Monday, April 6, 2015

X-FACTOR FOREVER #1 - May 2010

Credits:  Louise Simonson (writer), Dan Panosian (art), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Jim Charalampidis (colorist)

Summary:  While Cyclops and Marvel Girl take care of Christopher, Iceman and Opal have breakfast with her foster parents, Beast picks up Trish Tilby and her adopted daughter from the airport, and Archangel gives Charlotte Jones’ son a ride to school.  Sabretooth stalks Archangel, but is caught by surprise by Caliban, who kills him in retaliation for the Morlock Massacre.  Apocalypse then teleports Caliban to his secret base and gives him orders to retrieve Cameron Hodge’s dismembered head in Genosha.  Apocalypse is preparing a distraction so that he can invade Ship and learn what information it is sending to the Celestials.  Unbeknownst to the team, a Celestial craft is heading towards Earth.

Continuity Notes:  
  • X-Factor Forever picks up after X-Factor #64, Louise Simonson’s final issue.  It doesn’t represent mainstream Marvel continuity or X-Men Forever continuity.
  • X-Factor has new costumes, which would seem to be a prerequisite for the Forever titles.  Iceman’s full face and hair are also visible while he’s in ice form, which doesn’t match his design from the era the book is continuing.
  • Marvel Girl and Cyclops still have relationship issues, now that she’s acquired the memories of the Phoenix and Madelyne Pryor.
  • Cyclops’ son is referred to as “Christopher” throughout the miniseries, instead of Nathan.  This is consistent with Louise Simonson’s X-Factor run, which always had Cyclops call him Christopher.  Cyclops’ ex-wife Madelyne only called Christopher “Nathan” to provoke Cyclops and stir up memories of his childhood bully (Mr. Sinister).
  • Ship is experiencing technical glitches, picking up on a subplot from Simonson’s final issues.  The resolution in the mainstream continuity is that Hard Drive from the Dark Riders invaded Ship’s circuitry.

Review:  There seemed to be enough faith within Marvel in X-Men Forever at this point to justify this spinoff, which is honestly a bit of a surprise.  I’m not sure if the existing audience is overly familiar with the Louise Simonson run on X-Factor, but it will always have some historical significance as the debut of Apocalypse.  Simonson uses Apocalypse and his mysterious connection to the Celestials as the starting point for the miniseries, which seems like a credible way to incorporate a high-profile villain with the stated goal of tying up loose ends from her original run.  

One loose end tied up fairly quickly is the death of Sabretooth.  Simonson’s initial run got a decent amount of mileage out of Caliban’s hatred of Sabretooth, and now that I think about it, I guess there wasn’t much of a resolution back in the early ‘90s.  Sabretooth’s death is about as satisfying as the one Simonson gave him in New Mutants #75, which leads me to believe that she’s writing him as a disposable clone.  After gaining vengeance for the Morlocks, Caliban is then sent to Genosha to retrieve what’s left of Cameron Hodge following “The X-Tinction Agenda.”  Just writing the summary for this issue made me realize how utterly ridiculous X-Factor could be during these days, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I didn’t follow X-Factor on a monthly basis as a kid, but I was a sporadic reader and it often struck me as a fairly odd book.

The majority of this issue focuses on the interpersonal subplots from the Simonson days, which were always the more memorable aspects of her run, in my opinion.  You get a sense that Simonson genuinely likes these characters and is enjoying the chance to visit them again, which is exactly the feeling the Forever titles should evoke.  Most of the cast is in a pretty good mood:  Beast has forgiven Trish Tilby for reporting he once considered anti-mutant, Opal has forgiven her family for hiding the true identity of her mother, and Archangel is rather blasé about Charlotte’s mother-in-law’s objections to her dating a man with demon wings.  (Simonson also establishes for no obvious reason that Trish has adopted Priya, an underprivileged girl from India.  I wouldn’t think twice about this had it appeared during her regular run on the book, but it seems like an odd addition during a finite miniseries.)  The only real angst comes from Cyclops and Marvel Girl, who are still dealing with long forgotten relationship issues from 1991.  This was during the days when Jean rejected Cyclops’ proposal and their relationship was in doubt.  So in doubt that Claremont and Simonson even briefly teased Forge as a romantic rival for Cyclops.  Is it okay to forget this ever happened?

The real star of the issue is artist Dan Panosian, who now leans more towards an expressionist style similar to Dave Johnson’s quirky, angular look.  It’s literally impossible to think that this is the same Dan Panosian from the ‘90s who thought merging Rob Liefeld and Terry Austin was a good idea.  Not only does Panosian draw attractive, expressive cartoony faces, but his backgrounds are fantastic.  Whether it’s a New York apartment building or the shadowy background of Apocalypse’s lair, every locale in the comic is uniquely gritty and cartoony and just fun to pore over.  It’s a shame that he wasn’t asked to alternate on X-Men Forever with Tom Grummett, because I think he could’ve done a fantastic job on that series.

The Apocalypse Journal
Credits:  Louise Simonson (writer), Aluir Almancino (penciler), Terry Austin (inker), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Dan Jackson (colorist)

Summary:  20,000 years ago in central Asia, a young Apocalypse is forced out of his tribe when his mutant powers emerge.  He eventually discovers a Celestial monitoring device and spends thousands of years studying its contents.  He learns of the Celestial’s attempts to study evolution, with humans acting as the control group between Eternals and Deviants.  Apocalypse ponders if he could also influence human destiny.

Continuity Notes:  The Celestial monitoring device Apocalypse discovers is Ship, of course.

Review:  “The Apocalypse Journal” is a backup serial that runs throughout the miniseries, detailing Simonson’s vision of Apocalypse’s origin and providing some insight into his motives.  The art is provided by Aluir Almancino, who has a style similar to Jack Kirby, which I suppose is appropriate given the subject matter.  My major objection to the first chapter is the fact that Simonson has chosen to ignore Apocalypse’s time as a slave in ancient Egypt, which is actually one of the few things we know about Apocalypse from her run on X-Factor.  She doesn’t directly contradict the idea, it’s possible he lived as a slave during his years wandering before he discovered Ship, but it seems like an obvious omission given that this is a mini aimed at the hardcore fans who remember the original X-Factor days.  (Terry Kavanagh did briefly acknowledge Apocalypse’s time as a slave during the “official” origin story, The Rise of Apocalypse, even if it did come across as an afterthought).  The rest of the story is mainly dedicated to recapping old Eternals continuity, and to be honest, I’ve never been a fan of attempts to incorporate the X-books into the more cosmic aspects of the Marvel Universe.  The X-books are more of a soap opera than an exploration of the origins of the universe, so providing cosmic foundations for the characters always seemed like an odd decision in my eyes.


Matt said...

Interesting. I never read much of Simonson's X-FACTOR, so I didn't bother with this series. And I don't understand the need for new costumes. There was nothing wrong with the outfits the characters were wearing when Simonson left the series!

I would ask if NEW MUTANTS FOREVER was also on the agenda, but I assume since it continues continuity from the eighties, rather than the nineties, it's outside your mission statement...?

Jack said...

That's Dan Panosian?


G. Kendall said...

"I would ask if NEW MUTANTS FOREVER was also on the agenda, but I assume since it continues continuity from the eighties, rather than the nineties, it's outside your mission statement...? "

Or, maybe for completism's sake, I'll tackle all of the FOREVER books?

Matt said...

"Or, maybe for completism's sake, I'll tackle all of the FOREVER books?"

That would certainly be my preference as a reader!

Which then brings up the question: Would you look at IRON MAN #258.1 - 258.4? Those were originally conceived as IRON MAN FOREVER, but went through a ton of editorial interference and rewrites over the course of a few years, during which time the "Forever" books ran their course. Bob Layton has a fun little rant about it somewhere on his website (guest-starring Edward James Olmos).

I got the TPB for something like 2 bucks off Amazon, I think.

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