40: X-Factor 4 - 8 (Apocalypse!)

What’s Covered?

X-Factor Volume 1, # 4 - 8 (May - Sep. '86), XF Annual # 1, Iron Man Annual # 8, Amazing Spider-Man # 282


Apocalypse makes his first appearance.


Roster Watch



Synopsis


X-Factor # 4: New villain not whipping me into a Frenzy

Writer - Bob Layton

Pencils - Keith Pollard

We've seen Tower in X-Factor 2 & 3, so now we see that him and another mutant named Frenzy both work for a mysterious master. Ok, you know it's Apocalypse since that's the title of this blog. Her Dominatrix and tough guy attitude don't really cut it for me.

Rusty gets frustrated with his training regimen and not being able to control his powers, eventually deciding to sneak out. Artie tries to stop him and Rusty is a huge jag to him.

It doesn't take long for Frenzy to find him and try to capture him.

The X-Men show up and stop Frenzy.

Rusty apologizes to Artie and the two of them stay good friends from this point on.


X-Factor # 5: The Alliance of evil? More like Borafil!

Writer - Bob Layton

Pencils - Jackson Guice

Here we meet a villain team working for Apocalypse. We had already met Tower who has the same powers as Ant-Man and Frenzy who has your typical super strength, etc. The girl's name is Stinger who has power over electricity and the new guy is Timeshadow who can phase himself in and out of time. These 4 have a combined 50 appearances total in the Marvel universe, so clearly they weren't villains that really had any staying power.

Jean is the first to start pointing out that the X-Factor messaging might actually be making things worse. Duh!

This is Cameron Hodge. He is the lawyer and PR face of X-Factor. He receives most of the missions and here is going over a recent X-Factor call that the team needs to act on. It turns out there is a mutant out there named Michael who can amplify the powers of mutants.

When X-Factor reaches Michael, they learn that his girlfriend has been taken hostage because he refused to help out the Alliance of Evil. He turns out to be a pretty good guy, but circumstances have put him in the wrong place. We also learn that the Alliance of Evil is addicted to his power amplification powers.


In the panel above, you see that the team ended up losing control of their powers once they came into contact with him.

A battle breaks out between the Alliance of Evil and X-Factor over Michael and his girlfriend.

With the Alliance of Evil's power augmented, X-Factor gets their ass kicked.

We get our first glimpse of Apocalypse!


X-Factor # 6: Apocalypse Now

Writer - Louise Simonson

Pencils - Jackson Guice

Scott is starting to join the chorus of the X-Factor brand being a bad idea. How long will it take before that idea is done away with!?


Scott also clearly has some anger issues.

X-Factor meets back up with the Alliance of Evil, but this time Apocalypse himself joins the fight. You can see that he's mostly fighting like Mr. Fantastic, stretching himself around.

While twirling his mustache, Apocalypse unveils his plans to use Mike to amplify the powers of mutants in his quest for mutant domination. X-Factor is able to save Mike's girlfriend and destroy the machine, but Mike dies in the process and the Alliance of Evil escapes.


X-Factor # 7: The Toxic Avengers

Writer - Louise Simonson

Pencils - Jackson Guice

The PR image of X-Factor is getting out of hand. Cameron Hodge is supposed to be helping to repair the problem but Bobby asks why he seems to be making it worse.

Glowworm and Bulk are two mutants who have come in contact with radiation and know they will be dying soon. They decide to do some good before they pass by bringing down X-Factor, since they think X-Factor is going after their fellow mutants.

They start making a scene, hoping to attract X-Factor.

The team shows up, but not in their X-Factor get up.

A local reporter (who we see a lot) coins the term X-Terminators. This further complicates the plot. X-Factor is believed to be humans who are hunting mutants and the X-Terminators are supposed to be mutants fighting X-Factor, when in reality it's them.

To help sell the ruse, Jean, Angel, Rusty, Cameron, and Vera come out as X-Factor to show that there are in fact, two separate teams. This all seems a bit too convoluted for my tastes.


X-Factor # 8: A force for Freedom

Writer - Louise Simonson

Pencils - Marc Silvestri

We see that Freedom Force has been contracted to find Rusty. When he showed up in that X-Factor costume last issue, he was identified and so the government sponsored Freedom Force is called in.

*Mystique changes her appearance to that of Rusty so they can all see what he looks like.

*Avalanche gets a new helmet that literally looks like he has a box on his head.

*Why dafuq is Spider-Woman with this team!?

(According to her Marvel Wiki page, she was actually tricked into becoming a super hero by Val Cooper. I guess it makes sense how she would find her way as part of the Super-Human group Freedom Force, organized by Val Cooper).

X-Factor and Freedom Force clash over Rusty. Rusty was supposed to stay at home, but he darted out to help the team.

As mentioned before, this is where we first meet Skids. She is a morlock who permanently has a shield up around her, making her invulnerable. She shows up here to save Rusty and will be around the complex for quite some time, continuing to stay close to Rusty. I like this character.


X-Factor Annual # 1

Writer/Penciler - Bob Layton

Bob Layton takes on writing and penciling duties in a forgettable issue featuring X-Factor, the Exiles, and the Crimson Dynamo.


Iron Man Annual # 8


This is actually a pretty good issue that I would recommend reading. Iron man comes across a young mutant named Willie with the ability to manipulate reality. There are a bunch of evil manifestations who Willie has conversations with and are constantly trying to push him to do terrible things. Eventually things blow up when X-Factor gets involved and Willie is left dead.


Spider-Man # 282

This is actually a hilarious issue where J. Jonah Jameson calls X-Factor to take out Spider-Man, assuming that he must be a mutant. X-Factor does track him down and try to convince him to join them (even though he is not a mutant), but Spider-Man points out that his comic sales are actually stronger than theirs so he doesn't need to waste his time with them.


My Connections


As much as I'm pissing all over the writing, my hate for Scott, my annoyance at the slowly building romance, and the odd decision to go back to tropes from the original X-Men comic, there are some pretty exciting things happening here. Namely, this is where Apocalypse makes his first appearance! How awesome is that!? You can definitely see the core of the Apocalypse I know today with his belief in mutant superiority and belief in mutant evolution, but we don't see as much yet about his vast age or augmented alien powers.


We also get a very stead clip of brand new characters. A lot of them are a miss (Tower, Frenzy, Mike, Stinger, Timeshift), but some have some real potential. Rusty (Firefist) and Artie are growing on me and I really like the beautiful Morlock Skids (Morlocks are not supposed to be pretty, and this is actually part of her story) who is introduced in this run.


Creators


This is the transition between Bob Layton (#1 - 5) and Louis Simonson (# 6 - ?). X-Men Editor Bob Harras has the following to say in Comic Creators on X-Men:


“I wanted to make some sort of connection with the main X-books and I knew Chris was very comfortable with Louise.”

You can see that she immediately tries to resolve the lingering Scott/Jean drama, as well as point out how idiotic the overall theme is. The characters start commenting more and more about how "Are we sure it's a good idea to be advertising that it's ok to kill mutants and pretending to be something that we're not?"


Claremont was very happy with the switch, as evidenced by the following quotes from Comic Creators on X-Men:


“It wasn’t until Louise and Walter Simonson were on the book that we actually managed to massage the characters back to the way they should have been.”

It's also worth noting that future Image founder and Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine penciler Marc Silvestri makes his debut with Issue # 8.



Character Beats


We're actually going to start with the Scott and Jean drama because really, this is the most important plotline taking place. You saw me complain about how long it took for this to unfold back in the last piece (39: X-Factor 1 - 3), and this is where it actually happens.


Scott and Jean

Here we see Jean getting down on herself for only being telekinetic and not being able to use telepathy to provide warnings.

The rest of that exchange shows that she's dealing with the emotional baggage of everyone becoming used to the Phoenix, who was near omnipotent.

Not only is Jean upset about losing her telepathy, but clearly it bothers her more because she knows Scott is lying to her. It seems obvious that she would just jump right into his brain and figure it out for herself if she could. Remember, Xavier is the one who always talks about it being wrong to probe people without their permission (although he does it constantly anyway), but Jean has never really hesitated.

Angel really stepping in here to push Scott to tell Jean the truth. Is he looking out for Jean or his he trying to make his own move!?

A little passive aggressive banter thrown in, constantly.

Jean can't stop thinking about it. Here she is guessing that Scott must have fallen in love with the Phoenix and that's what the problem is that no one will tell her about.

Ok, so here we go again. Another potential Phoenix sighting. I get this feeling this won't end up going anywhere, but they just can't help themselves by constantly teasing that the Phoenix might come back.

Oopsie, Scott slips up and calls her Maddie.

Scott decides that he's finally going to call everyone he knows until he finds Maddie. Jean is picking up on this but still doesn't know exactly what's happening.

Ut oh, Maddie really has disappeared. (As of writing this blog, I still don't know where she is. I think we're going to find out soon though!).

During a training session (with Scott absent), Jean starts taking over and pushing the other 3 team members to tell her the truth. In doing so, she figures it out herself. While this seems like a believeable scene, I hate that Scott never ends up even telling her. She had to figure it out herself. She still doesn't know he has a son yet, either.

Pretty big moment here. Jean tells him that she understands that he moved on.

Ut oh, you have a fucking baby too! Also, why does she look like me?! Creeper!


***Also, that comment about thinking she always thought they would have a girl is a clear nod towards Rachel.

Now Jean starts laying into him, which I love. How could you abandon your family!?

Angel isn't always hitting on Jean. Here he is actually throwing Scott a bone. But please notice, it's also an excuse to put his hand on her arm.


Warren

Thus begins Warren constantly hitting on Jean. Showing he's a total "bro" by sitting on his couch with his shirt off, talking shit about the guy she likes.

They almost have a moment before the phone rings.

Oh, it was Candy calling!

Once again, they almost have a moment. Yawn. Warren feels really compelled to tell Jean the truth about Scott, but is that just because it would work to his benefit?

Scott oversees Angel with his hands all over Jean and gets pissed that Warren didn't wait long to make his move. Technically Scott is wrong, he actually didn't even wait that long this is just the first time he was caught.


My Rating - 6/10



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