Credits: Pencilled by Steve Epting & Terry Dodson, inked by Al Milgrom & edited by Kelly Corvese
Cast: Earth 295 versions of Scott ‘Cyclops’ Summers, Alex ‘Havok’ Summers, Jean Grey, Warren Kenneth ‘Angel’ Worthington III, Scarlett MacKenzie, Terry & Jesse Bedlam, Sam and Elizabeth Guthrie, Henry ‘Dark Beast’ McCoy, maybe Rahne ‘Wolfsbane’ Sinclair, Rex and Apocalypse.
Plot: At the Breeding Pens, near the capital of Apocalypse’s America, one of the creatures is loose. This bear like creature is being apprehended by Havok, who needs Cyclops’ assistance to bring it down. As always, the younger brother is resentful of being saved, but this time it’s different, now he knows that Cyclops has been helping prisoners escape. He’s just biding his time till he can remove his brother from the EMF and assume it’s leadership himself. The creature stopped, Cyclops looks around at his fellow EMF members who resent him and the other prisoners who show only fear and hatred. As much as he believes in mutant supremacy, the ideals of Sinister, the reality of it is cruelty and oppression. He’s tried to assuage his conscience by saving some prisoners here and there, but he knows it’s not enough.
Outside, a new player arrives. Jean Grey has returned to the pens she escaped years ago, this time to warn Sinister of the impending bombing by the humans from Europe. Using an unconscious Infinite she gets inside the complex . There’s no Sinister, only the chaos in the wake of his betrayal of Apocalypse and abandonment of his lab. She finds a wolf creature walking around, noticing it is vaguely human thought patterns. This distracts her and allows Havok to sneak up and knock her out.
At Angel’s Haven nightclub, Scarlett is horrified by the realisation that she might be pregnant. It gets worse as she is then arrested by the Bedlam Brothers on suspicion of her being a spy for the Human High Council, I mean she is so it’s not entirely unexpected. She makes a run for it, making it about 10 feet. She calls to Angel to help, but he washes his hands of her to keeps himself out of it.
Finally, Havok confronts Cyclops over his seditious actions and claim his position. He leads Cyclops to Dark Beasts’s lab where Jean Grey is being held. Seeing her shocks Cyclops into memories from three years ago when Jean was captured. Sinister treated her well, thrilled at her genetic potential, but she wanted out. Finally, Cyclops went to free her at the exact same time that Weapon-X, having left Magneto’s X-Men came to rescue her. It went badly, costing Weapon-X an arm and Cyclops an eye.
Havok presses his advantage, demanding Cyclops prove his loyalty by killing her, he doesn’t of course and Havok makes his move, calling the Guthries in and they take him down. Now both Cyclops and Jean are strung up and left to the tender mercies of the Dark Beast of the pens.
Jean waits until Beast is in front of Cyclops then removes the visor, unleashing Cyclop’s optic blasts on their captor. Taking a chance, she then frees him and the two decide to free everyone in the pens or die trying. Meanwhile Apocalypse is informed by Rex of Havok’s ascendency to running the pens and Apocalypse orders that every prisoner in the pens is to be killed, the pens were a concession to Sinister and now he has gone, only the strong need survive.
Notes: This is the moment we were all kind of waiting for. Havok has been waiting for a long time to make his move and we knew that Cyclops had to choose a side. Here we see that Cyclops is for the most part mislead. He was raised by Sinister, so the idea of genetic superiority and the dismissing of conscience make a lot of sense. He was raised in a system, so feels the need to preserve and work within that system. Most of us do. He sees a necessity to it, but does not enjoy this work. This is contrasted by Havok, who revels in being allowed to be as cruel and violent as he wants and after spending a lifetime in his brother’s shadow, wants a lot. It’s all Game of Thrones-esque, with an overbearing father raising two sons very differently. One he raises to rule, the other sits in the corner. Whilst Havok’s hatred and resentment of Cyclops is not Cyclops’ fault, it is quite understandable.
That leaves the central conflict for Cyclops, he has no love for the cruelty and oppression that he job seems to entail and can only do it, by saving a small amount. He’s doing something that he’s told is right, feels that it’s wrong and more than anything else, he wants an alternative. Cyclops is a villain, simply because he can’t see the path to being a hero. He needs someone to do that for him, 3 years ago it was almost Jean Grey, who in the here and now succeeds.
Beyond that central conflict we have the subplots, with Scarlett being arrested for treason and Angel being all “this is not my problem” as another of his employees is taken away. It’s hard to see how this will have a happy ending for the Angel.
The story ends with Cyclops and Jean ready to save everyone in the pens just as Apocalypse orders a culling and the stage gets set for an action-packed finale.
Verdict: Writing:4 out of 5 – Again we get more political intrigue and melodrama. People are betrayed, twists and turns and the stakes get higher and higher. The issue feels fast paced, despite only a couple of action scenes in it, the fuse has been lit on an explosive ending and I am invested.
Art: 4 out of 5 – We get a split with some pages done by Terry Dodson between Steve Epting’s pencils and the light touch of Al Milgrom means that the change is a bit jarring. It takes you out of the story a little, but Dodson and Epting are quality artists, so you don’t mind seeing either of them in this issue. The colour is also a bit more subdued for the time and the art is given the opportunity to shine.
Overall: 8 out of 10 – Factor – X is still the series to beat for interesting characters and a tight and tense story that ¾ of the way through is still knocking it out of the part.
Next Time: Clones, monsters and swapping. Oh My!