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Friday, June 19, 2015

X-amining X-Factor Annual #5

"Act of Faith"
1990

In a Nutshell 
X-Factor joins the fight against Ahab as Rachel Summers and Franklin Richards meet in the present. 

Writer: Witty Weezie Simonson
Penciler: Jovial John Bogdanove
Inker: Amiable Al Milgrom
Letterer: Just Joe Rosen
Colorist: Brilliant Brad Vancata
Editor: Bib Boy Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom "Yah Readahs Are Dyin' Off" DeFalco

Plot
As X-Factor trains inside Ship, Franklin Richards appears outside, declaring it isn't right before making Ship disappear. As X-Factor scrambles to get to the ground safely, Franklin vanishes. As Ahab dispatches a pack of Hounds to attack Franklin, Ben Grimm, She-Thing, Human Torch and Forge, tracking Franklin's energy signature, meet up with X-Factor, and X-Factor agrees to help locate Franklin. They find him near Liberty Island, but just then, Rachel Summers arrives. Franklin, believing Rachel shouldn't be so powerful and Rachel, believing Franklin to be dead, battle one another until Franklin disappears again. Jean Grey, drawn to Rachel's Phoenix effect, confronts her, and learns the young woman is her daughter.


Meanwhile, Ben Grimm, She-Thing, Cyclops and Archangel locate Franklin, who is under attack by a Sentinel sent by Ahab, but then an unharmed Franklin makes it disappear before vanishing as well. Regrouping on Liberty Island, the assembled teams are attacked by Ahab and his Hounds, who seek to retrieve Rachel, his greatest warrior. But Rachel destroys all the Hounds before flying off, forcing Ahab to call forth more from the future. Just then, Banshee, the New Mutants and the rest of the Fantastic Four arrive and join the fray. Working together, they destroy Ahab's time displacement technology, sending him and his hoard back to the future, though Iceman and Archangel are wounded in the process. In the aftermath, Franklin appears again, telling Cyclops that Rachel is his only child, that Christopher was never supposed to be born, and so he makes Christopher disappear, leaving behind a devastated Cyclops.

Firsts and Other Notables
After a few near misses, this issue marks the first encounter between Jean Grey and her daughter from an alternate timeline, Rachel Summers. Coming as it does in the midst of Jean's struggles reconciling her memories with those of Maddy and Phoenix, on top of her recent refusal to marry Scott, she's not terribly receptive to the idea of meeting a grown daughter she had with Cyclops, but the relationship between the two will warm over time.


Cyclops also learns that Rachel is his daughter in this issue, something earlier stories suggested he already knew, even as Rachel withheld the information from him and believed him to be ignorant, though his reaction here suggests he had no clue despite their earlier time together.

The second story in this issue deals with Jean visiting her own grave and coming to terms with her current situation via a chance encounter with a holocaust survivor at the cemetery. It's titled "Tribute the First", with "Tribute the Second" being the title of the Doug Ramsey story in New Mutants Annual #6 (another indication of the botched annual order). I believe "Tribute the Third" appears in next year's X-Factor annual. 

The issue also includes an X-Factor pin-up by Dale Keown and Bob McLeod, and an ad for the upcoming Prisoner of Love graphic novel.


Creator Central
Jon Bogdanove, who worked with Louise Simonson previously on Power Pack (and will re-team with her on DC's Man of Steel series), provides the art for this issue. He will serve briefly as X-Factor's regular penciller, from issue #59 through #62. Whatever charm his work had on Power Pack is starting to slip away, as much of what we get here is distractingly-big lips and twisted, misshapen anatomy, which will characterize his short X-Factor run. 

The Chronology Corner 
Despite what the cover says, this is actually the third part of "Days of Future Present", with a footnote inside assuring readers that New Mutants Annual #6 occurs before it.

X-Factor appears in this issue between issues #58 and #59 of their series. 

A Work in Progress
This issue reveals that Ahab's harpoons can transform to energy, and have the power to transform individuals into hounds against their will.


Beast is somehow aware of Rachel's true identity, and the relative state of who knows about her, as well as Rachel's memory problems, and I'm not entirely sure how he'd know any of that at this point.


Jean notes that Rachel is the same age as she is.


Adult Franklin declares that baby Christopher will have more power than all of the assembled heroes.


Wolfsbane and Rictor are not amongst the New Mutants who appear in this issue.

Young Love
The Scott and Jean angst, a remnant of Scott's failed marriage proposal, looms large over this issue.


Jean and Forge are seen briefly talking in this issue, a nod to the short-lived idea of a romantic subplot between the two we'll see develop in Forge's two upcoming X-Factor guest appearances.



Teebore's Take
Questionable Bogdanove art aside, this is probably the strongest chapter yet of the story. Franklin's whole schtick is still a mystery, but this issue at least brings Rachel (setup in chapter 1) into the mix, and in doing so, gives us a fairly significant moment for the overall X-narrative, the first encounter between Rachel and the real Jean Grey. And continuing the trend of increasing Ahab's role with each chapter, this issue finds the villain leading his forces into battle himself, finally giving him more to do than just glower from his time-displaced fortress. He still remains a one note villain (we don't really know WHY he's so intent on stopping Franklin and preserving the timeline, other than "it's his job"), but it's nice to see him out in front instead of hiding behind even more generic lackeys. With a better artist involved, this would easily standout as the best X-Factor annual yet; as it is, it still probably takes that honor, just for actually doing something that has a significant impact on the characters. And it's nice to see the "Days of Future Present" story ramp up as it heads into its conclusion, even if the whole point of the thing is still something of a mystery.

Next Issue
Next week: X-Men Annual #14, New Mutants Summer Special #1, and Wolverine #27. 

Collected Editions

 

13 comments:

  1. There's a tumblr blogger I follow who does nthing else but kvetch about how women are drawn, with a lot of hate for the "boobs and butt" pose. Jean Grey in image 4 above is a classic example of it. (Not that I personally mind, y'know, just an observation).

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  2. Jean claims that Scott never figured out Rachel's identity because Rachel was tampering with his mind. Another way of looking at that scene is that Jean doesn't want to admit she's in love with an idiot.

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  3. "Whatever charm his work had on Power Pack is starting to slip away, as much of what we get here is distractingly-big lips and twisted, misshapen anatomy, which will characterize his short X-Factor run."

    The funn thing is that you can say that characterizes the work of a lot of the "Image" guys (Look at Mary-Jane Watson Parker around this time period and try to figure out just when she became a collagen-stuffed Chinese acrobat.) But generally, I DO agree that the art here isn't all that great.

    One thing I do like is the way Simonson (and Claremont) has shown Jean constantly resisting the pre-written "script" of her life. Not just in this issue, but throughout her turn in X-Factor (last seen re: Scott's marriage proposal.) It's as if even Jean is annoyed by the convoluted editorial mandates toward her life and is desperately trying to reassert her own course in life. Even under Simonson's rather melodramatic hand, I find Jean's resistance toward her seemingly predestined fate pretty intriguing.

    On a similar note, I also liked that Jean didn't immediately embrace Rachel. Usually anytime future/alternate children (or other "family" members) come to 616 time, they are quickly embraced without any consideration for how unnerving it would be. It's practically a cliche. There's also the slight sexism in expecting a female character to instantly have their "maternal instinct" switched to "on" the minute a person demands parenthood of them. I'm glad both tropes got subverted as defiance of expectations. I call BS on Jean and Rachel being the same age, though. Even with Comic-Book Time and all of Jean's contrived existence, she (and the other "original" X-Men) are suppose to be older then most of the other X-Men. Rachel was generally a late teen when she first joined the X-Men. I image Jean and Rachel to be on the opposite end of the 20s at this point. I hope Simonson was talking figuratively and not literally when the age thing was mentioned.

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  4. Rachel was said to be a "teenager" in Excalibur 1, so she's probably 19. Jean was said to be 25 when she died in Uncanny 137, so she's at least 25 now. What I think Jean meant was "How can I have a daughter 6-7 years younger than me?"

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  5. This annual sounds more entertaining and crucial to the line than a lot of the regular X-Factor issues at this time, to be honest.

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  6. @Jonathan Washington

    The funn thing is that you can say that characterizes the work of a lot of the "Image" guys (Look at Mary-Jane Watson Parker around this time period and try to figure out just when she became a collagen-stuffed Chinese acrobat.) But generally, I DO agree that the art here isn't all that great.

    I mean, Mary Jane was a model. Maybe she got a boob job and lip filling as a wedding present right when McFarlane came aboard.

    Re: Jean's age. She was cocooned at like 23 or so. Its been maybe a couple years since FF/Avengers found her. She probably just feels like she is 25 and her body is that age too, but has the memories of 60 year old.

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  7. This issue reveals that Ahab's harpoons can transform to energy

    Like that other guy, what'shisname, from Marauders. Got harpoons. What with having been but a very stereotypical Inuit villain (!) and quite a wallflower, it would be nice to know that Kodiak finally made it big in the distant future that is 2013.

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  8. Actually thinking it over, I'm starting to believe Harpoon was really the brain in the outfit and their field leader. The Marauder assaults always started with him throwing his harpoon as would be fit as the chief's prerogative and it's also him who incapacitated Colossus and Kitty in the Morlock tunnels. Everyone else but him were always just flapping their mouths most uselessly.

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  9. // another indication of the botched annual order //

    No kidding. At least I get why “Tribute the Second” was called that now.

    // The issue also includes an X-Factor pin-up by Dale Keown and Bob McLeod //

    Of Beast and Marvel Girl just, y’know, surrounded by bizarre creatures while apparently standing on the bottom of the ocean.

    // X-Factor appears in this issue between issues #58 and #59 of their series. //


    So Archangel’s back in the X-Factor fold by then, I guess. Forge says it’s good to see Jean, which makes sense given the future tense of the story but is jarring since we’re not done with them hanging out for the first time in Uncanny yet. (I had/have no idea about those upcoming appearances with potential romance you later mention.) Also, Scott’s dislike of having Forge around feels weird in that it references the seemingly forever-ago depowering of Storm, even as not having him reference Forge and Banshee’s current team-up with X-Factor in Uncanny is admittedly consistent with Scott not being part of those scenes to date.

    // Beast is somehow aware of Rachel's true identity, and the relative state of who knows about her, as well as Rachel's memory problems, and I'm not entirely sure how he'd know any of that at this point. //

    I was going to bring that up, so it’s nice to hear that it confused you too.

    // Jean notes that Rachel is the same age as she is. //

    Yeah, no.

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  10. > It's titled "Tribute the First", with "Tribute the Second" being the title of the Doug Ramsey story in New Mutants Annual #6 (another indication of the botched annual order). I believe "Tribute the Third" appears in next year's X-Factor annual.

    Yeesh!...I really need to find time to reread these annuals in the correct order one of these days. I'm sure I wasn't the only who was confused by this whole thing. What a mess.

    > Re: Jean's age. She was cocooned at like 23 or so. Its been maybe a couple years since FF/Avengers found her. She probably just feels like she is 25 and her body is that age too, but has the memories of 60 year old.

    I think we can say Jean is in her "early 20s", at this point, and probably leave it at that. I recall an issue of X-MEN shortly after Scott and Jean were married when the two of them went to visit Joey and Gailyn (Jean's sister's kids). Scott mentioned in dialog that he was 25. Jean's younger. IIRC the original X-Men from oldest to youngest -- Hank, Scott, Warren, Jean, Bobby.

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  11. Zephyr -- "I mean, Mary Jane was a model. Maybe she got a boob job and lip filling as a wedding present right when McFarlane came aboard."

    I could almost buy that from Stan Lee's vapid, shallow Mary Jane of the sixties. But she had become much more than a caricatured party girl by the time McFarlane gave her a makeover (not through developments I was necessarily a fan of, but it was established).

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  12. That "fire & ice" bit between Bobby & Johnny perfectly encapsulates the dude-bro personas both characters were written as during this time period. ;-)

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  13. I hated Bogdanove at the time too, but I realize now that when he's not rushed, he is an absolute master of anatomy and body language. A great cartoonist and classic illustrator in one.

    His best work was on Power Pack and the early run on Man of Steel (teamed up with inker Dennis Janke).

    Nowadays he apparently does some of DC's merchandising art, taking his place alongside other masters like Jose Luis Garcia Lopez.

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