EXCL. PREVIEW: Superman Escapes a Black Universe in "Dark Knight III" #5
Each day in November, I will read and review/discuss/whatever one comic taken from a box of some of my childhood comics. Today, it’s X-Factor annual #4.
The Nostalgia November archive can be found here.
X-Factor annual #4 by John Byrne and Walter Simonson focuses on the idea of Jean Grey being a bride of Set, while also continuing a cool idea of creating a twisted version of the Namor/Susan Richards relationship with Jean and Attuma. But, like with yesterday’s Amazing Spider-Man annual, I begin with the back-up features.
There’s the standard “Saga of the Serpent Crown” chapter (part ten I believe) that I skipped. There’s a two-page X-Factor pin-up by Jon Bogdanove. Then there are two stories, one an “Inferno” epilogue that’s not that clever and, the other, a Dr. Doom/Magneto story that makes me hate shared universe corporate comics, so expect a rant in… oh, now…
Dr. Doom summons Magneto to find out why he’s given up trying to conquer the world and is content teaching at Xavier’s school. Really, the story is just an excuse to retell both characters’ origin stories, but, at one point, we learn that Magento had a helmet made that alllowed him to control and alter the minds of others. I assume this happened elsewhere and he used it to eliminate bigotry and prejudice from some people’s minds… and then stopped. Why? Because that was wrong or something? Really? Am I to believe that a member of a group that is hunted and persecuted as much as mutants, given the chance to eliminate all prejudice and racism (not just for mutants either) from the minds of humanity decided that that was wrong? Because someone is that fucking stupid… “But it’s wrong to use superpowers to alter people’s minds!” Fuck you, no it’s not. I’m sorry, but when you have the ability to eliminate something like racism from humanity and you don’t do it, you are an evil monster. You just are. Screw free will, screw whatever sense of morality precludes you from doing it, in this case, it’s the 100% right thing to do. Is it an invasion of their privacy and rights? Yes, absolutely it is, but that does not matter. This is something I argued when discussing Mark Millar’s Ultimate X-Men run where, again, the demands of not ending the story precludes anyone doing this — so why raise the idea? So the person who says they won’t do it looks like the dumbest, worst person to ever live? I’m not discussing the idea in ‘comic book’ terms, but in real world terms: it is wrong and immoral not to do it. (I’ve been making bold statements like that a lot lately… odd…) If ever there was a comic that proved Magento is evil, whichever one first introduced this idea is it. He had a chance to end all prejudice and bigotry, decided not to, he’s an evil motherfucker.
The “Inferno” epilogue isn’t all that great. It features two FBI agents drawn like and meant to evoke the Blues Brothers, except that that doesn’t actually lead to any comedy or funny moments. Then why do it? They really just run around New York trying to figure out what happened the night before as people describe all of the weird shit that went down during “Inferno.” In the end, X-Factor tell them it was terrorist using a hypno ray or something and the whole thing is proclaimed a hoax. The story ends with a demon picking up a newspaper to read about the hoax.
The main story is a a decent read. Jean Grey has been summoned to be a bride of Set — so the story begins, literally, with her flying through the air, unconcious (eyes open though), and the Beast is hanging onto her leg. He eventually thinks hard enough to get through to her, so she uses her telekinesis to disrupt the tractor beam… and they fall into the ocean. Jean is still unconscious and when the Beast tries to get her to the surface, they encounter Attuma and his cronies sabotaging a water treatment plant. Attuma mistakes Jean for Phoenix and remembers the time when Phoenix rejected him — and he’s having none of that, so he kidnaps Jeans, while his cronies go to kill Beast. He’s saved by Andromeda, Attuma’s daughter and total warrior woman. Meanwhile, Ghaur is pissed off, because they need Jean to be one of Set’s brides or Set won’t be happy or show up or something… am I the only one who’s amused by the idea that they’re luring a god to Earth with the promise of a harem of superpowered women?
Beast and Andromeda go after Jean… who has been dressed in a seashell bikini and place in an air-filled love den, while Attuma watches her sleep from his water-filled study… and wearing nothing but boxers. When she wakes up, he goes to her room and basically says to her that rejecting him made him hurt… emotionally… and, now, he’s going to get his ‘retribution.’ As he puts it, “A PITY THERE WILL BE NO PLEASURE IN THIS FOR YOU… AS THERE MOST CERTAINLY WILL BE FOR ME […]” This guy is scummy… he doesn’t just want to rape her, he wants her to know he’s raping her… because he’s attracted to her… and she rejected him… christ…
Jean uses her powers to toss him about, so he breaks the air-filled room’s walls in order to drown her and, then, I presume, have sex with her corpse? He seems like the type from what we’ve seen… (make up your own joke about the pink flesh being a turn-off so he wants something a bit more blue-tinged…) Thankfully, Andromeda and Beast show up where Beast takes Jean away and Andromeda challenges her father to a fight to the death via some Atlantean cultural thing normally reserved for first-born males… but she’s a warrior and fuck tradition. Sadly, she can’t really hack it against her dad, but, before he can kill her, Ghaur kidnaps her to be a bride of Set.
He also manages to get Jean since she was underwater too long and the only way to save her from dying is to allow Ghaur to take her since he has the ability to rescue her. The scene where Beast decides what to do is done rather well: let her did or let her be a Serpent god’s bride? (Though, he doesn’t know the second part in that much detail.) I’d say he makes the right decision… deal with the problem at hand and deal with the consequences as they arise.
This is an odd story and I find the Attuma/Jean stuff somewhat disturbing/intriguing. After years of the somewhat playful/friendly/harmless Namor/Susan Richards stories, it’s interesting to see a darker twist on this using one of Namor’s chief rivals. I don’t think it would work beyond a one-off instance like this, though. I’m kind of surprised at how dark it goes in that scene… it’s not THAT explicit, but it’s explicit enough that any adult would get the meaning quite clearly. I guess it’s done with enough care that it falls into that category of things adults get that kids don’t… since I never got the entire meaning of what Attuma was going to do.
The art is done by John Byrne with Walter Simonson doing ‘embellishment,’ so it’s an odd hybrid of the two men’s visual styles. It’s got thicker lines and more liberal uses of blacks thanks to Simonson, but is still clearly Byrne’s art. But, the two men’s work fits well here together. The comic itself provides a comparison for readers since the Doom/Magento story was also drawn by Byrne (inking himself), so you can compare and contrast. Simonson really takes a lot of the small details out of the art (or Byrne didn’t add them initially since he wasn’t doing the full art) and I think it’s stronger. The art is less cluttered and more bold in the main story.
Again, lots of bang for your two bucks, though a few things that kind of overwhelm everything else… at least for me.
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