Issue(s): X-Factor #19, X-Factor #20
...and also seemingly confirming that Scott's recent hallucinations have been the fault of Hodge as well.
This of course doesn't get to the root of the problem of Scott's abandonment of his wife Madelyne, but it does hold the promise of moving us to a saner and less angsty status quo.
The possibility that not all of Scott's hallucinations were holograms created by Hodge is left open, with Scott still referring to himself as having had delusions.
But it seems really weird to me that Louise Simonson would set up a scenario where some of Cyclops' hallucinations were real and some weren't. What would be the point of that revelation, then? I'd chalk up the inconsistencies with Scott's prior hallucinations (the ones in Alaska) to either sloppy storytelling or special technology from The Right (Hodge had access to Scott's visor and glasses and could have put something in them that made it possible for him to see holograms that the cops and others couldn't). But on the other hand, the fact that Simonson is still not being definitive may mean that she did intend for some of those delusions to be real ("real", meaning, not holograms created by Hodge).
At the end of this issue, after a Pyrrhic victory (more on that in a second), Scott claims that he does well in battles because of Professor X's training. "It's not the neurotic who leads this group... it's the bit of Xavier that's in me."
I don't know if Simonson equates "neurotic" with someone who occasionally has hallucinations; i hope not, but maybe. It's also odd because in X-Factor #14, Scott specifically blamed Xavier for making him crazy.
Anyway, i wanted to bring all that up first, and especially get to the part about Xavier, because there's an interesting parallel in issue #19 with Apocalypse. At this point we've met the first three of his Horseman, and this issue will feature their first attack on X-Factor. But before that, it starts with them having an inter-team squabble. And what i like is that Apocalypse, in keeping with his philosophy of the strong weeding out the weak, actually eggs them on for a while.
And then, so that they learn the value of teamwork, he sends them after X-Factor without any strategy.
They encounter Beast, Iceman, and Caliban first, who were out looking for Boom Boom.
Cyclops and Jean (i have so much trouble calling her Marvel Girl) show up soon afterwards. Cyclops finds that their armor is designed to repel his optic blasts.
Beast gets tagged by Pestilence during the fight.
With the fight going against them, Cyclops has Iceman unleash the full power of his Loki-enhanced powers, and he freezes the Horsemen along with a good portion of Central Park.
Apocalypse, having thus provided "training" demonstrating what happens when the Horsemen fail to work together, teleports them back to his ship.
X-Factor are also doing some training, but so far they are not having much luck with Leech, and the training is often interrupted.
So we've got the original students of Xavier having grown up to be "neurotic" except while fighting, and not doing a good job of teaching the next generation, and paralleled by a twisted version in Apocalypse, who is also literally creating his own warped warrior.
I should note that the lettercol in issue #20 is full of people reacting to issue #15 that believe that Angel had really died.
Issue #20 jumps back in time a bit to show X-Factor's younger charges watching the fight on television. They seem pretty unconcerned. Is Leech licking those plates?
I complained in an earlier entry that with the frantic pace of these issues, we haven't gotten to see Rictor reacting to the group of mutants he's being introduced to. In issue #20, we do get to see Rictor interacting with the other charges, but it's less about getting his point of view on the other mutants and more about revealing that he thinks being a mutant is bad and that he had a traumatic experience in the past in Mexico.
X-Factor returns and the Beast is still sick from Pestilence's touch, although it's noted that he's "stronger than ever".
Leech helps Iceman recover from over-using his powers. June Brigman is the fill-in artist on #20, and her Leech is adorable.
I said above that X-Factor have realized the Hodge was a bad guy, and his actions with the hologram undoubtedly mark him as a villain, and in the "neurotic" scan above Scott says that he has to go. But Jean still wonders why Hodge isn't out doing some PR control after the events in the Park. She's probably being sarcastic, but it does sound like he's still on the payroll and raises the question of what X-Factor intends to do about Hodge.
Scott, meanwhile, may no longer be crazy, but he sure isn't showing that he's the right person to be training the next generation of mutants.
Rusty, inspired by Iceman's "know us by our deeds" speech, decides he'll go do something about the ice that Iceman left behind in Central Park. Rictor, still convinced that being a mutant is "bad", doesn't want to go...
...so Rusty winds up going alone. Artie, clearly traumatized by all these recent events and the absolute lack of any kind of adult care in his life, wakes up crying and decides to go to Rusty, and finds that Rusty is gone...
...so he alerts the other kids (except Leech).
On their way to Central Park, the other kids find the latest X-Factor ads, which seem to have given up on any attempt at soliciting their services and are just straight-up anti-mutant posters, and tear them down.
Rusty, meanwhile, has gotten himself knocked unconscious thanks to falling snow, and has attracted the attention of a gang of toughs. But Skids, Rictor, and Artie arrive to drive the gang away, and Rusty and Rictor use their powers to get rid of all the ice.
We learn that Rictor's powers destroyed a city in Mexico before the Right captured him.
Working with the other X-Factor kids has convinced him that being a mutant isn't all bad. And beyond that, all of the X-Factor kids are said to be self-sufficient enough that X-Factor can continue going out on missions.
Which is convenient for plotting purposes, but it does seem to get away from the one positive thing about X-Factor's original premise, which was that X-Factor was supposed to find and train mutants in trouble.
There's a lot of fun stuff in these issues. A formal debut of the Horseman, and the whole Apocalypse plot is definitely getting a good build-up. June Brigman's kid-focused issue #20 is nice, too. But it still has to be pointed out that the problems are piling up. Scott's psychological situation clearly isn't resolved, and he's still got to find the person who "killed" his "wife" and also try to locate the baby. The Marauders are still out there. Jean's cousin Sara's house was bombed and Sara is either missing or dead. Iceman's powers are a mess, and the Beast is suffering from an unknown disease, and his treatment so far has been to put him on a cot in the infirmary. Boom Boom hasn't been located. The group needs to find Hodge and/or stop their ad campaign and do some damage control. Plus, now they know the Horsemen are out there.
But X-Factor get a call from someone reporting "A grey mutant giant...terrorizing a town in Illinois", and they are ready to drag what remains of their team off to investigate that instead of dealing with any of the above.
And that continues to be my biggest problem with this series. On the one hand, Louise Simonson is, albeit very slowly, addressing the problems inherent in the premise of the series. And in the meantime she's introducing good stories on an issue by issue basis. And there's typically nice art by Walt Simonson. But on the other hand she's got an almost surrealistic scripting style and is also very casual about the traumas that she's putting this group through, and when you combine that with the list of plot elements that are piling up, the net effect is an un-managed catastrophe. As i read individual issues i find myself enjoying them, but when you sit back and think about the bigger picture, it's been an uninterrupted streak of emergencies since Simonson took over and the team first went out to investigate the X-Men's battle with Nimrod. So when the group finally has a breather in terms of their own problems, and they accept a random call to investigate a random problem out in the midwest, it's boggling. I'm actually glad that the crossover is coordinated so well (both X-Factor and Hulk have Bob Harras as editor), but thinking about it in terms of where the team is right now, it's hard to believe that they've accepted the mission. And that illustrates the larger pacing problem in the series.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: I said that X-Factor annual #2 could possibly take place after X-Factor #18 instead of during, with Jean and Cyke taking a break from their rooftop clean-up and Beast and Iceman taking a break from their search for Boom Boom, but just to hedge my bets i'm placing this directly after the annual, with the idea that if the annual does take place during X-Factor #18, issue #19 here begins directly after #18. More importantly, there is potentially some overlap with issue #20 and Hulk #336 (it's said here that they'll leave for Illinois in ten minutes, but they seem to have been hanging around the compound a little longer in the Hulk issue), and X-Factor definitely next appear in Hulk #336-337. The Fallen Angels series is happening concurrently with this.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): showAngel, Apocalypse, Artie Maddicks, Beast, Caliban, Cameron Hodge, Cyclops, Famine (Horseman of Apocalypse), Iceman, Jean Grey, Leech, Pestilence (Horseman of Apocalypse), Rictor, Rusty Collins, Ship (Prosh), Skids, Trish Tilby, War (Horseman of Apocalypse)
I've always assumed that most of Scott's hallucinations were hallucinations, not holograms. In subsequent issues, there are references to Scott having been mad or almost mad. And yes, it is possible that Hodge was using illusions that nobody else could see in Alaska but then why would he switch to illusions that everyone could see in New York? It's bad writing either way- either Hodge switches from illusions nobody could see to illusions everybody could see for no other reason than to clue Scott's friends in what's been going on or Scott's hallucinations magically vanish after he sees a hologram. And this is around the same time that Betty's hallucinations magically vanish in Spider-Man.
Posted by: Michael | April 13, 2014 2:52 PM
You've repeated the same scan of Rictor shaking up the kitchen there.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | April 13, 2014 7:59 PM
Thanks, Jay. Fixed it.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 13, 2014 8:30 PM
I will only say that this crappy melodrama is not what i expected when X Factor got together the first X Men. Very disappointing
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | April 13, 2014 10:48 PM
Rictor is missing as a character appearing.
Posted by: Michael | May 17, 2014 3:25 PM
Thanks Michael. I was missing Artie too. Added both.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 17, 2014 4:14 PM
Fnord, I just noticed something that might settle the Scott's hallucinations debate. In Marvel Comics Presents 17, Scott tells Moira "I've had my share of hallucinations in the past, as you well know". So that would seem to suggest that both Scott and Moira think that Scott's hallucinations were "real". (Although it raises the question of when Scott told Moira about them.)
Posted by: Michael | June 8, 2014 10:56 PM
Michael, that's obviously just a reference to his encounter with with D'Spayre in UX #144. ;-)
(I'll get to those issues soon enough, but considering they were written by Bob Harras it seems like you're right it'll be a good clue regarding the original intent here.)
Posted by: fnord12 | June 10, 2014 9:51 AM
The mood in this book is getting tiresome...
Every issue revolves around the same themes: despair, hallucinations, death...
It feels the characters are stuck and the writers aren't giving them any closure. Especially Cyclops, which is a character I can't stand at this point.
Posted by: Bibs | November 1, 2017 8:34 AM
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