X-Factor annual #3
Issue(s): X-Factor annual #3
Ok, Alf isn't a Marvel universe title and that was just a dream. Also don't squint too hard looking at that final Alf panel which shows annuals for Daredevil, Thor, and Alpha Flight, none of which have annuals this year. Things must have played out differently in the Marvel comics of the Alf universe.
Alf aside, the Evolutionary War is the latest in Marvel's experimentation with crossovers. To recap, we've had the Secret Wars type crossover, which is a separate mini-series mostly independent of the main books but with possible connection points and repercussions. We've had Secret Wars II, which was also a separate mini-series but with added tie-in books in the main series. And we've had Mutant Massacre and Fall of the Mutants, which took place in individual titles and where you could potentially just stick with whatever books you were already reading and get a relatively satisfying story. (What we haven't seen yet, unless you count Kraven's Last Hunt, are the cross-title Part X of Y type stories where you pretty much have to get them all to get a complete story.)
The Evolutionary War story is, as we'll see, probably closest in story structure to the Mutant Massacre, wherein there is an event, and the various super-heroes react to parts of that event, but without necessarily coming in contact with each other. Another point of comparison is the Mephisto vs.... series, which focused on the villain and traded the heroes in and out. But the issues in that series led into each other in a way that they don't here.
But what makes the Evolutionary War unique is that it uses annuals, instead of a miniseries or individual titles, to tell the story. In the earliest days, the (non-reprint) annuals seemed to contain events of great importance, like the wedding of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl or the collection of all of Spider-Man's villains into a Sinister Six. But as the years went on, annuals lost their special significance. Not of all them, for sure - the recent wedding of Spider-Man and Mary Jane comes to mind - but many just became regular stories. Best case scenario a double-sized issue that fits into the regular series, worst case scenario completely skippable filler.
So a good way to infuse some significance into the annuals is to have them all be part of a big event. And this format should also in theory reduce the continuity problems that were a problem for a lot of previous events. They are by the regular creative teams and don't require the characters to interact with characters from other books for the most part.
This format works well enough that Marvel will repeat it next year for Atlantis Attacks, and then they'll pull back a bit and instead have multiple annual events that only encompass four or so titles. And at that point it's not too different than what we've already seen with things like Jim Starlin's conclusion to the Warlock storyline in Avengers & Marvel Two-In-One or continued stories between Spidey-books, X-Books, or Avengers annuals. What makes Evolutionary War (and Atlantis Attacks) different is that it's line wide.
The downside to a crossover like this is that it can be pretty haphazard. If you look at the credits you won't see any sign that someone is coordinating this at a higher level, and while surely someone (Mark Gruenwald, i assume) must have been to some degree, the individual books seem to have been very much left on their own to determine what to do. And so you have the High Evolutionary acting in a pretty arbitrary manner, trying to sterilize the Subterranean races one minute, culling a random town in Colombia the next, then shifting gears completely to try and get the genetic code of the Silver Surfer, etc.. It makes the supposedly genius level Evolutionary look pretty erratic and the overall story non-sequential. Indeed the order of the books (until we get towards the end) seems to be more dictated by the publication schedule than anything. There's no numbering on the covers and in some issues there isn't even a blurb telling you which annual has the next part of the story (except in the linear Saga of the High Evolutionary parts at the end).
The other thing about this story is that it basically requires the main villain to lose eleven times (not exactly, but you get the point). What makes this first issue extra funny, though, is that the whole premise of the High Evolutionary's mission is shown to be wrong right here at the start.
The story begins in Subterranea, with a group of high tech Purifiers sent by the High Evolutionary fighting an army of Moloids, Tyrannoids, Lava Men, and fire-breathing lizards. The Purifiers are directed on the ground by a Dr. Stack and a Major Purge. Purge is upset because the Subterraneans aren't supposed to be fighting back, based on an earlier investigation by Stack's men. The small yellow ones, in particular, are said to have been bred to be a slave race by the Deviants, and are supposed to be docile.
I love the "some of them breath fire" line.
Also note that the Moloids/Tyrannoids are said to be mute, but over the years we've seen them talk occasionally; most recently in Fantastic Four #313-314.
The Purifiers aren't supposed to be fighting the Subterraneans. They are there to sterilize them, and were not expecting resistance. Major Purge raises the point that sterilization is just slow genocide anyway.
The situation goes back to what Dr. Stack expected when an orange - or maybe tan since the Purifiers think he looks "more human than the others", although he's later specifically referred to as orange - Moloid is knocked out.
Knocking him out causes a psychic cry felt by all the world's psi-sensitive characters.
That even includes Jean Grey, whose telepathic powers have been absent since her return.
Ship, currently floating over the Atlantic, teleports the team back to it.
You'll notice Caliban in the group of psi-characters above, so Apocalypse comes to know about the situation in Subterranea too.
So while X-Factor investigate the impression Jean Grey felt, and find that the orange Moloid - who i'm going to refer to as Val-or from now on since that's what he's named by the end of this issue - is awake and directing the actions of his brethren...
...Apocalypse pays a visit to the High Evolutionary.
We haven't learned exactly what the High Evolutionary's plans are yet, but it's interesting to see him put up against Apocalypse for contrast. The Evolutionary is, by definition, interested in evolution, and in addition to super-evolving animals, he's evolved himself to near-godhood and also cultivated life on Counter-Earth. And as he says above, his plan is to help all of mankind progress. Apocalypse is similarly interested in the evolution of mankind, with a specific focus on its mutant offshoot, which he sees as the next stage of humanity. So they should have a lot in common. In fact, while Apocalypse says that he has a problem with the High Evolutionary's long term goals...
...i'd say it's almost the opposite. They share the long term goal but Apocalypse has a problem with the High Evolutionary's current methods. Apocalypse is content to sit back and let things work out for themselves, provoking the occasional conflict to guide things along, but the High Evolutionary is taking a very direct action by trying to sterilize the Subterraneans. Apocalypse hints that the issue here is time, that for some reason the High Evolutionary, even though he's supposedly immortal, is unable to wait for humanity to evolve naturally the way Apocalypse does.
But the High Evolutionary's most immediate inaccuracy is the assumption that the Subterraneans are an evolutionary dead end. Since we've already met Val-or, we know that this is incorrect, and Apocalypse takes the Evolutionary into the tunnels to show him.
As an aside, i'm curious about Apocalypse's teleportation power. I had earlier thought that was a power of Ship's that he had been utilizing, especially since as we see this issue Ship is now able to teleport X-Factor around. But Apocalypse obviously still seems to be able to teleport on his own. It's not a logical extension of his mutant power, but i suppose he has access to all sorts of technology.
Back in the underground, X-Factor continues to struggle against the Moloids and other creatures.
There's a Far Side cartoon that has a uniform sea of black & white penguins with one of them jumping up and singing, "I just gotta be me!", and in my PreHistory Of The Far Side collection, Gary Larson says that when the comic was made into a poster, the singing penguin was colored yellow, completely missing the point of the cartoon. Val-or always reminded me of that, except of course it is the point that he's colored differently.
Jean eventually makes contact with Val-or and it's confirmed that he was born with telepathic powers, essentially making him a mutant Moloid...
Jean's ability to feel his thoughts show that she is still a "sensitive" on some level. It also seems that the Moloids and their Tyrannoid cousins were bred for both sensitivity and suggestibility by the Deviants. And i can understand that being the case with the monsters of the underworld as well, since they are also meant to have been created by the Deviants, but it's surprising to see the Lava Men, who always seemed independent prior to this, included as well.
After resolving their differences with Val-or, X-Factor team up with the Subterraneans against the Purifiers. But the Purifiers get their hands on Val-or.
Apocalypse has more criticism for the High Evolutionary: the fact that his goons can't recognize the genetic potential of Val-or. But the Evolutionary still can't see it, either.
What's also alarming is the talk of genetic purity coming from the High Evolutionary and especially his goons. In distancing himself from Apocalypse, the Evolutionary has framed himself as a hero. But his talk of purifying the human race recalls the Nazis, and Major Purge specifically uses the phrase "Master Race".
Maybe we'll give the High Evolutionary the benefit of the doubt and assume he's not a white supremacist, but does he wonder why he seems to attract mainly white guys talking about racial purity into his ranks? Reminds me of this seminal and definitely not safe for work Onion piece.
The fight causes Val-or to push himself further than he's done before, which allows him to more tightly coordinate the attack of the other Subterraneans.
In Apocalypse's mind this has proven (or even made) Val-or one of "the strong".
I'd say the point was proven even before Val-or refocused his abilities. What's interesting, though, is that Apocalypse seems to demote the High Evolutionary in his head at this point. Prior to Val-or's exhibit, Apocalypse seemed to consider the Evolutionary an equal, if a rival, and the fear was that he might screw something up somehow. But after this, the Apocalypse realizes that the High Evolutionary is basically a piece on the chessboard like all the others, basically doing Apocalypse's work by causing conflict which winnows out the weak and promotes the strong. So it turns out he has nothing to worry about, and he leaves.
Kind of a crappy way to kick off the Evolutionary War, but it sure built up Apocalypse for me when i read this in realtime.
After Apocalypse leaves, the High Evolutionary admits to himself that time is a factor, for reasons not yet fully explained, although he talks about wanting to create others in his own likeness. The Evolutionary nonetheless withdraws, taking his Purifiers with him, and gives up on the idea of sterilizing the Subterraneans. The Beast invites Val-or to join X-Factor, but the Moloid decides to stay and use his power for his people.
We never see Val-or again, so i have to assume he was exterminated by the Mole Man at the first possible opportunity upon his return.
Despite Apocalypse taking the wind out of the High Evolutionary's sails and basically completely discrediting the main character of this event, this first issue nonetheless managed to pique my interest and set up the race against time premise. The High Evolutionary has positioned himself as a hero in this issue, but we're surely not meant to take that at face value when he's attempting what's accurately called "slow genocide". But through his debate with Apocalypse, he's set up as an interesting protagonist. If the storyline had progressed in a more traditional way, with a little more development happening each issue, this might have been the beginning of a truly great storyline. That isn't really the case, and the middle parts of this story are pretty much skippable (by design; not everyone was going to buy every annual), but Louise Simonson does a good job setting things up here. X-Factor's involvement is arguably arbitrary, especially since we are a ways away from restablishing Jean's telepathic powers. Any one of the psi-sensitive characters that reacted to Val-or's initial distress might have brought a team here and the story would have worked just as well. The idea that Val-or is a "mutant" i hope shouldn't be taken too literally, although that's the closest thing that brings this into the X-Factor theme. The important interaction here is really between the High Evolutionary and Apocalypse, but that's still a good reason for this book to be included in the event.
All of the Evolutionary War annuals have additional features, including a Saga of the High Evolutionary that provides the history of the High Evolutionary and the surrounding characters on Wundagore Mountain expanding on information that was previously only seen in the Handbooks. I cover that in a separate entry. This issue also shows some unused covers, a random piece of John Byrne art (Byrne would surely be relieved to know that the ice sleds have been retroactively inserted into Iceman's early history thanks to X-Men Origins: Iceman #1)...
...and a fluff back-up story that has X-Factor's wards going through a photobook of the Beast's while they fidget over the idea of being sent away to the Exeter boarding school (the same school that Angel once went to).
The feature also teases the upcoming X-Terminators series.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP has this between X-Factor #29-30, since #30 starts the story that ends with the Beast back in his blue and fuzzy form.
Crossover: The Evolutionary War
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show
This is arguably as good as it got for Apocalypse: without being flashy or over-powerful, he's put in a class of villain that outranks the High Evolutionary. He's the Dr. Doom of the '80s, and like Doom at his best, his planning and confidence are what make him a boss.
I continue to be impressed with Shoemaker: his asymmetrical design for the Purifiers makes them look like anime enemies or pretty rad action figures. He's not a flashy artist, but I like Shoemaker's design sensibility.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | July 7, 2014 8:50 PM
I loved the Evolutionary War. I liked how the plot moved along from one annual to the next. I especially liked the historical second half of the annuals.
Posted by: clyde | July 7, 2014 8:53 PM
I could not tell that was supposed to be Emma when I first read it- at one point I thought it might be Topaz.
Posted by: Michael | July 7, 2014 9:35 PM
Ahhh! "Evolutionary dead-end." The hurts! The hurts!
I liked the Evolutionary War at the time, but Marvel gets evolution wrong every time they bring it up. The High Evolutionary in particular is horrible, being based around "speeding up" evolution to reach a "pinnacle." (Which is human-like for every non-human animal.)
Oh well, at least we get a fun (but very temporary) line-up of Avengers in their annual.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | July 7, 2014 9:53 PM
That first psychic, next to Psylocke and Franklin, is supposed to be Emma Frost then?
I would not have guessed. She looks a bit too young and too angular, and the hair does not remind me of Emma either.
I assumed it was Skids, and attempted to remind myself if she had any enhanced perception powers (she does not).
Posted by: Luis Dantas | July 8, 2014 2:40 AM
How odd, if it was every sensitive on Earth, you'd think Empath, Karma and possibly even Mirage would have picked up on it too if Psylocke & Phoenix heard it in Australia & the UK. Especially if Caliban, & Dr. Druid could hear it too.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | July 20, 2014 1:47 AM
When did Iceman gain back control of his power? He doesn't wear the belt forever. Also, when did he discard the belt?
Posted by: clyde | June 24, 2015 1:35 PM
The belt just disappears without explaantion when Whilce Portacio starts drawing with issue 63.
Posted by: Michael | June 24, 2015 10:05 PM
I certainly didn't love the Evolutionary War annuals, but they're a lot better than the Atlantis annuals in that you could just buy your regular books and feel fine. The Atlantis annuals kept leaving you with teasers for other books that I never wanted to buy.
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 5, 2015 6:40 PM
Actually, Iceman gets a much slimmer version of the control belt which he wears until Mikhail Rasputin attacks him in The Uncanny X-Men #292.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | August 12, 2015 12:52 AM
I enjoyed this one and found myself rooting hard for Val-Or.. always found the character very interesting but never remembered High Evolutionary being so bloodthirsty - he sent his men in there very Marauders-like.. the dialogue between Apocalypse and High Evolutionary was well done showing their differences in opinion. Very intelligent writing by Simonson.. higher quality than many annuals been for years prior.
Posted by: RikFenix | May 29, 2016 8:30 PM
Er... After reading that Alf story again, I don't think that was a dream. High Evolutionary says he would erase Alf's memory, and that's why he's disoriented and thinks he just had a Nightmare at the end, and also he's not waking up from that basket, he just fell in it in the previous panel. The biggest sign that Evolutionary was really there is that in the very same panel where Alf is "waking up", you can still see the trace of him teleporing away with a "Ping!". Finally the mere thing that Marvel comics exist doesn't necessairly mean that those stories are fictional in the universe, as we know well from the mainstream Marvel stories.
Bottom line, yes Alf exists in the Marvel universe and you'll have to make entries for all his comics as well. :)
Posted by: KombatGod | June 9, 2017 6:48 PM
After reading this issue in The Evolutionary War Omnibus, I have to say that this is a terrible opening to a crossover. The Evolutionary (a character most people are still not very familiar with) doesn't really explain who he is or what he wants to accomplish, X-Factor is oblivious to his presence, and Apocalypse (who has no stakes in the rest of the crossover) shows up and comes off as way cooler and more badass than the villain who headlines the event. For anyone in real time who didn't know the X-Factor characters, there's not much here to endear them to new readers, either. A B+ here seems very generous to me.
Posted by: Jonathon | October 1, 2017 10:11 AM
So what's up with Fantastic Four elements in X-Factor annuals? Inhumans in Annual 2, Moloids in Annual 3? Weird.
Posted by: J-Rod | May 14, 2018 10:36 AM
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