X-Factor Forever was the top book on my pull list this week, eclipsing even the next part of Second Coming. Yeah, it was that important and for good reason. This series continues to astonish and intrigue, taking the whole Forever concept and refining it to perfection. My hats off to Louise Simonson yet again because this issue was quite a thrill ride!
The third issue doesn’t miss a beat from the first two. It picks up right where the last issue left off with a Celestial landing in the middle of New York City. Naturally, that causes quite a stir and many familiar faces from Marvel come to join in. They help save lives and combat the destruction while X-Factor returns to the ship. Among them are Spider-Man (before One More Day no less), Thor, Captain America (who took some time to rescue a girl and a kitten), Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, Hulk, and Luke Cage. It’s like taking the awesome of X-Factor and sharing it with the rest of the Marvel universe. Can’t say there’s too much wrong with that!
Once in the ship, the showdown with Apocalypse and Caliban sets in. Warren is naturally inclined to fight first and ask questions never. He and Caliban start throwing down immediately while Apocalypse, like all good villains, taunts the X-men by explaining what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. What was building over the past few issues culminates as Apocalypse reveals that he was using the ship to uncover the Celestial’s plan. X-Factor doesn’t care to listen that much. They seem intent on beating Caliban and kicking Apocalypse out of the ship. This leads to some memorable fireworks that include a classic fastball special courtesy of Jean’s telekinesis and Scott’s optic blasts. It’s all a dazzling display, but it doesn’t change the outcome.
Apocalypse goes onto reveal that mutants are a dead end. He cites how few of them have any children. They bring up baby Nathan, but then Apocalypse goes onto hint at something more ominous. He questions whether he’s truly Scott’s son or just another biological construct like Maddie was. It’s an interesting and provocative question. But before we can get any answers, Apocalypse makes his move. He steals Nathan from Scott and flies out to meet a waiting Celestial. Some how Nathan is key to the final judgment and all Scott can do is watch. It ends on a powerful scene that appears to be from Scott’s point of view as he reaches out in desperation for his son.
Just like in the previous two issues, the end is complimented with some further back story on Apocalypse. His tale becomes more interesting and so does his depth as a character as he chronicles how he has been a part of human civilization. For a time he has to work within the rules laid out by the Celestials. In his experience his twisted ideology emerges and it has some logic to it. War is like a stressor that pushes humanity to technological advancements that improve their condition. He calls the peace that stabilizes these advancements a “necessary evil.” It’s a strange concept, yet it makes sense on a sinister level and that’s what makes it so awesome in it’s own right. I can honestly say this is probably the best Apocalypse rendering I’ve seen in a long time. Simonson has turned him into a far better villain than we’ve seen in recent years if not the entire scope of X-men history.
On top of it all, a young pre-mutated Sinister makes an appearance. His origins are tied to that of Apocalypse’s and there’s a brief hint that he’ll show up in the next issue! That enhances the excitement and overall awesome that has gripped this series since the first issue. It is without a doubt and amazing thrill ride from start to finish. Any X-men fan with any appreciation for comic book awesome will find something to like about this.
Now it isn’t without it’s faults. On the last issue I criticized that lack of memorable dialogue. Well Simonson does a good job mending that here with lines like “What passes as truth is less about what is said, than about what people choose to believe.” That in many ways sums up much of what Apocalypse’s plot entails and really brings home the depth of the story. The only part it falls short is the lack of character moments. Basically, the only one who got some personal growth was Apocalypse. Scott, Jean, Bobby, Hank, and Warren came off agents of action and didn’t share any moments that reflected on their personalities. It would have been nice to see Scott and Jean worry a bit more about Nathan as they took him into the ship and Bobby could have showed some more concern for Opal. It just seemed like the relationships set up in the first issue took a back seat. Now that may be a result of only having so many pages to work with and this issue being so heavy on action. For that reason it really doesn’t bring the issue down. It is just one of the little things left to be desired.
On top of it all, there’s an old fashioned letter-to-the-editor page at the end! And wouldn’t you know it? My letter got published! That alone makes me want to frame this issue and hang it over my bed for posterity. That’s the first time my letter has ever been published in a comic and it feels so good!
Overall, I can give this comic nothing less than a perfect 5 out of 5 and an A-plus! I’m so ready to see the next issue and look forward to some more drama with Apocalypse, Nathan, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and possibly even Sinister! Great job, Mrs. Simsonson! You’ve really done something special here and I bow before this issue’s awesome! Nuff said.