Issue(s): X-Factor #2, X-Factor #3
...and basically everything very well, and Layton scripting is natural. And the plot here makes a really nice use of the Beast's backstory while giving us some good new characters and a fun revamp to an existing one.
I still have a problem with the basic concept of this series, as i described in the entry for the first issue, but if you put that aside for now, the story is quite good. I do, of course, have my usual quibbles!
For example, the Scott/Jean relationship continues to be annoying. Scott continues to not be able to tell either Jean or his wife Madelyne what's going on. Scott calls Warren a playboy, which, to be fair, he is standing around the kitchen in his underwear with his robe open, showing off his single digit body fat.
Later Scott finally tries to call Madelyne and finds that the number has been disconnected. Scott blames his mutant powers.
And here's the Beast, who, i don't care how many trenchcoats or hats he puts on, is a big blue furry guy, and he's yelling at Iceman about secret identities? I mean, how is he talking to landlords about apartments for rent without revealing his secret ID?
From there we meet that revamped character. It's Beast's sometimes-girlfriend Vera, who has gotten into Elvis Costello and it "changed her life".
That's interrupted when one of the new characters, a size-changing mutant called Tower, attacks.
The ability to grow and shrink is hardly the most original power, but Tower works as a basic thug-level villain, and as we'll see he's fairly formidable even against the whole team. For now, he easily knocks out Vera and Bobby and captures the Beast.
Tower is in the employ of Professor Carl Maddicks, a character from the Beast's past when he used to work at Brand. In fact, he seemingly died in the same story where the Beast first mutated into his fuzzy form, but that turns out to not be the case, and he is now working at a facility trying to reverse the effects of mutation. What his employers don't know is that the reason he wants to do so is because he has a mutant son, a mute boy named Artie whose power is the ability to project images of other people's thoughts, but his mutation also leaves him deformed. Eventually Artie will be paired with the similar-looking Morlock, Leech, and they'll become more lighthearted characters, but right now Artie is a pretty tragic figure.
The concept of reversing mutation will be a recurring theme for the Beast, and it's the basis for one of the X-Men movies as well. It's built here off the idea that if the Beast was able to isolate and amplify the chemical source of mutation, as he did in his Brand days, he should also be able to reverse it. Carl Maddicks has no problem admitting that Hanks is also smarter than him, which is a bonus reason for kidnapping him (i would like a science type person to weigh in on whether the chemical compound Artie is visualizing qualifies as "equations" as the dialogue calls it).
To ensure that no one traces Tower back to him, Maddicks decides to turn Tower in to X-Factor. That's a good example of how treating mutants as second class citizens to be hunted ensures that they can be exploited. It's also, as the characters themselves note, an overly convenient way to get the rest of X-Factor into the story.
The fight with Tower:
Tower is defeated, but Maddicks has his son use another power, the ability to mindlock a victim, to delay Tower from divulging information while he completes his experiment.
It's only a delay, though, and X-Factor does learn Maddicks' location, which is at the Ryan Bio-Chemical Compound. The team infiltrates the facilities...
...and confront Maddicks. He tells them that his employers have no idea what Maddicks has been up to in the basement, and that the guards will kill him and his son when they arrive. So he begs X-Factor to take Artie along with Hank while he holds off the guards with a hand gun.
You have to kind of wonder why a team of super-heroes need a scientist with a gun to cover their exit. Did Carl Maddicks really need to die?
Before he died, Maddicks also told X-Factor that Tower had been recruited by Ryan Bio-Chemical so that they could experiment on his mutations, and that's how Maddicks got to know him and was able to use him for the extra-curricular activity of kidnapping the Beast. But knowing that Tower is part of a larger group and who they are working for, it's interesting to see that he also allowed himself to be recruited by Ryan and work for Maddicks.
When the team gets home, Jean and Scott are about to finally have a meaningful conversation, but they are interrupted because it is time to unwrap Hank, who we find has been reverted to his pre-fuzzy state.
While it's a cool story that raises the question of "curing" mutation, the plot also is intended to address the concern i mentioned above about secret identities. In the first issue, we saw Beast and Angel having to hide while the other mutants were in their X-Factor mode talking to clients. Now Beast is human-looking enough to pass, and we also see that Warren has a big backpack to cover his wings.
This doesn't fully resolve the problem considering these characters haven't felt the need to be careful with their identities in the past, but it's an attempt. We'll eventually see that for Warren in particular it's not enough.
The one big missed opportunity i see in these early issues is that while most of the members of the team get some attention, Jean Grey is neglected. Aside from showing her supposedly being too hard on Rusty during training...
...she isn't given much of a personality. Which is too bad, because of the bunch she's in the most interesting situation right now. With the sliding timescale it's hard to say exactly how long Jean has been missing, but it was 10 years by publication date and that's long enough to do some "woman out of time" stuff. I know that the Avengers and the FF had sort of cut her off from the X-Men and her family, but there are other ex-X-Men, and just having her react to changes in culture since her "death" would have been interesting.
I guess the other thing we see of Jean is that she's most earnestly invested in X-Factor's ideals (she also earlier refers to Tower as an "evil mutant", so maybe we are getting glimpses of a pre-modern way of thinking).
It is worth noting that the scene with Jean and Scott teaching Rusty is fulfilling the intended remit of the series, which is about finding mutants and teaching them to use their powers safely so they can re-integrate into society as per Professor Xavier's dream. As with the New Mutants, the idea was supposed to be that the students aren't being taught to become super-heroes, but that's a difficult path to walk in a super-hero universe. To do it right, we'd really have to see Rusty leaving the cast after a period of time instead of remaining as a supporting character.
Another complaint about the series concept was that the idea of X-Factor running ads talking about living in fear from mutants was obviously going to do more harm than good. Bob Layton acknowledges that problem in issue #3...
...which may have been after Marvel started getting some initial feedback about the series, or may have been the plan from the beginning. Even if it's the latter case, i still have a problem with the ex-X-Men not realizing the problem with the idea.
Nonetheless, pushing aside some of the doubts and overlooking especially the Scott/Jean/Maddie dynamic, these are some fun issues with a lot to recommend.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showAngel, Artie Maddicks, Beast, Cameron Hodge, Carl Maddicks, Cyclops, Iceman, Jean Grey, Rusty Collins, Senator Thompson, Tower, Vera Cantor
Scott acting like he's got no way to contact Maddie because her phone was disconnected made no sense. Maddie was working for his GRANDPARENTS. The first thing Scott should have done after finding out he couldn't contact Maddie was to call his grandparents (which he should have done anyway if he was no longer working for their airline.)
Posted by: Michael | December 5, 2013 8:53 PM
Senator Thompson has one further appearance (to my knowledge) in X-Factor Annual #1, if you want to track him.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 5, 2013 10:56 PM
I do. Thanks Walter.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 5, 2013 11:00 PM
Fnord12, your complaint about Jean Grey is a minor one since she is a already dull character that ruins a story cough(phenix)cough.
Posted by: doomsday | December 15, 2013 11:42 AM
Layton must not have known about Vera's recent Defenders appearances, which her last one was published only a few months before this issue.....nowhere near enough time for her to have this dramatic "transformation".
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | June 7, 2014 5:35 PM
I think the major reason X-Factor was never a great book in the early stretch is because, aside from Apocalypse, almost all of the villains were kinda duds. They built a nice supporting cast and used it well (Rusty, Artie, Skids, Leech) but aside from bringing Apocalypse back again and again, they never really got a good rogues gallery.
I also don't remember Artie ever again using that mind-control power.
And Michael makes a good point - at what point do we even see Scott's grandparents again? Shouldn't they have contacted Alex at least, a long time before the events where he rejoins the X-Men which are over a year out from this in real time?
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 19, 2015 9:04 AM
We see Scott's grandparents again in X-Men 21-23 in 1993. That's treated like the first time he's seen them in person since pre-X-Factor. The explanation in later issues is that they went on a cruise after selling the business but that's weird since in X-Factor 13 Scott seems surprised they sold the business and went on a cruise. The real explanation is that Layton and Simonson forgot about Scott's grandparents.
Posted by: Michael | June 19, 2015 7:28 PM
In addition to solving the secret identity plots, this is also about superficially returning the five founding X-Men to their original status quo: civilian identities, the Beast in his original form, and running a secret mutant training facility. Vera coming back with an updated look seems to me like a 1980s update to the old stories where she and Iceman's girlfriend would drag the boys to the beatnik coffee shop in Greenwich village; since this is the 80s, perhaps it'll be CBGB or something. And Scott's withdrawal seems like it's setting up a return to the Scott-Warren-Jean triangle of the earliest X-Men issues.
Heck, even Jean has been reset to her original powers. But as pointed out in this and prior reviews, Layton also seems to be interested in subverting the setup from the beginning, not only emphasizing the mutant prejudice angle in a way the original book never would have, but also playing up Scott's behavior as rather unsympathetic.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 15, 2015 9:39 AM
Considering that Scott has acquired rabid anti-fans that have been entrenched since X-Factor #1(that's 20 years and counting), Layton did too good a job of making Cyclops "unsympathetic." The fact is, in Marvel time, Scott's absence from his wife is probably less than a week, but because he left for jean Grey and because the readers all know he's going to get back together with Jean, he's essentially left his wife. For regular people, this would not be leaving a wife, but a trial separation at the worst, considering he doesn't lay a hand on Jean until like X-Factor 26. For regular people, going to "the big city" without your wife's permission usually involves a lot of partying, not rescuing mutant kids. But Scott is supposed to be so honorable that even going to New York without his wife's permission "taints" him. Had Claremont allowed Scott to even speak to Maddy, a lot of unnecessary character damage could have been mitigated. And it's been downhill for Scott ever since.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | April 15, 2016 7:12 AM
Brian, it's said in story that Scott went on a two week walk around New York before Hank and Bobby find him. And as Vince points out above, Vera's transformation suggests a considerable amount of time passed between Defenders 149 and X-Factor 2. (Defenders 149 takes place a couple of days before Reed tried to contact Warren about Jean's return in Defenders 152.)It's also said in story that Maddie was in a coma for "months". We're going by the temporal references in-story- nobody assumes that Sue's second pregnancy lasted a week!
Posted by: Michael | April 15, 2016 8:03 AM
@Michael I'm going to quibble here. Vera's "transformation" looked liked a practical joke from Bobby's thought balloons. I don't think getting a new haircut would take that long.
So, the baby. The baby was left in the custody of Madelyne, where Scott couldn't return. But he does as soon as he realizes Madelyne might have been in danger being associating with the X-Men. Up until this point, he knew where the baby was. He goes to Alaska, and fails to mind either Maddy or the baby, in the company of a police officer. I think he reported his son missing at that point. Scott saved the officer from Master Mold, so the cop would have been likely to go, let's get a Amber Alert out pronto, even though it looks like your son is dead too, what with the dead red-headed corpse here and all.
So, Scott's disappearing act was bad, but not that long and in the scheme of things, Madelyne had already been kidnapped and shot during this time as shown in Uncanny X-Men 206, which you will find as grouped next to this issue. The baby was already kidnapped. There was no way for him to know this or assume anything untoward had happened until X-Factor #12.
So, we come down to the main reason that Scott is hated. He had 2 red-heads and the one he married had a death that took(mostly). Claremont and Louise decided to make her evil and decided to kill her. I think how they handled it is the problem, but because it's tied in to Scott basically wandering the city like a hobo in a issue neither Chris and Louise wrote, Scott's evil. Well, we can make the argument on real time books that he is now, but circa X-Factor #1-12, I don't buy it. In Inferno, Pryor made deals with the devil, went crazy and acted out becoming a danger to everyone. If Scott's evil by the standards we've discussed, Maddy's ten times worse. Scott being crazy was taking a long walk and sleeping in alleys or something. Maddy got skimpy black suits, and played TK tag with her reunited child, before preparing the big sacrifice. Scott maybe watched public access in a rat hole hotel room if he had a tv. Instead of searching for her child which she always knew was kidnapped, Maddy hooked up with the X-Men who had a death sentence on their heads. When Scott went back to the only place that would offer him a job, he was prone to hallucinations while earning the money he was saving that he would have gladly given to Madelyne had she not been fake dead. Madelyne decided to sentence Earth to Perdition. It could go on.....
Fan arguments go two ways. Frankly, Scott's actions were unworthy, but Madelyne's were *at best* unworthy. Truthfully, they were both trashed by over 3 years of over wrought soap opera that tainted the entire franchise because of a big bucks #1 release of X-Factor. I've learned to blame Marvel at this point. It's a course I recommend for any who can see it that way.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | April 15, 2016 1:44 PM
He was told not to come back by Maddie IN THE MIDDLE OF A FIGHT. She clearly didn't mean it, since we see in Uncanny 223 that she tried to reach him. In any case, he didn't contact her after he was working with X-Factor, since we saw that she wasn't attacked by the Marauders until after X-Factor rescued Rusty. Oh and he forgot to tell Jean he was married.
Posted by: Michael | April 15, 2016 11:32 PM
Guice is definitely not the problem with this run (really, more of a walk, isn't it? Other than Len Wein leaving X-Men after Giant-Size, I'm having difficulty thinking of an ongoing that lost both its launch creators more quickly). Layton is the problem. I like to think that the flaws in the premise were intentional, but they took too long to deal with them. And that problem is compounded with trying way too hard to establish a retro status quo (we get Vera back from forgettable-character limbo and Beast loses his fur....why, exactly? Just because it resembled Roy Thomas' X-Men?) and just some rather boring early stories (especially, ugh, that annual). I'm glad Layton left early, but I wouldn't have minded more Guice. I think he conveys emotion quite well here.
Posted by: J-Rod | February 20, 2017 4:02 PM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|