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Friday, January 22, 2016

X-amining X-Factor #67

"Lunar Opposition!"
June 1991

In a Nutshell 
X-Factor teams up with the Inhumans against Apocalypse. 

Plot: Jim Lee & Whilce Portacio
Script: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Whilce Portacio
Inker: Art Thibert
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

X-Factor is pulled from the wreckage of Ship by a passing vehicle, which belongs to the Inhumans. Inside, they learn that Apocalypse has attacked the Inhumans' home on the Blue Area of the moon, capturing many and transforming them into his own army. In the future, Askani is transported back in time one again, given one last shot to save Nathan Christopher from Apocalypse. On the moon, X-Factor and the Inhumans are attacked tauntingly by the Riders of the Storm as they plot their attack on Apocalypse, while Apocalypse tends to Nathan Christopher. Just then, X-Factor and the Inhumans attack his citadel, using a combination of holographic illusions and real people to create a distracting frontal assault while another group attacks from the rear, freeing Apocalypse's captives and turning them loose against him.

Telling the Inhumans to look after Charlotte Jones as they continue to fight Apocalypse's forces, X-Factor journeys deeper into his citadel, searching for Nathan Christopher. Between the light defense they encounter and Ship's sudden ability to locate the boy, Cyclops suspects a trap, but proceeds ahead anyways, soon encountering a gloating Apocalypse alongside Nathan Christopher. But Apocalypse says Cyclops isn't the only capable of deception, and he fades away, revealing a much larger Apocalypse behind him, one who declares that it is time for all of them to die. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sebastian Shaw learns that his various companies have all gone bankrupt, a move orchestrated by his son, Shinobi, who proceeds to kill him.

Firsts and Other Notables
In a bit that has nothing to do with X-Factor, the closing few pages of this issue detail the death of Sebastian Shaw, one time Black King of the Hellfire Club, at the hands of his son, Shinobi. Appearing for the first time, Shinobi has the mutant ability to alter his molecular density (like the Avenger's Vision), and in this case, he uses this ability to reach into his father's chest and trigger a heart attack (Shinobi jokes that since his power is so much like Harry Leland's, maybe Sebastian isn't his real father, though his comment still stands as joke). Shaw's death actually sticks for a few years, but, not surprisingly, he does eventually come back (my thanks to for the image below, as my scan of the issue doesn't include the closing Shaw pages for some unknown reason).

The introduction of Shinobi and slaying of Sebastian is all part of Lee and Portacio's planned Upstarts storyline, hinted at previously during the present day events of X-Men #268 (here, Shaw refers to his son directly as an upstart, lowercase "u", but the term is clearly loaded), a storyline intended to sweep away some older villains in an effort to puff up the creators' new ones, which begins in earnest here. Of course, the Image Exodus will occur before Lee and Portacio do much more than kill off a bunch of established villains and make vague hints about the motives of their new ones, leaving later creators to ultimately wrap-up the storyline, but the Upstarts will be a running thread throughout much of the early post-relaunch issues of the X-Men books.

Ship is revealed to have survived (his personality programming, at least; his physical form is gone) in limited form, still able to converse with X-Factor and, later, project holographic simulacrums.

This issue reveals that Askani hails from the future, one which is under siege by Apocalypse, setting up Cable's later destiny as the Chosen One intended to ultimately defeat him. Askani also mentions that time traveling is a family trait, which really seem like a nod at Rachel Summers.

Boak, a futuristic android seen here advising Askani, appears for the first time in this issue. He'll pop up again in the early issues of Cable's solo series as a member of Cable's future era strike force, and even made a brief appearance in the X-Men animated series.

This issue reveals that the Riders of the Storm/Dark Riders are former Inhumans, captured and transformed by Apocalypse, though little is made of this in their future appearances. 

A Work in Progress
In addition to the Riders of the Storm, Apocalypse is also turning captive Inhumans into an "army of conquest".

Apocalypse says that Nathan's destruction is key to his ultimate victory.

Cyclops zings the New Mutants at one point during the fight against Apocalypse's forces.

It's worth noting that Cyclops' son is now routinely being referred to as "Nathan Christopher", rather than just "Christopher" (as Louise Simonson did), either because Claremont prefers Nathan, or to strengthen the connection with Cable (whose been referred to as "Nathan" at least once at this point). 

Like a Phoenix, From the Ashes
As the battle against Apocalypse takes place on the Blue Area of the Moon, Claremont gets one last chance to reference the death of Phoenix. It's even pointed out that of all the members of X-Factor, Iceman was the only one who wasn't there, in some form, originally.

Finding that his wings seem to know the layout of the place instinctively, Archangel wonders if one of Apocalypse's weapons could have been the agent of Phoenix's death (though I don't believe this idea ever goes anywhere).

Teebore's Take
If any chapter of his story can be accused of unnecessarily padding it out, it's this one, with the introduction of the Inhumans seeming to do little more than push the conclusion to a fourth issue. But they do help the surprisingly-insular series feel a little less so, more a part of the Marvel Universe as a whole (the previous issues' hero cameos had a similar effect, and both are elements in the success of this story), and the change of scenery, from the Earth-bound Ship to the Blue Area of the moon,  expands the scope of the story while also providing Claremont, now essentially on the eve of his departure from the X-books, one last chance to riff against arguably his most successful and acclaimed story, however briefly. Combined with that is the introduction of Apocalypse, after two issues scheming behind the scenes, onto the stage, first in the form of holographic & robotic duplicates and then in his final, massive, form, which gives the story the necessary push it needs going into the climax, a sort of "end-of-the-game boss" fight with the fate of Nathan Christopher on the line. There may be some padding here, but for the most part, the structure of the story is holding up remarkably well.

Next Issue
"Kings of Pain" unfolds in New Warriors Annual #1, X-Men Annual #15, and X-Factor Annual #6. 

Collected Edition


  1. "The introduction of Shinobi and slaying of Sebastian is all part of Lee and Portacio's planned Upstarts storyline"

    Now that was a winner.

    "This issue reveals that Askani hails from the future, one which is under siege by Apocalypse, setting up Cable's later destiny as the Chosen One intended to ultimately defeat him. Askani also mentions that time traveling is a family trait, which really seem like a nod at Rachel Summers."

    I know it was discussed in the previous issue's comments, but I always saw Askani as being a descendant of the Summers/Greys, possibly, so she may have inherited some of those powers/traits along the way. She's too young to be a direct descendant and from around the time of DOFP. I think all her references to brother and sister and father are more general terms, and not anyone specific, even if she herself seems to be modeled on the SUmmers/Grey line, what with Phoenix hints and all. All the motifs about her seem to be giving us an idea of what the X-team in her future will be like.

    Of course, given that she is a product of Harras/Lee/Portacio/Claremont, who know what her original intent was? It really might not be more than a one-off designed to write Nathan out of the title. Her look does seem to be more of a product of Portacio's cyber-punk aesthetic; Lee might have given her a different design if he had to do it solo.

    Regardless of what you think of Liefeld, it was still very dickish of Harras/Lee/Portacio to give an origin to one of his characters without his input, and doing it in another title.

    "Apocalypse says that Nathan's destruction is key to his ultimate victory."

    Doesn't this pretty much come out of nowhere? I think this story line is also where we see Apocalypse having a slight shift from shit-stirrer who causes chaos to see who the strongest are to someone who wants to position himself as a conqueror, so to speak. I guess this could tie in to why Sinister wanted with a Summers/Grey child, but as with many things from this era and the early 90s, it does seem like more of a lucky coincidence than anything else.

    "the introduction of the Inhumans seeming to do little more than push the conclusion to a fourth issue"

    Well, if you're going to do a story that takes place in the Blue Area of the moon, then you're going to kind of have to involve them at some point.

    Overall, the story itself isn't bad. It is a decent send-off to the original iteration of X-factor. Having Lee co-plotting and Lee scripting helps the story quite a bit, I think. Lee isn't just a better artist, for the most part, he is also stronger at plotting than Portacio is. As for the art, as always, its a mixed bag. Portacio's art does have a certain energy to it, and the panel layout is usually interesting, but the actual artwork itself? Meh. Ugly faces, occasionally weird anatomy, characters in the same 2 or 3 fight it with Uncanny #277, where Lee gives us some very dynamic action sequences that flow well from panel to panel, and it doesn't come out favorably, imo.

  2. Also, his redesign of Archangel's wings just bugs.

  3. Note that Askani speaks of 'family' rather than family, perhaps suggesting that she's a member in some close-knit gang-o-folks rather than a close/direct blood relative. Later writers seem to (I believe) give the Askani Sisterhood as an answer to that tease. And Askani herself will put whole another spin to all her kin-talk in the next ish.

    @wwk5d To paraphrase, "the creator of Cable is Marvel Comics, Rob Liefeld is just a writer-for-hire."

  4. What's even more curious about this issue is Claremont's dialogue when X-Factor breach Apocalypse's citadel. Beast and Jean note that the tunnels his surrogates are guarding/ defending are the ones where she fled the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, and Archangel not only notes his wings finding the space familiar but questions whether it was one of Apocalypse's weapons that destroyed Dark Phoenix, and whether he intended a shot at Jean. So just where was Claremont going with this, since he'd instead indicated the weapon that killed Dark Phoenix there was ancient Kree technology? So was he suggesting that Apocalypse had taken over the old Kree base in the Blue Area of the Moon? And if Archangel's wings found the space familiar was Claremont further suggesting that it was there that Apocalypse had transformed Warren into his horseman Death, perhaps using ancient Kree technology rather than Celestial (and this was why Warren's transformation included his skin becoming blue)?

    1. Nathan, you make a compelling case I can't help but believing, cos the first time he takes wind beneath his wings in #24 the sound effect pretty much confirms it: "'s kree".

    2. Oh. You know, in #15 Warren takes off from JFK and turns out over the ocean, which in practical terms means Jamaica Bay, and blows himself up. If he was "reborn" on the Blue Side of the Moon, it's pretty much the opposite to Phoenix who was reborn at Jamaica Bay and died on the Moon. Makes sense, she being "Life Incarnate" and he being Death.

      Oh Warren, so bitter and so self-centered to think that Apo deliberately shot Dark Phoenix just to make Jean return for to necessitate the forming of the X-Factor, so that Apo's presumed former underling could have his minions to rip his wings off in Morlock tunnels for the transformation, and then Apo would have left his Ship to the X-Factor that one day it could shoot to the Moon with him onboard.

      Oh Warren, you deluded blue poodle, does it say "Angel" on the cover? No, it never does, and it has even said "Iceman" once or twice. Just embrace the Kree, Warren, you're everyone's like third favorite half-Kree hero.

    3. Would be cool though, if the long-evaded motivation for Mutant Massacre was to have Warren's wings plugged off by the same guy who in UNCANNY #213 is shown as the shadowy master who isn't Mr. Sinister, and once had younger Wolverine broken and bloody and freshly adamantized on snow.

      Everyone's up for swapping it for the Dark Beast nonsense, right?

    4. ... and now I can't help noticing that Warren lost wings in Mutant Massacre event, returned as Death in Fall of the Mutants event and was heavily hinted to have something common with Wolverine re: Apocalypse in Inferno event. I wonder if there was something in works for the Mutant Wars event too before it was editorially messed and derailed into X-Tinction Agenda.

    5. whether it was one of Apocalypse's weapons that destroyed Dark Phoenix, and whether he intended a shot at Jean.

      Actually... I seem to have read/understood this bit wrong and notice now that Warren (and Nathan) talked Apo targeting Jean now rather than DP-"Jean" back then. Which of course would be some major retconing of the established narrative of Dark Phoenix commiting suicide to save world. So I seem to have gone more off-tangent than usual.

      Nevertheless, it's Claremont writing the end chapter for X-Factor which was an anathema for him really what with Jean returning, Scott not retiring and there generally being X-mutants aloof beyond his control. IF he felt they had already negated the Dark Phoenix Saga bad enough, making Apocalypse on some level actively responsible for Phoenix's death would be a nice exercise in binding things back to one large narrative. Phoenix's death, as we remember, jumpstarted the Madelyne clone, who was to become the mother of Nathan Christopher, and you gotta admit it would be quite awesome move by Apocalypse to actively participate in bringing on his own destined nemesis, because how can one genuinely claim to be the Fittest Survivor without a worthy adversary.

      Mister Sinister having been a thrall to Apocalypse in charge of the dirty work while in the shadows at the same time trying to hijack the project for to free himself of his thralldom would kind of nicely fit there.

      Claremont of course had a totally different backstory for Sinister but in lack of sound motivation for the Mutant Massacre one must ask "Qui bono?". Poc got Warren, no one else really got nothing out of it. The Inhumans are a product of the Kree's genetic meddling with humans and Poc has been meddling with them too lately as we are told, so transforming Warren into Death by Kree tech certainly is not out of nowhere.

    6. @Teemu: Shit, was Claremont suggesting that Apocalypse was one of the early Attilanians whom the Kree had tasked with engineering the first Inhumans?

    7. I really don't think it's anything more than a random throwaway line by an writer scripting someone else's story on a title he never worked on and was also on his way out of the company he was working for.

      I mean, of all of CC's danglers, this is probably his more irresponsible, not to mention his most nonsensical, since it would involve way to many retcons and us assuming things that were revealed after the fact (among them, a connection between Sinister and Apocalypse).

    8. @wwk5d, I took it on as an academic piece fitting exercise really, and the thing most strongly encouraging me to that bit was the post-Claremont, non-Claremont retcon of Sinister's origin as Apocalypse-encanced scientist.

      It does look like that others were picking the same pieces later on to some extent though, what with Ozymandias and Dark Riders featuring heavily in one re-adamantiuming project and Poc himself then doing it for the Horseman-Wolverine, Death like Warren was before him, the latter allegedly happening under the watch of returning Claremont.

    9. Though, we've already been reading on-panel that Nathan Christopher is 1) a special anathema to Apocalypse, 2) Chosen One for the Askani's future folks and 3) child of a clone by Mr. Sinister and his pet project. I would say there already must be some connection of undisclosed nature between Poc and Sinister.

    10. Given CC's original plans for Sinister, I'd say he had nothing of the sort in mind. If anything, his being special comes not from being the child of a clone by Mr. Sinister, but rather from the genes of Scott and Jean, much like Rachel (granted, in her case, her genes might just be Jean's and the Phoenix force, or Jean and Scott), even if under CC's writing she never lived up to her potential. Not everything in the X-world needs to be linked to something else. Granted, I might be biased since I never cared for the origin they ended up giving to Sinister in the 90s.

      CC didn't really need to throw in random lines like this, unless he wasn't sure at this point that he was leaving or not. He does the same thing on occasion in X-men Vol. 2, like having Wolverine remark he knew Cortez's scent (of course, nobody ever bothered following up on that in 616).

    11. wwk5d: his being special comes not from being the child of a clone by Mr. Sinister, but rather from the genes of Scott and Jean, much like Rachel

      Ah, yes, that obviously goes without saying. I merely was emphasing Sinister's active participation and intetest in the proceedings (and being downright annoying about Phoenix's death being needed for making Madelyne functional, IF there should be anything to Warren's suspicions about it being Poc's weapon).

      Makes one think what if any plans Claremont might originally have had for young Christopher. Scott was meant to retire, yes, but I find it inplausible that a child comparable to Franklin Richards (to whom Rachel was married to in one future) would just be left alone, especially around the CC/JB feuding era.

      It couldn't be Harras (insisting) throwing it in with the Cortez thing for example, being a known fan of such things? CC wouldn't probably much fight, and there was the Omega Red prologue and all too meant for post-him era.

    12. Well, Omega Red was definitely on the way, regardless of whether or not CC would still be on the title.

      While CC has been pretty vocal about his plans for the X-men had he stayed, he never really explained why Sinister wanted the Morlocks dead, nor did he explain why Sinister wanted or needed a child of Scott and Jean. Of course, the whole story only existed once Jean came back to life, so it is possible CC was being forthright when he said Scott, Maddie, and the baby would get to ride of into the sunset.

    13. wwk5d: it is possible CC was being forthright when he said Scott, Maddie, and the baby would get to ride of into the sunset.

      He's said it loud and clear enough to it being not only possible but also plausible. But at the same time, it's completely impossible that Claremont would have left this timeline's Rachel Summers counterpart just be. ;)

      There was also the caveat that Scott would (naturally) return occasionally for some big important fight, and I absolutely refuse to believe one such occasions wouldn't be something earth-shattering about the kiddo. Not that Claremont necessarily would have had something specific in the works from the get-go, but something would certainly have turned up in not too far along the line.

    14. Ah but as per CC, Rachel Summers has no counterpart...anywhere ;)

    15. Ha, I flew right into that one. :)

      But there you have it: one day his editor would innocuously have asked him if that applies to the new kid too, and there we would go. "Like, her ma was Phoenix, but..." Oh, wait. I forgot Maddie would not be a clone of Jean then, but merely a freak one-in-a-million dobbelgangerthingamajig.

      Except, in X-Men/Alpha Flight Rachel went off rails from learning the baby would be a boy, and thusly not her in this timeline... now why would she even expect Scott's and Maddie's child be herself? Maddie was supposed to not have anything to do with Jean. What did Rachel know that we didn't? Claremont was playing with us with his oh-she's-certainly-not-Jean assertations?

    16. @Teemu: It’s easy what Claremont’s plan was re: Nathan Christopher. His mother accessing Limbo and his developing powers after she did so suggest he was going to reveal him as Nathaniel Richards Jr who went back in time to become Rama-Tut and attempt to stop Apocalypse’s rise in ancient Egypt;)

      @wwk5d: Yep Rachel’s a multiversal singularity like the Shadow King, Mojo and Immortus;)

    17. Maddie for the most part never really displays any power prior to Jean's return, so yeah, she was just a normal person. Of course, the kid might have grown up to be a mutant. The thing is, we never really get to spend any time with him as a normal child and as a part of Scott's family since comes back from the dead almost as soon the kid is born. He is born in between Uncanny #200 and 201, Scott leaves at the end of 201, a few months later Jean comes back and we get X-factor #1 where Scott leaves Alaska for New York.

      Don't forget, this is Pre-Excaliber Rachel, where she went off the rails at the drop of a hat. I don't think CC meant anything by it, other than not being able to write Rachel as being a crybaby 80% of the time. I don't know if she expected him to be this universe's version of her, more his birth being the final nail in the coffin that this isn't her universe/timeline.

      Why on earth would CC involve Maddie in Limbo if as per his original plan, Maddie wasn't a clone of Jean?

      The Shadow King was never revealed as a singularity. Immortus can't be one either, since he is a future version of Kang, and there have been dozens of versions of Kang. Mojo was until both the Shattershot stories and Ultimate X-men.

    18. @wwk5d: Re: Shadow King, he's mentioned as one during the Cross-Time Caper. Immortus is mentioned to be one in Avengers Forever after he and Kang split off from each other, oh and Tempus and the Living Tribunal too;)

    19. Which issue exactly mentions the Shadow King? Is it actually mentioned on panel?

      Immortus also has an alternate in the Earth X timeline, so his status as a singularity is a bit in question.

      The Living Tribunal kind of goes without saying, given his status, I mean duh, even if the poor bastard was killed off recently.

    20. @wwk5d, your take is possible, but somehow I'd expect her to already be more home to the fact that Scott just has someone else for his wife now. Then again, it could be merely a dramatic build-up for Rachel's decision to have Phoenix reborn in herself in #199. Didn't they write and publish X/A quite shortly before #199, despite it chronologically happening prior #193?

      @Nathan, it starts to be obvious that whoever you count among the singular beings, Nathaniel Richards jr certainly isn't one of them. ;)

      Re: Apocalypse's assumed Kree/Inhuman connection, it's curious coincidence (quotation marks optional) that after ditching the Ship in #25, he had his base in the Himalayas (as confirmed in #50, with the snowtop mountains already shown in #25) where Attilan used to reside not long ago before, and now has another one on Moon right next to Attilan.

    21. At home? Girl was crying every third issue over *something* lol I can understand why people like Teebore, who hadn't read how she was written in Excaliber, didn't exactly like her. I had, and I like Rachel, but if someone had only been exposed to her during her first run on Uncanny, I can see why people would find her so damn frustrating.

      Apocalypse mentioned he had many bases, and that Ship was the least of them. Either he was exaggerating, or Weezie never got around to exploring that concept much post FOTM. I'm guessing it was the latter, since we didn't see him as much as we should have, what with him being their supposed arch enemy and all.

    22. Actually I was for the most time limited to Rachel's UNCANNY appearances (barring some early Excalibur ones, incl. Inferno where she doesn't really contribute), but I love/loved her plenty. Of course, my X-readership is forever defined by my entry point of #199.

      Apocalypse does have the Jungle Adventure one in Antarctica at least, but I read his claims mostly as overadvertizing. He will be disturbingly boastful of his future plans in the next ish, though, well exceeding his later-retconed Ancient Egypt background, so who knows.

  5. Damn, Scott, that's cold. What'd the New Mutants do to you?

    Makes me wonder how he thinks the young Silver Age X-Men would've done against Legion or the Demon Bear...

  6. One-liner turned into storyline... r: "Look at me, ye mutants and Inhumans and despair!", announces one of the Copycalypses, and paves way for the later character Ozymandias and a whole shebang of Ancient Egyptian shenanigans for Sabah En Nur (well maybe tinily and off-targetly already hinted at in #24 and Poc's own recap of his history).

  7. Askani also mentions that time traveling is a family trait, which really seem like a nod at Rachel Summers.

    Askani notes: "I'm not as lucky as some who went before me", when she doesn't arrive in flesh and blood. Rachel Summers would be an obvious allusion, but "some" reads like there has been more than one people who've done it.


  8. Did we already know that Apocalypse was really that big (assuming he even really is)?

    1. Not really, no. We've been told ad nauseam that he's in total control of every molecule in his body, but this far he's been more Reed Richards than Hank Pym about it.

      Came out of nowhere when reading this the first time.

  9. "Why on earth would CC involve Maddie in Limbo if as per his original plan, Maddie wasn't a clone of Jean?"

    It is my understanding that Maddie was suggested to be the reincarnation of Jean Grey/Phoenix - before it was retroactively established that the Phoenix had replaced Jean while she lay in a cocoon at the bottom of Jamaica Bay.

    (All these decades later, what's the status on that? Jean Grey is the Phoenix, as much as a Phoenix host can be, or was she just the genetic template for a cosmic entity?)


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