Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Comic Book Review: Factor-X #1

TITLE: Factor-X #1


COVER DATE: March 1995


22 pages


So here's a fact that hasn't been uncovered at The Random Longbox yet...I used to be a huge X-Fan. It was the second title I started collecting after The Avengers way back in 1985. For the next 10 years or so, I read every title that Marvel put an "X" in front of, behind, or smack in the middle of.

If you're looking for someone to blame for the speculator boom of the 90's, I'm sure I can accept my fair share of the blame. As collateral, I can put up my six copies of X-Force #1 or my ten copies of X-Men (vol. 2) #1.

Hell, just to show you how old school I am, I'll even throw in my five copies of X-Factor #1 from 1986! Yes, speculation before speculation was cool!

So there is a good chance that we'll be seeing more X-books here at The Random Longbox in the future. But don't worry too much, as I did ebay off my Chuck Austen run of Uncanny last year, so we've dodged that bullet.

Anyways, back to The Age of Apocalypse. I remember being so excited for this story when it came out. I actually recall thinking these exact thoughts... "You can't cancel the X-titles carte blanche! And replace them with new titles?! That's insane!"

Oh, but it was a brilliant insanity. With Professor X dead and removed from timestream, continuity took a turn for the worse with Apocalypse now ruling the world. Magneto and his band of freedom fighters are the only heroes left with any means to set things right. What happened next was thirty some issues of alternate universe awesomeness.

X-Factor became Factor-X, and it's focus was on the Summers brothers. In this reality they are the main enforcers for Mr. Sinister, who is one of Apocalypse's four horsemen. As always, however, Sinister has plans of his own, and it will only be so long before the sibling rivalry between Havok and Cyclops pops up.

So slap on your evil-version goatee, and let's get started...

Sinister Neglect

  • Writer: John Francis Moore
  • Penciler: Steve Epting
  • Inker: Al Milgrom
  • Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
  • Colorist: Glynis Oliver
  • Editor: Kelly Corvese
  • Chief: Bob Harras

In this issue, pretty much everyone we meet (with the exception of Sinister) is a direct opposite of their 616 incarnation. It opens up with Cyclops, Havok, Northstar, and Northwind chasing down a group of escaped mutants. The refugees have broken out of Sinister's breeding pits, and it's up to his elite guard to track them down.

It's really no contest, and the opening pages tell us just how different things are as Havok and Northstar lay into the mutants, killing at least one of them. It also sets the stage for the conflict between Cyclops and Havok. They've not always had the cosiest of relationships, and that is amped up in this reality.

The costume design for the elite guard is your basic black leather, with some nondescript red markings. Cyclops is the only one with a different look and he suffers the most for it. First and foremost is that hair! People give the mullet Superman a hard time, but he ain't got nothing on "Lorenzo Lamas" Cyclops. It was interesting that they gave him only one eye here, taking the Cylops nom de guerre one step further. I'm sure the real reason they did it was so that he wouldn't damage his flowing locks which perpetually dangle in front of his left eye.

His costume also has that classic 90's trope, which is the singular bare arm or leg. His right arm is bare, while his left arm not only is covered by his costume, but it also has gold plated armor covering it as well. It's purely an aesthetic design and has no functionality whatsoever, a perfect statement on costume design of the period. It's not like his energy blasts emit from his arm!

Speaking of questionable costume redesigns, up next is Sinister. Here, he is modeling his Iron Patriot Mach One armor design. He truly was a man ahead of his time.

He explains that it is time for him to double-cross Apocalypse, but to do so require him to abandon his "children". Who knew Sinister had a softer side, as he caresses the monitor with an image of Scott on it.

Back at the breeding pits, we see a couple more twisted versions of Marvel heroes with the Guthrie siblings. Cannonball and his sister, Elizabeth, now a size changing mutant, work to keep the rabble in line. Cannonball appears to be a bit of a hothead in this reality, as he gets into a pissing contest with Cyclops. There's something about how Steve Epting draws Cannonball here that I really like.

While we're busy being introduced to new characters, up comes one of my favorites from the AoA storyline...The Dark Beast! Just one look at this panel, and you know that this is one twisted version of our reality.

I love that they amped up the scientist aspect of McCoy's history and turned him into an amoral, mad genius. He's one of those characters that must be a blast to write, as Moore gets several good lines of dialogue with The Dark Beast in this issue alone.

Epting does a great job with these two pages, keeping him in the shadows and drawing him from behind. When he finally does give you a close-up, it's a doozy.

Just look at the contempt and condescension oozing from the backwards glance. It's a shame that they were never able to do anything with this character after AoA ended. Yeah, the brought him over to our reality, but his potential was never realized as a classic X-villain.

Havok decides to let off some steam from the days events by visiting The Angel. In a scene straight out of Casablanca, Warren runs a nightclub in the heart of Manhattan that is frequented by mutants and humans alike. Naturally, trouble ensues as Henry Gyrich shows up, ready to blow himself up and take the club with him in the name of human freedom.

All of that is bad enough, but that's not really the most upsetting aspect of this scene. That honor belongs to Angel's costume! How that bulky costume helps Angel maintain any level of aerodynamics while in flight is beyond me. And what's with the granny panties?

Returning from the club, Havok is confronted by Cyclops who is concerned that he has not been able to contact Mr. Sinister in days. With Havok noting his objections, they break into Sinister's private lab and find the place destroyed. Scott immediately surmises that Sinister destroyed everything himself to cover his tracks, as he has now gone obviously rogue. Scott takes it upon himself to take charge of Sinister's empire.

In a final hint of the brother vs. brother to come, Havok seems to think he should be in control.


Aside from some questionable costume redesigns, this issue was pretty damn good. John Francis Moore did a great job setting the underlying tensions between both brothers and allies alike. Everyone has their own agenda, and watching them plot, plan, and double-cross was very enjoyable.

I can't remember much of anything at all that John Francis Moore has written. His name sounds vaguely familiar to me, so I'm sure I have some more of his work in my collection. I just checked my database and it looks like he was also the writer for X-Force when Adam Pollina was the artist. I recall enjoying that run too, so maybe we'll get the pleasure of reading one of those too, if the Randomizer sees fit to do so.

On the artistic front, we are treated to the pencils of Steve Epting. As regular readers are well aware, I'm a big Avengers fan from when I first started reading comics. Steve Epting had a pretty lengthy run on that title, and while the stories during his tenure were average at best, they always looked pretty. His style here is similar to his Avengers work, which is very different from his current style on Captain America. Aside from the aforementioned costume changes, he does a bang up job on this issue and it was a real treat to see his old work again.

A couple of years ago, Marvel did the ten year anniversary of the AoA storyline. I didn't pick any of those issues up, and I'm glad I didn't. Even more so after I reread this issue. I think I'd like to keep this storyline as complete and finished as told originally. This storyline was the last hurrah for me and the X-Men. I gave 'em a shot for a while after this, but aside from Grant Morrison's revisioning and Joe Kelly's aborted run, nothing really connected with me.

There's one more observation before I go. If you have the issue, take a look at the checklist at the end of the titles that kicked off the AoA storyline. It's definitely a sign of how much the X-Men ruled the comic book landscape by the level of talent that they could get on their titles. Joe Madureira, Jeph Loeb, Chris Bachalo, Adam Kubert, Warren Ellis, Fabian Nicieza, Andy Kubert, Steve Epting, Tony Daniel, Terry Dodson, etc...

And that was only the first month of titles.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel Comics
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  1. I shoplifted this issue accidentally. Honest! It was just in my hand and then I forgot about it.

  2. I think the costume redesigns were the biggest selling point of these comics. At the time they were a draw due to their cutting-edge coolness, and now they are for an entirely different reason.

  3. @pg: So did you ever read the issue? Or was the shame too much and it just taunted you from you longbox like Poe's Telltale Heart?

    @Adam DW: Good point. Before I read this issue, I remember the costumes redesigns being cooler than they are. I remember liking Wolverine and Jean Grey in the Weapon X title, so I'm almost scared to go back and see them at this point.

  4. Did the art department watch every stereotypical post-Apocalyptic film in preparation? I do like the character 180's, but perhaps this is best left to the sands of time.

  5. I loved this series. This was Steve Epting at his peak. I loved everything about the redesigned Cyclops, from the hair to the stubble to the one eye to the chunky gold armour on one arm. And they made him a cool badass, something he definitely needed after being made the foil of Wolverine’s bad-boy tantrums in the preceding few years.

  6. I hear ya, FW! I was so in to the whole AoA storyline that it was scary.

    I also agree about Steve Epting. He's good and all on the current Cap run, but when I think of his work this is the style that I remember best.