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Thursday, April 13, 2017

X-amining X-Factor #86

"One of These Days...Pow! Zoom!"
January 1993

In a Nutshell
Apocalypse cures Professor X of the techno-organic virus.

Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Jae Lee
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Steve Dutro
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Wolverine explains to the X-Men and X-Factor how Cyclops & Jean Grey are being held by Stryfe on Apocalypse's old base on the moon, while Cyclops & Jean, having escaped the base to the surface of the moon, are rescued by Stryfe. As Cable begins recalibrating his teleportation equipment to send him, Wolverine & Bishop to the moon, Havok & Storm assemble a strike team to join them in the rescue effort, while Apocalypse prepares to cure Xavier of the techno-organic virus. As he begins, Havok receives word from Madrox that he's lost contact with his dupe, suggesting the X-Patriots have fled. As Stryfe continues to taunt Cyclops & Jean, Apocalypse successfully cures Xavier, then offers to accompany the X-Men to the moon, and provide them with a ship to get there. Meanwhile, tired of waiting, Bishop, Wolverine & Cable teleport to the moon, only to find the Dark Riders waiting for them.

Firsts and Other Notables
Apocalypse manages to cure Professor X of the techno-organic virus this issue by, essentially (per Beast) giving it a case of "terminal indigestion". Xavier will remain more or less sidelined for the rest of the story, but this marks the end of the threat to his life.

A panel of Stryfe in shadows on the moon from this issue has been used as the cover on some collected editions of this story.

This issue includes one of those great "assembling a strike team" scenes, in which Havok & Storm choose who is going to accompany them to the moon to rescue Scott & Jean.

More Stryfe hints: he tells Cyclops & Jean he'll offer them a chance to survive, saying it's the least he can do, since in doing the least he takes after him.

He then tells them he wants them to beg for their lives, the way a child would plead with his parents.

One more quick check-in on the X-Patriots, as the knocked out Madrox dupe is discovered in the hospital room of the missing X-Patriots, and Madrox Prime tells Havok the X-Patriots have probably fled, something they decide to keep from Val.

The Dark Riders are featured on this issue's card.

A Work in Progress
Wolverine explains here that Jean must have been trying to contact him telepathically, but because she was so far away, it only penetrated his subconscious, hence the image of the moon he carved into Cable's table in the last issue.

He also suggests that she reached out to him because she feels closest to him after Scott, something which raises an eyebrow for both Beast and Iceman.

There's another "Havok is embarrassed by his team" bit in this issue.

Apocalypse theorizes that one of the reasons Stryfe may have tried to kill him is because he knows Apocalypse can cure Xavier of the techno-organic virus.

Pun with Peter
Cable tells Wolverine & Bishop it will take some time to recalibrate Graymalkin's teleportation equipment to send them to the moon, saying it isn't like Star Trek (a property with which David has a fair amount of experience).

Some fun dialogue between Havok & Storm, as Storm repeats "of course" throughout their conversation.

When Havok says he's going to watch Apocalypse like a hawk, Archangel replies that he does everything like a hawk.

Artistic Achievements
Throughout this issue, as Cable, Wolverine & Bishop wait for Cable's equipment to recalibrate and then give the X-Men strike team a chance to get to the moon, we briefly see a panel at the top of the page that shows them waiting. To show the passage of time, Cable is carving a block of wood, which comes more and more into focus with each subsequent panel, eventually revealed to be a little statue of Domino. It's a neat effect.

Austin's Analysis
Let's get this out of the way: the way Apocalypse-cures-Xavier-of-the-techno-organic virus resolution (one of those things this story routinely gets dinged for) is patently absurd, and not terribly clear (he...supercharges it, which makes Xavier's body insufficient nourishment...but doesn't kill Xavier...I guess?), but it's also no worse than any of the other countless bits of comic book pseudo-science that have popped up through the years. After all, the body that Apocalypse is healing is technically a clone, created after Xavier's original body was transformed into a Brood, and Apocalypse's gizmo isn't any more inherently ridiculous than the Starjammers alien tech which did that.

Aside from the big plot development in which Xavier is cured (which was really always a question of "when", not "if"), this is mostly a time-killing, table-setting chapter of the story, getting things in place for the big climax (to the point that Cable, Bishop & Wolverine spend most of the issue actually just killing time), but Peter David makes the most of it, working in another funny "embarrassed Havok" moment, doing one of those great "select the members of a team" bits, and mining the Cable/Bishop/Wolverine time-killing sequences to comedic effect. And Jae Lee, whose skills aren't exactly suited to quieter, talk-y issues like this, nevertheless creates some effective body horror imagery in the sequences involving Cyclops & Jean Grey stumbling around the moon and being taunted by Stryfe. A necessary bridge chapter, then, but still an entertaining one.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, a storyline comes to an odd end in Wolverine #65. Next week, "X-Cutioner's Song" concludes in X-Men (vol. 2) #16 and X-Force #18.

Collected Editions



  1. Any comments on Jae Lee's career? Why he never became a regular? Is he a slow artist like Art Adams?

    1. I have no idea for sure, but I'd guess he's probably just a slower artist. He's worked steadily for years, but usually only on one project at a time, and usually on smaller, more esoteric stuff (like the Marvel Knights INHUMANS or the Dark Tower adaptations), which probably kept him from ever becoming a big superstar name.

  2. This issue has one of my favorite Peter David exchanges. Wolverine and Bishop are curious as to how long it will take Cable to recalibrate his teleporter. Cable says, "If I do it alone, maybe forty-five minutes."

    When Wolverine says, "how long will it take if we help you?," Cable responds, "an hour and a half."

    1. Dang it, I was coming to post that! :D

      Also gotta like Storm's quick "Never mind that now." at Hank and Bobby when they question the nature of Wolverine's "closeness" towards a female teammate. Because of reasons.

      Archangel's grin on the cover is quite a beautifully planted red herring on the healing scene inside the book.

    2. That was a great bit, too. I should have highlighted it.

  3. This is probably my favorite of the Jae Lee issues because the dark shadows he used in previous chapters are toned down considerably and you can actually see the characters' faces most of the time.

    Most of Havok's picks make sense to me from a personal standpoint -- he's known Iceman, Archangel, and Polaris for many years, and he's probably making this an extension of the deal with Cannonball to take down the MLF. Storm and Psylocke are a nice touch, since he served with them in the Outback, but why not Colossus too, for that same reason? With Wolverine planning to meet them there, that would've been all the active Outbackers on one mission together.

    1. "Storm and Psylocke are a nice touch, since he served with them in the Outback"

      You know, I thought the exact same thing, but then I thought: Wait, didn't Psylocke use her psychic powers to "nudge" the remaining X-Men through the Siege Perilous? Where Havok became a brainwashed Genoshan magistrate responsible for torturing and killing mutates? You'd think he'd be a liiiiiittle PO'd with Betsy about that one, and less inclined to want her "watching my back." But I guess they must've hashed it out off-panel. (Or maybe on-panel, my memory's not what it used to be.)

    2. Let's remember what we were shown on-panel was Logan's tortured fever dream where the next thing was Kitty turning into a Brood. He has no way of knowing how the X-Men actually escaped from the Outback so if Betsy didn't telepathically project it into his mind, we have no way of knowing where it came from. Logan could gave imagined it all faultily from some bits of intel that Pierce taunted him with upon the crucifixion, or some weird illusory dream crap could have been happening as it did a plenty in that place (Maddie...) and around that time (Forge).

      Logan would have good case to imagine that Betsy the mind-witch must have lured everyone through, because such an escape is pretty non-X-Men thing to do. Later on he has no problem in trusting Betsy, even after having been in her head.

      "Hey let's ditch the place without sacrificing a thought for Logan who will now walk into Reavers' ambush" makes little sense for the X-Men to do, but would be an effective mental torture for a loner who thought he had found a family, sieved through into his mind from the physical torture by the cross. It wasn't his only dream either, there was one with cyborgized Betsy acting up and others.

      It's quite apt that dying Logan proceeds to gather the X-Men, his only family, back together with some serious resolve after that, as if to deny the implications of the hallucination.

      Plus obviously there can't be an X-Men group without a telepath.

    3. @Matt: The one thing this "assemble the team" moment was missing to make it truly classic was Havok (or Storm) explaining why they were picking each member (which is also why I prefer Xavier's version of this scene during "Fatal Attractions", even if bringing Gambit along is head-scratching and bringing Wolverine along only makes sense if you *want* his adamantium to get ripped out, which clearly, Nicieza did). That might have helped explain why Havok stopped short of a full Oz X-Men reunion.

      @Drew: I don't think we've ever seen Havok & Psylocke hash out that psychic nudge on-panel. Heck, we've never even seen Havok react to Psylocke's new body on panel.

      Though as Teemu points out, it's entirely debatable whether Psylocke actually did nudge the other X-Men, or if that was just part of Wolverine's fever dream.

    4. I'm sorry but it's the 90's now and Wolverine will never ever not be on an assault squad again.

      Heck, we've never even seen Havok react to Psylocke's new body on panel.

      Now his brother, then again...

  4. X-Cutioner's Song is when Archangel/ Warren's body markings as shown to be a costume, with him going from bald to having hair. However, this so-called "costume" was not intended as such by the Simonsons but a full body tattoo/ markings that covered him from appearing effectively naked (and his missing external reproductive elements was due to Apocalypse transforming him into an equivalent Biblical angel). Still unresolved, not only at this point, but even today is why the transformation involved Warren ending up blue-skinned like a pure Kree!? X-Factor #67 has Warren's metal wings react with memories of the base on the Blue Area of the Moon, and Beast notes Apocalypse's base there is the same location where the ancient Kree weapon Jean as Dark Phoenix activated there to kill herself. So does this suggest Apocalypse had used Kree technology to transform Warren into his Horseman, Death?

    1. Technically, we learned Archangel had been wearing a costume, had blue skin and blond hair (and could fully retract his wings) at least by UNCANNY #288, when he flew off naked into the night air after a bit of angsting.

      The fact that he was wearing a costume (and wasn't just covered in body tattoos) was established in X-FACTOR (by Simonson) during "Judgment War", when it got torn, revealing blue skin underneath (I forget offhand which issue that was in, but it was there), but I think UNCANNY #288 was really the first time it was made explicit that Archangel was wearing a full costume and, blue skin aside, was more or less normal beneath it.

    2. It does raise other questions though. In X-Factor #67, Claremont's dialogue has Warren note that his metal wings react as if they're familiar with Apocalypse's base in the catacombs of the Blue Area of the Moon, Jean note its tunnels are the same location where the weapon that killed her as Dark Phoenix had been and Warren further questions if this weapon was in fact set up there by the mutant villain.

      The questions this raises include:
      How long ago had Apocalypse discovered the Kree's lunar base?
      How did he travel to the Blue Area of the Moon initially (did he use Ship), and for that matter go unnoticed getting there?
      If he transformed Warren there, how did he go unnoticed by the Inhumans since they had relocated there 5 years earlier?
      Does this suggest he had discovered the base prior to their relocation there?
      If so, do Archangel's comments above suggest the tunnels where Jean had fled during the Dark Phoenix saga were under the villain's control?
      What did Uatu think of his intentions, given he saw fit to interfere in events where humanity were under threat?
      If he had taken over an ancient Kree base on the moon, does this suggest his Himalayan base had also previously been that of a Marvel character/ race? Lucifer's?
      If he had used Kree technology to transform Warren into his Horseman, what catalyst turned his skin blue?
      If so, had he procured it or was he fulfilling some Kree imperative?


  5. The Cyclops figure on the splash page is very reminiscent of Mignola to me. I don’t know if it’s an actual swipe — while my mind went immediately to the cover of Action Comics Weekly #614, this splash not only isn’t an exact swipe but looks even more like Mignola than that Mignola cover; it could be a swipe from something in Cosmic Odyssey (where there were also rocks in space) or even his X-Force issue. All that said, I really love the majority of the Jae Lee (& Al Milgrom!) art. If you’re gonna be all design-y and leave out most of the backgrounds, this is the way to do it. Glynis Oliver’s coloring is great too.

    You missed part of the story title, which continues from the splash on the following page. They’re going to the moon, see. And if you still don’t get it, Google up Ralph Kramden Honeymooners quotes.

    1. Not that I routinely check the GCD for story titles, but rather than pull out the issue to get the full title I went there first, and interestingly, they list the title as I initially did, just based on the first page.

      So I then I did go back to the actual comic, and you're definitely right that the "...Pow! Zoom!" on the second page is meant to be part of the title. So I've updated my post, and *you've* managed to one-up the GCD!


    2. I hope they don’t revoke my membership for that. (Kidding, of course. Adding such info to the database is the most common way to attain membership.)


    3. Haven’t there been other issues we’ve come across in this reread with story titles split up like that (or at least potentially inferred as such)? BRB… Yeah, I just looked up both my scan of #98 and your post on the issue and “Merry Christmas, X-Men…” on the splash is followed by “The Sentinels Have Returned!” a couple pages later — it's also clearly the cover's title, which may be why you tacked it on.

    4. Here, I think I honestly just missed that there were other words on the next page...


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