Issue(s): X-Factor #65, X-Factor #66, X-Factor #67, X-Factor #68
I'm trying to do this four-issue run on X-Factor tidying up all the loose ends left over from Weezie, asking her 'Is it okay if I do this?' She said, 'I don't care.' At that point i was just like, fuck.
Weezie (Louise Simonson) was forced off the book, with artist Whilce Portacio having co-plotted (at least) her last two issues. But what i didn't realize at the time that i read that passage in Howe's book was that even Claremont here is only scripting these four issues. Whilce Portacio is again co-plotting, but not with Claremont, at least according to the credits. He's co-plotting with Jim Lee, who otherwise had nothing to do with the book. So not only did Louise Simonson not care anymore what happened on the book, but Claremont probably couldn't have done much about anything even if she did.
To be fair, i actually can't think of any major unresolved plot points in this book. Cyclops' marriage proposal was put on indefinite hold (see X-Factor #59; and it's said in the lettercol for issue #65 that there were plans for them to marry but they've been postponed due to the upcoming changes in the X-books). We have the Beast/Trish Tilby romance which was getting some tension thanks to her ex-husband, but that wasn't really a big deal. And we have Archangel's continued attempts to reclaim his humanity, but that actually seemed mostly resolved at this point. There was the fact that the Inferno babies got turned over to the government for nefarious purposes, but that's more of a dropped New Mutants plot (since they were the ones that learned about it from Freedom Force). Besides that, there weren't any immediate threats by villains at large, no conflicts with the government, etc.. The book had more ore less resolved all of its threads during Inferno and has felt like it's been in a holding pattern since then. Ideally, the book should have been exploring X-Factor in a role similar to what the Avengers occupy, and there were a few feints in that direction but not enough to develop any kind of ongoing plots that needed resolution.
What we do have in these issues is less the resolution of open plots and more the clearing out of baggage that the proto-Image artists probably didn't want to deal with, namely X-Factor's Ship and Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor's baby. The former just didn't really fit a classic ('return to the Mansion') theme for the X-Men, and the latter is almost the definition of "baggage" in super-hero comics. So the purpose of this story is to get those two out the door. But it also includes a team-up with the Inhumans and a fight against Apocalypse and his new, if lackluster, team of henchmen.
The first two issues of this arc are each two pages short of plot, with the pages replaced by The Apocalypse Files; handbook style write-ups of various characters from the perspective of Apocalypse.
The story starts by showing us - or i guess i should say telling us, since the art barely shows anything - that something is wrong with Ship.
The fact that the Beast is eyeball-less is typical (this is from a training session scene).
The Beast gets the bulk of the blank-eye effect, but that seems to be more because Cyclops has his eyes covered, Iceman by nature doesn't have very visible eyeballs anyway, and Portacio doesn't seem to want to apply the effect (?) to Jean. Archangel definitely gets it, and so do the villains.
While X-Factor are training, they are secretly observed by Apocalypse and his new team, the Dark Riders, aka the Riders of the Storm. They evaluate the team for weaknesses.
Maybe it's my old tired eyes, but with the possible exception of Tusk, the guy with multiple mini-clones, they are an uninspired group of villains (and that's ignoring the fact that one of them is named "Foxbat"). Designs that are both over-busy and generic. I think Claremont does a good job building them up by showing them evaluating the team and identifying weaknesses, but since he's scriping after-the-fact, that doesn't really have a payoff later in the story. I also don't love the idea that this group of nobodies have such a low opinion of the original X-Men.
At least Apocalypse has a little more respect for them.
Later, the one called Hardrive takes control of the ship, causing it to go out of control. That's combined with an assault by the rest of the Dark Riders.
Claremont must have had some control of the plot, since he manages to get in a mental domination scene.
Somehow, though, the attack on Jean causes her to get back a glimmer of her telepathy, which she uses to create a psi-link with her teammates. Note also Beast thinking about himself as an X-Man.
More signs that Jean's telepathy is returning:
Apocalypse refers to his former Ship as a "traitor", which is odd, since he gave it to X-Factor.
As the ship goes out of control, it's up to the other heroes of New York to stop it from destroying the city.
Having temporarily defeated the Dark Riders, X-Factor are trying to stop Ship from the inside.
Foxbat takes advantage of Ship's attack to go after baby Nathan Christopher, but he's stopped by the appearance of another party.
However, when X-Factor arrive, she mistakes them for more enemies and attacks. They fight back, with Archangel paralyzing her with his wing knives. And in the confusion, Foxbat gets away with the baby. The mystery lady leaves as well.
Angel's girlfriend, police officer Charlotte Jones, is allowed to enter Ship even though her fellow police are not. Soon after that, the Ship is launched into space, where it explodes. The mystery lady, who has a cybernetic eye, calls Nathan her brother and says that she's going to rescue him.
We later learn that the woman is named Askani, and she's the latest in the line of X-characters sent from the future to change the past (at one point it's said that "it's almost like a tradition -- rip-roaring from the present to save the future by changing the past", and later that "there is "precedent in the family for time-flying").
Note that she calls everyone "brothers", so calling Nathan a brother may not imply a biological relation. She'll later say that she considers all homo sapiens family.
It's said that Askani is not really alive in the present. She's just energy held together by force of will.
X-Factor, meanwhile, are rescued by the Inhumans.
Beast managed to save Ship's core personality in a harddrive so he (and the Ship is referred to with the male pronoun in this story, i think for the first time) isn't completely lost.
Medusa has been kidnapped by the Dark Riders, who it turns out are actually Inhumans.
Odd flow in that scene above. It looks more like Portacio meant for Jean to be the one running out of the room.
X-Factor and the Inhumans plan an attack on Apocalypse's fortress on the moon. But the Riders of the Storm show up, and it's a really inconvenient time, because half of the good guys look like they need to go to the bathroom.
But they hold it in and go out to battle.
Portacio and Claremont are not meshing well together. Look at the dialogue from Charlotte Jones. Portacio has drawn a staid shot of the group posed prior to battle. Claremont has scripted a scene of an overexcited Lockjaw doing puppy things with Jones. Claremont's dialogue just adds to the clutter of the book instead of adding anything. There's a fun idea with Jones as a point of view character in a weird environment, but you can't just cram it in there with no help from the art.
For some reason there are now multiple Apocalypse-bots leading a horde of Inhumans that have been brought over to the dark side.
When Cyclops fights his way to what is presumably the real Apocalypse, the master villain is talking more like Arcade. Give him a cigar?
Actually, that Apocalpyse is a hologram. This is the real one.
X-Factor all get captured by Apocalypse, with some help from a mind-controlled Medusa and Crystal. Claremont scripts things so that it's all part of a large plan worked out in advance by X-Factor and the Inhumans, but as with several things in the script, nothing really comes of that. The final issue could just as easily have been scripted as if the Inhumans were just coming to X-Factor's rescue and the story wouldn't have been changed in the slightest. Claremont is definitely putting in extra effort and working as best he can in his demoted role, but at best he's not able to accomplish much and at worst it just adds an extra layer of business to a story that already overwhelms the senses thanks to Portacio's art style.
One thing i really don't like about the script, and i'm not sure if this is all Claremont or was part of the plot, is that Apocalypse's grand plans of winnowing out the weak were never really about just helping humanity (in its various strains) reach its potential, as we've seen previously. Instead he's doing it so that he can find the strongest lifeforces to drain for his own use.
This takes away what, for me, was the coolest part about Apocalypse: the idea that he wasn't in it for personal gain. In his own warped way he had humanity's best interests' at heart, kind of like the High Evolutionary. Now he's just a generic villain seeking to increase his own power. Lame.
Anyway, here come the Inhumans.
What a messy looking book.
During the fighting, Askani shows up again to help X-Factor rescue Nathan.
The baby comes out "poisoned", although it looks more like the techno-organic virus that Warlock used to infect people with.
Apocalypse is driven off, in part during a telepathic battle and then, in the real world, by a blast from Cyclops. But Nathan can't be cured, even after Ship merges with him to try to stop the virus, so Askani offers to take him to the future.
A final page shows the Watcher, and it also shows baby Nathan right next to an image of Cable, but there are also images of Professor X and Colossus.
The main thing is that the Watcher says that by sending his son away, he has made peace with his inner demons. In other words he's abandoned all the baggage of the past several years of the X-Factor book and can go back to being a leader of the X-Men.
The one subplot in these issues introduces Shinobi Shaw, nominally the son of Sebastian Shaw, the former Black King of the Hellfire Club. Sebastian discovers that he's lost control of his company, and Shinobi takes credit.
Shinobi then (seemingly) kills Sebastian, noting that his powers are actually more like Harry Leland's.
Portacio's art continues to be really messy looking. Tons of lines in all directions...
...and really warped looking characters.
Lots of splash panels, too. This page in particular seemed weird because of all the whitespace that was left.
I see broad similarities with Jim Lee, at least in terms of the posing, but it's kind of like Lee's art, which is generally pretty clean, is overlaid with something out of Barry Windsor-Smith or Walt Simonson. Except instead of adding detail to the scenes, it just adds randomness.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 268,307. Single issue closest to filing date = 228,800.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place during X-Men #273-277.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (18): show
"Apocalypse refers to his former Ship as a "traitor", which is odd, since he gave it to X-Factor."
In issue 27 - it says "...and the book ends with Apocalypse and his Horsemen sipping some champagne to celebrate the fact that it's armed with a bomb."
He obviously expected them to defuse the bomb.
But, he said in issue 28 that "in their future, it will prove more dangerous than any bomb on earth".
Instead, it saved them when the Celestials took it back, and saved them again this issue when it sacrificed itself for them. I would think that's what he's referring to when he calls Ship a traitor.
He would probably be even more angry if he knew what happens to Ship later on. (No spoiler here).
Posted by: clyde | September 21, 2015 1:03 PM
That is one headache-inducing, confusing mess of art.
Posted by: Bob | September 21, 2015 1:20 PM
You've got a triple posted page here. The one with the Avengers and Fantastic Four.
Posted by: Max_Spider | September 21, 2015 1:36 PM
Posted by: fnord12 | September 21, 2015 1:55 PM
So Apocalypse leaves the Claremont era the same way he arrived: looking weird. The first appearance had that Frieza look and the lips, here...its that huge "fat guy build" and massive chin. I can't help but laugh at that chin...that and "Youngbloods Disease" taking over the characters and robbing them of their eyes. (at least Cyclops is wearing a visor)
This is probably the worst art outside a Liefeld book so far.
Posted by: Ataru320 | September 21, 2015 3:20 PM
The Dark Riders are inhumans? Wow. Never knew that.
Posted by: Berend | September 21, 2015 3:57 PM
According to Portacio, the writers felt that baby Nate was baggage, but they couldn't just write him out since Sinister's plot implied that he would become somebody important- hence, sending him to the future to become Cable.
Posted by: Michael | September 21, 2015 9:38 PM
I was under the impression that Shinobi was Asian? If that's so, how could he be Sebastian Shaw's son?
Posted by: Bill | September 21, 2015 11:30 PM
He had an Asian mother and a white father- sometimes kids that had one white parent and one Asian parent look mostly Asian.
Posted by: Michael | September 21, 2015 11:46 PM
Even Apocalypse has the annoying "taunt voice" that Claremont gave all villains around this time.
Posted by: Bob | September 22, 2015 12:33 AM
While Askani was later revealed to be a rebellion founded in the future by Rachel Grey, Chris Claremont stated on Comixfan that it was never his intention for Rachel to evolve into "Mother Askani".
So let's look at the original details he provided in these issues:
While she refers to young Nathan as "little brother", her additional reference to "our father" when talking to him would seem to rule her out as connected to Rachel since Uncanny X-Men Annual #14, also penned by Claremont, ruled out Scott as Rachel's father.
This might instead suggest that Askani is a future child of Scott's with Jean, given she has psionic powers (i.e. psychic knife and Phoenix symbol at the centre of her forehead).
However, she also refers to "The Chosen's family" instead of her own, implying she is not related.
If you check closely, you'll recall she is also not red-haired like Jean or Rachel but was more auburn.
She also refers to Nathan's father being savaged by Apocalypse in her future's past, yet in our timeline Scott was savaged by Mister Sinister.
She also uses phrases like "praise the light" and "merciful bright lady", terms known to be regularly used by Ororo, not Rachel.
So who did he intend this character from a side-reality to be?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | September 22, 2015 5:32 AM
A mixture of everything that came before. She's a redhead, so she must be related. She uses Storm's phrases, so Ororo was obviously an influence on her or the society she comes from. Using phrases like "brother" is just a way to cover up for future decisions about whether it's slang or literal. The Cross-Time Caper and various decisions about Longshot and Cable were set-ups and/or inspirations for this, not to mention Stryfe turning out to be Cable.
I enjoyed this story when it came out, mostly because Portacio was closer to the Lee side of drawing than the Liefeld, but yikes, this does look messy, and it doesn't really explain anything. If anything, it's another good lesson in scripting how you can fit words into a story the scripter doesn't really have anything to do with and make it still work.
Once we reach the point where Claremont is gone from the mutant titles, this place is going to explode with so many people insisting 'this character would do that, and here's why!'
Posted by: ChrisW | September 22, 2015 9:49 PM
Askani also says "Curse me for a novice!" at one point, so mix in some Dr. Strange with everything else. Or add it to support for Nathan's theory that Storm is related to the Faltine.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 23, 2015 7:17 AM
Uh. Another storyline I considered great in my teens... now, not so much.
I really don't like this whole dystopian future from Cable's backstory - and this is the storyline which introduces it. Did we really need another dystopian future in X-Men books? Did we really need another time traveller in the form of Askani? Eh...
Aside from that, the Dark Riders are totally uninteresting, I've never liked them. I also don't like what this story does with Apocalypse - maybe before there was something interesting to him, but here he gets turned into a completely bland, bombastic uber-villain. And I feel he often devolves back into that form in later stories. I've never liked the character, I admit...
And aside from that, he looks like a Ninja Turtle in this story :)
Art-wise, these issues are uneven. There *is* something to like about Portacio, but like the rest of Image guys, he's style over substance. The final battle with Apocalypse is very poorly choreographed and drawn. On the other hand, Portacio's still better than Liefeld...
BTW. Any ideas on how Askani got from Earth to the Moon? I think there's virtually not a hint of explanation here, but maybe I'm missing something?
Posted by: Piotr W | September 24, 2015 6:03 PM
Oh and something I forgot:
@Michael, it actually *is* the image of Colossus in the epilogue. It's taken from the UXM 279, from the scene where Colossus moves through the school's defenses. The image of Xavier is from that issue, too. As for Apocalypse being a Celestial... personally, I think he meant a "celestial pantheon", lower-case "c", meaning some sort of gods. I don't think he was meant to a Celestial, as in a Kirby alien...
Posted by: Piotr W | September 24, 2015 6:09 PM
Don't like dystopian futures? Well, Portacio's about to give you another ine in a few months with Black Cable, or, as some call him, Bishop.
Posted by: Bob | September 24, 2015 7:59 PM
I know! It's crazy!
Seriously, Bishop may be the most superfluos X-character ever. He's a time traveller from a dystopian future, like Rachel Summers, Askani and Cable. He uses guns, again like Askani and Cable. He's tough and gritty, like Cable... And he doesn't even any interesting powers - the whole "I absorb energy" shtick is so boring and generic (during the 90s, half of new characters seemed to have ill-defined energy manipulation powers)...
Bishop brought nothing of interest to the books. He was dropped there by Portacio - and all subsequent writers had to deal with his boring presence...
Coming back to the story at hand - here's something else that irritates me about it now. Firstly, the Inhumans here are so grotesque, with half of them being cyborgs etc... Also, I detest the easiness Crystal and Medusa shrugged of their brainwashing. I think that, at one point, the narrations likens it to what was done to Archangel... but Archangel needed a lot of time to deal with being warped by Apocalypse. Meanwhile, Crystal and Medusa go back to normal immediately after Apocalypse is destroyed... Lame.
Posted by: Piotr W | September 25, 2015 9:04 AM
"but Archangel needed a lot of time to deal with being warped by Apocalypse. Meanwhile, Crystal and Medusa go back to normal immediately after Apocalypse is destroyed."
Actually, given how many times the Inhumans were brainwashed by Maximus, it's not unreasonable to think they received some mental training to either prevent or recover quickly from brainwashing.
Posted by: clyde | September 25, 2015 9:28 AM
Michael's got a point about the reference to Celestials. Simonson had already established Apocalypse had some connection to the Celestials (Ship was Celestial tech for a start) so if Claremont did mean "celestial pantheon" it's an easily misinterpreted choice of words. But yeah if they were thinking Apocalypse was a Celestial himself, that's a terrible idea.
Posted by: Jonathan | September 25, 2015 2:45 PM
The idea of Apocalypse going cosmic and becoming a threat across time and space seems to have been an idea of Lee's or Harras's. Note that when we see Cable's future era in the early issues of his own series, we get references to Apicalypse having "ascended" or somesuch. I think there may be X-Men cartoon uses of Apocalypse that also suggest where this was going. I think it was mostly Harras's direction for the character. (And we see a bit of it in the eventual "Twelve"/"Ages of Apocalypse story around 2000 as well.)
Note that Claremont kind of mocks this inconsistent characterization explicitly in the script, where Cyclops wonders why Apocalypse has suddenly adopted this new blunderbuss approach.
Possibly Harras was adapting Claremont's own ideas for the Shadow King--note that both SK and Apocalypse talk about extending their influence to the stars. They're also both ancient evils, both archenemies of the X-Men--but Apocalypse makes a much better action figure, which may have been a big part of Harras's (and Marvel's) thinking at the time.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | September 26, 2015 4:49 AM
@Piotr W- in addition to clyde's point, note that Warren was tortured by the Marauders, has his wings amputated and was betrayed and nearly killed by his old friend Hodge. That would give a normal person plenty of issues even without the brainwashing.
Posted by: Michael | September 26, 2015 9:04 AM
Why does Shinobi Shaw think his powers are like Harry Leland's? By this logic, shouldn't he think his father is really the Vision?
Posted by: Omar Karindu | December 1, 2015 8:44 AM
Interesting that fnord doesn't show Scott blowing away Apocalypse, since it's basically what he did to Mr Sinister.
Does anyone else think the scene with the Avengers looks like it was drawn by Jim Lee and not Portacio?
Clyde - I love that you don't want to give a spoiler that happened back in 1993.
Posted by: Erik Beck | December 9, 2015 2:35 PM
What's even more curious about this issue is Claremont's dialogue when X-Factor breach Apocalypse's citadel. Beast and Jean note that the tunnels his surrogates are guarding/ defending are the ones where she fled the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, and Archangel not only notes his wings finding the space familiar but questions whether it was one of Apocalypse's weapons that destroyed Dark Phoenix, and whether he intended a shot at Jean. So just where was Claremont going with this, since he'd instead indicated the weapon that killed Dark Phoenix there was ancient Kree technology? So was he suggesting that Apocalypse had taken over the old Kree base in the Blue Area of the Moon? And if Archangel's wings found the space familiar was Claremont further suggesting that it was there that Apocalypse had transformed Warren into his horseman Death, perhaps using ancient Kree technology rather than Celestial (and this was why Warren's transformation included his skin becoming blue)?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | January 23, 2016 3:51 AM
In a way, it's one little additional indignity for Claremont to script, but not plot, the last pre-Muir Island Saga issues of the book whose very existence mangled so many of his plans and earned his unending enmity, and it's hard not to see a metaphor in the fact that part of its purpose is to send off Nathan, the last remnant of Claremont's attempt to give Cyclops a happy ending with Madelyne Pryor, off to the future to become Cable, the character that made Rob Liefeld's name and thus kickstarted the emergence of the group Claremont's own "baby" was now being forcibly handed off to. In short, Claremont has been conscripted as midwife for the handoff of Cable (and with him the X-Men in general) from his own plans to the proto-Image generation, in the book responsible for throwing those plans in the trash. At least it means he's able to put his own stamp on it, just as all subsequent X-writers have essentially been giving their own takes on his work.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | March 6, 2017 5:15 AM
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