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Friday, January 29, 2016

X-amining X-Factor Annual #6

"King of Pain - Kings of Pain Part 4" / "Sacrificial Lamb - The Killing Stroke Part 3"
1991

In a Nutshell 
X-Factor enters the fight against Proteus, while Freedom Force's mission ends badly. 

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Terry Shoemaker, Steven Butler (2nd Story)
Inker: Al Milgrom, Joe Rubinstein (2nd Story)
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Brad Vancata, Mike Thomas (2nd Story)
Assistant Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
1st Story: X-Factor arrives in Edinburgh, recognizing the disruption of reality being caused by Proteus and vowing to stop him. Fighting their way through the warped reality, they find Proteus holding both his mothers, Harness and Moira, captive. X-Factor attacks, but Proteus proves to now be immune to metal. He teleports X-Factor into his mind, where the combined New Warriors, X-Men and X-Force are waiting. Realizing that the emptiness inside his mind is what Proteus defines as happiness, Cyclops argues that they should give it to him, by convincing Proteus to kill himself. The group is divided, with Jean and Cable leading the argument to try and help Proteus instead of leading him to his own death. Ultimately, Proteus retrieves the heroes from his mind, and they offer him an alternative, to use the synthetic bodies created by AIM to house his form. But Proteus says this would mark him as a freak, and unwilling to live like that, chooses to leave the flawed world and go somewhere better, ending his life. In the aftermath, reality returns to normal, and the shadowy figures behind Proteus' resurrection, Gideon and Toad, call the entire affair a draw.

2nd Story: In Kuwait City, the divided Freedom Force fights back against Desert Sword. Avalanche and Crimson Commando, hurt even worse by the mines, manage to reach a helicopter for evacuation, but incoming enemy aircraft prevents them from reaching Pyro and Blob. Upon learning that Kurtzman is dead, and with Crimson Commando's condition worsening, Avalanche tells the pilot to bug out, leaving his teammates behind. Abandoned and alone, Pyro and Blob surrender to the Iraqi forces, putting an end to Freedom Force.

Firsts and Other Notables
With a government-sponsored X-Factor on the horizon, the second story in this annual marks the final appearance of Freedom Force, as Avalanche and a badly injured Crimson Commando manage to escape Kuwait, leaving behind Blob and Pyro. Crimson Commando's injuries were intended to setup a new cybernetic appearance for the character, as he was once slated to appear in Erik Larsen's version of the revamped X-Factor. Though Larsen ultimately left that project and Crimson Commando wasn't kept on as part of the new X-Factor, when he and Avalanche next appear, in X-Men Annual #2, Commando will still sport a new cybernetic look as a result of the injuries he receives here. Blob and Pyro, meanwhile, next appear as members of a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.


Given the upcoming linewide relaunch of the X-books, this is the last X-Factor annual to feature the original team. 

The shadowy figures orchestrating the events of this story are confirmed to be Toad and Gideon. Toad last appeared in the second Vision & Scarlet Witch miniseries, and his appearance here and role as a behind-the-scenes schemer is setting up a brief renaissance for the character, as he will become the leader of a new iteration of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (which is referenced in his dialogue here).


Proteus, resurrected in the previous chapter of the story, dies again this issue, choosing to end his existence than live life, as he perceives it, as a freak. His end suggests that rather than death, he may have passed on to another reality/dimension, but that never really goes anywhere. Proteus will return (and die again) during the "Necrosha" story. 


This is essentially the last time until after "X-Cutioner's Song" that any of the other X-teams work alongside X-Force, which pretty much stick to their own book after this and quickly get looked down upon by the other teams due to their methods.

Midway through this issue, we get a roll call of all the characters involved, showing just how huge the cast of the story is at this point.



The third story in this annual, titled, appropriately enough, "Tribute the Third", shows Mystique dealing with the loss of Destiny (it's actually a really good story - Mystique, aboard a cruise ship, remembers a previous trip on that ship with Destiny, in which Destiny tried to get Mystique to lighten up, then predicted she eventually would. In the present, Mystique tosses Destiny's ashes overboard at the exact time Destiny's will said to do so, and the ashes get blown back into Mystique's face, making her laugh. It's surprisingly touching). Written by Peter David, it is his third (and final) "Tribute the __" story ("Tribute the First" was in X-Factor Annual #5, and featured Jean Grey visiting her grave, while "Tribute the Second" was in New Mutants Annual #6 and dealt with Ghost Doug Ramsey moving on and giving Rahne permission to do the same), though a "Tribute the Fourth", not written by David, will appear in a later X-Force annual. 


Creator Central
Terry Shoemaker, who seemed like Louise Simonson's go-to fill-in artist during her runs on New Mutants and X-Factor, gets one last hurrah before the linewide relaunch and full Image-ization of the X-books.

The Chronology Corner
This issue is considered to take place between X-Factor #64 and #65, notably because Jean Grey specifically laments her lack of telepathy (which she regains in the subsequent story) and because Cyclops doesn't appear terribly broken up about the fate of his son (not that we'll ever really see that in the actual aftermath either). Given that the New Mutants are already X-Force, this would suggest that they abandoned the mansion shortly after the events of X-Men #273, which would provide X-Factor the opportunity to have scrambled the locks to the X-Mansion between New Mutants #100 and Annual #7, if they'd somehow learned of the New Mutants vacating it. 

Mystique's appearance in "Tribute the Third" occurs between her appearances in X-Men #255 and New Mutants #87, and could be reasonably assumed to be the explanation for her absence from Freedom Force circa Avengers #312 (when Blob, Pyro and Avalance attack the Avengers and Mystique is said to be off dealing with Destiny's death).

A Work in Progress
In the opening splash page, each character gets a caption listing their real name and codename, though Jean is just "Jean Grey".

Representatives of America (Captain America), the UK (Captain Britain) and Russia (the Red Guardian) confer with X-Factor.


Iceman appears to be wearing his inhibitor belt this issue. 

Moira's clothes have changed between the last chapter of the story and this one.

Proteus' allergy to metal, which led to his destruction in X-Men #128, is no longer in effect, forcing the heroes to come up with an alternative to defeat him.


Legion erroneously refers to his telepathic persona as "Jemali"; he's actually Jemail (though that could just be a typo). 

Shatterstar, illustrating X-Force's ethos, says that all that matters is the ends, not the means.


In an odd panel at the end of the issue, we see the image of Shadow King hovering over Moira, which I assume means either that he's taken full control over the Muir Island X-Men again, or else that his influence is what led to Moira being okay with Proteus killing himself.


The Cable Guy
To the shock of everyone present, Cable argues vehemently against convincing Proteus to commit suicide, with Beast specifically referencing the "open hand" approach (which will later be used in discussions about X-Force post-"X-Cutioner's Song"). While in hindsight this reads as, perhaps, Cable reacting to the circumstances of his childhood, at the time I suspect it was simply a means to inject a strong opposition voice in the most surprising way possible, adding some depth to Cable's character in the process.



Teebore's Take
Well, this is where things get ugly. The last thing "Kings of Pain" needs is more characters, but these annual stories require four parts and for the X-books, that means four teams, so we have X-Factor added to the mix. Their involvement in the story is organic enough (and it even takes advantage of the team's' rarely-invoked status as the "public" mutant group to do so), and given that they're the stars of this chapter's book, they understandably get most of the spotlight (so much so that, by the end, the climax of the story involves them, Moira and Cable, with almost everyone else literally just standing around watching; it was fun to see the New Warriors hanging out with X-Force, but I hope no New Warriors-only fans hung around for this). All of which is fine. But it's really hard to get too excited about a story that ends with the heroes arguing over whether or not they should convince the villain, a villain who is, at least in part, an abused teenage boy, to commit suicide, and that wants the audience to be rooting for the pro-suicide side. Proteus is a massive threat, yes, and defeating him would be hard, but that just seems out of character, at least for 1991.

After Proteus is defeated, we get a few pages tying up the stories' earlier threads: the involvement of the "hiding behind a shell company" AIM, some dialogue teasing future appearances by Harness (she never appears again) and the reveal that the shadowy chess players behind all this are Toad and Gideon, who did it all for...reasons. All of which just serves as a reminder of just how padded and unnecessary so much of this story was, from the various "fake hirings" and dummy corporations of the first two chapters, to the numerous misunderstanding fights, to the shadowy figures being mysterious just for the sake of mystery. Four chapters is at least one chapter too many for this plot, and that's even before accounting for the fact that each chapter is double-sized (making this story, in terms of page count, essentially eight parts long, which is just ridiculous).

There are some silver linings to it: at a time when the X-books, on the whole, are poised to wipe the slate clean and, at least for awhile, actively work against or simply ignore much of their history (especially their recent history), it's fun to see some old vestiges of that history again, and this story stands as a sort of last hurrah for some of Louise Simonson's work, things like the Alliance of Evil, Artie, Leech & Taki, the Muir Island X-Men (and, of course, Freedom Force), at least in their original, familiar forms. There's also some genuine novelty and entertainment in the idea of bringing back Proteus, a character who is considered one of the X-Men's best villains on the strength of one story. Had "the return of Proteus" become a recurring thing, this would suffer all the more for it. But as one (or two) off thing, it gets to benefit from the novelty of it.

Of course, none of that is enough to save a story that is overly long, contains too many misunderstanding fights, and is crammed to the gills with characters who quickly grow unnecessary to the plot as soon as their central chapter of the story passes by (and, in the case of the New Warriors, are never really necessary at all), all of which is depicted (with the exception of Mark Bagley) via some pretty unexciting art. Between the scope of the story, the return of a classic X-villain, and the discussions of child abuse and suicide, it seems like Nicieza was swinging for the fences with this story, but in the end, it is, at best, a slow dribbler up the middle.

(A few words on the Freedom Force story that unfolded in the three X-book annuals, which is probably the best thing about these annuals. Between the sudden death of Super Sabre, the injuries to Crimson Commando, and the general sense of the team being in over their heads against Desert Sword, it's surprisingly gritty (in a good way) and bleak, and serves as an effective sendoff for a group of characters who are tied pretty strongly to the aesthetic of the X-books in the late 80s. The upcoming changes across the line won't allow for the continued existence of Freedom Force, and while at least some of the characters will find other places within the narrative, it's nevertheless appreciated that Freedom Force as a whole received some kind of formal sendoff).

Next Issue
Next week: She-Hulk #26, Excalibur #38 and Wolverine #40.

Collected Edition

38 comments:

  1. There's also some genuine novelty and entertainment in the idea of bringing back Proteus, a character who is considered one of the X-Men's best villains on the strength of one story. Had "the return of Proteus" become a recurring thing, this would suffer all the more for it. But as one (or two) off thing, it gets to benefit from the novelty of it.

    I'm totally, completely and utterly of another opinion: he truly is one of the X-Men's best villains, on strength of one story as you said, and that most classic story needed absolutely nothing to be added to it, and least of all Proteus turning everything into maths because he wants his mommy.

    "Claremont's half out of door anyway, Bob, mind if we ruin Proteus?"

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    1. It's really like they had gone and revived The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man and have him join the New Warriors as a teenage superhero.

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    2. Uh-oh. You know that someone currently at Marvel is now getting An Idea.

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    3. Yeah, but it's calculated risk still. I did intentionally desist from suggesting him teaming up with Jean DeWolff to solve street level crimes, what with the actual scary potential.

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  2. Maybe this was supposed to reflect whatever happened to Cable's son Tyler.
    Another weird thing- SCOTT supported the "let's get a teenager to kill himself" approach.
    Weirdly, the same gag with the ashes appeared in the movie Life Stinks and Mel Brooks claimed he got it from an incident involving Howard Morris's father. But Life Stinks came out 6 weeks AFTER this issue, so there's no way PAD could have swiped the gag from Life Stinks.

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    1. Another weird thing- SCOTT supported the "let's get a teenager to kill himself" approach.

      They're X-Factor. That's what they do.

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  3. "But it's really hard to get too excited about a story that ends with the heroes arguing over whether or not they should convince the villain, a villain who is, at least in part, an abused teenage boy, to commit suicide, and that wants the audience to be rooting for the pro-suicide side."
    Is that really any worse than Inferno, where a popular supporting character tries to kill her son so we don't have to care about her husband waiting months to report her missing?

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  4. "his appearance here and role as a behind-the-scenes schemer is setting up a brief renaissance for the character, as he will become the leader of a new iteration of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants"

    Unfortunately, that doesn't last long. While its an interesting idea, Scott Lobdell returns him back to buffoonish servant status a few years later in Generation X, and that is where he stays, more or less.

    "we get a roll call of all the characters involved"

    And how nice of them to be ready and waiting for X-factor in a yearbook group pose. I wonder if they were waiting the whole time in that pose...

    "Tribute the Third"

    A really great story, that also makes it obvious if you're looking what Mystique and Destiny's relationship was, even if David doesn't come out and officially say it.

    "which would provide X-Factor the opportunity to have scrambled the locks to the X-Mansion between New Mutants #100 and Annual #7"

    I guess this is as good of an explanation as we'll get.

    "Shatterstar, illustrating X-Force's ethos, says that all that matters is the ends, not the means."

    At least that is consistent with what are seeing with him in X-force...unlike Cable.

    "To the shock of everyone present, Cable argues vehemently against convincing Proteus to commit suicide"

    Which is somewhat inconsistent. It works with Cable when Simonson was writing him, it works with Cable post-Fatal Attractions, but the way Liefeld has been writing Cable post X-tinction Agenda and throughout Liefeld's run on X-force? It doesn't really work. Its possible Nicieza was basing this on Simonson's version, and wasn't aware of exactly how hardcore Liefeld would go on to make Cable. Of course, that's how Cable has been written throughout this storyline anyway.

    "it's fun to see some old vestiges of that history again, and this story stands as a sort of last hurrah for some of Louise Simonson's work, things like the Alliance of Evil, Artie, Leech & Taki, the Muir Island X-Men (and, of course, Freedom Force)"

    An unintentional last hurrah, at least. That sound people who were reading this when it came out could hear was the 80s X-franchise gasping it's last breaths.

    I think the best way to sum up this story is a big pile of....um, ok then.

    As for the Freedom Force story...it does hold really well, certainly better than the KOP story. And as downbeat as it is, it is more of last hurrah. Of course, given the way some of the characters will be written over the next decade and beyond (especially Pyro), they'll have wished they had perished along with their compatriot Super Sabre in Kuwait.*

    *Since the 80s X-france is in it's last minutes, a bit of CC-esque prose doesn't hurt.

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    1. re: the nature of Mystique/Destiny relationship, we've already been given lemans by CC. Lemanade has been made.

      I absolutely love Avalanche making the call to leave Blob and Pyro behind. That's how FF was meant to end, made all more appropriate still by their rapesque character assassination in the Daredevil story.

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  5. Yeah but I always felt this was the most overt and obvious we have gotten about the two of them (minus that one issue of Marvel Fanfare, but how many people read it at the time?).

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  6. This story did get The New Warriors more exposure since this series of annuals were part of the hype of the upcoming X-men relaunch. It wouldn't surprise me if that was Nicieza's reason for keeping the characters in the crossover even though they should have exited after their annual.

    Pyro also gets a remarkably grim moment when he kills the Veil. I've never read his non X-book appearances other than Darkhawk, so that was a bit of a turn considering his friendliness towards Longshot and his general affection for Mystique. Not saying it was out of character, just that he hadn't been portrayed that way before.

    Avalanche disappears for quite a bit of time after this. I remember wondering why Black Blade of Baghdad had no affect on him, and now I suppose it doesn't matter.

    While I was always a big X-men fan, I really have a soft spot for Nicieza's New Warriors and X-Force, hence my delurking...

    CR

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    1. Pyro was harsh on this one. I know their first mission was a very public assassination gig, and they got quite close with Colossus once, but still him killing people left and right here...

      It matters plenty why Avalanche should think himself already consigned to Hell which Black Raazer seems to be heavily suggesting. Remorse from the Evil Mutants shenanigans though they didn't really ever amount to anything? Remorse from his near black-op federal service? An insight gained from his near-death on Muir Island? Wha? It's him who effectively pulls the plug of FF, and his decision to leave Pyro and Blob behind reads like willing closing of the door for his past with the Brotherhood of which FF obviously is only a continuation. Or, rather a move to get off from the FF deal?

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    2. "Avalanche disappears for quite a bit of time after this"

      He and Crimson Commando both aren't seen again until X-men Annual #2, which comes out two years later.

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    3. Didn't Avalanche threaten to trigger the San Andreas Fault in Hulk 263? I could see why he thought he was going to hell for that.

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    4. Dear lord. What a magnificent piece of totally bonkers comic book somewhat clashing with Avalanche's every other appearance, to be started with "Author's note: Despite the near destruction of an airliner and Los Angeles International Airport, this story was not written by kamikaze Chris Claremont." I love Mantlo. Black Raazer was one of his, you know. Thank you for pointing to this story, my Anonymous friend.

      We're in beautiful "coincidences" terrain here, because upon the plain crash in question they explicitly mention about the fuel tanks miraculously not exploding and unleashing an inferno. I had to go take looksy at UXM #215, where Maddie's Boeing crashes and that exactly happens. The Old Soldiers premiere in that issue. You can believe I so wanted the panels there to be an explicit homage... first. But now I'm happy about Alan Davis drawing it awesomely instead.

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    5. "He and Crimson Commando both aren't seen again until X-men Annual #2, which comes out two years later."

      An annual I've never read (and I've never heard of the villain for that comic either). Is that the Trading Card annual?

      CR

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    6. Pyro seemed a little shaken up in the first chapter when Super Sabre was killed. He's probably operating under "kill or be killed" protocols. Though he does seem to exhibit some excessive glee as he refers to Veil as "barbecued babe" when he torches her.

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    7. He's occasionally show some signs of glee. Remember he seemed to have no problems attempting to kill the US army soldiers during DOFP.

      I don't think Avalanche's decision to leave behind Blob and Pyro had anything to other than simple salvation. Sabre is dead, he and Crimson Commando are injured...they really were in no condition to do anything but get the hell out of there, asap. Was it a cold decision? Yeah, but there weren't really any other options, and this was the most pragmatic decision of self-preservation.

      There are any number of reasons why Avalanche saw himself consigned to hell. He's a villain! They were wanted criminals before they became Freedom Force. Just because he hasn't killed anyone (that we saw on panel) that doesn't make him a saint.

      Also, Avalanche's decision has nothing to do with FF. It isn't like he has any control over the program, as we'll see soon enough as the government decides to discard FF but still keep a mutant team. And also still keep Avalanche and Commando as government agents.

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    8. wwk5d: I don't think Avalanche's decision to leave behind Blob and Pyro had anything to other than simple salvation.

      Well yeah but I meant more on the symbolic/allegorical level. It's a sound tactical choice, but there must be some undercurrents deep beneath it. Plus, they're supposed to be teammates. If it were the X-Men they would be making oh so tactically unsound choices right now. Which btw underlines the beautiful setup of the story as super"heroics"-in-war with protagonists you are not used to root for.

      Also, Avalanche's decision has nothing to do with FF. It isn't like he has any control over the program, as we'll see soon enough as the government decides to discard FF

      With that I must disagree. Avalanche's choice effectively means that FF now consists of about one and a half guys instead of four, with no much hope of renewed team spirit even if Pyro and Blob would later be recovered. The government really hasn't any other choice re: Freedom Force. The government may continue to have a mutant team, but FF was specifically a conditional pardon setup where everybody will hang if one strays. Avalanche has just freed himself of having his fortunes hang on Pyro and Blob. It's was Mystique who kept them in line to this far but now she's presumed dead and there's potential of it turning ugly. More than that, Avalanche has just carried his WWII vet Purple Hearter buddy on his back to evac point. He's set for when his future employment will be discussed.

      This is how you dismantle a villain/opponent team for a linewide overhaul.

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    9. Yeah, but not everything has a deeper meaning or should be over analyzed. FF is a team and they are teammates, true, but they're not exactly stalwart super heroes. They are likeable on some level, thanks in part to the characterization CC has given them. But them being put in a no-win situation and choosing self-preservation over valor? I can accept that as it is.

      "but FF was specifically a conditional pardon setup where everybody will hang if one strays"

      Yeah but the government can still recruit villains to the team a la Suicide Squad. Which could be worse for Avalanche because who knows who could have been recruited. There was no guarantee the government would reward any of these people for anything, the terms were work for us in exchange for not being considered as criminals. And considering how both Avalanche and Commando keep working for the government even after Freedom Force was dissolved...

      At the end, the only real deeper meaning to this seems to be Marvel wanted a government backed team of mutant operatives, whether it was by Larson/Nicieza or by PAD, and needed to clear the decks, so to speak. The only interesting part is that the Larson/Nicieza proposal had Pyro and Commando on the new X-factor team, but no mention of Avalanche.

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    10. wwk5d: Yeah, but not everything has a deeper meaning or should be over analyzed.

      True that. But, that scene and particularly the silent panel of contemplation kind on invites the reader to do some of that on this specific occasion. I grant it may also be my love for Avalanche as character that's doing it. It's funny how far one scene of someone raking a yard can go.

      The whole thing has a deeper meaning personally to me as (I may have mentioned it before ;) ) UXM #199 was my first issue and Freedom Force and their deal is subsequently one of the cornerstones of my Marveldom. An era is slammimg shut right here for me here. Avalanche btw vocally contemplates of killing Cyclops and Wolverine in that issue and regrets that them being good guys now he's not allowed. (Phew! Lucky Cyclops and Wolverine!)

      I concede I may have been a bit on the optimistic side with my on-moment assessment of future here and true enough the future issues will show a dose of healthy cynicism would be wiser choice when it's the government you're dealing with. I was trying for an in-character-here-now projection, but I gotta admit Dominic may have had less illusions about his position than I gave him.

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    11. Oh, and, I absolutely love the ending bit. A romance novelist and a rowdy utterly in lack of any nobility at it:

      - S'much for the Freedom Force, 'oy.
      - Not a bad scam while it lasted.
      - Do we make like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?
      - #$%@ no! But believe me, someone's gonna pay for this!

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    12. About a possible Suicide Squad type of team: I somehow want to see FF as a special thing as they were an already existing villain team given a conditional bunch pardon bargained by Mystique and Val Cooper. The government could of course throw in any individual villains and tell them they are a team now and that it's the FF-like deal, but isn't quite the same thing still. There wouldn't be that preceding team loalty/familiarity thing to it.

      True, they did add Spider-Woman and the Old Soldiers to FF without asking anyone, which Mystique didn't like one bit, but then again none of them were on hook for Spider-Woman's betrayal either. The Old Soldiers of course weren't villains per se but vigilante types with enough integrity to give themselves in to the officials when Storm gave them the choice and the military bearing of them not going awol at some point.

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    13. The details might differ, but for the most part, it is a similar concept; group of villains working for the government in exchange for not going to prison for life.

      The fact that Spiral, Spider-Woman, and the Old Soldiers (that's pretty much half the membership of FF) were added without Mystique's approval/consent shows that the government was in charge. It also showed that the concept of it being purely the Brotherhood working for the government also wasn't the sole cornerstone of the concept either.

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    14. Did we ever get any facts how exactly Spiral joined? She was there from the get-go already in #199.

      And yep, gotta admit Mystique welcomed Commando and Stonewall in #223 by saying that the one-screws-up-everybody-hangs applies to them too and that they answer to her with their lives if they do. Though, it should be remembered it was Mystique who originated the idea to Val and was the de facto guarantee person of it and now she's dead... ish. They would have to come up with a pretty convincing substitute for her who can keep crooks in line and actively seeks for a pardon for some reason. I don't see anyone from the Masters of Evil for example going straight.

      Plus, the candidate and members would be of course subject to Val Cooper's approval, and she... isn't exactly herself currently.

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    15. That's just Mystique posturing...and she is a good person to keep people in line. I doubt she could have added anyone without Val or the government's approval.

      "They would have to come up with a pretty convincing substitute for her who can keep crooks in line"

      Avalanche and Commando seemed to operate ok for the government without her.

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  7. Oh, and poor Gilbert Benson. I think this is one of the many reasons why I disliked Cyclops so much as he thinks that Proteus/Gilbert should just commit suicide. Harness's probably tops Mystique as the worst mother in comics and Piecemeal is the very definition of a tragic character.

    CR

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  8. But it's really hard to get too excited about a story that ends with the heroes arguing over whether or not they should convince the villain, a villain who is, at least in part, an abused teenage boy, to commit suicide, and that wants the audience to be rooting for the pro-suicide side.

    When the cover date is "October 1991", when did the book actually come out? Because, earlier that year, in May, they aired the final episode of Dallas, an "It's a wonderful life" sort of thing where the "angel" visiting J.R. is revealed to be nothing but and is trying to goard him to kill himself. (I loved the bit about J.R.'s existence having blocked Cliff Barnes from the Presidency. Yeah right he's gonna kill himself after learning that.)

    And, Proteus' undisclosed backstory has some teetering horror potential to it: how exactly did Moira find out that his son is a body vampire? Did it manifest in his teens like usually, and did it happen by him taking out his school mate Cody MacRobbins maybe? How many people had been killed before Moira got her locked up, and did she just cover it up? In the classic story Moira knows exactly how his powers work, so I doubt Kevin was imprisoned in his original own body. Could he survive the undisclosed time in cell in the last body he was in, or did Moira have to feed him from time to time with a new one? Proteus went through the bodies in quite rapid fashion in the classic story, but he was using his powers a lot too.

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    1. The book came out on June 11th. The Dallas episode was on May 3rd.

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    2. Ok, thanks. For the record, I wasn't trying to suggest anyone swiping anything. It was more of a funny coincidence if not even a lucky catching of the zeitgeist or something. Cos Proteus really is the J.R. Ewing of comic book villains. Or something.

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  9. I've never been able to buy Toad as anything more than a lackey, so he seems really out-of-character to me here and in those early X-FORCE issues.

    I agree that "The Killing Stroke" is really the strong point of these annuals. I've always thought Desert Sword was a pretty cool team, too.

    I love Peter David's X-FACTOR and would not have wanted to see it changed, but at the same time I'm very curious about Larsen's proposal. I like the idea of keeping a couple Freedom Force members on along with a newer lineup, and Crimson Commando and Avalanche were my favorite members of FF, so that would've been a good draw for me. (As it is, I never read PAD's X-FACTOR until about a decade after the fact.)

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  10. Larson's initial proposal had Havok, Polaris (with her super strength powers), Pyro, Cyborg Crimson Commando, and a character he ended up using instead for his own Freak Force...and who would have been working with him on that title?

    Fabien Nicieza.

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_ZDQFOQLZQOw/TLh4jnenqDI/AAAAAAAAAu0/VM4vCrSqK-8/s1600/fabefactor.jpg

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    1. Oh my. The visuals truly look like being from someone who reportedly regrets having handed out the design of Knockout of the Femme Fatales to Marvel.

      Of course they couldn't have had PAD for that. That star&stripes cockpiece of Commando's would've been murdered.

      I notice lack of Avalanche in the team, and am afraid to ask.

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  11. This Comic Book Legends Revealed article discusses it in more detail:

    http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/06/11/comic-book-legends-revealed-211/3/

    Apparently, while Larson and Nicieza submitted a proposal for their version of X-factor, PAD didn't...he was assigned the title and more or less seemed to inherit that line-up, I guess.

    It does make the killing stroke somewhat more interesting in hindsight...in that Nicieza was the writer who dismantled FF, and was planning on reusing some of them for his and Larson's version of X-factor.

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    1. Of course, if X-Factor was at this point set to become a/the government sanctioned mutant team, something would have had to be done to FF in any case. Unless they would finally actually do FF as it was pitched by Mystique in #199: a super team answerable solely to the White House and (Val Cooper). I'm sad they never did it like that but made FF more generally governmental from the get-go.

      Maybe FF could have been a competing, more harsher team who's special position as the presidentially sanctioned team would bring continuous clashes in the teams' jurisdictions. They'd be the Hellions to the all-new X-Factor's New Mutants.

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  12. In today's climate, Marvel would probably release both versions of X-factor. One called X-factor, the other Uncanny X-factor (or whatever adjective for either title...Uncanny, New, All New, etc).

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  13. // Harness (she never appears again) //

    She may not have been the Big Bad of the crossover in the way the shadowy AIM cabal was — or the way the reconstituted Proteus was, even — but I now get why she was front-and-center on the covers, which I questioned in my comment on Part 1’s writeup, as I read too much into her being a new member of the Alliance who isn’t ever revisited.

    // Jean is just "Jean Grey" //

    Huge missed opportunity in not having a Marvel Girl / Marvel Boy moment, especially since they both have (ugh) “teke” powers…

    // which I assume means either that he's taken full control over the Muir Island X-Men again, or else that his influence is what led to Moira being okay with Proteus killing himself //

    Or maybe that some part of Moira, at the moment mostly free of the Shadow King’s influence, knows that the renewed exertion of that influence won’t allow her to look after her son?

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    1. Huge missed opportunity in not having a Marvel Girl / Marvel Boy moment, especially since they both have (ugh) “teke” powers…

      "So I heard you too had an other version of you doing coolness in the late 70's. How's being stuck with holding the company trademark today doing for you?"

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