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Friday, April 18, 2014

X-amining X-Factor #29

June 1988

In a Nutshell 
Infectia attacks as Ship moves out to sea. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciler: Walt Simonson
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

At her apartment, Infectia watches in frustration as one of the men she's mutated burns out his power and dies, forcing her to make another. Later, X-Factor holds a press conference to announce the removal of Ship from the shoreline. In the process, the pier on which the media has gathered collapses, and X-Factor, along with Ship, is forced to rescue the reporters from the water. Watching the press conference at a bar, Infectia picks up another unsuspecting man. Back at the press conference, an increasingly-irate Cyclops excuses himself, followed by Marvel Girl, leaving Iceman to continue talking to the reporters as Beast and Trish Tilby reconnect. Meanwhile, Infectia brings her dupe back to her apartment, where she kisses him, her mutant power transforming him into a monster. Back at the ship, Cyclops and Marvel Girl prepare to move Ship out over the ocean as Infectia, along with three transformed men, watch from a nearby rooftop.

As the ship pulls out, Infectia's "Anti-Bodies" attack, trying to destroy X-Factor and claim the ship for Infectia. Nearby, Beast and Trish see the atttack, but are interrupted by Death, who swoops down and grabs Trish, demanding information about Candy. Trish tells him Candy informed her of Hodge's connections to an anti-mutant organization, and that when Trish looked into Hodge, she learned he had died, which prompts Death to fly off. Back at the ship, an increasingly-frustrated Marvel Girl unleashes her full power on the Anti-Bodies, causing them to burn out their power and return to their human forms before transforming into dust. Marvel Girl is horrified at having killed them. Watching, Infectia resolves that she'll just have to take the ship herself, and spying Iceman, realizes just how she's going to do it.    

Firsts and Other Notables
Infectia makes her first full appearance in this issue. She is a relatively minor villain in the X-Men universe, appearing in this issue and the next two, then largely disappearing (though she does return for a relatively memorable sendoff in X-Men (vol. 2) #27, becoming one of the first notable victims of the Legacy Virus). We learn in this issue that she possesses the ability to alter molecular structures via her kiss, which she uses to transform hapless men into large monsters she calls "Anti-Bodies". Her goal in this story is to take control of Ship, for reasons unknown.

In order to allay concerns about Ship going rogue and/or becoming a target, it is moved away from the shoreline and out over the ocean this issue, where it will remain for the next dozen-and-a-half issues or so.

Angel, still responding to the name Death, grabs Trish and learns about her conversations with Candy Southern. He also learns about Hodge's apparent death in New Mutants #60 (incorrectly footnoted here as occurring in issue #59), though he wryly notes that plane crashes can be faked. 

A Work in Progress
It's revealed in this issue that most of Angel's fortune has been lost due to the stock market and Apocalypse's attack on New York.

Jean is understandably upset when, after defeating the Anti-Bodies, they explode (a side-effect of Infectia's power), blaming herself for the death of innocent pawns.

"Professor Xavier Jean Grey is a jerk!"
First, Jean argues that Maddie should have told Scott she was still alive, even though she had no way of knowing Scott thought she was dead, considering he left her and never called. 

Then, Jean calls Maddie a hypocrite for not telling Scott where their baby is, even though, you know, her message is imploring Scott to find him (suggesting she doesn't know herself).

She goes on to call Maddie a jerk for putting Scott through the emotional wringer.

Young Love
Iceman is shipping Beast and Trish.

Human/Mutant Relations
Iceman stresses that all mutants can't be blamed for the actions of a villainous few.

Teebore's Take
And with that, we have the triumphant debut of Infectia! Haha, just kidding, she's mostly just a footnote in X-history at this point; if not for some truly awful new characters coming up in New Mutants, she might go down as one of Louise Simonson's more dubious creations. Instead, she's merely a forgettable, one-note antagonist, someone for X-Factor to fight in order to give this next batch of issues some action while more significant developments occur on the margins. So while X-Factor is busy fighting Infectia and her Anti-Bodies (not to be confused with the Animator's Ani-Men), the real meat of this issue is Jean's reactions to Madelyne's actions, in the wake of her constantly-repeating goodbye message to Scott.

Though most of Jean's issues with Maddie ring false because they ignore the fact that Scott left Madelyne, with barely any explanation, and then took up with his old chums and girlfriend for weeks on end with nary a phone call, what we're really seeing is the beginning, from X-Factor's perspective, of Madelyne's descent into Goblyn Queen-land, and thus the backhanded rehabilitation of Cyclops following his out-of-character behavior in the first issue of this series. While, from her perspective, Jean's reaction is slightly understandable (if misinformed), it also represents a subtle shift for the series. As we head into "Inferno", more and more, for better and worse, Scott will begin to blame himself less and less for the end of his marriage, while Madelyne will be forced to shoulder more of that burden. 

Next Issue
Colossus battles Baba Yaga in Uncanny X-Men #231, Illyana battles Forge in New Mutants #65, and Infectia seduces Iceman in X-Factor #30.


  1. Is this press conference by any chance the same one that Maddie will see in UXM 232 that makes her punch the screen (not unlike she did Scott back in UXM 174 when he asked her the wrong question) and sends her to her ill-fated dream?

    Maddie initially thought it was herself until realizing it's Jean Grey. Could it have worked other way around too here: Jean upon seeing Maddie on some level realizes they have way too much more in common that's possible by coincidence and all her berating of Maddie is really her defending herself over what the other she has done, and/or possibly violent inacceptance of the fact that her loved one Scott Summers really is a jerk.

    Like, she and Scott are in a serious relationship that is bound to proceed to a marriage in the future and all of the sudden she realizes now that "she" (=Maddie) already tried that once and the way it ended earned him the sarcastic epithet "Husband of the Year".

  2. Btw, that "Hi." "Hi yourself." exchange... have anyone else really done it but Scott and his interchangeable redheads? Phoenix-Jean in #136, Maddie-Jean in #175 (both after some Dark Phoenixing) and I bet he's done it with Jean-Jean too somewhere.

  3. Wow. Those Jean panels you posted. In a handful of panels she calls Maddie a "hypocrite," a "jerk," "crazy" and my favorite ... a "monster."

    Holy. Sh*t.

    Man, I hate to keep harping on this point, but this kind of thing is why Weezie's X-Factor is just the worst. She writes these characters as such douchebags. Scott and Jean at least. Maybe not so much the other three.

    If it's deliberate, I don't get it. We're supposed to like Scott and Jean, surely? Like you say, the aim at this time seemed to be to make Scott/Jean sympathetic while Maddie sank into villainy.

    So if it's not deliberate, then what a terrible disconnect between authorial intent and the actual effect.

    Ugh. I hate you so much, Scott and Jean of 1988. You're childish and petty and stupid and --

  4. Jason: Wow. Those Jean panels you posted. In a handful of panels she calls Maddie a "hypocrite," a "jerk," "crazy" and my favorite ... a "monster."

    You know what's a monster? An entity of cosmic power after it has copied Jean's personality.

    And here we have Jean, who has just been, for the first time (yeah right but bear with me), on... each others arms with Scott, and very specifically now has to come in terms with Scott already having gotten it on not only with her spitten image but also with the cosmic-powered carbon copy of hers, whose dark endeavours must have been recapped to her by now, including what happened in New Mexico, with the obligatory butte jokes.

    Quite standard emotion transfer, IMO, towards someone who is not only her man's ex but also practically a copy (she don't know the half of it, poor gal) of the hateful Phoenix, the other, dead ex. It's like reading a story about the X-Women, really. And Jean's X-cluded from the club, for time's being.

    It's kind of horrible that she'll get over it only after Inferno, with the newfound confidence brought by the knowledge what it feels like to blow up a planetful of sentient asparagus.

    Like you say, the aim at this time seemed to be to make Scott/Jean sympathetic while Maddie sank into villainy.

    Elsewhere: during this time the X-Men in general seem to be on that path too, with their proactive ethos they are trying to adopt and increasing trigger-happiness with completely disregarding that they are in possession of Siege Perilous, reaching the zenith during the Inferno.

    Bet they too will pin in on Maddie's vile influence, despite the fact that we are still in pre-Goblyn Queen times.


  5. The awesome and terrible impatience of Cyclops...

    Ship lets mutants and "mutates" on board? I'd think that pretty much every super-powered human around should be able to get access, then — which isn't much of a security system.

    Jean's ranting pretty much boils down to "I can't believe how poorly things have been written around here lately!"

    This issue's cover, meanwhile, is pretty much everything that would turn me off of an impulse buy on the racks and endemic of the era.

    Marvel had lousy covers almost across the board in this period. I'm speaking from the perspective of a 17-to-18-year-old (then, a 43-year-old now) and I realize that had I been younger my perception might have been very different. DC, First, and Dark Horse just looked — and read, from a perhaps skewed sampling — much more mature, whereas Marvel seemed to be trying to evoke a kid-friendly Silver Age vibe that it never quite had. Carl Potts' titles were an exception with their covers' poster-like art and typeset rather than hand-drawn lettering; I picked up a bunch of Alpha Flight and Strange Tales issues from quarter bins in later years for the stylish Kevin Nowlan covers alone.

  6. I'll take it it's a coincidence and not an editorial mandate for the build-up for the Inferno that both X-Factor and X-Men almost concurrently face opponents they are forced to kill who are innocent regular people that have been used and irreparably and dangerously corrupted by the enemy?

    Also, with this modus operandi that Infecta has with practically killing innocent people through the use of her powers, our heroes seem to find a lot of sympathy for her when she dies by the Legacy virus.

  7. Blam -- "...Marvel seemed to be trying to evoke a kid-friendly Silver Age vibe that it never quite had..."

    Do you think new EiC Tom DeFalco had anything to do with this? He was certainly going for the Silver Age-iest of all Silver Age pistaches with his work on THOR at this time.

    That said, I like this cover. At any age, including college, when most people get "serious", I've always liked fun, old-fashioned covers best of all. I loved the late nineties, when the majority of Marvel's covers had those super-melodramatic, sometimes garish, Comicraft blurbs plastered all over them.

  8. About DeFalco, Mark Gruenwald has remarked: "Tom does not seem to have as strong a personal vision for Marvel [as Shooter], and as a result he's more open to other people's visions. It remains to be seen if that's good or bad." So, very much something else than Shooter as his predecessor.

    I don't know. I have this feel that Marvel might have dropped the ball around Secret Wars II, or at least lost the momentum, with no particular direction to go at and some of their biggest early 80's A-list writer-artists suddenly doing their thing at post-Crisis DC.

    Of course, soon enough they would have a set of hot new artists. Who, to be found in the hard way, are no good writers.

    Though I have to say, I have hard time imagining exactly which titles are especially kid-friendly at this time. Spider-Man got just married with Kraven having his Spidey-books-wide last hunt, Cyclops is in midst of the messiest divorce in comic book history and if Jason is to be believed the X-Men have just pop-sexily alienated themselves from the world.

    Horrible, really, to think about how Claremont a little less than a decade back flipped the bird at Shooter's "this is a school, these are the students" mandate by giving Wolverine ten demerits and then doing Dark Phoenix Saga. He has finally made the X-Men the proactive group that'll take the battle to their enemies and has someone to replace Xavier but this time it's his own editor who will once again return with the school idea.

    "We got New Mutants for that now." "Yeah, no, we got this new hot ace that's gonna make them a proactive group that'll take the battle to their enemies and has someone to replace Xavier."


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