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Thursday, July 18, 2019

X-amining Factor X #3

"Open Wounds"
May 1995

In a Nutshell
Jean Grey returns to the Pens, prompting a direct confrontation between Cyclops & Havok.

Writer: John Francis Moore
Penciler: Steve Epting with Terry Dodson
Inker: Al Milgrom
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Chief: Bob Harras

As Cyclops returns to the Pens, Jean Grey sneaks inside herself, hoping to find Sinister. However, she finds Sinister's lab destroyed, and gets knocked out by a gleeful Havok. At Angel's Heaven nightclub, the Bedlam Brothers arrest Scarlett for espionage, warning Angel that between her arrest & Karma's, his much-professed neutrality may soon come under scrutiny. Back at the Pens, Havok shows Cyclops the captive Jean Grey. He reveals that he knows Cyclops helped Lorna Dane escape, and when Cyclops professes his innocence, Havok tells him to prove it by executing Jean. When Cyclops refuses, the Guthries, lying in wait, attack and knock him out. Havok proclaims himself the commander of the EMF and gives Cyclops to Beast, along with Jean. But Jean is able to use her power enough to remove Cyclop's visor, allowing him to blast Beast and free them. Cyclops agrees to help Jean liberate the Pens before the Human High Council's nuclear strike obliterates the city. Elsewhere, Apocalypse decrees that the Pens will be shut down, and the prisoners culled, such that the strong will survive and the weak perish.

Firsts and Other Notables
Fresh off her break with Weapon X in Weapon X #2, Jean Grey turns up in this issue, seeking the assistance of Sinister to stop Apocalypse before the world is bathed in nuclear fire, but instead ending up in an alliance with Cyclops, whose previous encounter with Jean awakened his innate goodness and led him to start helping prisoners escape.

Terry Dodson pitches in on this issue, alternating pages with Epting seemingly at random (though he does pencil the flashback to Jean's initial capture, which is a nice touch considering he also drew X-Men Chronicles #1, set not long before those events).

Through the Looking Glass
Jean is attacked by a wolf in which, after she knocks out, she senses an almost human psyche; this, then, is presumably the AoA Wolfsbane.

A Work in Progress
This issue introduces the Kennel, a subsection of the larger breeding pens for mutants with animalistic mutations.

Weapon X & Jean’s separation in Weapon X #2 is recapped.

Another flashback shows Sinister delivering Weapon X & Jean Apocalypse’s European strike plans to deliver to the Human High Council (which they did in Weapon X #1).

It’s heavily suggested that Scarlett is pregnant (presumably with Havok's baby).

Shortly thereafter, she’s arrested on the grounds of being a spy, having been accused by Karma while under interrogation.

A final flashback shows Jean’s capture by Cyclops, Sinister’s elation at having access to her genetic stock, and how her resolve inspired Cyclops to both free her and others from the pens.

After helping Havok capture his brother, the Guthries are promoted from Rooks to Prelates.

Beast is intent on making a new breed of soldier, longer-lived than the Infinites and more ferocious than the Balrog Cyborgs (the Reavers, I believe, being an example of those).

Apocalypse specifically references Rex as being human.

In Sinister’s absence, Apocalypse orders the Pens to be culled.

Austin's Analysis
Continuing this series' close association with Weapon X, Jean Grey transfers over following her separation from Weapon X in order to reunite with Cyclops and add further fuel to the Cyclops/Havok rivalry ahead of the story's climax next issue. In addition to leading to a downplaying of the Shakespearean machinations (an unavoidable by-product of Havok moving against his brother openly), Jean's presence, along with Beast and the subplot involving Scarlett & Angel's loyalties, means this issue features four of the five original X-Men (only Iceman is absent), which of course also means it features four of the five original X-Factor members. Initially, with Havok, leader of the "All New X-Factor" having such a prominent role in the story, the additional presence of characters like Cyclops & Beast felt like a logical outgrowth of Havok's presence. But now, with both Jean & Angel being featured in the series, this does read very much like an attempt to honor the full history of X-Factor in its AoA re-imagining, and not just it's most recent iteration. Whether or not that's intentional is, of course, debatable.

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  1. Weird, I have the collected edition and it's missing the page where Jean recaps leaving Logan in Weapon X #2. I feel like that scene is necessary because without it, she came off as cold and uncaring toward Logan. Not sure why it's missing.

  2. Odd little note about all the animalistic mutants being penned together.

    It was a topic Chuck Austen would revisit with a spectacular lack of success, logic or coherence in his "Dominant Species" arc on Uncanny. Charmingly Bobbins is the best I can describe it as

    1. Oh yeah, and then Jeph Loeb tried to do something similar, grouping Wolverine, Sabretooth, Feral, etc. together, to similar results.

  3. Anyone reading the current Uncanny line and looking at what's announced for the X-Books from Comic Con. The current Uncanny series is just terrible, and I read it for the train wreck that it is. Mr Sinister was arrested with handcuffs in a recent episode if you want to know how bad it is. The six new series announced sound generally terrible and the X-Men are on a whole new world from the sounds of it. Man, I will not be spending any more money on anything X-Men and just enjoy what's come before.

    1. It's hard for me to get too excited about any new direction in these days of constant, rolling reboots (e.g. Rosenberg's UNCANNY, which love it or hate it, ran about a year and is now being swept aside for the hot new direction, to the point where a bunch of characters he killed off are now set to star in a new series), but I'm reasonably excited about some of the new stuff coming down the pike. I'm not Hickman stan (I haven't really read enough of his stuff to have much opinion either way), but he seems to generally be a pretty big fan of the characters with an actual plan for the story he tells; after so long with the X-Men feeling like also-rans at Marvel, enthusiasm will go a long ways with me, and I always prefer a creator with an actual plan in mind over one who is making stuff up as he goes along. Assuming the buzz is correct about the starting point being "X-Men on Mars" or the World or whatever, I'm not terribly wild about moving them offworld on paper (they would be different than the Inhumans how?), but I'm also not going to condemn an unpublished story outright based on internet rumors & carefully curated promotional info drips. Plenty of bad ideas on paper have turned out well when properly executed. Whatever Hickman's got planned may very well suck, but I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt at this point.

      And I'm relatively intrigued by some of the new titles they announced. An All Summers team of X-Men? Sign me up, even if the inclusion of Wolverine is laughable and I'm not a huge fan of Yu on the book (he's been there before, and generally works better on solo series). Kitty leading a team of pirate of X-Men could be fun, I like the idea of Psylocke becoming Captain Britain again, that New Mutants books features a pretty classic lineup (with a couple Gen Xers thrown in). Obviously, we don't know much about what any of those books are really going to be about, so that'll color my impressions once we find out more. But just based on what we've been given, there's enough there to keep me as interested as any new comics in this day and age can.

    2. I've read a decent amount of Hickman's work and generally enjoy it. I don't like the idea of moving the X-men from the rest of the Marvel Universe though. Rosenberg's has had some good overall ideas, I like the team that Cyclops put together but the beating of every major villain in each issue is just a slap in the face to these characters. They have basically faced every X-villain and easily beat them in 2-3 pages, even if someone dies along the way, it's like no big deal. Cool, the Upstarts, oh, you had them kill another 90's team and then lose to the X-men in 2 pages. Then Sinister is arrested, hahahahahahahahahah.

      It's like the scope of what he's doing is cool but the execution is childlike and handled very poorly. Knowing that it's all going to be undone and that every X-Character has been brought back from the dead really makes no sense to me.

      I guess why should long time X-Fans care at this point when it's apparent no one at Marvel does?

      I'll give Hickman's run a go and see what happens. You are right on Yu and he's good for most of a book but you can tell he can't handle the schedule or a team book without the art really falling apart.

      I looked at all the new books and a Pirate team sounds like something I'll stay away from. The only book that stood out to me was New Mutants and that's because my favorite character Magik is in it. Apocalypse is on one of the teams - WTF? Psylocke as Captain Britain is good, is she no longer Asian from what I understand, no real explanation except that Ed Piskor didn't like it and changed it in his Grand Design book.

      I'm also wondering how long this new status quo will last. If it's like most X-Men related items, we have less than two years.

    3. I guess why should long time X-Fans care at this point when it's apparent no one at Marvel does?

      Yeah. That (and the constant reboots) have sapped a lot of my enthusiasm for any "bold new direction!". Though Hickman, at least, seems genuinely enthusiastic about the X-Men. Some of that is obviously marketing/hype BS (no writer is ever going to say "these characters I'm working on now are my moderate favorites. Like, middle of the pack in terms of characters I'm excited to work on"), but reading between the lines of some of that, it does seem like Hickman cares, and Marvel seems to care enough about making Hickman happy (he reportedly asked for the X-books in exchange for not leaving for DC) that they care, at least by extension. And, hopefully, Hickman's clout will help protect the line from some of Marvel's more irritating publishing shenanigans (for at least as long as Hickman is around).

      Apocalypse is on one of the teams - WTF?

      Yeah, that's a total WTF, but it definitely seems like one of those attention-getting things, and I can't imagine the whys and wherefores of Apocalypse being on a team won't be examined in the series.

      is she no longer Asian from what I understand, no real explanation except that Ed Piskor didn't like it and changed it in his Grand Design book.

      I know Piskor played around with it in GRAND DESIGN, but I just assumed there was a story somewhere in the recent past that I haven't read yet (I'm perpetually behind in my current reading...) which dealt with her transformation back to non-Asian. If there really is no narrative story out there addressing it, I have to believe it's something that'll get addressed at some point in HOX/POX or early in those series' runs (with Asian Psylocke/Kwannon set to appear in FALLEN ANGELS).

      I'm also wondering how long this new status quo will last. If it's like most X-Men related items, we have less than two years.

      That is the rub. I think the best we can hope for at this point is "for however long Hickman sticks around", and then just hope that's for awhile. I've heard references to him having at least a 3 year plan, and while some of that is certainly marketing BS (see above), Hickman definitely is one of those creators who actually does plan ahead and use smaller narratives to build a larger overarching plot, so I wouldn't be surprised if he's got at least a couple years in him, and (sale willing) Marvel will presumably let him do his thing.

    4. About the non-Asian Psylocke, it seems she recovered her origonal body in a limited series recently published to explain the return of Wolverine.

      And the Psylocke's art used in the Grand Design limited series was very strange because 1) It implied she always wore the "Armored Psylocke" costume which she only started to use in the Outback Era (post The Fall of the Mutants) and 2) She was drawn in a manner in which, at least to me, she seemed to already be Asian! So she was Asian Psylocke with the Australian Psylocke costume!

  4. I believe there was a mistake in the page in which Cyclops lost his eyes. The third panel seems to be the one in which Weapon-X cut Cyclops’s eye, but, in the next panel he’s fine. In fact, it seems like the last panel actually shows the beginning of their fight. So, the correct order should be 1st, 2nd, 4th and 3rd panel.

    Funny that no one thought about making a comic showing the actual fight, in all these years. It was something that back then I really wanted to see.

    Lastly, I don’t care about the X-Men since 2000. It seems Mr Sinister now looks like a vampire. It’s dumb. Sinister is how Marc Silvestri depicted him in his very first appearance

    1. Yeah, those panels do seem out of order - I think the last (5th) panel needs to be in the middle (the first one is Jean getting captured, then the second is, presumably, Cyclops learning about Weapon X's infiltration. Then they meet (panel 5), close up on Weapon X (panel 3) and the slash (panel 4).

      I should pull out my hardcopy of the issue and check it; maybe they screwed something up when they scanned it (my screencap is from Marvel Unlimited).

    2. I don't think the panels are out of order, because the text overlaps panels 4 & 5 and makes sense in the order it is in. I think the panel with tue slash is just Logan slashing some random guard in the pens. (Presumably the Infinites hadn't been created yet.)

    3. Some kind of narrative snafu occurred with that flashback because the last caption on the page finishes a statement and ends with a period yet the first caption on the next page reads “… and cost him an eye?”

  5. "more ferocious than the Balrog Cyborgs (the Reavers, I believe, being an example of those)."

    Logan fights a "Balrog-class meta-cyborg" in Weapon X #1. It was a big land octopus thing. I believe that was the only appearance of a balrog cyborg. You included a picture of one in your blog post for that issue. The Reavers are referred to as Altered Humans in AoA.

    1. Ah, that's it. I knew they'd appeared/been mentioned somewhere in WEAPON X; apparently I just couldn't be bothered to double check.


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