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Friday, April 17, 2015

X-amining X-Factor #53

"Ghosts"
April 1990

In a Nutshell 
Scott proposes to Jean. 

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

Plot
Caliban comes across Archangel, badly wounded by Sabretooth,. Thinking Caliban is Sabretooth, Archangel attacks, and Caliban is pleased, as he hopes to best Apocalypse's earlier creation. Meanwhile, Scott and Jean go on a romantic walk through Central Park, while Bobby tries to take Opal to a great restaurant he knows, while they are unknowingly being followed by Mole. However, it turns out the restaurant has closed, so Opal invites Bobby back to her apartment for leftover pizza. On the way, they run into Officer Jones, who warn them about the grisly murder she discovered not far away. Nearby, Caliban and Archangel's battle continues, with Archangel slashing Caliban's face. In Central Park, Scott proposes to Jean. In Soho, Bobby and Opal near her apartment, but Christopher's stroller suddenly detects Mole.


Spooked, he accidentally causes a crane to drop its load of girders, but Bobby is able protect Opal and capture Mole. Elsewhere, Caliban and Archangel's fight spills onto the streets, attracting the attention of Officer Jones and her partner, who intervene and drive off Caliban. In Soho, Opal tells Bobby that Mole is harmless, and he apologizes, telling Opal he was trying to protect her, as the trio is watched by Sabretooth. Meanwhile, Jean turns down Scott's proposal, telling him that with Madelyne and Phoenix's memories in her head, she can't be sure of her feelings for him. In Soho, Mole insists on returning to the sewers over Opal's objections, not wanting to watch her and Bobby together. Opal hugs him goodbye, and Mole drops into the tunnel, where Sabretooth is waiting for him.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue is notable for Scott proposing to Jean for the first time. Technically, he's done it twice before, to her cosmic clone in X-Men #136 and to her genetic clone in X-Men #174, but this is the first time Jean herself experiences being popped the question. She turns him down, basically saying her memories are too jumbled for her to make a clear decision and be confidant it's her decision, though she insists she does still love him. As a major Scott/Jean shipper when I was younger, I was always bothered by her refusal (though it helped that they eventually did get married), though I came to recognize it as the right decision for the character.


Though they don't exactly break-up after Jean turns down Scott, this does kick off a period where their relationship is a little more nebulous and up in the air (including Jean taking a sabbatical from the team, during which she'll guest star in X-Men), where sometimes it seems like they're still X-Factor's power couple and other times where maybe they're not.

Mole makes his last appearance (ever, as far as I know), as he says goodbye to Opal and returns to the Morlock Tunnels, only to find Sabretooth waiting to kill him. It's actually a surprisingly-grim ending for a relatively innocent character.


This is another one of those classic "here's a montage of all the various things going on inside!" covers, with each piece loosely divided by the large X.

A Work in Progress
Jean is experiencing both Maddie's and Phoenix's memories, usually (poorly) depicted as pink, barely readable images of past events superimposed over panels set in the present.


Having gone directly from his shopping spree to going on a date with Opal, Iceman is still totting around baby Christopher in his futuristic stroller, which seems a poor choice for both a date and as a babysitter. He's also, somewhat comically, just wearing his X-Factor uniform under his coat.


We find out Opal and Charlotte Jones know one another.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Jean warns Scott of muggers in Central Park, as New York was still cleaning up its 80s-era act.


Iceman also laments the fact that Nintendo went out of style while he was in space, though I'm not sure what system, in early 1990, was considered the trendy one. That's still a bit before the Genesis and Super Nintendo, I believe.


The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops Archangel
Archangel declares that Caliban is what he would be, if he were to give in to the desires of his wings.



Like a Phoenix, From the Ashes
Amongst other recollections, Jean flashes back to the famous butte scene from X-Men #132


Teebore's Take
Continuing on directly from the previous issue, this one is structurally almost the same: an increasingly-beat up Archangel battles someone, giving the story it's spine, while the rest of X-Factor is involved with romantic shenanigans. The end result, particularly the Archangel fight scenes, feels a bit repetitive, but one particular event sets this issue apart: Scott's proposal to Jean. It's technically the first time he's proposed to her, and it's one of those things that seems like a natural progression of their relationship (since, you know, he's already proposed to two other versions of her...).

While Jean turning him down could smack of the ever-present need for superhero comics to change, but not change too much, it makes sense in context: Jean's mind is a mess, thanks to the memories of Maddie and Phoenix rumbling around in there, and she has no way of knowing, should she say yes, who exactly is saying it. The effect of the the pink echoes depicting Jean's other memories as Scott proposes to her is executed very poorly, almost to the point of being unreadable, but the idea of it is brilliant, as it creates a sense for the reader of just what Jean is experiencing. As a result, her turning down Scott reads more like a reasonable character choice than one made by the creators out of fear of changing the status quo too much, and whether accurate or not, that's an illusion worth creating.

Next Issue
Next week: Wolverine teams up with Spider-Man in Marvel Comics Presents #48-50, the Cross-Time Caper resumes in Excalibur #21, and Wolverine's South American adventure comes to a close in Wolverine #23. 

Collected Edition

20 comments:

  1. "though I came to recognize it as the right decision for the character."

    Well, having memories of both your doppelganger and clone having sex with and being proposed to by the man you love before he's done either to you...be glad Scott and Jean didn't just call it quits then and there lol

    "It's actually a surprisingly-grim ending for a relatively innocent character."

    Seriously. Poor guy. He just wanted to be a good friend to Opal.

    "Jean warns Scott of muggers in Central Park"

    It isn't like they couldn't deal with them, between the TK and the (alternate dimension fueled) optic beams...though I guess her concern is more they'll interrupt their talking more than any potential harm.

    "Continuing on directly from the previous issue, this one is structurally almost the same"

    You forgot one other beat: ignoring what happened to Rusty and Skids. Maybe he left another stern voicemail for Mystique off-panel?

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  2. Apocalypse here refers to Caliban being the "First Hound" (also mentioned by Liefeld in his interview with Cliff Biggers from Comic Shop News #142, 13th of April, 1990) who would usher in the bleak apocalyptic future shown in the iconic Days of Future Past.

    Weezie seemed to be suggesting that Apocalypse would be responsible for bringing about the Sentinel mutant camps!?

    This is in direct opposition to Chris’s plans for the Shadow King to be responsible for the “First Hounds” as revealed in his Excalibur Annual that was meant to be published this year (later published as X-Men True Friends) and his earlier Rachel Grey series.

    Why would Louise be directly undermining CC's plans, or was she being forced to by Harras? Did Harras want the major villain introduced under his editorialship of X-Factor to become the #1 X-villain and this is how he planned to do it?

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  3. Wwk5d, Scott and Jean eventually come to that conclusion about the muggers, but it sounds like the type of thing "regular" people say before a stroll in the park at night, so those words could have been included just to reinforce that this was suppose to be a "normal" date.

    When you think about it though, Bobby dragging Not-Cable on a date with Opal is kinda in character. See, one of the other recurring traits about Iceman (besides the obligatory "Iceman's underperforming power-wise" we get every few years) is "Bobby's a bit of a schmuck about women." Indeed Opal eventually breaks up with him about this and even recent gf, Kitty brought it up a few times. Both plotlines cone from the same source: Bobby as a doofus manchild that refuses to grow-up. In this issue, it's as if we're watching one of those generic romantic comedies concerning the love life of some immature slacker (it's the part Ashton Kutcher was born to play, baby!)

    I had the same feeling you did about the proposal, teebore. Of course, one of the few things that can chip at my cynical, icy heart are weddings and proposals. I generally like all the comic book ones, even though they tend t entice...mixed feelings among the comic book community. There's my big secret: I'm a big sap.

    Also, while I generally agree with your assessment about the "visions", Teebore, I have to say Jean looks VERY pretty here.

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  4. @Jonathan: Your mention of Bobby dragging Not-Cable on a date with Opal sounds like your convinced by my theory;)

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  5. I couldn't stand the memories excuse for Jean not marrying Scott. It seemed contrived, especially since nobody ever worried about Jean harming Nathan or boinking Alex.
    Scott really is a romantic- what girl doesn't want to be proposed to shortly after 2 teenagers she's mentoring go missing?

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  6. this does kick off a period where their relationship is a little more nebulous and up in the air (including Jean taking a sabbatical from the team, during which she'll guest star in X-Men)

    You know, a while back I likened Havok to be the Ross Geller of Marvel Universe, but, if these people here are going to be on pause and have sabbaticals... of course, all of this predates Friends by years, so technically the terms should be going the other way around for the benefit of those actually doing it first, and of course all this should be annoying as hell by now, but, being a non-native and all, the works of fiction that "has NY, NY as the Nth character" has a potential to be jumbled up a bit in my mind. I fear the day when Sex and the City starts to sieve in.

    As a major Scott/Jean shipper

    You know, I was in for a snarky remark about you keeping the challenge kind of low for yourself there, but actually, thinking it over, with people retconed to having been cosmic simulacrums and all, especially with:

    It's technically the first time he's proposed to her

    Yeah I got nothing, except that comics are awesome!

    Amongst other recollections, Jean flashes back to the famous butte scene from X-Men #132

    Ha! I love how they cut away from the panel just milliseconds before it turns massively awkward for Scott as he realizes the allusion.

    Of course, her also having to conflate that with the fact that on those same towers she also remembers having recently been banging with his brother as his estranged wife, whom he had left not too long ago, for herself... what is she feeling towards her "sisters" around now? "with all those things Phoenix... and Maddie... did..." Is she talking about things like the asparagus thingy, or Scott?

    I also wonder if they had to actively take in consideration what had recently been happening over at the Spidey titles so that things wouldn't go too much along the same paths across the line. Hitherto a superhero wedding had been a kind of biggish event not to be done too often, once a decade really maybe per publication house, not counting for the Wolverine one which didn't end well and kind of read like a dress rehearsal for Scott's and Maddie's really or supporting character ones like J- Jonah Jameson's and Marla Madison's. Now they'd be having two big ones almost in one go should they have green-lighted Scott's and Jean's.

    I actually didn't quite like it when it finally happened some years into the 90's, mainly the execution bit. The 80's ones were three-four page affairs, and even then the character interactions were primarily interested of the long-term plot developments, with the atmosphere of a Dallas wedding where someone would always be punched into face and thrown into a pool; whereas Scott+Jean was in execution more like The Bold and The Beautiful sort of thing where the plotting department didn't get invited and the budget goes towards the flowers and decorations and ceremonial procedures and all-around external showcasing purposes.

    Anyway, I hope it wasn't by crushing that Sabretooth killed Mole. That's almost unnecessarily harsh development overall. "Okay, he proposes. And?" "Yeah, she blows him off, and we kill a kid for a M*A*S*H whiplash."

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  7. Anonymous: Scott really is a romantic- what girl doesn't want to be proposed to shortly after 2 teenagers she's mentoring go missing?

    Yeah wherever they could have gotten this model of thinking? "Oh no, my young wards, lost in a vulcano base crumbling, with no one having yet seen the bodies! I guess I'm off to space vacation with my girlfriend."

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  8. Let's see... Scott doesn't acknowledge Rachel as his daughter, ignores the New Mutants, sends Nathan to the future...

    Dude is the most passive aggressive baby daddy of all time. At least Wolverine fights with his kids, that's a kind of paying attention.

    I've always thought Archangel looked weird when he tucked his wings in. Those spikey things coming out of his back just don't work.

    Are we up to X-Factor: Prisoner of Love yet? That was the only X-Factor story I read from this era and wow was it bizarre.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  9. @wwk5d: though I guess her concern is more they'll interrupt their talking more than any potential harm.

    Yeah, I took her concern to be more tongue-in-cheek/mocking than genuine.

    @Nathan: Why would Louise be directly undermining CC's plans, or was she being forced to by Harras?

    She could have just been using the term because it sounded cool/portentious/Apocalyptian and/or in complete ignorance of Claremont's plans. There's also nothing in the text of this issue that directly links Caliban to the DoFP future.

    Did Harras want the major villain introduced under his editorialship of X-Factor to become the #1 X-villain and this is how he planned to do it?

    I dunno, I don't think even Harras is that petty. He's got Liefeld on NM, Silvestri and (soon) Lee on UXM, Portacio coming up on XF, his books are rolling in the dough at this point. He'll do everything he can to keep those money making artists on the books, but I don't think he was terribly concerned with the legacy of a character created by other people under his watch a few years earlier.

    @Jonathan: When you think about it though, Bobby dragging Not-Cable on a date with Opal is kinda in character.

    Oh, it is. It still just seems odd. Maybe it's the new father in me, but there's no way a baby is just going to hang out sleeping in that stroller for the duration of that date. That Iceman doesn't realize this is in character; that Opal isn't questioning it, maybe not so much.

    I generally like all the comic book ones, even though they tend t entice...mixed feelings among the comic book community.

    Me too!

    @Anonymous: Scott really is a romantic- what girl doesn't want to be proposed to shortly after 2 teenagers she's mentoring go missing?

    Is timing is indeed not great here, for multiple reasons, including but not limited to Rusty & Skids.

    @Teemu: You know, a while back I likened Havok to be the Ross Geller of Marvel Universe, but, if these people here are going to be on pause and have sabbaticals

    Eh, it's never quite as formal as "we were on a break!", even if you side with Rachel that they weren't.

    Ha! I love how they cut away from the panel just milliseconds before it turns massively awkward for Scott as he realizes the allusion.

    Let's just say I thought of all of us, and our discussions of all the sexual things Jean now has memories of despite never actually doing during the Scott/Jean scenes in this issue. It's like Simonson wrote them just for us! :)

    "Oh no, my young wards, lost in a vulcano base crumbling, with no one having yet seen the bodies! I guess I'm off to space vacation with my girlfriend."

    Like father (figure), like (pseudo) son.

    @Mike: Are we up to X-Factor: Prisoner of Love yet? That was the only X-Factor story I read from this era and wow was it bizarre.

    Close. I have it on the list, I think it should appear sometime early in the second half of the year.

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  10. Teebore: Let's just say I thought of all of us, and our discussions of all the sexual things Jean now has memories of despite never actually doing during the Scott/Jean scenes in this issue. It's like Simonson wrote them just for us! :)

    Verily. Were it not for the convenient time-span of 25 years from the publication, one would indeed become suspicious.

    I haven't read the issue, so was it all about Scott or do Alex, the Kirinos beach gigolo Nikos and, just maybe, someone shorter and hairier come up, even in any poorly-drawn vague allusion sort of way?

    even if you side with Rachel

    We are not going to do this, Teebore.

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  11. @Teemu: I haven't read the issue, so was it all about Scott or do Alex, the Kirinos beach gigolo Nikos and, just maybe, someone shorter and hairier come up, even in any poorly-drawn vague allusion sort of way?

    Pretty much just Scott. She sees someone she thinks is Muttonchopped Mastermind, she flashes back to the butte, scenes of Scott telling Phoenix and Maddie he loves her, etc.

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  12. Muttonchopped Mastermind

    Truly, the Awesome Android has met his match.

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  13. @Teebore: Apocalypse refers to Caliban "ushering in the [upcoming] dark times" two issues earlier and as I mentioned there was the Cliff Biggers interview where Rob made it clear the "dark times" were intended as the future seen in Days of Future Past. So Louise or Harras must have made that link since he was only new and wouldn't have been directing X-Factor plots that soon.

    Re: Harras, why would Claremont change his plans from "classic Major villain" behind Weapon X to Apocalypse when the villain wasn’t even his own creation!? He can’t have made that decision all by himself! With regard to Harras being that petty, Claremont isn't the only one that's stated this, but Fabian Nicieza, Al Milgrom, Louise Simonson… a flame about this high;)

    @Teemu: Alex, Nikos(Mastermind) on Kirinos and Logan don't come up but we’re talking Weezie here. She mucked up heaps of Chris’s continuity at this time, including claiming young Nate was the kid who physically bullied Scott at the orphanage in the flashback scene in X-Factor #35 when we know that was Toby! She just couldn’t get things right:(

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  14. @Nathan: So Louise or Harras must have made that link since he was only new and wouldn't have been directing X-Factor plots that soon.

    But if Rob was still so new, would Louise/Harras have even told him about those plots by the time he was interviewed?

    I mean, sure, they could have, but it's equally possible he was just making stuff up.

    Re: Harras, why would Claremont change his plans from "classic Major villain" behind Weapon X to Apocalypse when the villain wasn’t even his own creation!? He can’t have made that decision all by himself!

    Why not? Couldn't have Claremont have been like, "wow, that Apocalypse guy is pretty neat villain. I think I'll use him."? Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Wolverine, Banshee, Professor X, Cyclops and Jean Grey were all created by other writers, but Claremont still took them in and wrote some fantastic stories about them. It's not like he wasn't willing to use other creators' creations, so why not Apocalypse? Isn't it possible that he thought about it and decided that making Apocalypse the villain behind Weapon X was a better idea than whatever his original plan was?

    To each his own, of course, but while I love a good conspiracy theory, and I love Claremont's writing, I also don't think the explanation to everything has to be the former, and I don't think the idea Claremont didn't use is automatically better than the one he did just because it wasn't used.

    including claiming young Nate was the kid who physically bullied Scott at the orphanage in the flashback scene in X-Factor #35 when we know that was Toby!

    Except Toby hadn't been created yet when Simonson named Nate as the bully. So technically, that's Claremont walking all over Simonson's continuity.

    Besides, I'd argue that both of them are right, and that both Nate and Toby bullied Scott, albeit in different ways.

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  15. @Wodehouse (sorry I mean Teebore;): A little too coincidental that Apocalypse refers to Caliban ushering in the “dark times” as his First Hound and it not being tied into the Hound program of DoFP. Liefeld had to be in the loop by then as Harras ran a tight ship about what was and wasn’t spoken about through promo (and Rob was his new golden boy by then).

    Making the ancient mutant Apocalypse the progenitor of a programme in Canada of all places makes no sense (or for that matter that the Canadian government would agree to such a programme on their soil;) And I can’t believe the retconning of Apocalypse into all this wasn’t somehow influenced by Harras.

    Re: Toby, Simonson was walking all over Claremont’s continuity by jumping the gun on his planned origin for Mister Sinister, IMHO. And Nate/ Lefty was shown to be physically bullying Scott in those flashback scenes in X-Factor #35, and taller and dark-haired when we know he was smaller than Monsieur Summers and blonde;)

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  16. Yeah I still maintain that Weapon X was the project of Leland Owlsley's to create the Ultimate Owl, but Logan ran away before they managed to have the wings fitted and the surplus wings got then planted on Warren by the upstart Apocalypse who is in habit of scavenging any leftover tech.

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  17. @Nathan: Making the ancient mutant Apocalypse the progenitor of a programme in Canada of all places makes no sense (or for that matter that the Canadian government would agree to such a programme on their soil;)

    *shrug* I can. Apocalypse knows no borders. Who says the government would have even known Apocalypse was involved. And later stories established that Weapon X was bigger than Canada (and "X").

    And it's all a moot point anyway, since Apocalypse never actually *was* established as the villain behind it.

    Simonson was walking all over Claremont’s continuity by jumping the gun on his planned origin for Mister Sinister, IMHO.

    Fair enough, but to be clear, we don't *know* that Simonson had the first clue what Claremont had planned for Sinister's origin, and thus may have been walking all over it unintentionally, any more than we know that she was completely ignorant. This is all just supposition on our part, and I'm not going to automatically assume the worst just because Claremont is Claremont.

    And Nate/ Lefty was shown to be physically bullying Scott in those flashback scenes in X-Factor #35, and taller and dark-haired when we know he was smaller than Monsieur Summers and blonde

    Just cuz Nate didn't physically bully Scott in the Claremont story doesn't mean he couldn't have been doing it at other times. As for the different appearances, artistic license. :)

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  18. "But if Rob was still so new, would Louise/Harras have even told him about those plots by the time he was interviewed?"

    Its possible. CC and co. might have have already been planning "The Mutant Wars" story at this point (which ended up being dropped for X-tinction Agenda), so who knows? Rob might have been given a general idea of what had been planned, even without the details.

    "Why not? Couldn't have Claremont have been like, "wow, that Apocalypse guy is pretty neat villain. I think I'll use him."?"

    Given that it was teased in The Jungle Adventure, I'm with Teebore on this one. hell, it makes more sense to have Apocalypse as opposed to say, Von Strucker being involved.

    "This is all just supposition on our part"

    Jumping to conclusions without credible evidence of any sort is what leads to fake internet rumors. Plus, CC and Simonson were always good terms, so any inferred nefarious motivations on here part is just bunk.

    Now, had it been Byrne instead, i could see it that way ;)

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  19. Still outstanding is the classic Marvel villain Claremont originally intended behind Weapon X, before X-Factor started and Harras came on board as editor of the X-line!

    If I can ever get to a con' with CC I am going to flat-out ask him.

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  20. @Teebore: // She sees someone she thinks is Muttonchopped Mastermind //

    Who turns out to be… a woman in a floppy hat. I know there was a purple cloak-ish thing involved, but there’s really no likeness.

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