Issue(s): X-Factor #30, X-Factor #31, X-Factor #32, X-Factor #33
The problem is that while she's been given a goal, to acquire X-Factor's mysterious ship, we're not given any credible motivation for that goal (other than she's an impulsive young woman, basically). Since Ship is mysterious at this point, her interest in it might lead one to think we're going to get some kind of exploration of its nature or origins, but that's not the case at all, so we've just had (last issue) Infectia sending goons to attack X-Factor and now seducing Iceman, and it serves to create some conflict in the title but for no larger purpose (except a random deus ex machina solution to the Beast's recent problems). There's also the fact that her victims (her "Anti-Bodies") die a little while after their transformation, making her a really nihilistic bad guy with a higher confirmed body count than most super-villains. She's a very Dark Ages kind of villain; not even a sadistic killer, just someone who kills without a thought (nor does the story really focus on the deaths very much).
It's unclear to me if Infectia also has a kind of pheremon-ish type of power or if Iceman is just really really dumb (or thinking with the wrong part of his body).
I mean, he sees the creature that comes after her (and it was claiming to know her), but he doesn't make the connection between that and the revelation of her mutant powers.
I mean, she actually CALLS HERSELF INFECTIA!
A response in the lettercol in issue #33 leaves it ambiguous:
Bobby's attraction to Infectia was entirely natural... AND it wasn't. In fact, anyone Infectia sets her sights on would have difficulty evading her. It's her own brand of "fatal attraction". Hank and the X-Factor kids were just lucky they weren't her main focus... or they all might be piles of dust!
X-Factor's wards are a bit smarter, and the Beast actually saw Infectia turn a policeman into a monster. He's too dumb to tell Iceman directly but he's able to tell the kids that something is wrong. So a lot of issue #31 is full of hijinx, with the kids repeatedly stopping Infectia and Iceman from kissing.
Infectia is able to use her powers on Ship, but as i said, this doesn't result in any new information about Ship or any larger goal for Infectia.
The one bit of information that we've been hit with a lot since her previous appearance is that her father was a genetic scientist and that's how she knows how to use her powers so well. But that doesn't lead anywhere.
To get away from the kids, she forces Ship to give her a shuttle to take Iceman back to her place, but Ship eventually overcomes its fears and sends the Beast in a second shuttle, and he takes the kiss meant for Iceman.
Beast's temporary transformation into his blue and fuzzy form is a preview of what's to come, but it doesn't stick right away. For now he's just become extra sick. Infectia is seen slipping away while Iceman is tending to Beast.
The somewhat more interesting part about issues #30-31 is Cyclops and Marvel Girl's trip to Dallas to interrogate Freedom Force about the location of Cyclops and Madelyne's son. This is something that we readers should know is a complete dead end. Freedom Force has no information about Scott's son, they just happened to be there when Madelyne left the message for Scott on television. But thanks to Destiny, Scott is able to get vague clues. I've complained before that X-Factor and the X-Men haven't been following up on all of the unresolved events that have been going on, and sometimes i get a little pushback that, in-story, there really are no clues for them to follow. But this is what i'm talking about; when a writer wants to move a plot forward, they can find a way.
Of course, Cyclops and Marvel Girl have to fight Freedom Force for a bit before they get their info...
...and that leads to a weird but memorable scene where Cyclops blasts a pinprick of a hole through the Blob's arm.
After that we get our cryptic clue.
Notice also the comment about how Madelyne and Jean both have time twisting around them.
A similar earlier scene from issue #30:
Destiny was making comments like this the last time she saw Jean, and it seemed to me to suggest that Simonson was toying with the idea of having Jean and the Phoenix be the same entity after all. Now it's a preview for what's to come in Inferno.
Before moving forward with Beast's sickness and Scott's kid, there's an unusual story plotted by Tom DeFalco and drawn by Steve Lightle (who i know best as the cover artist for the later Classic X-Men covers). It starts off with the Avengers donating the former site of the Mansion to the city. Note that Tony Stark has flown in for the dedication (but i suppose none of these Avengers would have too much to say about Stark's actions in Armor Wars).
Now based on the Avengers' appearance here, you might think this is leading to a conflict regarding the Mutant Registration Act or something, but the Avengers themselves don't actually appear in the main part of this story. Instead, we have some mysterious guys lurking in the background at the Avengers' event, and we soon find out that they are alien shapeshifters that were collecting data on the Avengers.
These Xartan aliens were the ones that appeared in the very early Thor story that was very similar to the first appearance of the Skrulls, and ended with Thor forcing them to turn into trees (at least no one tried to tap them for maple syrup or ate their nuts or something). They've now recovered, but before they can seek out Thor and the Avengers for vengeance, they have to first attack X-Factor. Because, um, they've got a spaceship too.
Honestly, that's the entire motivation for X-Factor being involved.
"Thor" breaches Ship first.
The kids are in their playroom, throwing darts at the logo of their future copyright holders...
...when X-Factor gives the order to lock them and the still sick Beast away from the battle for safety. Above is the first reference to the MRA not already being in effect, as far as i've seen.
X-Factor do wonder if that's what this is all about.
But the aliens don't really try too hard to deceive X-Factor. They just rely on their new powers.
A thread running through the issue is that the kids see the real Dr. Druid on television announcing him being elected Chairman of the Avengers, so they're trying to convince Ship to let them out to tell X-Factor, but X-Factor actually figures it out pretty quickly on their own, so when the kids get let out it's kind of a moot point. I wonder if Tom DeFalco had a different idea for those scenes that didn't translate when Louise Simonson did the scripting.
But the kids do eventually convince Ship to let them out. It's interesting to see Leech's powers negate the alien shape-shifting abilities.
His power cancels out mutant powers, but they don't work on altered humans (or "latent mutants") like Cloak & Dagger. However, they do work on Power Pack, whose powers were transferred to them from aliens. And they work on the Xartans, too. Was some actual thought put into that or is it just a happy coincidence?
In the end the aliens are defeated and put into stasis on the ship, which is a surprising choice! I don't think we ever see these particular Xartans again; wonder what happened to them.
There's a cute bit about Boom Boom having beaten the Thor (by sticking a timebomb on his hammer as it was returning to him), and so she's now convinced she could have beaten the real one.
Notice the "Return of the Brotherhood of Evil" next issue blurb. They actually mean the Alliance of Evil, and that's pretty much confirmation that everyone thought of these guys as a low rent revamp of the original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
The Alliance of Evil actually play an important role in this story, one that i wish they had kept up. You may think of them as thugs for hire, especially since we were first introduced to them through Tower, who definitely seemed to have a side business going on with Artie's father, Dr. Carl Maddicks. But they also worked for Apocalypse, who has been seen advocating against human persecution of mutants (whether he believes it for himself or not. It convinced Caliban to join him, for example). So i like the idea of the Alliance out violently protesting the Mutant Registration Act.
It's always said that Magneto and the original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants represented a more radical strain of minority rights compared to the integrationist Professor X and his X-Men. That was always just subtext, but Chris Claremont later took those ideas for his interpretation of Magneto and successfully made him a more nuanced character. But with Magneto having gone fully over to Xavier's side now, the rest of the original Brotherhood scattered, the new Brotherhood having gone over to the government, and Apocalypse playing a different sort of role, there was definitely room for the Alliance to work in a role similar to how Claremont re-interpreted Magneto. Tower is pretty thuggish, but the rest are undeveloped enough that it could have worked well, and this issue shows that happening.
The MRA finally comes front and center in this issue. We learn that minors aren't required to register (no wonder Freedom Force didn't pursue the New Mutants in New Mutants #65-66).
In addition to that, lurking in the background of these issues is another problem: inanimate objects acting weirdly. Manhole covers blowing open, clothes tangling themselves up, things like that.
Cyclops is watching over Beast, who keeps changing between his more human and more beastly forms, when he sees the broadcast of the Alliance. He was also considering Ship's offer to put him into a hypnotic state to see if Destiny's vision of "bars" meant anything to him. When he sees the Alliance, he doesn't want to leave Beast, so he's unsure if he should go out to help Marvel Girl and Iceman, who are out clothes shopping with the kids.
Notice the kids saying that Jean and Bobby could "handle those losers alone" if it weren't for the pre-Inferno stuff. My dreams of building up the Alliance as a viable threat are quashed in their infancy. But the Alliance actually do well against the two X-Factor adults...
...and the kids jump in to help.
Except Rusty, who everyone warns to stay back since he's still wanted by the law, ever since X-Factor #1. Even though he resolved things (sort of!) in X-Factor #16 with the woman he burned, he's still wanted for that crime. The Feds, or at least Freedom Force, have actually known that Rusty is with X-Factor for a while though, but more on that soon. Rusty puts on a mask and gets into the fight.
Frenzy tries to recruit him into the Alliance, as she did once before.
And for whatever reason, hearing that brings Beast out of his coma. He's now permanently back in blue form, but he retains the super-strength he got when Pestilence touched him.
One thing i think that was missed is that at least just for these first few scenes, the Beast should have been talking like his early erudite self, just to emphasize the fact that he's got his intelligence back.
It's funny that the Alliance now recognizes him as an Avenger. Kind of cool, actually.
Also notice that he's still wearing that ugly brown and yellow costume.
Now that X-Factor is nearly back to full strength (Angel is still missing), they wrap up the Alliance, much easier than i'd like. And then Freedom Force show up to arrest them ("too close to our old name").
And they also push X-Factor to register. And it's a really stark contrast with the Alliance. The Beast agrees to register, on the grounds that he's worked for the Avengers in the past (so what? Does She-Hulk have to register? Not apply for government clearance, but register her existence?).
The rest of X-Factor do i guess perform a kind of protest registration, signing with their super-hero names. I can't imagine they really think that will satisfy anyone?
And the question of Rusty comes up. He refuses to register.
No wonder the Alliance (oops, he calls them the "Brotherhood" too) wanted to recruit him. He's the only one actively resisting the Mutant Registration Act.
Also in these issues (although these subplots are put on hold during issue #32), we meet a weird round robotic looking creature...
...and a larger, more humanoid looking one.
In issue #33, they are named Nanny and Orphan Maker, and we see them kidnapping kids and killing their parents.
Also also, Angel investigates the disappearance of Candy Southern.
By issue #33, he's found Hodge, who has convinced Walt Simonson to give him some Kurse armor.
While issue #32 skips the above subplots, it does introduce the demon N'astirh.
I've always thought the name N'astirh was a bit too clever. S'ym N'astirh. Sinister. But i like that the writings of Belasco are the way that The Right contacts him here.
I really like issue #33; it finally gets to the mutant rights issue that i think should be a core part of this book. The Infectia story is an unfortunate waste of time at two issues (compare to the battle with the Alliance, the transformation to the Beast, the build-up for Inferno, and an appearance by Freedom Force in #33, all while developing actual themes). The fill-in or whatever it is in issue #32 is a cute distraction.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: It's said that Freedom Force "hasn't left" Dallas since Fall of the Mutants (we have to except Captain America #339 of course). I guess there is a lot of crowd control and other work to oversee after the destruction in that issue, but it doesn't seem to be the best use of their time. Thor is asked to comment on "the recent defeat of the leviathan", placing this after Avengers #294 but of course before the dissolution of the team in Avengers #295-297. That raises a problem with the Black Knight, who should be in an exoskeleton right now due to his sword's curse. I guess we can assume he and Dr. Druid found a way to temporarily relieve the problem enough for this public appearance. That does open the door to other possible appearances with him between Avengers #294-295 (e.g. Nick Fury vs. Shield #2) but i still prefer to keep it to a minimum. Regarding N'astirh, i'm placing this after his appearance in Power Pack #40, but see the Considerations and Comments on that issue. I've kept these four issues together since Beast is sick throughout them in what i assume is a pretty tight timeframe, but they could actually be broken out into #30-31, #32, and #33. This has to take place after X-Factor annual #3 and before Avengers annual #17 thanks to the Beast's status quo in those issues; he's human and dumb in the X-Factor annual and blue and fuzzy in Avengers. X-Factor #34 continues directly from the Angel subplot but i'm breaking up the entry just for manageability, and i'm actually placing X-Terminators #1 in between.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show
Bizarrely, none of Destiny's clues about Jean and Maddie has anything to do with what the connection between them is eventually revealed to be.
Posted by: Michael | July 11, 2014 9:56 PM
I agree with FNORD12's analysis at the end. The Alliance issue is the only one with potential. The rest was just fillers. I think it would have been better to have 30-33 be simply about the Alliance and them becoming the new Brotherhood of Mutants, perhaps even recruit some of the old Brotherhood (if not a Freedom Force defector, then perhaps Unus, Toad, or Mastermind).
The X titles really needed a Brotherhood at this point. With X-Factor being the "popular" mutant team and the X-Men "dead", it'd be nice to have a huge brawl with some of the X-Men's older mutant enemies attack the original team.
Despite the lameness of the Alliance's name and bad character design, I think there was potential with them. We knew so little about them they could have easily been given interesting personalities. And perhaps Walt could have done some better character design for some of them. Mixed with some classic villains, a new Brotherhood would have made a good antagonist for the team.
Posted by: Chris | July 11, 2014 11:34 PM
Steve Lightle was actually a semi-hot artist in the mid-1980s due to his work on the Legion of Super-Heroes and Doom Patrol, but he had a hard time maintaining a monthly deadline and he sorta faded away.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 12, 2014 12:56 AM
Destiny described Jean as an anomaly as early as of X-Factor #8:
Granted, it was as a focus of "probabilities" rather than "time", but seeing how nothing really came of either, I guess that is close enough. Even while reading #8 I felt they were biding their time until some sort of idea came.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | July 12, 2014 4:54 AM
I guessed at the time that Infectia wanted Ship because she thought it was the ultimate research lab and would help her stabilize her ability so her victims wouldn't keep dying on her. It's never actually explained but that's about the only thing that makes sense.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | July 16, 2014 12:29 PM
I'd place a break between X-Factor #32 & 33 here just long enough for N'astirh's appearance in Power Pack #40 to take place between.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | August 10, 2014 6:26 AM
Jay, i don't think that's possible. Take a look at the Considerations for Power Pack #40 which i link to here. PP #40 has to take place before New Mutants annual #4. But thanks to the Angel subplot here, this continues directly in #34 and at that point Beast is away for Avengers annual #17.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 10, 2014 9:41 AM
But that just gets us back to the "If N'astirh had been contacted by the Right before, why was he surprised to be contacted by Hodge in X-Factor 32?" question.
Posted by: Michael | August 10, 2014 10:02 AM
Yeah, like you said in the comments for PP #40, N'astirh's introductory appearances were obviously bungled. And when i have a choice between placement based on "physical" evidence (Mirage's powers in PP #40 obviously in a pre-NM@ 4 state) and the dialogue of unreliable characters, i'll pick the former.
To No Prize an explanation, we'll say that Carmody is correct that at the time he's contacting N'astirh, he thinks the Right is in shambles and Hodge is dead because it's prior to their resurfacing and the revelation that Hodge is still alive here. And it's possible that the Right had an earlier deal with N'astirh (that may even explain why N'astirh tells Hodge here that he already has his soul), but only because he was able to contact them, not vice versa. It's the Right's ability to contact N'astirh in Limbo that surprises him (and he says it's "unusual", not unprecedented).
And N'astrih's interest in mutant babies can happen prior to X-Terminators #1 since, as he references in the PP #40 issue, his demons have had an interest since PP #20.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 10, 2014 10:22 AM
"if Iceman is just really really dumb (or thinking with the wrong part of his body)."
Well, given the later revelations about him, I don't think it's the latter.
Posted by: clyde | June 26, 2015 3:06 PM
"In the end the aliens are defeated and put into stasis on the ship, which is a surprising choice! I don't think we ever see these particular Xartans again; wonder what happened to them."
Clearly, they were blown up when Ship went off-earth during the "Judgement War" storyline.
Posted by: clyde | June 26, 2015 3:21 PM
"It's funny that the Alliance now recognizes him as an Avenger. Kind of cool, actually."
Of course they recognize him. He was never in the Avengers when he was in his normal looking form. Also, how many blue-furred superheroes are around at this point in time?
"(so what? Does She-Hulk have to register? Not apply for government clearance, but register her existence?)."
Well, no, it's called the Mutant Registration Act. The Superhero Registration Act doesn't come up until Acts Of Vengeance. He probably thought that he would be one of the more well-known mutants because of his high-profile association with the Avengers.
Posted by: clyde | June 26, 2015 3:38 PM
Or the Xartans get killed in Apocalypse's upcoming attack on Ship post-Xtinction Agenda...
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | June 26, 2015 9:26 PM
When I read issue 32 in real time, I remember thinking that someone like Kang should use this point in time to launch an all-out attack on New York City. I mean, the FF were down to three members, the Avengers disbanded shortly after this, the world believed the X-Men to be dead (even though they were alive, they were stationed across the world in Australia), leaving X-Factor (down to four members of which one was...ill) as the most battle ready team around. I mean, with a strong enough army behind him, Kang could have steamrolled right over any superhero opposition at the time!
Posted by: Bill | June 26, 2015 9:47 PM
It's interesting that N'astirh says that "they have Hodge's soul". He's a Limbo demon - are these demons really tied to the afterlife and any Marvel hell in any way?
Posted by: Piotr W | June 27, 2015 4:56 PM
Oh, good lord, Nanny. Never liked her, found very confusing, and in the end, she's apparently powerful enough to take on X-Factor and bring about the start of the downfall of the X-Men and help reform the Avengers. She kept appearing the books I was collecting and I just kept shaking my head.
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 10, 2015 12:14 PM
@Piotr: Given that N'astirh likewise turns down the offer of Jason Macendale's soul, I find it possible that they have no interest in souls at all; either that or they don't have the abilities to do anything with them. (Bear in mind I know almost nothing about Inferno, so I could be wrong) In both 'bargain' scenes, he could be bluffing ("I can't take his soul, but he doesn't need to know that") and give a reason for asking for more corporeal barter.
Posted by: Thanos6 | October 8, 2015 1:56 AM
Nanny is the sort of villain who doesn't rerally work for me because the writers tend to treat her actions as relatively inconsequential. You have a villain who kills parents and kidnaps children, sometimes infants, and brainwashes them into killers. Not only that, but as Erik Beck notes, she manages to do all this and consistently get away.
And despite this, you never get a story where anyone gets angry enough about this to make a serious effort to permanently shut her operations down. She's just another villain of the month, not even important enough to make the "threat board" in an Avengers book or anything like that. No one even seems to consider, say, rescuing the Orphan Maker and trying to undo Nanny's brainwashing.
While it gets retconned in to a Phalanx thing eventually, up til that point it wasn't as if Jean Grey had much interest in avenging her sister's death or anything. "Yeah, a cyborg egg who serially abducts children and sometimes turns them into armored monsters killed by sister and her husband. Whatevs. We've got important things to deal with, like going to Broadway shows." Nor does Storm really seem to be all that bothered when Nanny and Orphan Maker turn up again following her abduction and de-aging.
Nope, she's just a villain-of-the-month or a device to retire inconsequential supporting cast or to take characters -- especially those pesky child characters -- off the board for a while blame the character design more than anything. If nothing else you'd think more would be done with the idea that the X-Men or the New Mutants are made uncomfortable about Xavier's work by Nanny's use of brainwashed child soldiers.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 28, 2015 8:16 AM
Omar, the reason why Jean never tries to get revenge on Nanny is because in X-Factor 40, Freedom Force tells Jean that they found the parents of some of the babies she kidnapped. So Jean concludes that Nanny was lying about her sister being dead.
Posted by: Michael | November 28, 2015 9:19 AM
I wonder if the Siminsons intended for Infectia to be tied into the Eternals' mythos. The Dreaming Celestial story that Walt S. does in FF is one indication' he and Louise were going to write an earlier story with Havok, Polaris, and the Dreaming Celestial around '85 or '86, before Havok joined the X-Men. Was Infectia's geneticist father studying Eternals/Deviants, or maybe one himself? Infectia destabilizes her victims' genes, turning them into monsters, which has a certain parallel to the Deviants and their monstrous instability. The Eternals/Deviants/Celestials stuff could explain Infectia's interest in Ship.
All pure speculation, but I know the Simonsons like to play with the Eternals mythos.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | February 20, 2017 10:37 PM
Beast, Rusty & N'astirh all use the word "onerous" in these scans. It is unknown if all of them had the same "words to try & fit into a sentence today to increase your vocabulary" calendar.
(Admittedly, Beast is generally scripted as if he has several of those calendars at any one time, and Rusty only says it seconds after hearing Beast use it, so perhaps he just thought it would make him sound clever too. Maybe N'astirh heard Beast say it and thought the same thing. He does actually say it the previous issue before Beast does, but time works differently in Limbo.)
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | June 1, 2018 4:21 AM
Rusty copying a word he heard Beast say is honestly a cute idea.
Posted by: AF | June 1, 2018 6:12 AM
I think Infectia was merely the means by which they could make the Beast more powerful. Infectia was someone who could transform the Beast back into his "monstrous" form by mutation, and through mutation increase his own powers. For some reason Marvel editorial believed that the original X-Men did not have enough sheer power, and this is why so many issues are wasted the team "upgrades".
I don't think that is actually needed. And except in the case of Angel, none of the stories are any good. Coming out of Fall of the Mutants, X-Factor was a very good title, but it stumbles quite badly afterwards with a lot of mediocre plots.
Posted by: Chris | June 1, 2018 5:56 PM
According to interviews I read back when they were making their plans, the Simonsons really felt like the original X-Men/X-Factor needed a power boost(aside from Jean and Scott) compared to other heroes circa that era. It's interesting that most of those ideas go away, like Archangel's Apocalypse wings and the Beast's super strength not long after Louise is fired. Aside from Apocalypse, very few concepts remained imported from X-Factor once they are back at the school. Although I think Trish Tilby and and Warren being blue were the very last hold outs until the 00's. And Iceman actually got more powered up....
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | June 2, 2018 2:35 AM
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