claws with a nerve poison, but Archangel manages to lash out with his wings, gutting Sabretooth as well, and the pair collapse into the bloody snow.  

Firsts and Other Notables
Archangel and Sabretooth meet and battle one another for the first time, an event which I seem to recall was a fairly big deal at the time, involving as it does a confrontation between two characters with strong ties to one of the franchise's big, seminal storylines.

Remember the Locust, aka Dr. Hopper, the mad college professor the X-Men battled way back in X-Men #24? Well, Louise Simonson does, and she brings him back in this issue, as a one-off, mostly comical villain. He's the first of two Silver Age villains Simonson will bring back in the next stretch of issues.


Rob Liefeld provides the cover art, making this another month where he does the covers to both X-Factor and New Mutants. Back in the day, this was the priciest X-Factor back issue between "Inferno" and "X-Tinction Agenda", presumably on the basis of the Liefeld cover on top of the Archangel/Sabretooth battle. 

A Work in Progress
Surprised by all the look they get at the restaurant, their waiter explains it's because they're celebrities akin to movie stars, the graven images still worshiped by society.


The manager of the restaurant which Locust attacks says they have superhero insurance.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Iceman goes to Opal's music store hoping to get a new Kate Bush CD; Bush is a British experimental pop artist (admittedly, I had to look her up).

Also, a subplot in this issue involves a store which sells music on CDs.

And of course, the copious amounts of blood spilled in the Archangel/Sabretooth battle is all colored black.

The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops Archangel
Archangel spends the open pages of this issue, before his battle with Sabretooth, angsting about his wings.


Young Love
Archangel encounters Charlotte Jones once again, while Iceman meets Opal for the first time and asks her out on a date, much to the dismay of the crushing Mole.


Meanwhile, Scott, Jean, Hank and Trish go on a double date together.

Teebore's Take
Though the Archangel/Sabretooth is the central action setpiece of this issue (and gets cover billing), the bulk of the pages are devoted to returning soap opera and the idea of X-Factor as celebrities to the book, via a pair of romantic encounters: Iceman meeting Opal for the first time and asking her out (while dealing with her fame-crazed boss) while the rest of X-Factor goes on a double date amidst stares from the crowd. That double date is problematic in that it doesn't present the characters too positively when read alongside New Mutants #87: either this issue takes place before the New Mutants returned to Earth, in which case X-Factor should be more concerned about their missing wards, or it takes place after, in which case X-Factor should be more concerned about Rusty and Skids (two of their earliest wards) falling in with the Mutant Liberation Front, a situation made more egregious by the fact that both books share the same writer.

But Simonson does use the double date as a vehicle to dust off an old Silver Age X-Men villain, something she really should have done more often given how much sense it makes to pit the revamped original X-Men against some of their old foes (revamped or otherwise). It makes for a nice nod to a bit of oft-ignored continuity, which is always appreciated. Given the recently-concluded long-running "Judgment War" (and, really, the sprawling "Inferno" before it) it's nice to see the book's focus get a little smaller, zeroing in on more self-contained, personal action sequences, the idea of X-Factor as celebrities, and characterization, even in that characterization is rendered a bit dicey by other titles.

Next Issue
Next week, Avengers West Coast #56-57 & #60, Excalibur #20, and Wolverine #22. 

Collected Edition

18 comments:

  1. "That double date is problematic in that it doesn't present the characters too positively when read alongside New Mutants #87: either this issue takes place before the New Mutants returned to Earth, in which case X-Factor should be more concerned about their missing wards, or it takes place after, in which case X-Factor should be more concerned about Rusty and Skids (two of their earliest wards) falling in with the Mutant Liberation Front, a situation made more egregious by the fact that both books share the same writer."
    It takes place after, since in New Mutants 88 we see a repeat of the scene where Archangel flies off in X-Factor 51. Hilariously, in that issue, Bobby scolds Rahne and Rictor for being too eager to rescue Rusty and Skids.

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  2. "He's the first of two Silver Age villains Simonson will bring back in the next stretch of issues"

    I was so hoping the Conquistador would should up also.

    "Rob Liefeld provides the cover art"

    A true embarrassment of riches, that. At least he drew the feet for both characters.

    "The manager of the restaurant which Locust attacks says they have superhero insurance."

    Well, wouldn't you, if you lived in the NYC of the Marvel universe? ;)

    "the bulk of the pages are devoted to returning soap opera and the idea of X-Factor as celebrities to the book"

    Kind of like the mutant version of the Fantastic Four, minus the science and exploration.

    "That double date is problematic in that it doesn't present the characters too positively when read alongside New Mutants #87"

    Between Louise writing both titles and Bob's editing...how did that happen? Just a big mess.

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  3. Boy, Sabertooth was exploited in the 90s as his arch-rival wasn't he?

    Despite my earlier comment out interlocking storylines, Simonson seems determined to keep the New Mutants out of this book (despite guest appearances in thiers.) I wonder if this was based on the rumor that Weezie was already starting to lose control of that book, since even at this point NM becomes "Cable & Pals"

    Again though I kinda like the "mutant celebrity" angle of the team. And the "romantic entanglement" here sounds sweet without being to sappy, with everyone bonding together causually by doing somewhat "normal" things instead of sweeping declarations of instant love.

    One thing though, Iceman REALLY does not seem like the type who'd like any type of "indie" or "alternative" music. He seems like a "Top-40" kinda guy y'know?

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  4. "Despite my earlier comment out interlocking storylines, Simonson seems determined to keep the New Mutants out of this book (despite guest appearances in thiers.) I wonder if this was based on the rumor that Weezie was already starting to lose control of that book, since even at this point NM becomes "Cable & Pals""
    But even if Simonson didn't want to have the New Mutants proper appear in X-Factor, she could still have had X-Factor search for the Inferno babies instead of going on double dates. As it is, the Inferno babies are completely forgotten about after New Mutants 88.

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  5. Jonathan: One thing though, Iceman REALLY does not seem like the type who'd like any type of "indie" or "alternative" music. He seems like a "Top-40" kinda guy y'know?

    He's an accountant who uses his powers in very Summers-not-approve way for cooling his beer, so clearly a man of conflict nature. Give him a chance for a personality.

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  6. Kate Bush is not really all that obscure. "Wuthering Heights" charted in America, as I recall.

    I am not a fan of this Shoemaker art. I didn't like it as a kid, and I don't dig it too much now. (I bought this issue as kid, I think, and was disappointed at Archangel vs Sabretooth being such a small portion of the action. Of course back then I would have had no idea what the Locust was all about.)

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  7. I find it weird that any X-characters would be celebrities in this era, other than Dazzler and Beast ( from his Avengers stint). To me, the X-teams are perceived by the masses as mysterious organizations with unclear membership and motives.

    The stories in X-Factor position them as celebrities, especially with Ship parked in NYC, but it doesn't fit with my view of mutant teams. I think the "world that hates & fears them" portion of the X-mission doesn't work if the public is more aware of their rosters or purpose.

    I haven't read this era of X-Factor, but it didn't seem to stick. In later years, I don't remember anyone seeing the original 5 X-men and remarking that they were those X-Factor guys who parked a giant spaceship in the city. To me, retooling X-Factor as a government-sponsored team would be the first step to mutants stepping out of the shadows. I guess it's not, canonically, but maybe because everyone forgot/ didn't care about post-Judgement War/ pre-Portacio X-Factor.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  8. @Anonymous: It takes place after, since in New Mutants 88 we see a repeat of the scene where Archangel flies off in X-Factor 51.

    Yeah. My point was more that, even if you wanted to fudge the chronology in an effort to make the date less egregious, it still wouldn't work.

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  9. @wwk5d: I was so hoping the Conquistador would should up also.

    That would be awesome. If I had my druthers we'd get a super-villain team comprised of the one-off Roy Thomas villains, led by Ted Roberts, angry at being forgotten.

    Between Louise writing both titles and Bob's editing...how did that happen?

    Right? I mean, even if this was a Claremont/Louise thing, it'd be understandable, but how is the same writer not noticing the problem, even if the editor isn't?

    @Jonathan: Despite my earlier comment out interlocking storylines, Simonson seems determined to keep the New Mutants out of this book (despite guest appearances in thiers.) I wonder if this was based on the rumor that Weezie was already starting to lose control of that book, since even at this point NM becomes "Cable & Pals"

    Could be. Though I doubt even Liefeld could stop her from using Cable and the NM in this book if she wanted. Maybe she just didn't want to give Rob's pet character a higher profile (since, at least at this point, XF was outselling NM, which would, of course, quickly change)? Then again, if Cable sells, you'd think she'd be more than able to goose the numbers of her other book.

    One thing though, Iceman REALLY does not seem like the type who'd like any type of "indie" or "alternative" music. He seems like a "Top-40" kinda guy y'know?

    I could make a case either way. I can easily see him being a total music rube, into either top 40 or something really corny/outdated, but as the youngest of the group, I could also see him having the hippest tastes, or at least be into the more current stuff.

    @Anonymous: As it is, the Inferno babies are completely forgotten about after New Mutants 88.M

    Yep, the Inferno babies will be very much a dropped plot very shortly, never to be heard from again until the Zeb Wells relaunch.

    @Jason: I am not a fan of this Shoemaker art. I didn't like it as a kid, and I don't dig it too much now.

    Ditto all around. I remember being actively disappointed as a kid to open the Liefeld cover and find art as lethargic and unexciting as Shoemaker's inside, even when re-reading and knowing full well what I was in for.

    That feeling still hasn't changed today, and really, the art on this stretch of issues (until Portacio comes aboard) is easily my biggest beef with the series.

    @Mike: To me, retooling X-Factor as a government-sponsored team would be the first step to mutants stepping out of the shadows. I guess it's not, canonically, but maybe because everyone forgot/ didn't care about post-Judgement War/ pre-Portacio X-Factor.

    The idea, I think, is supposed to be that the government-sponsored X-Factor is an outgrowth of both Freedom Force (government-sponsored mutants) and this iteration of X-Factor (mutant heroes known to the public by that name), though that really gets lost in the shuffle of the '91 relaunch (in part because XF gets sucked into the Muir Island Saga and that turned into a mess due to Claremont's departure).

    So I see their celebrity as an evolution of the public's perception of mutants (X-Factor=kinda ok. Not unlike the Avengers) even while the X-Men remain kinda weird and creepy, in part because their acts of heroism are less public. Thus, even when the X-Factor members rejoin the X-Men, the public doesn't make the connection, because the X-Men are still shrouded in secrecy while the new X-Factor is intentionally hogging the spotlight.

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  10. Teebore: I remember being actively disappointed as a kid to open the Liefeld cover and find art as lethargic and unexciting as Shoemaker's inside, even when re-reading and knowing full well what I was in for.

    There's a lengthy John Romita Sr. interview, a going-through-whole-career sort of thing, where he as a creator brings up this particular ire of his, using a cover by a popular artist for a book that has the interiors done by totally other guy, already from the era two decades earlier. False advertising, at the very least.

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  11. Does anyone else find the cover to this issue rather...disturbing? Especially Sabertooth?

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  12. @JW: In what way is the cover more disturbing than Liefeld's usual efforts?

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  13. My vote is on the Sabre-thongs Liefeld introduces to his costume.

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  14. @Teemu: If you think that's bad, check out how he draws Sabre and Caliban's battle in New Mutants #90, 91;)

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  15. Do Archangel's techno-organic wings regrow new metal "feathers" to replace the ones fired at opponents? How long does it take? Do the ones fired biodegrade with time or is Warren just leaving neurotoxic blades created by his body around the city, which'd make the random floodwater from Bobby's melted ice-slides look charming by comparison?

    Clearly, X-Factor as a whole has guardianship and mentoring skills on par with Scott's paternal instincts.

    I don't remember Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" but "Keep Running Up That Hill" was everywhere. Actually, I just heard it the other day in an '80s block and I couldn't switch stations fast enough; for whatever reason, it's just one of those songs that I can't stand, but I know folks who love her.

    Locust, Pg. 24: "You mutants, landing your ship in New York in your fancy ship."
    Me: "Way to proofread, everybody."

    The Crushing Mole is my new band name.

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  16. As proofread and the lack of it goes, my favorite still is the Spot warning Spider-Man to "stop harnessing the Kingpin".

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  17. @Blam: The Crushing Mole it is from now on (I wouldn't mind crushing some at the moment;)

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  18. @Teemu: There's a lengthy John Romita Sr. interview, a going-through-whole-career sort of thing, where he as a creator brings up this particular ire of his, using a cover by a popular artist for a book that has the interiors done by totally other guy, already from the era two decades earlier

    That's actually one of my biggest pet peeves with comics. I rarely even give a cover whose contents don't match the interior much thought (aside from irritatingly generic pin-up covers), but cover/interior artist mismatches drive me nuts.

    Usually, it's a case of "good artist on the cover, weak and/or fill-in art on the interior", but even when I like the work of both artists, it still bugs me that the cover doesn't match the interior.

    But it is, as you say, a practice as old as the industry itself, unfortunately...

    @Blam: Do Archangel's techno-organic wings regrow new metal "feathers" to replace the ones fired at opponents?

    Yes.

    How long does it take?

    No idea.

    Do the ones fired biodegrade with time or is Warren just leaving neurotoxic blades created by his body around the city, which'd make the random floodwater from Bobby's melted ice-slides look charming by comparison?

    Ha! I sure hope they degrade over time. Presumably, a Handbook addressed that at some point, but I can't remember for sure either way.

    Clearly, X-Factor as a whole has guardianship and mentoring skills on par with Scott's paternal instincts.

    He's rubbing off on them!

    Me: "Way to proofread, everybody."

    Ha! I've read this issue probably a half dozen times, at least, and never caught that. Not sure if that's better or worse than all the professionals involved who missed it.

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