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Friday, January 8, 2016

X-amining X-Factor #66

"Heroic Effort"
May 1991

In a Nutshell 
Ship is destroyed as Askani arrives to protect Cyclops' son.

Plot: Jim Lee & Whilce Portacio
Script: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Whilce Portacio
Inker: Art Thibert
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Oliver/Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
An out-of-control Ship is attacking New York, with the city's heroes fighting back to protect the inhabitants. Inside, Jean realizes that Ship is infected with some kind of virus, just before Harrddrive knocks her out. Meanwhile, Foxbat attempts to abduct Cyclops' son, but he's stopped by a mysterious woman who claims to be the child's protector. However, when X-Factor arrives, alerted to the attack by Ship, they misunderstand and attack the woman, allowing Foxbat to teleport away with Christopher. With Ship's attacks intensifying, Beast insists they need to treat the disease, not just the symptoms. Outside, Charlotte Jones and a group of cops try to enter Ship, but only Charlotte gains access. Meanwhile, Beast is able to access Ship's program through a hard wire linkage, and they deduce that the infection is the work of Apocalypse.


Unwilling to be his slave once more, Ship launches into the sky, determined to blow himself up. Cyclops argues that doing so is just giving Apocalypse what he wants, but Ship is unable to stop the self-destruct process, and Cyclops tells Beast to find a way for all of them, including Ship, to survive. As the rest of the team fight back against the metal tendrils caused by the infection, Beast and Ship race to find a way to save everyone, until time expires, and Ship explodes. From the city below, the mysterious woman watches the explosion, lamenting the loss of X-Factor, before vowing to save Christopher from Apocalypse, no matter the cost. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Ship is destroyed this issue, shortly after he launches himself into space in order to prevent being enslaved once more by Apocalypse, thus ending his tenure as X-Factor's headquarters. However, next issue will reveal that Ship's program temporarily survived the physical destruction of his form, and later stories will bring him back in various forms, to varying degrees.


This issue marks the first appearance of Askani (unnamed in this issue). Presented in this story as a singular individual by that name sent from the future into the past to protect Cyclops' son from Apocalypse, later stories will established that "Askani" is actually the name of a cult of warrior women from the distant future tasked with protecting and raising Cyclops' son into Cable, and that the woman here is but one of their number.

Here, Askani says that Christopher is destined to lead his people against the foe who savaged our father, which more or less fits with the later revelations that Cable is destined to defeat Apocalypse once and for all. She also refers to Christopher as "little brother" implying a blood relation, though this is later confirmed to be merely a metaphoric relationship and not a blood one. Like Cable, Askani appears to have a bionic eye (though's Cable's eye is later attributed to the techno-organic virus his younger self will soon become infected with).


However, even later in the evolution of Cable's backstory and the Askani, it's revealed that the Askani itself is founded by Rachel Summers, who will eventually be flung into Cable's future, eventually becoming known as "Mother Askani". In what is surely just a coincidence, Askani in this issue has a facial tattoo that's not unlike the Phoenix symbol, and her oath of choice is "Bright Lady", a reference to the Phoenix-empowered Rachel that will later be used by Cable as well.

This issue contains two more Apocalypse Files pinups/text pieces, one for Iceman (who is drawn with his inhibitor belt even though Portacio has yet to draw it in an actual story) and one for Beast (whose analysis by Apocalypse, which says that if not for Xavier, Beast may have become much more closely aligned with Apocalypse, unintentionally hints at Dark Beast from "Age of Apocalypse").


Members of the Avengers and Fantastic Four, as well as She-Hulk, are seen fighting back against Ship's out-of-control attack on the city.


Though not called as such in this issue, by the appearance of the tendrils and whatnot, Ship has clearly been infected with the same techno-organic virus Apocalypse will later infect Cyclops' son with. 


On page 15, dialogue spoken by Beast is wrongly attributed to Gauntlet by the speech bubble. 


A Work in Progress
One of the cops with Charlotte refers to mutants as "moots", a term I don't think ever gets used anywhere else (Charlotte chides him for using it).


Charlotte is allowed access to Ship despite the barrier that prevents humans from entering; it's never outright stated, but this is likely due to the infection of Ship's systems at that point.


Charlotte's received a promotion, and she & Archangel are openly chummy with each other, with Charlotte calling him "Wings". 


Build Up Your Vocabulary with Beast: Perspicacious

/ˌpərspəˈkāSHəs/. Adjective. Having a ready insight into and understanding of things.
 

Teebore's Take
There is perhaps no single image that better sums up the intent of this story than the single page spread of Ship blowing up, robbing X-Factor of their now-longtime friend and headquarters, and while it's difficult to read this story and not see some of the behind-the-scenes gears moving it along, it's also hard to see that page, the culmination of a tense sequence in which X-Factor races to prevent Ship's destruction, and not get a sense that something big and epic is happening. Hindsight tells us that something significant is indeed on the horizon for these characters and this book; but the events of this issue and the way they're depicted create that sensation regardless. 

But with two chapters left in the final self-contained story featuring the original X-Factor team, this issue isn't just concerned with (literally) blowing up the book's central setting as it prepares to morph into something else. It also does a lot of work setting up another status quo change: the fate of Cyclops' son. Given it would be several years before the link between Nathan Christopher and Cable would be confirmed, it's remarkable just how many of the hints and teases dropped here fit with Cable's later-established backstory, from the look of the Askani woman to her interactions with Christopher to even the way she talks and curses. With all the creators of this issue gone by the time that link and all that backstory is established, it would have been easy to excuse big contradictions between the hints here and what's later revealed, but to the credit of those later creators, it all mostly adds up. For readers at the time, this issue contains some intriguing teases of a larger fate for Cyclops' son. For readers looking back, it's a remarkably consistent beginning to a compelling (albeit oft-convoluted) tale.

Collected Edition

19 comments:

  1. I believe Charlotte Jones was revealed to be a latent mutant. I don't know if it gets brought up until Claremont uses her in his second run on X-men, but he is the writer of this issue so he could have been hinting at it.

    I don't know if that qualifies for allowing her to get through the force field.

    CR

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    1. Huh, I don't remember that Charlotte was revealed to be a latent mutant. Then again, I've blocked a lot of Claremont's second run from my memory...

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  2. While Askani was later revealed to be a rebellion founded in the future by Rachel Grey, Chris Claremont stated on Comixfan that it was never his intention for Rachel to evolve into "Mother Askani".

    So let's look at the original details he provided:
    In X-Factor #67, it is revealed that a time-travel mishap turned Askani into pure energy, and she's only going to live long enough to complete her mission of rescuing young Nathan Summers (known as "Lord Nathan" in her future) from Apocalypse and taking him to the future to cure him from the T-O virus.

    While she refers to young Nathan as "little brother", her additional reference to "our father" when talking to him would seem to rule her out as connected to Rachel since Uncanny X-Men Annual #14, also penned by Claremont, ruled out Scott as Rachel's father.

    This might instead suggest that Askani is a future child of Scott's with Jean, given she has a Phoenix symbol at the centre of her forehead and psionic powers what with her psychic knife (well that's rather interesting isn't it;).

    However, she also refers to "The Chosen's family" instead of her own, implying she is not related.

    If you check closely, you'll recall she is also not red-haired like Jean or Rachel but more auburn.

    She also refers to Nathan's father being savaged by Apocalypse in her future's past, yet in our timeline Scott was savaged by Mister Sinister.

    She also uses phrases like "praise the light" and "merciful bright lady", terms known to be regularly used by Ororo, not Rachel.

    So who did he intend this character from a side-reality to be?

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    1. Chris Claremont stated on Comixfan that it was never his intention for Rachel to evolve into "Mother Askani".

      Yeah, that doesn't surprise me at all. I doubt even Lee & Portacio (and probably even Harras) had that in mind at this point.

      since Uncanny X-Men Annual #14, also penned by Claremont, ruled out Scott as Rachel's father.

      Did I miss that? Is that made explicit in either dialogue or narration that I'm forgetting?

      If you check closely, you'll recall she is also not red-haired like Jean or Rachel but more auburn.

      I highly doubt anyone involved was giving that precise of notes to the colorists - "make her hair red, but not that kind of red, a different red!". If anyone (Claremont, Lee or Portacio) truly wanted to hint at Askani NOT being related to Jean or Rachel by dint of hair color, then I'd think they'd have told the colorist to make her hair something COMPLETELY different - black or blonde, for example - and not just "a slightly different shade of red that is, for all intents and purposes, red."

      So who did he intend this character from a side-reality to be?

      I'm going to guess either Shadow King, or Baron Von Strucker. :)

      Seriously though, should we even assume *Claremont* intended her to be anything other than what's suggested by the text of this story? Is he considered the creator of Askani? He works on this story, but his official credit is simply as scripter. Presumably, Lee or Portacio (or some combination of both), as the credited plotters, came up with the idea for the character, possibly with input from Claremont and Harras as well. Regardless of how it all shook out, that's an awful lot of cooks in one character's kitchen to just assume Claremont had some grand ideas about the character and everyone else was working around him, when he was, essentially, the hired gun brought in for the story, and did so only to get a feel for working with Portacio, who he believed at the time would be a future regular collaborator of his.

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    2. Oh, and given later revelations that Mr. Sinister is, in part, a creation of Apocalypse, it could be said that Apocalypse did indeed savage Cyclops by proxy.

      Plus, there's that whole business with Apocalypse taking over Cyclops' body - a savaging indeed - at the climax of "The Twelve" storyline.

      Claremont obviously wasn't involved in the former, but it's generally considered he had a hand in "The Twelve" - as much if not more than the hand he had in this story.

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    3. Obviously, she is the bastard of child of Baron Von Strucker, currently possessed by the Shadow King, after receiving cybernetic enhancements by Apocalype, because Bob Harras said so.

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    4. Did I miss that? Is that made explicit in either dialogue or narration that I'm forgetting?

      Scott the hound has problems tracing her which should not happen between blood relation at all, and then Rachel takes Franklin to meet Logan of all people. She's also wearing a hat, and Scott's never been into hats, unlike...

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  3. Huh. I didn’t know Askani had appeared before The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix; then again, I also figured the woman was some version of Rachel based on the “our father” and “little brother” references — a presumption that at first was bolstered by your mention of her as Askani before you said she was merely one of a number of women called Askani, not blood relation, because I recalled wizened time-tossed Rachel as Mother Askani but not that it was a name for the whole faction, having only read The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix once a couple of decades ago, quite possibly not more than skimming it. Just another example of my near-total ignorance when it comes to X-Men history since 1985.

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    1. I definitely think we're meant to infer a connection between Askani and Rachel (and/or the Summers in genera) in this story, even if the creators involved had no concrete ideas about her beyond vague hints. The later "Rachel/Mother Askani" revelation is one of those things that, either by design or happy accident, retroactively fits the hints made here.

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    2. Still intrigued by what Claremont had in mind, given his mention of never intending Rachel to become Mother Askani;)

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    3. I wonder if such a comment wasn't more Rachel-centered than Askani-specific; maybe he meant he had other plans for Rachel and her future and really no plans for Askani at all.

      Kind of hilarious really if so, and Liefeld never meant Cable to be Summers either, and here we are with Claremont getting his one unwantedly written off to sidelines(-reals), and the Rob alike unwantedly sees the Summers mantel put on his one.

      The next issue will hint towards Askani having had a precedent in 'family' (sic) for such a time jaunt, so... see you all in two?

      Alan Davis will be soonish on the EXCALIBUR and I think he promoted the idea of Rachel's non-Phoenix powers being time travel related (which certainly would explain her curious time travel shenanigans that really aren't in line with your classic telepathy). Of course, with daddy having been a Landau, Luckman & Lake agent...

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    4. @Teemu: We should try and come up with an alternate identity for Askani as mind-blowing as my theory of Cable and Stryfe as Thomas and William Maximoff:)

      And I saw that sneaky little bit about Wolverine as Rachel's father you inserted there, yes I did;)

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  4. Ha, Nathan, this story is the only place I ever saw Askani. Didn't catch any Cyclops & Phoenix stuff, don't know squat about her/them.

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    1. @Teemu: You lucky lucky man is all I can say;)

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  5. To be fair, Teebore, i've heard that by this point Marvel (well, SOME of Marvel, anyway) had already decided that baby Nathan and Cable were the same person, so unlike a lot of "shocking revelation" around this time, the "hints" here seem to have been better coordinated than usual.

    Also Charlotte Jones isn't a latent mutant (by the way I think the "Moots" thing was Claremont trying to invoke those Funetik Akssents" he love so much). I think think she's being confused with Cecilia Reyes.

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    1. Ah, that could be. I do remember Claremont featuring Reyes quite a bit during his first return, even though she wasn't one of "his" characters.

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    2. ~ " (by the way I think the "Moots" thing was Claremont trying to invoke those Funetik Akssents" he love so much)"

      Also, it might be another reference back to Larry Hama's 'Nth Man'. In the 'Nth Man', a group of people altered by exposure to bio-weapons and the main villain's pyschic powers are known as 'Moots'.

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  6. I went down a rabbit-hole reading one of the X-blogs a while back and found somewhere fairly credible (like a collaborator interview or something) that it was Claremont, Lee and Portacio who had originally came up with the idea that Nathan C. was a Summers. Then it was back-burnered by editorial to pander to Liefeld, who didn't like the idea or, at least, had his own ideas, and keep up the mystery element of Cable that had fans eating his appearances up.

    There are too many coincidences and clear setup in this comic to not believe that is what the crew on this issue were aiming for.

    Because of the lasting impact, solid art and good scripting, this run at least ended the original X-Factor on a high note, imo.

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    1. To be clear, I have read that the "Cable is Cyclops' son" idea was something that Lee, Portacio and Claremont had settled on at this time, and that this story was written with that in mind (even if the actual confirmation was left for later writers/stories, and even if Liefeld, who was handling Cable, wasn't a huge fan of the idea). As such, the hints and teases towards that idea in this story are most definitely intentional.

      What I am doubting is that the additional revelation that Rachel is Mother Askani and responsible for arranging Nathan's trip into the future, and even the idea of the Askani as a group of people and not just an individual, was a plan in place at this time. While there are little things in this issue that, in retrospect, seem to tease the idea of Rachel being Mother Askani, that particular plot element I doubt anyone involved in this issue had in mind at the time, as it seems very much like something that somebody came up with only after the later embellishment of Cable's backstory came into place.

      If anyone has seen otherwise, that Lee, Portacio and Claremont were thinking of tying Rachel in to Askani/Cable/Nathan's origin at this point in time, I'd love to know about it.

      Because of the lasting impact, solid art and good scripting, this run at least ended the original X-Factor on a high note, imo.

      Definitely. This is easily one of the best original X-FACTOR stories, and it's nice that this iteration of the series goes out on a high note.

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