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Dec 3

X-Factor #5 annotations

Posted on Thursday, December 3, 2020 by Paul in Uncategorized

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

X-FACTOR vol 4 #5
“Suite No. 5: First Movement Finale: ‘After a Summer of Allostatic Overload”
by Leah Williams, David Baldeon & Israel Silva

“Allostatic load” is wear and tear on the body as a result of stress.

COVER / PAGE 1: Aurora and Northstar using their powers together. More of that later.

PAGES 2-4. X-Factor show the Five proof of Wind Dancer’s death.

This is picking up the storyline that was in progress before “X of Swords”. Presumably Wind Dancer’s plight was put on hold while the Five had a more pressing crisis to deal with, in the form of disruption to the whole resurrection operation.

In issues #2-3, we established that the Mojoverse – previously a television-based universe – has evolved into more of a YouTube-style social media universe, but still with the familiar lack of morality. Wind Dancer has somehow ended up here and is appearing on Adam X’s feed, where the Mojoworld public have voted to see her shot dead on camera.

We saw in issue #3 that Shatterstar, who was also participating in the Mojoverse live streaming, was clearly unhappy about the whole thing, and unable to speak freely about it. It’s not entirely clear from this scene how Adam X feels about it. He does repeatedly offer to help her escape, so it’s pretty clear he doesn’t want to force her into doing this, but whether he has any moral qualms about broadcasting it is another matter. The fact that she’s wearing her ballet outfit and sitting in a plastic box is grim. After she’s resurrected, Sofia stresses that Adam, Spiral and Shatterstar all tried to help her escape.

As Proteus points out later, Wind Dancer had been depowered. Getting herself killed and resurrected was also a way of getting her powers back – and so in that respect, more attractive than simply escaping.

Adam X was mentioned in the previous chapters, but this is the first time we’ve actually seen him in X-Factor. He’s notorious as a none-more-nineties character – his codename was X-Treme, after all – and his costume here reflects that. For a while there was a suggestion that he would turn out to be the third Summers brother. The various teases for that abandoned storyline wound up indicating that he was from the Shi’ar Empire, and the illegitimate son of mad former emperor D’Ken.

The Five are discussing the interruption to resurrection services that followed the discovery that Otherworld deaths can’t be properly resurrected, in the previous issue.

PAGE 5. Recap and credits.

PAGE 6. Elixir and Prodigy talk.

Both these characters debuted in New Mutants vol 2, alongside Sofia (Wind Dancer) – which might explain why they’re talking to one another here, given that the Five tend to act as a group on Krakoa. They’re not talking about Sofia, however.

The “she” who’s “been out there” for “hours” at the start of the scene is… not very clearly identified at all. I think it’s meant to be Aurora, simply because she’s the only main female character who isn’t inside in this or the next scene, but the significance isn’t very clear.

After that, they’re talking about Rockslide, who underwent a corrupted resurrection in the previous issue. As we’ll see, tests are continuing, to try and figure out what this new guy is. Presumably, Prodigy’s powers don’t work on New Rockslide because he’s only just come into the world, and he has virtually no memories to absorb. Prodigy misreads this as a problem with his powers.

PAGES 7-10. Prestige tries to scan Rockslide’s mind.

Basically, this guy is a blank slate who only just came into existence – it’s fairly self explanatory. The turning point here is that X-Factor go from poking and prodding at the poor guy to try and unscramble the problem with the lost Rockslide, to recognising that he’s a poor confused creature in his own right who needs a bit of support. Naturally, Eye-Boy is the first to volunteer it.

PAGE 11. Wind Dancer emerges from her husk.

Professor X is presumably off panel, restoring her memories. On panel, and attending her resurrection, are a bunch of characters, mainly from their generation of teen trainees. The recognisable ones:

  • The guy in red who greets her is Hellion, her rival team leader from New Mutants, who always had a romantic interest in her. We’ve seen him on Krakoa before, but I think this is his first appearance of any significance.
  • The girl bottom left with the insect wings and pointed ears is Pixie.
  • Just above her is the purple face of perennial background trainee Indra.
  • The blonde girl wearing black – given the way Sofia responds to her as an old close friend later – seems to be Wallflower, another New Mutants character who must have been resurrected off panel.
  • The girl on the right with the red marks on her face is Loa, another background fixture..
  • To her right with the blue hair is Sofia’s old teammate Surge.
  • And immediately to her right, in the red costume with the white X, is Tag, one of Hellion’s Hellions.
  • Finally, the woman on the far right wearing a niqab is Dust.

PAGE 12. Proteus talks about returning fliers.

The other two we see in flashback are the Guthrie siblings Icarus and Aero.

PAGE 13. Wind Dancer talks to her friends.

Note that there are some oddities in Wind Dancer’s responses here. She mentions the Crucible, which we saw in X-Men #7, and involved depowered mutants deliberately getting themselves killed in heroic ritual combat in order to qualify for resurrection (and thereby get their powers). The Crucible was supposedly instituted precisely to discourage depowered mutants from committing suicide. Wind Dancer claims to have heard about the Crucible while in Mojoworld (how?) and assumes that Prodigy got his powers back in the same way.

Prodigy commits the classic error of asking Wind Dancer two questions at once: “Sofia, why did you go to Mojoworld? Why did you agree to get killed for their entertainment?” Sofia seems to only answer the second one, claiming that she “had no other way of escaping” – or is that meant to be her answer to them both? She says outright that Spiral, Adam X and Shatterstar all tried to help her get out in other ways – there’s a strong implication here that Sofia either deliberately got herself killed in order to get her powers back, or at least wasn’t too bothered if that happened. On page 18, there’s a panel of her talking to Prodigy where she outright claims that what happened to her is no different from Crucible, and seems to be making justifications for herself.

Apparently Cerebro can back up memories of people who are in the extradimensional Mojoverse. Eh? Fortunately, Sofia did this before “X of Swords” would have cast real doubt on the wisdom of such a move.

Other characters visible here include:

  • Icarus, with the wings.
  • Anole, the lizard guy.
  • Mercury, the metallic girl, and once quite a prominent character.

PAGE 14. Dani and Emma talk.

Emma is brooding over the death of Rockslide. Her feelings of guilt over the deaths of her students haven’t come up in quite a while, but they were a major feature of her character for a while in the 90s, after the original Hellions were casually wiped out in Uncanny X-Men #281; she lost more students in the attack on Genosha at the start of the Morrison run. Dani’s encouraging pep talk is perhaps a bit over the top in telling Emma that her heart is too big, but there’s a valid point that Emma keeps putting herself back in that mentor role, even if it’s partly to atone for having messed it up in the past.

PAGE 15. Polaris and Daken talk.

Fairly self explanatory. The woman in the red energy armour is, well, Armor. The other rock-type guy in the crowd at the bottom can’t be Rockslide, so it’s presumably Onyxx, a similar-looking character from the Milligan/Larroca run.

PAGE 16. Data page. A good old fashioned cutaway drawing of the team HQ. Note that while Northstar, Polaris, Prodigy and Eye-Boy are described as having permanent rooms, Aurora and Daken are staying in guest rooms.

PAGES 17-18. Montage of activities in the Boneyard.

In the top panel, Dust, Pixie, Surge and Hellion seem to be doing target practice. Polaris is trying to befriend New Rockslide. We’re told that Gorgon has also been resurrected following his death in Otherworld and is “acting strangely” – which seems to imply that he’s been affected less profoundly than Rockslide.

The Five and Northstar discuss the return of the Hellions who died in Amenth, and basically explain what we saw in this week’s Hellions. Northstar seems to think that this could cause trouble if it became publicly known – is he worried that people would deliberately go to Amenth to try and improve themselves, or just concerned that people will start doubting the resurrection system if they see too many people changed by it?

“The lesbians” that Eye-Boy claims not to be watching are Mercury and Bling!, who was last seen in Fallen Angels.

The kid who “get[s] a different power based off the music I’m listening to” is obscure background character DJ, who was depowered on M-Day and subsequently killed by the Purifiers. Welcome back, DJ. He was at the Xavier school at the same time as Sofia and co, but as one of the peripheral characters making up the numbers in rival squads. Basically, he’s been around for 16 years and this may well be the most prominent he’s ever been.

PAGE 19. Daken and Aurora.

Daken is drawing murals onto the walls of – well, presumably that’ shis guest room. That means he’s got hidden depths.

PAGE 20. Data page of a weird email received by X-Factor. It seems to be a parable about an increasingly abusive relationship. Whether it’s something to do with Aurora’s storyline or foreshadowing for something new is hard to say.

PAGES 21-24. Aurora and Northstar use their powers together again.

Originally, Aurora and Northstar had to touch each other to use their powers. That later got changed by Walter Langkowski’s tamperings, and there was certainly a period where their powers shorted each other out. I’m not sure that’s been the status quo for a while, but Alpha Flight continuity isn’t my area.

Naturally, the beautiful light show is a symbol of reconciliation. Note the response of the other characters. Kyle and Trevor are awestruck. Daken seems quietly pleased for Aurora. David just ignores the whole thing and looks at his screen. Rachel is asleep. And Rockslide finds it beautiful, the first time he’s really done anything beyond look confused and apologetic.

The scream at the end is somebody finding the body of Siryn, the daughter of Banshee, who has somehow managed to fall to her death despite being able to fly.

PAGE 25. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: SCREAM (presumably referencing Siryn’s sonic-scream powers).

Bring on the comments

  1. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Wow. Just wow. This issue is weaponised fanservice aimed squarely at the Academy X era fans and I, for one, am here for it.

    I reread the New Mutants/New X-Men series recently and this issue could easily serve as a ‘and they all lived happily ever after, at least for a while’ epilogue.

    So yeah, total fanservice. But considering the awful stuff (and many deaths) those kids went through, it’s nice to see them just being happy for an issue. Fanservice received and appreciated.

    Moving on. The one thing that read off to me on first reading was that the New X-Men don’t interact with Rockslide (apart from Prodigy’s and Elixir’s talk about him) – but then again, it is said explicitly that this day is for celebrating. And with X-Factor (and Leah Williams, apparently) taking an interest in Rockslide, it seems poor Santo will receive some attention in the future.

    Also, I think the ‘she’ Prodigy and Elixir are talking about is Emma. Especially since there’s a second time ‘she’ is discussed – by Proteus and Hope, and that ends with a shot of Hope looking at a solitary figure cloaked in white.

    All in all, it’s nice to have X-Factor back.
    Though I’m glad we’re done with the Mojoverse stuff, at least for now.

  2. Ben says:

    This continues to be the best X book by a country mile, featuring recognizably human characters interacting believably with the bizarre new world they find themselves in.

    Yeah they’re talking about Emma brooding out in the dark.

    I also took it that Daken and Aurora had hooked up, but it’s not clear.

  3. Chris V says:

    My guess is that Northstar’s concern that it could cause problems if it became publicly known is referring to people going to Amenth.
    It just so happens that now Sinister has DNA samples from that exact place.
    I’m guessing Sinister has found a loophole to get around Krakoa’s laws which are meant to control him.
    I see this lifetime’s version of the Chimeras coming soon.

  4. SanityOrMadness says:

    Now, since it’s a revelation to the characters, it’s not strictly a contradiction, but it’s odd to start with “the new Rockslide is a jumbled mess of alternate versions” and end with “they’re actually an outright newborn”.

    Paul> PAGE 14. Dani and Emma talk.

    No annotation on why they were chosen for this scene (being the mentors of the two main groups in Academy X – and Emma’s group included Rockslide specifically, rather than this being about the general loss of a student)?

    KC> Wow. Just wow. This issue is weaponised fanservice aimed squarely at the Academy X era fans and I, for one, am here for it.


    Although it makes one wonder, we have a depowered Academy X character killed off in a *literal snuff film.” And then Williams not only brings Sofia back, but establishes (via Emma & Dani’s conversation) that the *entire Academy X generation* are apparently back (except Old Rockslide).

    The question becomes… is the snuff film thing a direct & deliberate shot at Kyle/Yost, given what the NXM series turned into post-Academy X?

    Chris V> I see this lifetime’s version of the Chimeras coming soon.

    Wasn’t that already set up in one of the teaser one-shots (Incoming)?

  5. Si says:

    That is one amazing cover.

    But, is Emma’s heart too big because a whole bunch of dead children bothers her? Really?

  6. SanityOrMadness says:


    Shh, don’t question it. Otherwise you start asking questions like her role in Inhumans vs. X-Men, which has been “And let us never speak of it again”-ed.

  7. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    If the general superhero population can get away with calling Cyclops a mass murderer and comparing him to Hitler for, let me check again, destroying a cloud of toxic gas, Emma can get away with killing a few thousand nameless Inhumans.

    Though of course, in reality Emma did both those things.

    Anyway. They sure had no idea what ‘Death of X’ will be about when they started writing the post-Secret Wars books, did they?

  8. Ben says:

    Yeah they really had no idea what Hickman was going to do.

    The X-Men Black books are best left forgotten now.

  9. Alan L says:

    As with others here, I’m very glad to see the Academy X/New X-men casts back together. I think the snuff film element was maybe ribbing Kyle & Yost, who not only killed a ton of the kids in the beginning of New X-men, but then repeatedly threatened and mutilated them all through their re-launch of X-force, as well. The New X-men material is my favorite, personally; I kind of wish Laura Kinney could be there with Dust and Mercury, hanging out. Prodigy seems a little more remote with his former teammates than he was during the New X-men era, and I wonder if that was done to reference the Young Avengers issues he appeared in, where he was very much colder and more intellectually removed than in the previous books.

    As for Northstar & Aurora using their powers together, I don’t know what happened to them after John Byrne/Walter Langowski mucked up their powers, but I do remember in the Mike Carey X-men era, in the Supernovas storyline that introduces the Children of the Vault, Northstar and Aurora are holding hands and destroying the X-men’s mansion with their powers.

  10. Zoomy says:

    Northstar and Aurora’s original powers were first restored in Alpha Flight #85 (June 1990), undoing Walter Langkowski’s changes, but naturally they went screwy again repeatedly after that. Ever since they stopped appearing regularly together, their powers have been whatever the current writer thinks their powers are – I guess the most recent change, maybe off-panel, was that bad things would happen if they touched hands…

  11. Evilgus says:

    Enjoyed this as a ‘bridging’ issue. I’m not big on Academy X but I liked several character concepts and thought it was almost beyond parody how they became death fodder. I recognise this is nice to see them together again.

    And the map of the Boneyard is exactly what I want from datapages. The kind of extraneous but nifty stuff that may have been in a back-up issue or creator’s interview in Wizard…

    I liked too how Rachel’s chromo skimming hit a brick wall. I’m looking forward to what Leah Williams does next – I trust in her as a writer.

    P.s. x-twitter seemed to confirm the blonde girl with two pigtails was Rubbermaid

  12. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Huh. An original Claremont creation, according to the internet. I forgot she existed.

  13. SanityOrMadness says:

    KC> Also, I think the ‘she’ Prodigy and Elixir are talking about is Emma. Especially since there’s a second time ‘she’ is discussed – by Proteus and Hope, and that ends with a shot of Hope looking at a solitary figure cloaked in white.

    Just reread the issue, and seconded.

  14. Joseph S. says:

    Really appreciate what Williams is doing. Maybe it’s the younger millennial writers getting in but clearly the nostalgia frame has shifted. She gets Emma and Rachel (and Lorna and Northstar and Daken and Eye-Boy and…) in a way that few of any writers have, also helped out by the art and character design, which probably won’t appeal to everybody but is a clear sign of the tone of the book. Also agree this is what data pages should be. Really enjoyable series so far.

  15. Thom H. says:

    The best part of this book, for me, is the hang-out vibe. Even when the stakes are high, the story stays low-key and the characters remain accessible, even relatable.

    I was going to chuck my copy of #4 since it had little to do with the ongoing story, but Williams has managed to take that ball and run with it here. The last issue is now seamlessly interwoven into the series.

  16. Evilgus says:

    I also think this is the best Rachel we’ve seen in a while. The use of powers (finally, remembering the time stuff!), the general look (the baggy costume, the punky haircut) and the character’s attitude (one step removed from the group, but still involved).

  17. David says:

    So if that’s Rubbermaid, then where the hell is Laurie? Maybe not resurrected yet. Which seems unfair considering she died years before Sofia did only to still be stuck in the queue.

  18. MasterMahan says:

    No, Laurie’s fine. Wallflower is on page 11.

    I don’t that’s every bus victim, but it’s a lot of them.

  19. SanityOrMadness says:

    Plus, Frost outright says all the students except Original Rockslide are back. So yes, all of them even if not all of them are shown on-panel.

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