Issue(s): X-Factor #7
In any event, the most important cat is out of the bag (might as well go full steam ahead with the bad metaphor usage). While X-Factor are trying to get back into their plane (since their X-Factor costumes were destroyed in the previous arc), Cyclops asks Jean to telekinetically throw the switch that will open the access hatch, and when she says she doesn't know which switch to throw, he calls her "Maddie".
When they get back to their headquarters, Scott resolves to tell Jean, but he again puts it off and decides to try to call people to find out where Maddie is instead (no one knows anything). So Jean turns a training session with the rest of the team into an interrogation instead, and gets them to confirm that Scott is married.
I am glad that this is finally out in the open, but i don't love that it was done this way. I get that it's empowering for Jean, and the way she ferrets out the information during the session is like a substitute for her lost telepathy. But it's all at the expense of Scott, who loses his ability to take responsibility for himself. It's been seven issues but this is the first opportunity that Simonson had for Scott to come clean. And not only does she not let him take that opportunity, but she doesn't take a strong stand on what his problem is, either. My preference would have been for him to tell Jean and apologize for the way he's been acting, with the legitimate excuse that the return of Jean was a shock and on top of that his problems with Maddie caused him to make some bad decisions. But failing that, Simonson could have had Cyclops decide not to tell Jean, or make it very clear that he's just crippled with indecision. She feints in the former direction, having him think to himself that "if I tell her, I know I'll lose her" (and later) "just like Maddie did". But she also does have him resolve to tell her, and just delay it until it's too late. So it's ambiguous if Scott was ever really going to tell her, and with the way this series has already been damaging Scott's character, that ambiguity not only fails to resolve the problem but makes it worse.
Still, at least that's over with.
The main plot for this issue concerns two mutants, Bulk and Glow Worm, who live in New Jersey (Yes, folks, this is what my fine state looks like. It's just a giant hazardous waste dump surrounded by a fence, with a nice view of Manhattan).
As you can see by Bulk's desire to keep a pet mouse, which references Lennie from Of Mice And Men or Hugo the Abominable Snowman, depending on your cultural touchstones, these are sympathetic mutants. They are hounded by men with rifles inspired by X-Factor's ads. And they are radioactive mutants, and dying because of it.
Possibly the radioactivity isn't related to their mutations and is due to the fact that they live in
But in any event, Bulk and Glow Worm blame their troubles on X-Factor, and decide that if they are going to die, they should go out like martyrs and attack X-Factor's headquarters.
And they do this at a time when X-Factor is already being protested for its perceived human rights violations.
Since the ex X-Men don't actually have equipment that they can use to fight mutants, they are initially stumped about how to deal with the attack, and the media notices the delay in their response. But the group settles on a strategy of sending Cyclops, Iceman, and Beast out to "join" Bulk and Glow Worm...
...while the rest of the team, plus their ward Rusty, and Beast's girlfriend Vera go out in X-Factor uniforms to fight them, with Rusty and Jean's powers faking the effects of flame-throwers and force guns.
The scenario gives Cyclops a chance to role play a mutant radical, something he must have subconsciously liked the taste of given his much more recent actions in Brian Michael Bendis' X-Men run.
But the trick works and the newly dubbed "X-Terminators" get the radioactive mutants away from their headquarters and the crowds. They offer the two the opportunity to learn to control their powers so that they can "pass" (very deliberate word choice there)...
...but since the pair are dying, it's not something that they can even consider.
A tragic end for those characters. It's pretty amazing to me that they really do die and we never see them again. For decently designed and powered characters appearing in an early X-Factor issue, it wouldn't have shocked me at all to learn that some later writer somewhere revealed that they were actually survived, maybe kept alive by an evil arch-villain mutant to be sent out again to spread their radiation some day. Actually, maybe i should keep my mouth shut.
Back at X-Factor headquarters, the team congratulates themselves for successfully perpetuating the myth that they are mutant hunters, a premise that everyone on the team has already agreed is a really bad idea.
So while Simonson at least puts out a solution for one of the basic problems with this series, she so far is continuing another one. The plot of this issue could easily have been used to expose X-Factor as a sham and have been done with it right here.
Besides Bulk and Glow Worm, this issue also introduces two important characters. The first is Trish Tilby, a reporter covering the protests at X-Factor's headquarters.
Vera says some embarrassing things to her.
The second is Skids, a mutant Morlock whose forcefield power prevents Masque from disfiguring her the way he does to all the other Morlocks. Skids tells Bulk and Glow Worm that they aren't allowed in the Morlock tunnels due to their radiation.
While in retrospect i see where Louise Simonson might have been missing opportunities to correct the course on this series sooner and helped it in the long run, this issue on its own merits is still enjoyable, and there's definitely progress here, in any event.
If you'll indulge me in a minor quibble, one thing that bothers me just a bit is Cyclops' use of the word "honestly" in that scene where he's calling Jean "Maddie". That's a word that i associate with Power Pack but it turns out to just be one of Simonson's writing tics. "Honestly, Jack" is a phrase that's used a lot in Power Pack, and i thought it was a unique phrase that the Power kids used. It sounds like something out of a Judy Blume novel, and the Power kids are not originally from New York so it seemed like a perfect quaint little word, like Alex's "Gee!", that sounds out of place when they move to Manhattan. And it's a little disappointing to find out otherwise, because it makes me realize that just a little bit of what i thought was great characterization for Power Pack turns out to just be a phrase that Louise Simonson likes using. Next issue we'll see a member of Freedom Force use it.
Butch Guice has also been a big part of this series to date and continues to do good work here. This is unfortunately his last issue, but it won't be long before Walt Simonson joins the creative team.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This issue begins with X-Factor sneaking back to their plane after the events of the previous arc, so they shouldn't appear elsewhere in between and this doesn't take place too long after this. Despite the fact that next issue begins with with X-Factor cleaning up the damage from this issue and seems to take place in the immediate aftermath, next issue also kicks off a long sequence of events with dependencies that includes the Mutant Massacre, and X-Factor need to appear in Amazing Spider-Man #282 first. Angel, Beast, and Iceman also appear in Marvel Fanfare #32 after that.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
Louise Simonson grew up in Georgia. "Honestly, ____" is not exclusively a Deep South thing, but it is very common there. This is probably such a part of her conversational style that it works its way into her writing. She is not intentionally making Alaska-raised Scott Summers sound like a Southerner, or Jean sound like one when she says "Bless his heart" in a subsequent issue (if I recall correctly), but it happens. Sometimes what she does unintentionally with those little regionalisms would be more convincing and evocative for a Southern character than the oft-grotesque ways Rogue's accent is rendered by other writers ("yoah" for "your" and all that), the obsessive omission of Cannonball's final consonants so we won't forget for a moment that he's Appalachian, etc.
Posted by: Todd | January 3, 2014 4:34 AM
Oh, on that first "Reference," you need a proper noun. I assume Scott?
Posted by: Todd | January 3, 2014 5:00 AM
Bulk and Glow Worm appear again in New Mutants Annual 4. It doesn't end well for them there.
Posted by: Michael | January 3, 2014 7:59 AM
Thanks, Todd and Michael. I did mean Scott and fixed it. And i've added Bulk and Glow Worm as Characters Appearing; the MCP doesn't list that New Mutants annual in their chronologies.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 3, 2014 9:36 AM
The newscast of this fight shows up in a few other places including Amazing Spider-Man 282 and Power Pack 27 interestingly enough...
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | January 4, 2014 4:08 AM
I think a lot of New Yorkers' grubby concept of New Jersey come from one or two trips to Weehawken or Jersey City when they really sucked in the 70's & 80's.
Posted by: Alex F | August 7, 2014 5:35 PM
C'mon - if you drive the New Jersey turnpike there's 45 minutes of smokestacks and harsh chemical odor on either side of NYC... in the 80s there were multiple news reports of medical waste washing up on the beach... Newark was nearing its nadir... Trenton wasn't looking too hot either... any part of Atlantic City that isn't a casino is hella depressing... I could go on! I don't actually want to dump on Jersey - I'm from a city that's pretty raw and I live in a rawer one. But this portrayal of Jersey isn't particularly out of line for the late 80s, given room for comic-book exaggeration.
Just be thankful NJ didn't get the Pittsburgh treatment.
Posted by: cullen | August 7, 2014 6:35 PM
True dat, uh, as the kids* say**.
Posted by: Alex F | August 10, 2014 3:38 PM
The problem with New Jersey is that if you get more than 15 miles off the turnpike, most of it is gorgeous, but that most people who go through New Jersey (living in Boston with family in DC, I consider it a drive-through state, the way many people think of the Midwest as flyover states) never get more than 15 miles off the turnpike.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 28, 2015 1:29 PM
@Erik: After your mention of the turnpike I can't get the image out of my head that the team try to recruit John Malkovich to the team;)
Posted by: Nathan Adler | June 30, 2015 8:04 AM
Or at least anyone who goes through Malkovich's head. Then they could all be immortalized in song by Paul Simon.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 30, 2015 11:55 AM
Inks credited to Bob McLeod should instead go to Josef Rubinstein.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | June 17, 2017 8:08 PM
Posted by: fnord12 | June 28, 2017 9:23 PM
Comments are now closed.
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