Hit and miss
This is the conclusion to the Factor Three Saga and Thomas has several ideas to present. Unfortunately, the story moves at a rather frenetic pace. Not devoting enough time in exploring any particular detail. Some of the ideas are rather interesting and could have led to further stories. Others were plain weird. Lets see:
- Jean and Hank manage to use their combined powers to escape. The Beast known Russian and tries to alert the nearby generals of the danger threatening them all. Blob and Marvel Girl struggle for control of the bomb. Frederick is certain that he could survive its blast, even if it kills anyone else in the room. Jean convinces him otherwise and sends him running.
Jean and Hank get their chances to shine. Constantly coming up with ideas and putting them into effect. The Beast's language skills are a nice little surprise from the resident intellectual. Jean effectively puts the fear into Dukes with her words. Blob is depicted as over-confident to a fault. But then again this is a clear result of the sense of invulnerability his powers give the big guy. Nice touches.
A rather weak point is part of the dialogue. Jean suggests that Mutant-Master would not risk leaving Blob captive in the hands of the Soviets. Therefore the bomb could be powerful enough to kill Blob. Whar? The fault here is that the bomb left the hands of the Master hours before. Its not like he could adjust the qualities of the bomb according to recent developments.
- Warren transports the bomb up in the sky, rendering its blast harmless. The generals argue on whether to thank the X-Men for saving their lives, or arrest them and interrogate them as spies. The trio leaves before the question is resolved.
This is a scene that could use a couple of additional pages. With the X-Men having the opportunity to gain their own contacts and enemies within the Soviet military. It would also be a chance to give this crowd of military men individual voices.
- Scott and Robert cease trying to destroy the American missiles. Instead disabling the air condition which Factor Three had filled with sleeping gas. The two fight for a while with Mastermind and Unus. They are severely outclassed. But Cyclops melts the ice around them. Creating an "icy mist" which blinds their opponents. The X-Men escape, soon followed by the other two mutants. When military reinforcements arrive, there is no mutant around. But an officer declairs the X-Men to be traitors.
Thomas seems to love creative uses of mists and foams. But this is the first time this technique is mastered by the X-Men themselves. This the best use of Iceman in quite a while. Nice escape.
There are two problems with this subplot. First, why are Jason and Angelo running from the soldiers? One can really mess with the soldiers' minds, the other is bulletproof. They still had a chance to take over the base. Second, the event is evidently reported as an unprovoked attack by the X-Men on the US military. Shouldn't there be repercussions?
- The Mutant-Master notes to himself that he had "allowed" (!!!) the X-Men to escape from his death trap. Their activities would brand them as enemies of both East and West. Thus they would take the blame for any disaster. He didn't expect his plans to backfire
This subplot severely undermines the Master as a master schemer. He had the helpless X-Men at his hands and let them go. They had no means of transportation and he provided them with advanced vehicles. More or less creating the obstacles to his own plans. Taking the phrase "self-defeating" to a new level.
At this point the Master is easily the weakest character in the storyline. He has so far blundered his way through issues. If he has any strong points, I fail to see them.
- The events lead to a final showdown between the X-Men and Factor Three. But the Changeling appears in the guise of Professor X. He questions the motivations of the Master and points many of his deliberate errors. Causing the various villains to see their leader in a new light. The Master panics and has his androids attack anyone on sight. Forcing a team-up.
The Changeling turning against his leader was foreshadowed in the previous issue. Its a nice development of the character. But why does he use the form of Xavier? That little part was never explained. A number of panels which feature two Professors side by side are visually interesting. But "looking cool" is not enough of a reason in a story.
- Some interesting points in the battle. Unus is the first villain to be convinced that the Master is a traitor. Evaluating the panicked reaction of the leader as an admission of guilt. Blob is by far the most aggressive combatant. The motivation of his anger "that hooded bozo was tryin' to put somethin' over on us ... and I aim to find out what!" He doesn't take kindly to deception. The Vanisher has trouble comprehending the betrayal. But that doesn't prevent him from retaliating against the traitor. Mastermind is the lone silent villain. Then Banshee appears and his voice destroys all the androids.
Blob and Unus are arguably at their best when they smash through the defenses of the Master. These two are supposedly unstoppable and villain decay has yet to occur. I like that. On the other hand Vanisher and Mastermind could be absent and nothing would change. Thomas takes one more chance to establish the Banshee as a powerhouse.
- The sonic attacks of the Banshee destroy the costume of the Master. Revealing him to be an alien. The sonic attack of the Banshee now focuses on him. As do the physical attacks of Unus. He is in pain, briefly explains his origins and then commits suicide. Heroes and villains agree to depart on relatively friendly terms. A small fleet of flying saucers leaves the base of the deceased alien. Each saucer transporting one or more of the combatants
Professor X delivers the moral of the story. "We must remember the day when there were no evil mutants -- no good mutants -- only a handfull of men -- fighting side by side to protect our planet from a common foe!"
The nature of the archenemy as an alien invader is hardly original. The X-Men have already faced Lucifer and the Quists. The original point of the story is having the X-Men and their enemies unite against a common foe. That hadn't occurred in any previous issue. This is only one of many cases of "strange bedfellows" for Xavier's mutants.
- The most interesting plot point is that both factions are left in possession of highly advanced vehicles. I am not certain if this was followed in later stories. But it could set them apart technologically from other terrestrial teams. So what happens to the other characters? :
The Mutant-Master, unsurprisingly, has never been revived. The Changeling stands in for Xavier in "X-Men" vol. 1 #41 (February, 1968) The Banshee is next seen in "X-Men" vol. 1 #58 (July, 1969). The Blob, Mastermind and Unus are next seen in "X-Men" vol. 1 #59 (August, 1969) . The Vanisher is next seen in "X-Men" vol. 1 #60 (September, 1969).
- The story concludes with introducing the new costumes of the X-Men. Responding to the requests of many readers in giving them individual looks. The designs are from Ross Andru though Don Heck is the first artist to depict them in an issue. So what do we have here:
*The Angel costume is mostly yellow. Only his legs are covered by red cloth. This costume would last to issue #62 (November, 1969).
*The Beast's costume covers his torso and pelvis in red. While his arms and legs are clothed in black. He would keep that look until his further mutation in "Amazing Adventures" #11 (March, 1972).
*Marvel Girl's costume is quite a departure. From a costume which covered her entire body to a " revealing green mini-dress" which showcases her legs. Her domino mask, gloves and boots are yellow. She would keep that costume until "X-Men" vol. 1 #101 (October, 1976).
*The difference in Iceman is hardly noticeable. His black boots are replaced by a blue pair. He is going to use that "costume" until "Champions" #14 (July, 1977).
*Cyclops's torso, arms and upper legs are covered in black. While his gloves, pelvis area and boots are yellow. He would keep that outfit until "X-Factor" vol. 1 #1 (February, 1986).
The costumes of Jean and Scott are arguably well-remembered classics. The rest are forgettable. In Angel's case rather embarrassing.
- The second story continues with Cyclops' origin. First establishing that he grew up in an orphanage. Giving a brief timeline of the development of his powers and introducing the origin of the Ruby Quarz glasses. Pretty good stuff.
But it also has a rather embarrassing scene of Scott mugged by hobos. Which turns out to be pointless. This is a solid but so far unspectacular origin.