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Friday, March 25, 2016

X-amining X-Factor #1-70


X-Factor, at least in terms of the first seventy issues which comprise the initial iteration of the book's status quo, is a series that had to overcome some pretty significant deficiencies to succeed. While the book's sales during these issues were, likely, always safe, wedded as it was (at least in terms of publishing) to the bestselling X-Men and New Mutants books, it was born of an editorial fiat (the return of Jean Grey) which pissed off many fans (who believed, not without merit, that it trampled on the classic ending of the already-classic "Dark Phoenix Saga") and nearly drove Chris Claremont away from Marvel an entire spinoff series-early. Secondly, the initial premise of the series, which featured the originally X-Men posing as human mutant hunters and mutant freedom fighters at the same time, was positively dreadful, on several levels: it didn't make much sense, it made the main characters look like idiots for not realizing how idiotic it was, and it utterly destroyed Cyclops, turning a character who had received the closest thing to a happy ending one can get in superhero comics into a moronic cad who abandoned his wife and newborn so, essentially so he could runoff and play with his friends (and, of course, make time with his old girlfriend).

It also didn't help that, under initial writer Bob Layton and artist Jackson Guice, the early issues of the series eschewed a very conscious Silver Age vibe, going so far as to revert Beast from his blue and furry form to flesh-and-blood, the better to reflect the physical makeup of the original X-Men from the sixties (and perpetuate the mutant hunter ruse). The problem was that not only had all the characters, not just Cyclops, changed, developed, and grown up since those comics were originally published, the X-Men universe, and comics in general, had grown up and changed as well, making X-Factor in its initial goings read very differently than its contemporaries, both within the X-line and out.

That this original run of X-Factor is remembered at all (let alone with some affection) is down to one person: Louise Simonson. In the same way a young Chris Claremont took over the X-Men relaunch from Len Wein, Simonson came onto X-Factor early in its run and set about making it her own. In her very first issue, Apocalypse debuted, and in the process, Simonson took out a relatively goofy, old school super-villain (the Owl, who was Layton and Guice's original choice for the secret mastermind of the Alliance of Evil) and replaced him with a character who would go on to not only become X-Factor's chief antagonist, but arguably the second most significant X-Men villain of all time, one who would go on to dominate the 90s (the height of the X-Men's sales success), in the process receiving an entire, four-month long crossover event dedicated to himself.

Despite the ludicrousness of the "mutant hunter" premise, Simonson, a former editor, took her time dismantling it, to her credit. Coming aboard with issue #6, it wasn't until #26 that the final nail was put in the coffin of the mutant hunter's ruse. Slowly, over the course of those twenty issues, Simonson had the main characters begin to question the effectiveness of the ruse, even while building up a secret menace manipulating them from behind the scenes (PR man Cameron Hodge, who could make a pretty solid attempt at unseating Apocalypse as X-Factor's true villain, at least within the confines of these seventy issues). Seeing how broken Cyclops' character had become, Simonson turned into the skid, putting him through the psychological ringer and having him question his sanity, breaking him down further before building him back up (a process that took an additional dozen or so issues beyond #26, and the character assassination of his wife, to complete). During this stretch of issues, the series became deeply soap operatic, the interactions of the various characters more the focus than super-powered battles. Where Layton and Guice had tried for a retro aesthetic, Simonson did the opposite, pushing the team forward and consciously changing the characters: boosting Iceman's power, restoring Beast's furry form, and transforming Angel (in a long-running plot that mirrored the book's larger transformation) in the late 80s into the very 90s Archangel.

She expanded on the series' supporting cast as well, first, by picking up on cues from Layton and Guice (who introduced Rusty and Artie in the series' earliest issues) to create an entire group of young mutant charges (the New Mutants to X-Factor's X-Men), then by introducing reporter Trish Tilby and bringing back Angel's old girlfriend Candy Southern (adding to the soap opera feel). Post-"Fall of the Mutants" X-Factor's new base of operations, Ship, became a character in his own right, and later still, after the kids had left to officially join the New Mutants and start down the road towards X-Force, she added Opal Tanaka and Charlotte Jones, bringing back the soap opera feel after a stretch of issues in which the main characters were involved in a prolonged outer space adventure.

Simonson's run is far from perfect. As a writer, she certainly has her share of tics, and there are structural problems with the series (particularly in the back half). "Fall of the Mutants" establishes a new, and relatively novel, status quo for the characters, making them public, and relatively well-regarded, mutant superheroes, an idea that never really gets explored (or used as a catalyst for stories) all that much (if anything, the second iteration of the series, starting with issue #71, features the series finally, truly, embracing the idea of public mutant superheroes). The immediate aftermath of that idea gets steamrolled by the setup for "Inferno" and shortly thereafter, the book takes an eight issue jaunt into space for "Judgement War". Issues #51-59 represent the series embracing the concept of "public superheroes" the best, but that stretch is marred by inconsistent, often lackluster, art. After that, the book gets overwhelmed by the 90s: "X-Tinction Agenda", the arrival of Whilce Portacio (who certainly injects the series with some much needed artistic energy), and then setting up the relaunch via "The Muir Island Saga".

The other stone around the neck of the series was its isolation from the rest of the X-books. It took three "crossovers" before the X-Men and X-Factor interacted directly, with both series going to increasingly-ludicrous lengths to explain how each remained ignorant of or isolated from each other. And even after that initial first contact was made and the teams reconciled in "Inferno", all three X-books remained mostly separate: the New Mutants briefly moved in with X-Factor, a status quo that would have been worth exploring further, but then they went off to Asgard, X-Factor went into space, and the X-Men returned to Australia (and, shortly thereafter, dissolution). The series definitely lost something, not only in having to waste time explaining the enforced separation but also from not being able to, at least periodically, interact with its fellow X-books.

Ultimately, the first seventy issues of X-Factor are the tale of series succeeding often in spite of itself, a series which never quite reaches the highs of contemporaneous issues of X-Men or New Mutants, but also one which never quite reaches the nadir of those respective series, one which overcame a horrible initial premises to become consistently readable and entertaining, before eventually settling in to a middling rut, casting about for a strong artistic collaborator and never quite living up to the new premise its author so painstakingly constructed.

Five Favorite Supporting Characters

5. Rusty 
The Cyclops of X-Factor's young charges, he's a bit of a milksop, but gets points for being the first, and most-tenured, of said charges. Plus, his legal troubles give the series a bit of narrative spine outside the comings and goings of the main characters, with his principled stand to not sign the Mutant Registration Act but turn himself in to military authorities in X-Factor #33 a particularly highlight. A shame he vanishes so entirely into the ether of the 90s.

4. Boom-Boom
So painfully 80s (especially during her X-Factor tenure), I can't deny being somewhat charmed by her nonetheless. Like Jubilee would much later, she manages to strike the right balance between being disdainful of what's going on around her without making the reader feel stupid for being less disdainful of it than her.

3. Trish Tilby 
Between the presence of playboy and public mutant Warren Worthington in their midst and their roles first as mutant hunters and then as public superheroes, much of X-Factor is about the characters interaction with the media, Trish is often the focal point for that, and she works as a character because, ultimately, her purpose is the truth. She is refreshingly not anti-mutant, but also isn't willing to cover-up a story just because it paints mutants in a bad light.

2. Ship 
I have a lot of affection for Ship, who is a thematically problematic concept (what with the whole "designed to keep out non-mutants" thing) who introduces a sci-fi bent to a group of characters that don't really need it, but I still love the idea of the X-Factor living in a giant spaceship that talks to them and makes them clothes and is pretty much the sixth member of the team despite being just, you know, a disembodied voice. Ship feels very Bronze Age, the natural evolution of something like Cerebro, before the 90s makes things too dark and serious for something like a talking space ship, and X-Factor is a decidedly Bronze Age series, so it fits.

1. Charlotte Jones 
Easily the strongest of Simonson's three "love interests for the non-Cyclops men" characters. Despite being a supporting character with relatively little page time, Charlottle feels like a fully-formed character, so much more than just "Archangel's girlfriend". It's no wonder that Claremont seemingly took a shine to her (using her in Uncanny and again in his brief X-Factor run), as she reads very much like a Claremont character: a strong, decisive woman, with multiple avenues to both bring her into stories and create stories featuring her. She'll pop up in post-relaunch Uncanny a bit, but it's a shame that her heyday is limited to so few issues.

Five Favorite Covers
Despite having Walt Simonson has its regular artist for a good chunk of its existence, X-Factor has very few strong, iconic covers.

5. X-Factor #62


A bit of a cheat, since it's by Jim Lee, and he never did any interior art for the series, and it features only a few X-Factor characters on it, but nevertheless, this cover finishes off "X-Tinction Agenda" on a high note, built around the central image of Havok with some neat details (like Hodge in the foreground, and the way the orange energy burst in the background mimics the top half of the "X" in the logo).

4. X-Factor #70


A simple image from Mike Mignola, but one which conveys the tone of the contents inside and the issue's role as the epilogue to a crossover, while keeping the title characters highlighted (despite the fact that they're all but X-Men at this point).

3. X-Factor #66


Issues #65-67 are all pretty much variations on Whilce Portacio team shots, but of the three, this is my favorite, for the way it tells a bit of story, suggesting danger closing in around the characters by the way Beast, Iceman and Archangel are drawn, injects Cyclops and Marvel Girl with some emotion just from the way they're drawn, and presents a figurative representation of Apocalypse's threat, rather than just drawing in the villain looming in the background.

2. X-Factor #25


The covers to the series' three "Fall of the Mutants" tie-ins form one large image, but while the third portion of that image in #26 is a pretty standard team shot showcasing the group's new uniforms, the other two pieces are standout covers on their own. This one showcases the barbarity of Apocalypse while featuring his Horsemen rushing off to action, all while Ship looms large in the background, threatening the city itself. Rarely does the title of a crossover plastered over the logo work so well with the cover image itself: it's called "Fall of the Mutants" and there's the title mutants right there, fallen.

1. X-Factor #24


There's arguably no bigger event in the first seventy issues of X-Factor than the transformation of Angel into Archangel, and that reveal gets center stage in this cover. But it goes above and beyond by being more than just a pinup image of the character's newest look. Archangel flying right at the reader grabs immediate attention, but then the background comes into focus, as we see the rest of X-Factor restrained, adding another layer of intrigue to get readers to pick up the book and read past the cover.

Five Favorite Stories

5. "Mutant Massacre" - X-Factor #9-#10

Technically, X-Factor's contribution to the first annual X-crossover doesn't start until issue #10 and runs through issue #12, but issues #9 and #10 are the highlights of this series' contributions. #9 features a three way fight between X-Factor, Rusty & Skids, and Freedom Force, all the while setting up the upcoming massacre of the Morlocks and indirectly crossing over with Uncanny X-Men #210, a dense, "shit hits the fan" kind of issue that also benefits from some early Marc Silvestri art. Issue #10 is the debut of Walt Simonson, and he immediately makes his mark via brutal depictions of the Marauders' attack on the Morlocks, culminating in their savage beating of Angel, one of the most iconic moments of the entire X-narrative, which starts the character on the road towards becoming Archangel

4. "Judgement War" - X-Factor #43-50

I can't begrudge anyone who doesn't like this story, but I also can't deny my (admittedly questionable) love for it. It runs too long, takes the title characters to far afield from their usual surroundings and completely kills any momentum in terms of their ongoing status quo and supporting cast, but I really appreciate the way Simonson and artist Paul Smith manage to create such a richly detailed world and so many new characters, a world which, while ridiculously far away from Earth, still offers some thematic resonance for the series as a whole. And though it's not as sharp as his earlier work on Uncanny X-Men and suffers (as most art does) under Al Milgrom's inks, a big heaping helping of Paul Smith artwork is always appreciated, as he strikes the right balance between the barbarian and sci-fi stylings of the alien world, making the whole thing look a bit like an X-Factor/Masters of the Universe crossover.

3. "For All the World to See" - X-Factor #33 

A standalone issue that nevertheless builds off and sets up the issues prior to and following it, it is, like issue #9, a dense story. The centerpiece is Beast's return to blue, furry and erudite form, reversing the transformation he underwent in issue #3 and bringing to a close the "more Beast uses his strength, the dumber he gets" subplot of the previous dozen or so issues. It also brings to an end the "Mutant Registration Act" subplot, as X-Factor registers, and moves Rusty's character arc forward, as he refuses to register but does surrender to naval authorities. Finally, it features the return of Hodge (thought dead in New Mutants #62), setting up his showdown with Archangel in #34 (which in turn leads to Archangel rejoining the team for good), and becomes the first X-book to start teasing the upcoming "Inferno" crossover.

2. The Return of Apocalypse - X-Factor #65-#68

With his first two issues essentially an Iceman solo story, this four part story represents the only comprehensive X-Factor story drawn by Whilce Portacio, who reinvigorated the series' artistic energy after a series of issues featuring inconsistent and/or workmanlike artwork (or the heavy, pouty lips of Jon Bogdanove). It's also plotted by him and Jim Lee, so the overarching story is a bit of mess, but Chris Claremont's script does its best to smooth things over. With the final two issues of this iteration of the series handed over to "The Muir Island Saga", this is the last hurrah for the original X-Factor, and appropriately enough, it features Apocalypse, their biggest villain, as his machinations lead to Cyclops being forced to give up his son to save the boy's life. An obvious deck-clearing exercise for the upcoming relaunch, Claremont nevertheless wrings all the pathos he can out of the event, scripting issue #68 from Cyclops' perspective, thus giving his son, and this version of X-Factor, a proper goodbye.

1. "Fall of the Mutants" - X-Factor #24-26

Of the three X-books which led the "Fall of the Mutants" crossover, arguably no series made the event feel bigger and more momentous than X-Factor. It serves as the reveal of Archangel, cements Apocalypse as a force to be reckoned with as he unleashes his Horsemen on New York City, ends, once and for all, the titles characters' ill-conceived mutant hunter ruse (literally smashing their old headquarters to pieces in the process) while introducing new costumes for the characters and a new status quo for the series as X-Factor is embraced by the public, becoming the first mutants to publicly act as superheroes, a kind of mutant Avengers, all gloriously drawn by Walt Simonson. It is, simply, the culmination of Louise Simonson's efforts to rehabilitate the series after its misguided early issues, and while the series won't quite manage to live up to what's established here, it nevertheless stands as the apex of the series in its first seventy issues.

25 comments:

  1. pre-PAD X-Factor is a time in X-Men comics I've only recently read in it's entirety, and for the most part I found it ... not good. I grew up with Phoenix Saga era X-Men, and the 90's cartoon, so I had little nostalgia for the original X-Men for the series to latch on to.

    Of all the characters introduced, I miss Charlotte Jones the most. Other characters like Infectia and the gold trolls I don't miss at all.

    Years ago you wrote of Roy Thomas appearing to want to write any other book than X-Men, so there was a parade of other people's villains; That's much like the vibe I got from these books. Louise Simonson really wanted to write a Thor-like book, so Loki takes Iceman, trolls show up, and X-Factor get taken for the judgement war, which was fantasy with some robots more than a sci-fi, outer space story.

    That isn't to say I didn't find *any* of the run good. I enjoyed this branch of Inferno, the apocalypse finale with the loss of Nathan Christopher was excellent, and the creation of Archangel made Warren Worthington more interesting than ever before.

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    1. As Teemu said, I think some of the Thor influence crept in via Walt's influence/interests, since he was still writing THOR for a good chunk of his X-FACTOR run.

      That said, there's no denying that Simonson flailed around quite a bit post-"Inferno". X-Factor status as mutant Avengers could have easily lent itself to a wider variety of villains and stories, but even when Simonson did branch out of the X-ghetto, that was rarely the catalyst for it.

      And those gold trolls are just awful.

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  2. Simonson took out a relatively goofy, old school super-villain (the Owl, who was Layton and Guice's original choice for the secret mastermind of the Alliance of Evil)

    I haven't really met the Owl outside the Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man story (#68-69) where he and Doc Ock go on a war against each other, but in that one I think he outgrows from the goofy, admittedly on the strength of the Black Cat gruesomely getting caught in hail of bullets and harpoons of the united henchmen. Doc Ock boasting "Now, I shall clip your wings" to the Owl btw feels near prescient considering the later intended X-Factor connection.

    Besides, to not have an iconic cover with Cyclops fighting against someone with that hair and those claws is a wasted opportunity in my books.

    She expanded on the series' supporting cast as well, first, by picking up on cues from Layton and Guice (who introduced Rusty and Artie in the series' earliest issues) to create an entire group of young mutant charges (the New Mutants to X-Factor's X-Men)

    I think the most beautiful part of it is that she didn't so much create the young mutants but went on to handpick existing ones, like Leech from the UNCANNY and Boom Boom originally from SECRET WARS II. Yes, there is Rictor and Skids, too.

    Star COntroller: Years ago you wrote of Roy Thomas appearing to want to write any other book than X-Men, so there was a parade of other people's villains; That's much like the vibe I got from these books. Louise Simonson really wanted to write a Thor-like book, so Loki takes Iceman, trolls show up, and X-Factor get taken for the judgement war, which was fantasy with some robots more than a sci-fi, outer space story.

    That's an interesting point that I so much wish to argue against: without no knowledge whatsoever about the matter I would hazard to say Weezie really wasn't into doing a Thor book. It had been her husband's show lately over at Thor, and I doubt she no more than Walt who took over the drawing duties wanted to go that particular direction.

    I didn't read the early issues so I may be wrong on every account but there was a recent X-connection to Loki from the X-Men/Alpha book done under her editorship and it would be so Loki to circumvent the edict by Those Who Sit Above to get vengeance at Cyke through Iceman who wasn't part of those shenanigans and so aren't covered by the edict (I don't know if this was the motivation for him, but it's again a failed opportunity if it wasn't). The Trolls aren't Asgard trolls by any measure, but rather a gold-interested foil to the Alchemy character that went on to appear on book after winning a fan character creation contest. Regarding the Celestials, the Simonsons had for a long time had it in works to make a Celestial story (about the Dreaming one) so I think that was just to get it out of her system. Walt certainly on his part pushed to do one on his AVENGERS and FF.

    As a straight NY-based superhero team the X-Factor really should be fighting other people's non-mutant villains, than any thematical 2nd rate mutant villains, especially so as the original villains of X-FACTOR outside of Apocalypse were so offensively and painfully crappy.

    On other note, remembering how unceremoniously Weezie was pushed out of the book, I wonder how they got Claremont to do the four-parter right after that.

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    1. ... and then I go check it up and damn, I should have remembered that the Iceman/Loki shenanigans took place over at the THOR book under the other Simonson.

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    2. Good point about how Weezie assembled the X-Factor wards, rather than creating them all from scratch - a good mix of new and previously- but underused characters is always appreciated.

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  3. Weezie was a major improvement over Layton, but I think the book was mostly mediocre except for when Walt Simonson was the artist. I've read some of the post-Layton, pre-Portacio issues, and they didn't hold my interest. I don't know if the fault lies with Weezie so much as the flat visuals, but X-Factor was never a favorite of mine, pre-David/Stroman.

    If Power Pack artist June Brigman or Paul Smith in his prime had been the regular artist, though, I'd probably be more of a fan. Hell, if the Bogdanove/Austin team were working at their FF vs. X-Men level or John Buscema had gone to X-Factor instead of Wolverine or just about any solid, regular penciller had provided a consistent look, the book might be more fondly remembered.

    - Mike Loughlin

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    1. The post-Walt, pre-Simonson stretch is definitely a problem, art-wise. There's some brief spurts of decent art (Art Adams, Paul Smith) but it's always in service of a finite story. Everything else is pretty bland. I have some affection for the soap opera elements of issues #51-59, but there's no denying they'd all be much better in the hands of a consistent, more accomplished artist (though there's probably no salvaging the Ravens storyline). Portacio finally gave the series a visual identity and some pop, but by then, it was too little, too late, for both the characters and Simonson.

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  4. Here's my take on why Weezie's post-Inferno falls flat. She had nothing to build up as she did before. And that could be why it's difficult to pick great individual stories or issues.

    Now, that isn't meant as an insult. The run from when she joins till the end of Inferno works as a long run serial style of story telling. From the the start, she hits the ground running. It keeps building and building till we get to FOTM, relaxes a bit, then builds up again till Inferno. It's almost one long run that relaxes a bit post FOTM, but keeps on going. It helps that Weezie has so much going on.

    The destruction and return of Warren. And then him leaving to deal with all the changes that happen to him, before he returns to the team for good. Scott's breakdown and redemption of sorts. He and Jean dealing with their relationship and his history with Madelyne. The search for Scott's son. Beast's changes and relationship with Trish. The stuff with X-factor's charges. Dealing with Hodge and the Right and X-factor redeeming themselves after their shaky start as mutant hunters. And God knows what else I might have missed.

    These subplots drove the title for years and kept pushing the title organically for both FOTM and Inferno. Once we are done with both crossovers, the title loses steam because pretty much all of those subplots that were driving the book are now gone. Maddie was dealt with. Scott found his son, and he and Jean worked out most of their issues and were a couple again. Hodge and the Right were dealt with. The young kids were gone and joined the New Mutants. Warren rejoined the team for good. And so on.

    Now Weezie had something of a clean slate and could have moved the book into a new direction. And she did have a new status quo she could have worked with. X-factor as a Mutant Avengers, with the New Mutants living with them in ship. But she quickly shoots herself in the foot by having the team go off on their never-ending space adventure, while the New Mutants go off on their never ending Asgard adventure. And even when the teams are reunited, the New Mutants are written out to be with Cable.

    Weezie was now back to square one. Except it seems she didn't quite know what to do with the new status quo. The soap opera elements already existed in the book - heck, one could argue they were there from her early issues - but without all of the other subplots, it just wasn't that engaging, even if characters like Trish, Opal, and Charlotte were engaging.

    Now, if there had been build-up to the X-tinction Agenda the way there was with FOTM and Inferno, it could have helped. And it wasn't like X-factor didn't have reasons for that. Jean and Beast already faced off against them in their Uncanny appearances. Jean had Maddie's memories of what Genosha was. The whole idea of it should have offended the members. But, since there was no build up, possibly because CC's original idea was the Mutant Wars, and then that was scrapped at the last minute, it still would have helped had Weezie been building up to something, Mutant Wars or X-tinction Agenda.

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    1. Intriguing point about Inferno there. I've thought myself that Inferno was where most of the long-term storylines were burned for UNCANNY and the X-Men but I failed to register that it did so for X-FACTOR and NEW MUTANTS too: respectively without Maddie and Illyana both titles lost what continuous momentum they had going for them. I gotta wonder if the year-long isolated storylines on both titles were ment to thread water and give time for Weezie to come up with new long-term purposes and arcs, but all we got for that was Commander X.

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  5. While Portacio did provide the title with a shot in the arm, I'm not sure what kind of run we would have gotten with him. The final story works because, well, it's a final story, with lots of deck clearing for the relaunch, and lots of good scripting from CC. And ven with that, I feel it could have been trimmed down an issue. Still, it works, but not as a story that's part of along form.

    Otherwise, all we have is a story about cyber ninjas to represent his run, and an aborted Scott/Jean wedding that Apocalype crashes. All in all, I'm not sure Portacio would have been a good fit for X-factor as it was, a very bronze age series about the original X-men. But we'll never really know, as Protacio didn't really have a complete run here to call his own, the way Liefeld did on New Mutants or even Lee did on Uncanny.

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  6. I really dislike Rogue on X-Factor 70's cover. I'm not sure who's decision it is, but it looks like her nipple is showing on her left breast. I remember as a kid being really thrown off by this and even now I see it and think, that's her nipple. I know the coloring isn't right, but why include the dot there if you aren't trying to make that look that way?

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  7. I’m reminded as I see #1's cover again of my excitement over the potential of the series — despite knowing the reality would likely disappoint — and then reminded too of how those hopes were indeed dashed mere pages into the first issue.

    // the early issues of the series eschewed a very conscious Silver Age vibe //

    While I don’t feel that it had much of a Silver Age vibe myself, I think you feel that it did and haven’t meant to say the opposite; however, “eschewed” means “shied away from” or “rejected” and not “exuded” or “possessed”.

    I’ll agree with pretty much everything else you say about the book, although to me calling out five supporting characters as favorites is grading a limited field on an insane curve. My ranking of X-Factor’s supporting cast would be Charlotte, Ship, the phone Warren stood by all night in his underwear, Old Vlon, Scott’s hallucinations, Rusty, everybody else, Boom-Boom, and Hodge — unless we’re including antagonists who unlike Hodge didn’t masquerade as civilians, in which case pretend I’ve paused for a couple of days and then added Nanny.

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    1. Ha, I was coming to "ditto" on the cover, and then protest on things being dashed merely few pages into the issue, but then I went to check it up before commenting and only now I learn that they published it for us with the initial Colorado bit utterly cut off. I thought the start was nice and speedy with Paul Smithesque(*) Scott/Maddie dagen efter bit, to be immediately followed by short Rusty in flames introduction and Warren landing to JFK to meet Reed Richards. I snort now a bit on Warren's shedding of innocence by his acknowledging that Defenders were only apparently dead, what with the premise of the book and the issue being what it is.

      I still find the final panels of #1 haunting and full of promise for Maddie sideplot. If there only had been a Maddie sideplot. Claremont's picking it up for UNCANNY later was too late and too Marauder-infested to live it up.

      (* I am of course to some extent protected by characters sounding non-Claremontian and thus wrong by having read a translation by our usual translator... who for some reason seem to have substituted "Ulysses" for "War and Peace" as Beast's choice for light reading.)

      I too do get the Silver Age vibes for example from the Rusty fight in #1 and the clumsy panel-from-panel transitions therewith, page after page with total lack of "meanwhiles". And same again for Tower fight in #2. "Silver Age X-Men fight that-and-that, and nothing else happens meanwhile. Beginning of the issue dialogues extended for your 80's reading pleasures."

      My choice for a favorite moment is Apocalypse re-capping his history in #24. It's of course utter nonsense from the get-go with all the associated pantheons and gods obviously roaming free in the Marvel Universe, but he works it into nice hyperbola.

      I also own up buying the mutant hunting truce as a working idea. Well, initially at least. It would of course get very suspicious soon enough that every time the quarry gets intercepted by five mutants looking eerily similar to the five human spokespersons for the X-Factor. It was nice touch that everyone seemed to prefer the ordinary humans in blue and white pajamas to anyone with superpowers incl. the Avengers, but that makes it extra hard to buy that people were then embracing them, parade-like, after they went "Psyke! We've been mutants all along!"

      It was kind of exciting time in mid-80's in-universe, when there were the mutant hunting X-Factor and the Scourge of the Underworld going around with their shenanigans. They were everywhere, and I loved it.

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    2. Just for clarification: I said “mere pages into the first issue” poetically, for lack of a better word. Unlike you, I didn’t go take another look at it just now — and perhaps don’t recall the exact pacing or events of #1 as much as I would like, despite having reread it for this blog some 18 months ago, let alone recall exactly when it fell apart for me back in 1985. I just know that the first issue deflated my anticipation; the next few issues were terrible even judged against even further tempered expectations.

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    3. It was very apt note from you nevertheless methinks: for me the fastpaced #1 was working back in the day, but now I see what I had then was an abridged version and if you add the eight-or-so pages of sweet Defender nothings in Colorado right there at the opening pages it turns into porridge.

      Then again, for me UNCANNY #211 always was the golden standard of people falling from scaffolding and needing saving, so I'm put off by a similar scene even if it was published earlier. #211 was an X-Factor heavy issue with shared scene and all, so I kind of am thinking if Claremont intentionally did the scaffolding bit for meta to show how it's done correctly and compressedly and mutant-human relationswise not hamfistedly.

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    4. Sweet Defender Nothings is my new band name.

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    5. I think you mean Uncanny #210...#211 is the Mutant Massacre issue.

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    6. Pride kept me from ensuring it before posting; this is My Era, I should have the issue-by-issue content impeccably in the use memory, but I continuously seem to have it off by one issue. Thanks, wwk5d.

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  8. And because it feels like a "speak now or forever hold your peace" moment regarding Maddie, reading from grown-up's (quotation marks extremely optional) point of view, the build-up to and the first issue of the X-FACTOR reads like, or the very least can be read like Scott's and Maddie's marriage has been falling apart for a while now. I don't know if Claremont was doing it intentionally after learning of Jean's return, but Scott's not around and and Maddie does note he doesn't seem to much care during her late pregnancy, and on #201 they're having a serious kind of argument on panel. I think Maddie's perceived shrewness in #1 isn't that much a stretch, considering the build up and how you can imagine thinks have gone forward from that off-panel between the two, especially if you want to think X-FACTOR as the Scott book with maybe a somewhat untrustworthy narrator, and the UNCANNY later on the Maddie book, and it all a huge allegory of a marriage failing and the gang dividing up into his and her friends.

    She did say he can stay away if he leaves, and he wouldn't be the first, or last, man to be stupid enough to take that sort of thing for its face value. It's not what heroes do, but it is what people, sadly, sometimes end up doing. Scott Summers, the first ex-man. At least he was man enough to screw it all up himself, and not pin it on Mephisto or something.

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    1. But the fact of the matter is that Scott failed to check on Maddie- or NATHAN- for weeks, and when he finally did call and found they weren't there he waited months before reporting them missing or physically going looking for them. He waited months to report his son missing.

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    2. There's that, true. It's unfortunate and at the same time hilarious that Scott suddenly wanders "weeks" in NY docks when everything else on the book's first issues happens "few hours later" or "later that day". It looks to me the initial creative idea for the book was to have a Silver Age-y fight per book and on the side a long-term melodrama of Scott pondering, and the guys reacting and discussing, and Jean pondering, and the luring the info on Scott being married out of them, going on little by little issue per issue. They may have just failed to understand that
      it'll take months to resolve that way, causing terrible character damage for Scott.

      Otherwise I'm kind of willing to buy what Weezie is selling in having Scott tell Jean he has tried calling several dozen times with no avail, and it being because Maddie don't want to have anything to do with him anymore, and only after they blow up Sara Grey's house he acknowledges the possibility of there being foul play aloof. We don't really know how in wrecks their marriage has already been prior his leaving and how justified Scott may be in his feel of Maddie being done with him, and his own orphan background is acting up there in his incapability of dealing with it correctly.

      There would have been a massive potential if not even an actual drive (mayhap reined editorially back for the assumed benefit of the Silver Age tang) to catch the zeitgeist that borne Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns and have the heroes deconstructed to have their selfish motives dictate their actions: Scott's (subconsciously perhaps) escaping a failed marriage and family life and responsibilities to the arms of old flame; the ex-Defenders intentionally hiding this from the said flame in attempt to prevent it messing up their old gang, because as they explicitly said in #1 they're crap in heroics without Scott, and willing to sacrifice what's left of his marriage for that purpose. These themes are kind of peeking through there, even on-panel. Part of course must be my own reading, what with them being too commercially viable properties to go full Watchmen on them.

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    3. But since he met Maddie, she's been kidnapped by a mad illusionist, been in TWO plane crashes, been attached by something that couldn't make up its mind whether it was a squid or an octopus and turned into a healer by a Norse deity. She seems to be a magnet for trouble.
      Besides, there was a simple way for Scott to check if Maddie was in danger or had just left- call his grandparents or one of her co-workers.

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    4. Scott Summers making a call to anyone, simple?

      When he finally gets to Anchorage he'll learn none of those people, his grandparents or any co-worker could be found. Of course that should have rang some bells maybe, but if we're doing iffery on Scott making phonecalls we'll be here all night.

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    5. But since he met Maddie, she's been -- a magnet for trouble.

      Actually I didn't mean to write this bit off by merely snidely commenting on another thing. You certainly have a valid point there.

      If I was to try and make an excuse for Scott, he had recently retired from the heroics after the events of UNCANNY #201 for an amount of time, and could have been very foolishly thinking that trouble too has crossed them over from the contact book. Or that Maddie had just separated herself from that too. In fairness he had little reason to believe there had been Sinister schemings behind their whole relationship.

      The creators certainly (ok, likely) didn't have that up in the works for Maddie at the time of #2; Weezie and Claremont went to pick it up only sometime later and soft-retconed her having been assaulted the very next day by villains only appearing first time after eight or so months later.

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  9. A great summary of Louise Simonson's contribution, bu you missed out on a TON of great Walt Simonson covers for your list. I could just run through them all, but if you had to narrow them down to five, I would say:
    10, 11, 15, 17 & 26

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