Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Resounding Thud of--Factor Three


Marvel has understandably had its share of big buildups that fizzled--concepts that probably looked good on paper but either didn't work up to the crescendo that was expected of them ("Mister Kline," for example) or simply fell flat once it was time for the main event. One that fell flatter than most had to be that of Factor Three, the secret organization which planned to eradicate humanity in order to allow for the ascension of mutants--at least, that's the impression of them we had at first.

Factor Three agents kept to the shadows for the most part, as did whoever was in charge of the organization. Their objectives were accomplished through recruited mutant subordinates. Given that Factor Three had an apparent interest in homo superior, their operations naturally played out in X-Men, over the span of roughly twelve issues. Initially, Factor Three placed a high priority on abducting Charles Xavier, fearing that he might learn of their existence and interfere with their plans. And when they make their move on him, we're also introduced to a new character who would go on to have a long history with the X-Men--the Banshee, who at this point in time has more selfish pursuits than the team player we later come to know.


We find Banshee working with a costumed supervisor/mission leader, the Ogre:




Unlike Banshee, the Ogre is completely loyal to Factor Three; and though a non-mutant, his proficiency with technology gives him the means to be a credible threat. In fact, once Banshee has succeeded in his attack against the X-Men, the Ogre takes over and makes a pretty good fight of it with the team himself before being driven off. Eventually, though, the X-Men find a way to overcome Banshee, and the Mimic's combined abilities deal with the Ogre:



Things get worse for the team when it's revealed that Xavier has been keeping his comatose step-brother, Cain Marko (the Juggernaut), in the mansion's sub-level, in the hopes of draining off the energies of Cyttorak which give him his power. But Factor Three manages to disrupt the experiment and free Marko, as well as boost his abilities to include Xavier's mental powers to go with his personal force field and psionic helmet, making him near-invincible. Naturally, he then puts the X-Men down for the count, and prepares to bring the mansion down around their heads, when Factor Three interrupts and attempts to recruit him:



The X-Men then regroup and take off after him. Unfortunately, Xavier is left completely vulnerable to a new attempt to abduct him by (you guessed it):



When the X-Men return, successful at having stopped the Juggernaut (thanks to some assistance by Dr. Strange), they have the nerve to look surprised that Factor Three would know how to pick the lock on their front door:



So who IS Factor Three? What's with the clandestine act? Why are they seeking mutant allies? And now that they have Xavier, who's to stop their plans? Well, we know who's going to try--provided they can put all the pieces of the puzzle together before it's too late.



On their way out the door, Factor Three managed to total Cerebro, Xavier's mutant-detecting machine, which means the X-Men won't be locating Xavier or any other mutants anytime soon:



Yet, they do have one asset--Banshee, whom Xavier had sent to central Europe in an attempt to locate Factor Three's base of operations. After a few weeks of searching, Banshee's sonic powers finally hit the jackpot. Though he may not get the opportunity to relay that info:





So who is it that's sent agents creeping into Banshee's chalet and taking custody of him? Well, we're going to start calling him "that man behind the curtain" if we don't get the lowdown on Factor Three pretty soon:



And the X-Men are likely to feel as frustrated as we are--because as information goes, what they get from Banshee is more cryptic than informative:



The warning unfortunately puts the X-Men in the wrong frame of mind, when they later have a chance encounter with Spider-Man:



In the meantime, Marvel Girl back at the mansion has managed to home in on a device in Banshee's headband, allowing her to locate where he's being held by Factor Three:



Yechhh! Sorry about the icky Marvel Girl thought balloons. Now that Jean and Scott are starting to develop feelings for one another, I'm afraid you'll be running into more of them.

It takes awhile (in our time, another issue) before the X-Men finally find enough dough to book a commercial flight to Europe in order to finally take the fight to Factor Three. This of course is well before they have the "Blackbird" at their disposal--and without Xavier's resources, the team is forced to investigate other means of travel. To their opponents, however, five targets aboard a commercial flight is the same as five targets in private aircraft:



To save the lives of the passengers, the X-Men jump overboard. I don't know how they avoided depressurization wreaking havoc with either the passengers or the plane itself, but I suppose Factor Three's attack is where we should keep our focus--which is exactly where Cyclops places his focus, launching a terribly disproportionate eye blast that, frankly, I could have drawn:



It takes some effort, but the team is able to make landfall without any casualties. Afterward, it doesn't take long before they're met by Factor Three, and presented with a surprising offer:



Since an offer of alliance doesn't really come across as much of an offer when it's made at gunpoint, the X-Men instead make a break for it and choose to enter Factor Three's stronghold on their own. But before they get far, they fall victim to a paralyzing mist, and soon find themselves prisoners of their enemy:



And so, at last, the X-Men (and, thank goodness, ourselves) come face-to-face with Factor Three:




The proceeding is more of a hearing than a trial, with the Mutant Master's subordinates--Mastermind, the Vanisher, Unus, and the Blob--giving "evidence" in the form of testimony of their prior defeats at the X-Men's hands. So the "trial" results in summary judgment rather than a verdict rendered by a jury:



The trial seems a rather pointless diversion, given the scope of Factor Three's plans, and, in particular, the true motivations of the Mutant Master. Isn't it time we learned what Factor Three is up to? They're going to conquer the world, after all--just how are they going to do it?




So now we know the origin of the name "Factor Three." And here I'd been thinking it was a triumvirate of power players. Fortunately, the X-Men aren't the types to just wait for the "oblivio-ray" to succeed at its work; but while they're busy escaping, the Mutant Master is deploying his agents and operatives with their orders for each of the two locations they're being sent to. He also abandons the base along with the Changeling, setting the location to self-destruct, which the X-Men narrowly avoid by taking off in two of its saucer ships.

Speaking of the Changeling, it seems the Mutant Master must also make clear to his second-in-command that he is his master, as well:



As for the X-Men, they must split up to reach both target sites in time in order to avert disaster. That leaves three for the east:



And two for the west:



Miraculously, both teams of X-Men meet with success. But when they rendezvous at the Mutant Master's new location, Xavier has already begun to deduce that the head of Factor Three is not all that he seems. And he sows enough dissent to turn even the Mutant Master's loyal subordinates against him:




But what of the Banshee? Now entering the fray, his sonic wail not only lays waste to the Mutant Master's robed androids, but also has an unexpected and frightening result on the "Mutant Master" himself:



Yes, "Factor Three" was merely an alien, whose sympathies toward mutants were only a pretense in order to remove opposition and facilitate the eradication of everyone on Earth, human and mutant alike. And once his cover is blown and his plans defeated, he feels he has only one recourse:



There's one final gambit by the Changeling, who shifts his form to Xavier's in order to attempt escape (and fails)--but for all intents and purposes, Factor Three died with the Sirian alien.

In a way, I almost felt cheated when I'd finished the Factor Three saga. Here was a new, menacing organization which threatened the X-Men--except it wasn't an organization per se. Here was a new mutant faction other than one created by Magneto--yet its leader wasn't a mutant at all, nor did they have any concern for mutants other than as a means to an end. Here was a pretty cool name for an evil group--"Factor Three"--yet it was just a play on words. And probably worst of all: when Factor Three's leader is "unmasked," it turns out to be an alien (a suicidal alien, at that), a grand foe who turned out not so grand, and who would be forgotten with the next issue.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've never read this issue before, in fact, I'm unfamiliar with this era of the X-men. Not a great issue, I would say, but that Spider-Man cameo is pretty funny. What, was he hanging around dilapidated brick buildings, popping out for an occasional smart-ass quip? "Rush week?" It was like "Laugh-In" sometimes with Marvel, I swear. M.P.

Comicsfan said...

Spidey (as Peter Parker) was taking a relaxing bike ride in the countryside when he spotted a Factor Three saucer and decided to investigate--which is when he encountered one of their spider robots. After he'd dealt with it, the X-Men showed up, and it went downhill from there.

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