Fantastic Four # 286, Avengers # 263, X-Factor 1 - 3 (Feb - April '86)
If you rank all the instances of drama being created among X-Men creators, the X-Factor launch will always be at the top of the list. After Claremont spent 11 years shepherding X-men to the best sellers list, Editor in Chief Jim Shooter decided to launch a new X-Men title without consulting him. Not only did Shooter bring Cyclops out of retirement, but he brought Jean back to life as well. As detailed in Comics Creators on X-Men, Claremont wasn't too happy when he found out:
"I had the whole weekend to go berserk. I spent the weekend coming up with a whole new set of characters that they could use for X-Factor.” “Shooter sat there and said ‘That’s a great concept. I think it’s wonderful. If you want to go with it, go with it, but we’re bringing back Jean Grey."
Even longtime editor and future X-Factor scribe Louise Simonson was in shock, as she had the following to say in Comic Creators on X-Men:
“Even then, I truly did not believe that Shooter would do a book like that without involving Chris. I was really appalled. I didn’t think it was fair."
As shocking as it was to see Jean brought back to life, Claremont couldn't get over the character suicide committed by Cyclops:
"I was so pissed off. I couldn’t believe they did that to Cyclops. He was supposed to be a hero and they had him walking out on his wife and newborn child and not even thinking twice about it."
"I felt some of them had been wrenched out of their proper personas, particularly Cyclops. He had been turned into somebody that he wasn’t. He had simply abandoned his wife and child to join this other team and be with his old girlfriend without any guilt or soul searching. That was nonsense! You’d think he’d at least call his wife. We spent the next three years kind of putting Cyclops back where he belonged."
Avengers # 263: What's up with that Cocoon thing?
The Avengers catch wind that there is some sort of disturbance deep within Jamaica Bay.
They find a cocoon of some sort.
The cocoon has a defense mechanism and continually blasts the team away as they try to approach.
Eventually they see that it's a metal cylinder so they haul it to the surface for Reed Richards to investigate.
Fantastic Four # 286: There's a person in there!
Sue uses her powers to make the cylinder invisible and they see that it's a woman! We recognize that woman as Jean Grey and she's wearing the same dress she had on during X-mas so many years ago when the Sentinels captured her, eventually leading to her piloting that shuttle into the earth's atmosphere.
She assumes she is still in the space lab and that the Avengers are robots (like the X-Men were in 4: UXM# 97 - 101 (Sentinels and a Phoenix Sighting!).
She eventually realizes that the Avengers and F4 are real and her memory starts coming back to her, however she is very confused.
I realize now that the original run simply showed Jean going into the ocean and the Phoenix emerged. It was only in X-Men Classic, which was published around the same time as X-Factor) that we learn that the Phoenix made a copy of her and put the real body in a regenerative cocoon. This is a MAJOR retcon that was clearly done more for publishing needs than for continuity's sake.
X-Factor # 1: Getting the gang back together.
Writer - Bob Layton
Pencils - Jackson Guice
We pick up with father of the year, Scott Summers. Here he is outside chopping wood with his lazer eyes to help him get out of changing diapers.
And when he's literally asked to grab a diaper, he get too wound up watching the news talking about mutants. Maddy is clearly getting pissed at him.
These two panels are trying to show that things are great between them, even before Scott learns about who is back. I am a little confused because I've written about how Claremont was pissed that X-Factor was going to be created, as he had planned for Scott to be written off the book and live a happy life with Madelyn. However, the core Uncanny line has been setting up Scott being a dick, so perhaps he was trying to make the best of a bad situation? I'm not entirely sure.
Angel, Iceman, and Beast had spent the last few years fighting alongside Valkryrie, Gargoyle, Moondragon, and Cloud in the New Defenders. All 3 of them had decided to give up the super hero gig. Beast was going to get a job as a professor at a research institute. Angle was going to focus on his businesses. Iceman was going to go back to being an accountant like his parents always wanted.
In this scene the 3 of them are hanging out, having a good time along with Candy Southern, the Angel's bombshell girlfriend.
One of the cool features of this X-Factor comic is that they introduce brand new mutant characters, both from the ally and villain perspective. It kind of reminds me of the X-Files show with a different monster of the week each episode.
In this first issue we are introduced to Rusty Collins, a young man in the military who has the ability to create fire. We see that his power first manifests when his superior officer introduces him to a lady (possibly a prostitute) and he accidentally sets her on fire. He is taken away in chains.
Things weren't going great between Scott and Madelyn and now he gets a call that Jean is back alive. Madelyn threatens that if he leaves, he shouldn't come back and Scott still leaves.
Poor Jean. Not much time has passed and she wants to jump right back into Scott's arms, but he can't return it. I do have to say that I understand that Scott is in an impossible situation. It's just made worse by the fact that he was a shitty dad before he even knew about Jean. I get that perhaps being a superhero is all he ever wanted to do, but then he shouldn't have agreed to settle down and start a family.
A theme is introduced here that will stick around throughout the series. Jean is very shocked and fixated at how bad things have gotten for mutants. She is the driving force behind the creation of X-Factor.
Scott and Warren try to explain to Jean that it's complicated, but she is overwhelmed by everything and literally flies off. Also worth mentioning that Jean lost her telepathic powers somehow, so she is currently only telekinetic. Perhaps they did this to help sell us on how long she could go without finding out about Scott's family.
Warren goes after Jean and this is also the first time we learn that Warren has extraordinary eyes like a bird, in addition to his wings.
Hank tries to get a professor job, but they refuse to hire a mutant.
Iceman hated being an accountant, so hearing about Jean coming back to life and Warren having "a new plan" is music to his ears.
Speaking of the plan, the X-Factor playbook is deeply flawed. They decide to pretend to be a group of mutant hunters (like the Ghostbusters) so that people will call them who want a mutant hurt or rounded up, but then they will actually show up and protect that mutant. Somehow they don't see how much this would actually contribute to and worse the perception of mutants.
X-Factor # 2: Who is the monster of the week?
Writer - Bob Layton
Pencils - Jackson Guice
I remember when I was younger, I loved the show Smallville. They toyed for a number of years with whether Clark would end up with Lana Lang. I remember one specific episode where they had gotten together, but then something bad happened and they immediately broke up. Something snapped that day, I remember being so pissed off that the show had been jerking us around for years and I had no more patience, so I decided to stop watching right then and there.
As I've been reading this storyline, I'm getting those same vibes. I'm a bit further along in my reading and Scott doesn't tell Jean for a LONG time. I get that maybe you could drag this out for an issue or two, but this is an important moment. Scott and her need to have a conversation about this. Then you can do something different with it. Maybe Jean finds out and refuses to talk to him, then that's a new plotline. Maybe Jean finds out and starts scantily coming on to him and Scott has to decide what to do. No, nothing like that. They literally don't talk about it for a long time and just work together as X-Factor for way too long.
Warren's like..."Bro, you're being a dick."
Ok, so let's talk about this. Hank ends up dating this girl Vera again. If you read the original Stan Lee X-Men, you would remember her as a librarian that Hank dates. It was kind of cool to see this callback, but I really think it's a sign of a doomed comic. Once again, Stan Lee did a great job of setting up the X-Men, but there was a reason why Chris Claremont re-booted the series with different characters. The original stories and character interactions were not very strong. I get that they would want to create an X-Men spinoff, but I feel it's a mistake to try to go back to the old tropes.
I've also done some research on this topic and it turns out that Bob Layton only wrote the first 5 issues, basically doing whatever Jim Shooter (the same editor that made terrible decisions with Dazzler and forced Jean Grey to be brought back to life). Eventually Louise Simonson takes over and starts to turn the series around. She was a former editor of Claremont's and is widely regarded to be more in the circle of trust.
Jean is training Rusty and we learn that he has a crush on her. Of course he does, she is always drawn to be a knockout.
Once again, Jean tries to talk to Scott and he finds a reason not to.
While Beast and Iceman are in Vera's house, a new mutant (who we will see a lot) named Tower breaks in. He kind of has Ant-Man powers where we can either make himself super tiny or very large.
Tower trashes the place, knocks all three out cold, and kidnaps Beast.
Scott decides to give Maddy a call, but the number is disconnected. Instead of doing more, he just assumed she left him and gives up. Dumbass. Take some responsibility!
Here is another plot line we will see a lot of, which also picks up from the original run. Warren always had deep feelings for Jean. We'll see a lot of scenes with him flirting hard with Jean. Jean is typically still devoted to Scott, Scott is conflicted, and don't forget Warren is supposed to be committed to Candy.
After leaving the X-Men and before joining the Avengers, Hank accidentally turned himself blue and furry. Hank had ingested a serum to stop his colleague from getting his hands on it, but he didn't revert himself back in time before it became permanent. Well, that colleague is the guy we see here who kidnapped Beast.
It turns out that this scientist now has a mutant son of his own and needs Beast's help in finding a "cure."
The remaining four members of X-Factor track down Tower and attack him. They subdue him rather easily and force him to give up the location of Beast. Next issue, they set out to save him.
X-Factor # 3: What happened to Beast!?
Writer - Bob Layton
Pencils - Jackson Guice
The doctor's son, named Artie, uses his power to control Tower and stop him from telling the team where they are. He ultimately fails. Artie also has the ability to see what's happening around the world or in the immediate future and project that for others to see. Artie is also mute.
Scott and Warren pair off to infiltrate the building. While they are doing this, we see that they have a little buddy cop action going on. It's a good reminder that the two of them are pretty good friends, and Warren is probably one of the few people comfortable pushing him to re-examine his actions.
Jean and Iceman pair off, and we are reminded that they have barely no chemistry, lol.
The security forces are after them and the doc explains that they don't report to him. He tells them to take Artie and protect them and he will sacrifice himself so they can get away. This is how Artie joins Rusty as X-Factor recruits.
Once again, Jean is trying to get Scott to talk. He's maybe about to when they hear Warren say that they need to report to Beast immediately.
So in an attempt to bring the original team completely back full circle, we learn that the experiments were successful in transforming Hank back into a more normal looking human. He will continue looking this way for quite some time, but I do know he eventually goes back to being blue in the 90's. We'll have to see how that unfolds.
I'll start by saying that I am really confused by X-Factor. As you all know, the 90's version of the X-Men was my jumping on point and each of the 5 forming members of X-Factor (and X-Men) had rejoined the X-Men lineup by the early 90's.
There is a reason why most comic "experts" will tell you to start your X-Men reading with Giant Sized X-Men and Chris Claremont's rebooting of the team. As highlighted in my "1: UXM # 1 - 93 (The Original, Slightly Crappy Run)"blog, the original team and their dynamics weren't terribly interesting. Unfortunately, this new series falls into the same trap. I was glad though that I started my journey with Uncanny X-Men # 1, because it made a lot of the references in this re-launch make more sense.
One thing that I was pretty excited about had to do with seeing the re-birth of Jean Grey. I knew it was going to happen eventually, but really didn't know how it would come together.
You'll see in this blog post that I am VERY critical of the early series, but I do want to mention that this is the series that will finally bring us Mr. Sinister and Apocalypse (pretty early on), so I am SUPER pumped to meet them officially in the comics world.
Since last we've seen them, Iceman and Angel were spending time with the Defenders. Angel had a short stint with the X-Men and Iceman even got his own miniseries. But other than that, they haven't changed much. Bobby had finished college and was trying to work as an accountant, but when the opportunity opened up to work with his old buddies, he literally ran out of the job, freezing the water cooler on the way out. The characters weren't too interesting before and they still aren't now, but I know Archangel is coming soon so I'll hold out hope for that!
Beast has been busy since we last saw him, spending time as a member of the Avengers and making frequent appearances in the X-Men comic. In a very direct method of going back to the roots, Beast is actually transformed back into his human form and even starts dating his old girlfriend Vera (from the original run). To me, this is just strong evidence of Jim Shooter not understanding what was great about the X-Men. The original 5 members of the team (with a human Beast) didn't sell! It was Claremont who made them interesting. I get that this is a straight cash grab, but why stick so close the original run when it wasn't a successful model to begin with!?
There is a LOT of online chatter about how X-Factor ruined Cyclops, and this certainly doesn't help, but Claremont was making Cyclops a crappy husband too. Remember how he wasn't there for the birth of his son or that he had to be bitch slapped by Storm to retire from the X-Men? He was pretty douchey even before this. I know people love Cyclops, but I'm still waiting to feel it.
Jean is back. That's cool, I guess. Once again, this reminds me of a sitcom. I'm sure we're going to get a bunch of issues of her trying to guess why Scott is acting weird. There will probably be lots of "will they, won't they" issues. Ugh.
My Rating - 3/10
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