Issue(s): X-Factor #18
Scott and Jean's tense relationship is having an effect on the kids. Skids wonders if falling in love is ever a good idea.
True, Skids. You won't get cloned by an energy creature, but you will get brainwashed and forced to serve in the Mutant Liberation Front alongside Rusty before fading into oblivion. I was wondering why these characters never "made it" the way the other X-Factor charges did, and i think the reason is that their arc was effectively concluded in X-Factor #16. They've learned to control their powers and they've also resolved their emotional problems (Rusty facing the fact that he burned Emma LaPorte and Skids learning to metaphorically let people into her life again after her experience with child abuse). And X-Factor aren't training them to be fighters, or, for that matter, teachers. So they really ought to be released back into the real world at this point. There's really no reason for them to be hanging around this madhouse.
Anyway, back to Our Troubled Protagonists. Rusty asks Scott about love, and Scott tells Rusty about that time he and Jean were on the butte in New Mexico and she held back his optic beams with her powers and they knew they were in love. Except that wasn't actually Jean, it was the Phoenix.
Cameron Hodge is watching all of this and claims to even be orchestrating these events.
Hodge then deflects Scott's objections over X-Factor's ad campaigns. But Scott notices that Rictor is terrified of Hodge's voice; Rictor recognizes it from when he was held by The Right. So Cyclops goes to look up Hodge on the computer, and has another hallucination about the Phoenix.
The hallucination gets him confused when the real Jean shows up.
Jean, however, fails to recognize a sick man, and instead starts shouting back about her own hang-ups.
So it's a fight between two people that are both dealing with mental issues.
One thing that's interesting is that it's almost like Jean is talking on a meta level, refusing the creator's attempt to force her into just being the Phoenix and resolving this dumb mess. That would be the simplest solution, just reveal that Jean was somehow the Phoenix and Madelyne Pryor all along. But Jean holds on to her identity.
Scott tries to "prove" that Jean is indeed the Phoenix, but his proof just turns out to be that Skids brought Leech nearby to end their stupid fight.
And then everybody learns that Scott's hallucinations were actually holograms created by Hodge.
Now judging from Cameron Hodge's knowing grin at the beginning of this issue when Scott starts talking about ashes, i have to assume the intent here is that Hodge has actually been responsible for all of Scott's hallucinations, even those that happened while Scott was in Alaska. Hodge has just been revealed to be part of the organization called The Right, which presumably has the resources to do that. So in that sense, Simonson is backing away from the idea of making Scott crazy, or maybe this was her intention all along.
When Simonson first took over this book, i talked about the need to pull off the band-aid and just get the problems with the premise of the book out of the way. Simonson hasn't really been doing that; instead she's been openly letting these wounds fester for all to see. Scott's relationship problems, the problems with X-Factors' ads and business. Every issue has acknowledged these problems, but we haven't had much progress on them. The advertising problem is getting resolved de facto thanks to Hodge being revealed as a villain. And the holograms, well, they're resolving the issue of Scott's madness, but that's an issue that Simonson introduced herself. And it doesn't resolve the fact that Scott left Maddie for Jean in the first place. Nonetheless this will be a turning point of sorts, with Scott having resolved his dispute with Jean at the beginning of next issue and accepted that she's not the Phoenix.
But this issue is a big, angsty mess of infighting, the sort of thing i would criticize Bill Mantlo for. Not a great vehicle for Walt Simonson's art, either.
One thing that gets kind of lost in all of this is the introduction of Rictor to the team. We do get a cursory scene with the Beast and Rictor demonstrating his powers, but one thing that was interesting in the early issues was the way Rusty rejected the idea that he was a mutant because he didn't want to be like Artie, and that was his only point of comparison for being a mutant. I guess we don't need a repeat of that, but Rictor doesn't really react at all when these two tragically deformed kids walk into the room.
Nor is there any real interaction between Rictor and the older X-Factor charges. Rictor is just sort of around, now.
Also in this issue, we find that Apocalypse has Angel (not identified, but clearly him) and intends to turn him into his fourth Horseman.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: X-Factor returns from their operation rescuing Rictor at the beginning of this issue, so they shouldn't appear elsewhere in between. The MCP places X-Factor annual #2 during this issue, between pages #5-6.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAngel, Apocalypse, Artie Maddicks, Beast, Caliban, Cameron Hodge, Cyclops, Iceman, Jean Grey, Leech, Rictor, Rusty Collins, Ship (Prosh), Skids
I don't think that Hodge was behind ALL of Scott's hallucinations. First, in later issues, the characters refer to Scott's going mad. Secondly, in the previous issue, Boom Boom thought Scott was talking to thin air. OK, so maybe she didn't see the hologram. But note that in X-Factor 14, Scott yells at a hallucination of Xavier in front of two cops and the cops clearly can't see anyone there.
Posted by: Michael | April 4, 2014 7:53 PM
I like the point that some of X-Factor's charges had learned to control their powers and should have been released back into the real world. One problem with the X-Books is that they are not integrated into the real world at all. None of the X-Men had real jobs once Claremont took over or functioned in real society. Even the mansion and school seemed to function on its own without normal people (who agreed with Xavier's dream) working there. Granted, much of that is do to only having so much screen time available when you have 5-8 main characters.
However, X-Factor would have had a good opportunity to showcase this. Especially with Warren's wealth behind the organization. It would have helped if some of these characters "graduated" and reintegrated into the real world, able to use their powers without endangering others.
The trend that will happen in the next five years - all mutants existing only in the spandex world, only knowing how to fight - really limits some of the stories and themes available to the title.
Posted by: Chris | April 4, 2014 10:19 PM
For "Historical Significance" section, this is where Apocalypse officially names Warren as his new Horseman, "Death".
Also important in this issue: Cameron Hodge sends Beast, Iceman & Caliban off to search for Boom Boom (who left to join the Fallen Angels) here and we see they're still searching for her at the beginning of X-Factor #19 why is why the MCP placed X-Factor Annual #2 during the gap between pages 5 & 6. I suggested that Iceman & Beast could have taken a break from their search between issues and have the Annual story as a resolution to this conflict but it can work either way.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | April 6, 2014 6:32 PM
Whoa. I had wiped from my mind the scene in which Scott pulls off his visor to prove that "Phoenix" can hold back his optic blasts. Is there any follow-up about how incredibly stupid that was, and how Jean might have been decapitated if not for the dumb luck of Leech being brought in?
The Hodge character never really worked for me when I read this stuff in real time. We'd never heard a word about him in the 25 years the Angel had been prominent across multiple titles, but we were supposed to buy that he was close enough to Angel to be trusted with something like X-Factor. Besides that, he was an utter cipher until they decided the story worked better with him being corrupt, then evil, then I think...a mutant himself? He was all over the place. Nevertheless, although I complain about on-the-nose scripting elsewhere, there's a part of me that enjoys the dumb fun of a villain watching on monitors and saying, "Ha ha! I've got them both! Right where I want them!" That's just a tiny step up in sophistication from a villain with gold coins on the ground all around him, a priceless necklace in one hand and a bunch of paper money in the other, yelling, "It's mine! All mine!"
Posted by: Todd | April 7, 2014 4:02 AM
There's some followup in the next issue and then it's forgotten. But yeah, Scott should have been more careful- he's been on the receiving end of attacks from X-Men that thought he was Phoenix due to an illusion.
Posted by: Michael | April 7, 2014 7:48 AM
Also, Scott's Jean/Dark Phoenix hallucinations in this issue are quite reminiscent of the ones D'Spayre induced in X-Men 144. In a way, this is good -- of course his fears and the products of his instability, whether induced by a villain or by stress, should be consistent -- but the X-Men story was better written.
Posted by: Todd | April 7, 2014 7:00 PM
A far worse fate than Dark Phoenix awaits Rusty and Skids: LIEFELDIZATION
Posted by: Bob | June 20, 2015 6:38 PM
Considering how stupid the concept of "X-Factor" is, and how destructive to Claremont's storylines bringing Jean back is, I think this is as good as X-Factor got in genuinely addressing the problems they went through. Scott and Jean make a perfect couple, and she's back from the dead too. Can't keep a good mutant down. Weezie is maybe a tenth the writer Claremont was, but she worked with him for years and if nothing else, he trained her on how to deal with these characters. Her own editorial experience probably gave her further insight, and working with her husband on these classic characters provided even more.
I like the idea of Scott ripping off his glasses to prove to Jean who she really is and then it's revealed that Leech is the only reason he hasn't blown her head off. Scott has run away from his wife and child to rejoin his high school buddies all because of a girl who died, then came back.
It's basically the best abusive love story ever, as told by superheroes. Jean loves Scott because she's Jean and he's Scott and that's all she needs to know. And she will get violent herself just by being compared to "the other woman." No winks or nudges which women have used for centuries to change men's minds, no acknowledgement of Jean's own life or personality or history or interests or anything outside of being a clone of her high school boyfriend's evil wife. As many bad things as I might say about Louise Simonsen's writing, and the concept of "X-Factor" in general, and Madelyne Pryor in general, the two of them are headed for a collision, and Jean will obviously be the winner.
Given that, this is probably the point where the Scott/Jean/Maddie triangle works the best. Scott and Jean revert to traditional superhero methods of beating each other up, and he's so insane that he's willing to destroy her just to prove how much he loves her. And she just takes it.
Before long, he'd proposed. Which is creepy enough. Was Maddie ever declared dead? Probably not because every record of her existence was erased. So, what, Scott just goes back to the first redhead to pick up where they left off? And she's fine with that? She really doesn't care enough about Scott or marriage to want any sort of finalization to Scott's previous marriage before she marries Scott. You know, just in case something goes wrong. And this doesn't even consider Jean's own interest (or lack thereof) in marrying Scott.
At least a violent superhero vs. superhero fight makes sense given what's going on between them.
Posted by: ChrisW | July 29, 2015 12:21 AM
And Rictor just appears, a generic mutant held hostage by evil humans. He spends a few issues raving about how evil Cameron Hodge is, then he keeps hanging out with the teens in X-Factor, then he moves over to the New Mutants, then he starts raving about how evil Cable is. Then he leaves. At least Scott and Jean gave us a love story we can like or not, WTF was this?
Posted by: ChrisW | July 29, 2015 12:27 AM
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