Issue(s): X-Factor #51
...but Mole manages to escape thanks to his mutant power to temporarily phase objects like walls. Mole winds up in the basement of a record store where there's an employee named Opal Tanaka.
After initially panicking, Opal helps Mole hide.
Observing all of this are Apocalypse and Caliban. Caliban asks permission to go after Sabretooth to pay him back for attacking his people during the Massacre, but Apocalypse tells him that he's not yet strong enough. We'll later learn that you prove you're strong enough by not asking permission, something that i like about Apocalypse. But Apocalypse actually also likes what Sabretooth is doing, since he's all in favor of the strong culling the weak.
And now, the return of X-Factor. Ship has a "surprise" for them, which is taking the form of a huge skyscraper (towering above the World Trade Center) and landing on the edge of Manhattan, where Ship used to be docked as a boat.
Ship also transforms to generate a giant X.
The idea here is to play off X-Factor's new "public hero" status by giving them a very obvious headquarters. Very public, but also very intimidating. It's an interesting balance to explore. Their arrival instantly attracts a number of news helicopters, and they wind up crashing into each other when Archangel flies up to tell them that they're going to give interviews on the ground. X-Factor help rescue the reporters in the choppers, with the help of a police officer named Officer Jones.
When they get to the bottom of the building to conduct their interviews, Archangel has trouble controlling his wings, so he flies off before he kills someone. Sabretooth watches him fly off.
And at the very end of the issue, Caliban does stop waiting for permission.
This issue is mostly set-up, so there isn't a lot to say at this time. This issue probably establishes things that Louise Simonson wanted to do after Fall of the Mutants when X-Factor actually became public heroes, but (i speculate) the premise here had to be pushed off thanks to all of the subsequent crossovers and to let things line up with X-Men (i.e., meeting the X-Men in Inferno and then getting shunted off into space at the same time the other secondary X-Books also sent their casts offworld). This issue sets up X-Factor in a prominent headquarters. And it starts a plotline with Sabretooth and the Morlocks that would have made a lot more sense closer to the Mutant Massacre. The issue also introduces Charlotte Jones and Opal Tanaka, both of whom will become important supporting characters that will let X-Factor interact with normal humans (just as Beast already interacts with Trish Tilby).
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: This book intertwines with New Mutants as both teams return to earth, so the end of New Mutants #87 takes place while X-Factor's ship is landing, and New Mutants #88 takes place prior to next issue.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showAngel, Apocalypse, Beast, Cable (Baby Nathan Christopher Summers), Caliban, Charlotte Jones, Cyclops, Iceman, Jean Grey, Mole, Opal Tanaka, Sabretooth, Ship (Prosh), Trish Tilby
Note that this issue provides an additional reason why the final issues of Atlantis Attacks can't take place after the New Mutants return to Earth. Loki's confrontation with Apocalypse took place after the Skull joined the cabal, and the scenes with Caliban and Apocalypse this issue take place after that and simultaneously with X-Factor returning to Earth.
Posted by: Michael | April 20, 2015 8:09 PM
Part of Simonson's problem is that she killed off three popular characters - Doug, Warlock and Madelyne Pryor - in horrible stories. And she threw in idiotic retcons, trying to convince the readers that Maddie was always evil and Magneto never reformed despite the fact that it contradicted two dozen issues of thought balloons. She tried to portray Empath as misunderstood after he had forced Tom Corsi and Sharon Friedlander to have sex before they were ready. What she did to Illyana makes no sense, i.e. can anyone explain how Inferno happened if Illyana was never the Darkchilde? A lot of plot contrivances on X-Factor were idiotic too. Warren's plane blows up in mid-air and everyone assumes it's suicide, Scott assumes Nathan is dead after finding Madelyne's body, Scott doesn't tell Alex that he thinks Madelyne and Nate are dead for no real reason, etc. And she got continuity wrong, Scott wondering why he can't find evidence of Nathan's birth in Alaska (because Nathan was born in WESTCHESTER) and claiming Nate at the Orphanage was the kid that physically bullied him when it was actually Toby.
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 21, 2015 12:43 AM
In this story, Apocalypse refers to Caliban being the "First Hound" (also mentioned by Liefeld in his interview with Cliff Biggers from Comic Shop News #142, 13th of April, 1990) who would usher in the bleak apocalyptic future shown in the iconic Days of Future Past.
Weezie seemed to be suggesting that Apocalypse would be responsible for bringing about the Sentinel mutant camps!?
This is in direct opposition to Chris’s plans for the Shadow King to be responsible for the “First Hounds” as revealed in his Excalibur Annual that was meant to be published this year (later published as X-Men True Friends) and his earlier Rachel Grey series.
Why would Louise be directly undermining CC's plans, or was she being forced to by Harras? Did Harras want the major villain introduced under his editorialship of X-Factor to become the #1 X-villain and this is how he planned to do it?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 21, 2015 12:45 AM
I can't remember any X-Factor stories after this point. Everything is just forgettable until we get to the Whilce Portacio issues that introduce a new team working for Apocalypse.
I was so excited about this title when the Fall of the Mutants happened two years earlier. It is just so awful now.
Posted by: Chris | April 21, 2015 10:48 PM
While i totally agree with most of the above points about contrivances and the dullness of upcoming issues, it seems unfair to blame her for killing maddie. I doubt it was her idea, it just happened that the editorially mandated crossover ended in the comic she wrote. As for doug, warlock + illyana, she did state she never killed a character she couldn't bring back, and all 3 characters have returned. She pointed out claremont had already implied doug had the transmode virus. As for illyana, that seems pretty easy. There were 2 groups of x-men (one group lived, the other group was corrupted and killed), so one illyana became magik and stayed in limbo after inferno, while putting the second illyana, who never became magik, in her armour for colossus to find at the end of inferno.
Posted by: Jonathan | April 26, 2015 2:11 PM
I think it's fair to blame her for killing Maddie, since it's obvious from Claremont's interviews that he didn't want to kill her. We haven't seen any similar interview with Simonson. Besides, we can definitely blame Simonson for her "Magneto and Maddie were always evil" retcons since they made no sense (despite fnord's attempts to convince us otherwise with Maddie) and contradicted what Claremont wrote.
Posted by: Michael | April 26, 2015 2:36 PM
Illyana was one of my favourite characters (as was maddie), so i was disappointed with her story ending with inferno, but i'm not mad at simonson for it. (she does say in her "comics creators on x-men" interview that she left the book before she could establish what had happened to magik, and that people were writing in saying get rid of doug, so she took up the challenge.) i'd always presumed it was harras who decided maddie should die. Simonson was friends with claremont and knew how much he loved his characters, so i can't imagine her being the one to decide to kill maddie. I think harras told her what to do. I suspect magneto's return to villainy was also part of harras' nostalgia, and was also editorially mandated, as the second x-men comic, that harras created, starts with magneto back fighting the x-men.
Posted by: Jonathan | April 26, 2015 3:10 PM
@Jonathan: I agree. Claremont cast Illyana alongside Jean Grey, as his most tragic character. In the end, Jean had to grapple with her own dark side, released by the corruptible influence of her vast power, ultimately succeeding long enough to sacrifice herself for the greater good. Unlike Jean, Illyana, as presented in his Magik series, was ultimately setup to fail in any effort to overcome her dark side. Her soul was corrupted beyond her ability to repair it, so much so that any attempts to do so are tainted and simply further the corruption. All she could do was hold out as long as possible, doing as much good as possible in the meantime. In the end, while that series in and of itself merely filled in some gaps, it positioned Illyana to become one of the most fascinating and tragic characters of Claremont's tenure, one who is unable to do good without further corrupting her own soul. Out of all the New Mutants, she was beautifully contrasted against his reforming Magneto, too. He firstly rendered her experience of childhood abuse through metaphor. That is, she could figuratively battle the figurative demons of her past by literally battling literal demons! This layer of indirection opened up vast storytelling opportunities. A reader uninterested in the subtext got to enjoy kinetic, visually arresting battle scenes, while the more clued-in audience got the rich story of a young person who had survived terrible things and who believed herself to be irredeemably, intrinsically evil struggled to move on from her past and re-narrativise herself as a hero. So, this is the story I think Claremont really wanted to tell - how do we deal with our past, and integrate it, and rise to its challenge instead of being defined by our traumas? This was Magneto's story too. And it's not one that Louise Simonson understood or was interested in. Just as she rolled back Magneto to a cartoony shade of villainy in her run on New Mutants, she consistently undermined the progress Illyana had made at defining herself as anything other than a rape survivor, culminating in this arc, where her entire character is erased in the name of "restoring her innocence". This is not how recovery happens, and it is not how human stories work, things Claremont understood! Can you imagine if someone had pitched a plot where the X-Men travelled back in time to rescue Magneto from Auschwitz so that he'd never have become a villain? It's too tacky to even contemplate. But that's what happened in the New Mutants chapter of Inferno by Louise Simonson, the assassination of one of Claremont's finest characters, Illyana Rasputin.
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 26, 2015 4:45 PM
I was 7 when i first saw illyana + she was always my favourite new mutant. I was 11 when inferno came out and i must admit the child abuse metaphor went over my head until years later. When i realised it, i went back to x-men 160 and read it again, amazed that i hadn't spotted it. sadly, the artist on that issue (a bit smirkingly, i felt) put in images of underage kitty on her knees to belasco, and later with wolverine behind her, which was a bit of a mixed message to the seriousness of the metaphor being dealt with. Still, it was a great concept by claremont, which whedon later stole for a character in his "angel" series. it seems a bit of an unprecedented idea to me, but i don't read much sword and sorcery stuff so i dunno if claremont himself got the idea from somewhere else?
Posted by: Jonathan | April 26, 2015 6:52 PM
@Jonathan: What I liked about Claremont's Illyana is how subtly he dealt with the abuse metaphor. He gave it depth, whereas Louise made it blatant and wrecked it.
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 26, 2015 10:33 PM
Always liked Opal - one of the better superhero love interests, and the book's one bright spot in the dull post-Inferno years.
Posted by: Bob | April 29, 2015 2:57 AM
Something I realized while looking through the history of Apocalypse's appearances: the guy hasn't actually done that much in the course of the original X-Factor's adventures.
This is surprising to me, as my the first Apocalypse story I read was Endgame (the arc that sent Nathan Christopher into the future). In that story, Apocalypse was presented as this awesome villain who defined X-Factor's whole existence. Then, there came X-Cutioner's Song, which both treated Apocalypse as an uber-villain... and, also, killed him of. Because of all of this, I really thought that Apocalypse has had a solid series of showings in the old X-Factor issues and that he has been established there as a big threat.
Meanwhile? Apocalypse's only confrontation with X-Factor is The Fall of the Mutants. Yes, he does big things there... but after that, he appears only in the background. He doesn't do anything too worthwhile before Endgame. So, the sudden boost of reputation he receives in that story and, then, in X-Cutioner's Song looks a bit surprising...
Posted by: Piotr W | July 5, 2015 9:07 PM
It certainly felt, reading them in real-time, that Apocalypse was a big deal early on. He formed the Alliance of Evil, faced off against X-Factor directly just before the Mutant Massacre, was around during the Massacre gathering the Horsemen, faced off against them again in Fall of the Mutants, with the transformation of Warren (a very big deal) and the recruitment of Caliban, and then they took his Ship, so even while he wasn't directly around for a while after that, he was always in the background because of Ship and its history.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 5, 2015 10:42 PM
Keep in mind I think Apocalypse's relatively scanty appearances actually help his villainous cred. As Fnord12 explained during the Fall of the Mutant issues, Pocy doesn't have the deflated air of diminishing menace that plague a lot of well-worn villains.
That being said, one of X-Factor's weaknesses is the lack of good antagonists for the team ti deal with. When you think about it their "main" villains are Apocalypse and Hodge. They've been the "masterminds" of most of X-Factor's stories (both contributed to the "Archangel" saga in their own way). Whenever they aren't the focus, the quality drops.
I thought Sabertooth was used here for pretty much the same reason a Wolverine appearance would be used in the 90s (pretty appropriate since Creed's suppose to be the "dark" version of Logan and all that he'd share he tendency for gratuitousness.)
Posted by: Jon Dubya | July 5, 2015 11:22 PM
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