Wednesday, May 7, 2008

X-FACTOR #106 – September 1994

Credits: Scott Lobdell & Todd Dezago (plot), Todd Dezago (script), Jan Duursema & Roger Cruz (pencilers), Al Milgrom (inks), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Glynis Oliver (colorist)

X-Factor is summoned by Professor Xavier to the Acolytes' former base in France. While there, they meet X-Force and Excalibur. Xavier explains that they have been called to help him stop the Phalanx. He describes the Phalanx’s attack on Muir Island, and his narrow escape with Excalibur. Wolfsbane and Cannonball discover Douglock restrained in another room. He explains to them that he asked to be restrained until it could be proven that he’s not a threat. Professor Xavier asks Forge if he can use his powers to determine how Douglock was created. Forge asks Xavier to leave the room because his telepathic power is interfering with his intuitive ability to understand machines. With Xavier gone, Cannonball interrogates Douglock. Douglock explains the creation of the Phalanx, and Zero’s efforts to free him. He tells Forge that the Phalanx is adapting, and taking on the traits left over from its alien ancestors. Suddenly, Douglock knocks Forge unconscious, telling him that he needs his powers. He grabs Cannonball and Wolfsbane as the combined X-teams try to stop him. Xavier tells the teams not to confront Douglock because he might be too dangerous. Douglock teleports away with Forge, Cannonball, and Wolfsbane, upset about what he has done to his friends.

Continuity Notes
Xavier says that the French monastery the Acolytes used as a base has an “unexplained natural phenomenon (that) conceals the presence and activities of mutants.” That’s awfully convenient.

Douglock gives a comprehensive origin of the Phalanx, explaining that the Genoshan government sold the remains of Warlock after he was killed in the “X-Tinction Agenda” storyline (the original issues showed the New Mutants characters with Warlock’s ashes, although I guess it’s possible that there was enough to go around). A group of scientists began to use the remains to develop a new breed of “living sentinels”. Steven Lang was recruited to control the hundreds of soldiers, due to his previous connection to Master Mold’s cybernetic brain net.

The earlier versions of the Phalanx that appeared in Uncanny X-Men #305 are dismissed as earlier prototypes “created whole cloth from Lang’s tortured brain.” Forge speculates that since most of Warlock’s people were “barbaric conquerors”, the Phalanx must be following their template and now consider organic life anathema.

Douglock says that he was based on Doug Ramsey’s “engrams” and genetic material, but he is not Doug Ramsey.

This is a good example of what crossovers can do to a book. This is supposedly an issue of X-Factor, yet it doesn’t tie in to any of the ongoing storylines, or give most of the cast members anything to do. In fact, Excalibur has the most important role, fighting the Phalanx in a flashback, while X-Factor is relegated to mainly receiving exposition from Douglock. There is an attempt to connect the X-Factor members to the story by emphasizing Wolfsbane’s past with Doug and Forge’s ability to analyze machines, but at no point does this really feel like an issue of X-Factor. Revealing the Phalanx’s full origin does at least give this issue a central role in the storyline, but it’s another reminder of how X-Factor has been dragged into all of this. The Phalanx have never appeared in this series before, but had been in quite a few issues of Uncanny X-Men by this time. Why wasn’t their origin revealed there? Why would a regular X-Factor reader care about this unless he was already buying Uncanny X-Men? The “Fatal Attractions” chapter in this series at least exploited Quicksilver’s connection to Magneto and the Acolytes, while also telling a self-contained story that tied into X-Factor’s role as government agents. The “X-Cutioner’s Song” derailed the title’s storylines, but it did provide a long-awaited confrontation with X-Force and a rematch with the MLF. “Phalanx Covenant”, unfortunately, really has nothing to offer this book.

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