Thursday, December 5, 2013

Call The Professionals--Call X-Factor!


If you're launching a new book in 1986 featuring the five original X-Men, you'd have to scramble to reintegrate them into their old positions no matter where their other commitments or circumstances have taken them. Normally, that wouldn't present too much of a problem. After all, these are the original X-Men we're talking about, who haven't exactly proven to be successes in extended runs, even in smaller groupings. At the time, the Angel, the Iceman, and the Beast were all coming off their membership in the New Defenders, a group which met a dismal end and was literally reduced to ashes. Cyclops had made an unsuccessful bid for leadership of the current X-Men, but lost to Storm and retreated with his wife and child to Alaska.

And Marvel Girl?

As far as anyone knew, Marvel Girl had met her death on the moon as the Phoenix. Consequently, that rendered any effort to reunite the original team of X-Men moot. Or so you'd think.

Needless to say, money talks--and Marvel seemed to feel the time was right to give the original team a makeover and add to the popularity of the X-Men on the sales rack by giving readers another X-team to purchase. And since the first issue would presumably bring back Jean Grey--the formerly dead Jean Grey--it would already have its foot in the door in terms of readership interest.

Marvel had already reintroduced Jean in the pages of The Avengers and Fantastic Four--but now would come the time when her friends in the X-Men would discover her to be alive. Combine that with a refit of the original team of X-Men--a team which we were assuming wouldn't be dragged down by the tired plots of their first book--and X-Factor showed great promise, indeed.

Though at this point, I think it was safe to say that there was one meeting that was first and foremost on everyone's mind:




Before we unwrap that scene, though, let's lay some groundwork for the story and find out what led everyone else to reunite. We should probably start with Cyclops, since his presence on the new team is certainly integral in a number of ways. Scott Summers is the obvious choice for team leader--but, now a married man, his interaction with Jean can also be mined for a fair amount of drama, while giving a sense to readers that these five people are no longer Charles Xavier's steadfast students reporting for duty. To clear the way, writer Bob Layton quickly begins to dismantle Scott's marriage to Madelyne Pryor, where these two had formerly demonstrated such good chemistry together:




Meanwhile, the three ex-Defenders are settling into their new lives as non-heroes:





Of course, the wheels are already spinning in terms of the news of Jean being discovered alive. The first of the team to be told is Warren Worthington, who meets with Jean off-panel:



Warren wrestles with relaying the news to Scott--partly because of the complication of Scott's marriage, but also partly because it crosses Warren's mind that this might be the perfect chance to finally make his own move on Jean (a nice nod to the feelings he held in the original series). But in the end, he chooses to do right by Scott, who, when he meets Jean, finds himself terribly conflicted:



(Isn't that cool how the colorists (three of them on this story!) add realistic orange tint to Jean's hair? It's about time.  How many "redheads" do you know who have actual red hair?)

Jean herself then opens the door to how this book will have these people operate outside of the structure of their fellow X-Men:  as a direct response to the exploding anti-mutant hysteria sweeping the nation:



And so these five people, formerly at loose ends, begin to find purpose once more--and, in the process, rediscover their camaraderie and how well they function together. But there's still a very morose Scott, who is still in personal shock and isn't yet on board with this new direction or his place in it:



From here, things move swiftly--thanks to Warren, who's hired PR wiz Cameron Hodge to draw up a course of action that almost seems like curing the disease by killing the patient:



On the one hand, Hodge's proposal will help the team to safely acquire and protect any mutants who are in danger, as well as train them in the use of their power in order to later release them to live normal lives among humans without fear of detection. Yet in doing so, "X-Factor's" modus operandi does nothing to educate humanity or decrease the violence against mutants--in fact, it presents the image of force being necessary to track down and capture them, further inflaming public opinion. It seems that these people mean to break with Xavier in more ways than one.

And so, later, when a flaming mutant's powers manifest and he panics, leading to tragedy, X-Factor is called to its first job:



Which leads to deceptions within deceptions. In order to capture the mutant quickly, in a shoot-first-and-mollify-later strategy, the team must go into action as "renegade mutants" to give the impression of protecting one of their own:




You can assume that "Maneuver 12" was successful, and that the team was able to secure their target.

X-Factor's operations require a great deal of suspension of disbelief, not only on our part but on the part of human witnesses, some of whom are bound to be familiar with the original X-Men, new costumes or not. There's also the large "X" which is conspicuously positioned on their costumes, a letter also prominent on the jet (and the name) of X-Factor. In addition, when the X-Factor "professionals" inform the people who hired them that they were successful in capturing the dangerous mutant, how do they explain away the renegades who happen to appear at each job? And that they've been able to snag the mutant target away from the renegades every time?

Let's skip ahead to when X-Factor, back in their camera-ready gear, wrap things up with their employer:



Gosh--I can't wait to see how Hodge smooth-talks his way around multiple charges of fraud when the IRS conducts an audit, if and when X-Factor is finally exposed.

But at least their first mutant trainee has a new lease on life. And so, it seems, do the original X-Men:



When we next check in on X-Factor, we'll see if Warren's pronouncement here stood the test of time.  Wasn't this the guy who also believed in the Champions?

2 comments:

Super-Duper ToyBox said...

Great post- read a bunch of X-Factor issues over a year ago for the first time. Strange stuff- I must say I kinda liked the costumes, and Beast reverting to his more human self later on. Kinda liked the 90's stuff when the X-Force kids switched over & took the mantle-

Comicsfan said...

Yes, they certainly switched gears, didn't they? :)

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