Monday, November 2, 2015


Writer: Louise Simonson | Penciler: Terry Shoemaker | Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Petra Scotese | Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: Far beneath New York, a group of Subterraneans are assaulted by Stack and Purge and their men, the Gatherers and the Purifiers. A telepathic cry from one Subterranean alerts various psychics on the surface and X-Factor goes underground to investigate. They eventually catch up with the Gatherers and Purifiers and a fight breaks out.

Meanwhile, the villainous Apocalypse deduces that the High Evolutionary is behind the attacks and goes to visit him in his space station. They battle in space while arguing philosophy, then Apocalypse teleports both of them beneath the Earth's surface to observe the fight.

While X-Factor battles the Purifiers and Gatherers, the Psychic Subterranean is nearly killed. But the Beast rescues him, prompting him to release a psychic blast which defeats Purge. Apocalypse taunts the High Evolutionary for proving Apocalypse's philosophy of survival of the fittest, then departs. The Evolutionary decides the Subterraneans are worthy to survive his culling for the time being, and teleports away with his men.

Beast invites Val-or, the psychic Subterranean, to come with X-Factor for training in the use of his mutant powers, but he elects instead to remain with his people and use the ability for their benefit.

Continuity Notes: As explained by Purge, the Subterraneans are genetically altered slaves created by the ancient Deviants.

It's noted that Apocalypse destroyed the Empire State Building in X-FACTOR #25. When we first catch up with X-Factor this issue, they're working to repair the damage.

When X-Factor heads underground, Beast is reminded of the team's battle with Grotesk in X-MEN #41.

Circa 1988: X-Factor at this point consists of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, and Iceman. Thanks to Apocalypse's Horse(wo)man Pestilence, Beast's intelligence is currently decreasing every time he uses his incredible strength. He spends this issue pretty dumb. Iceman, meanwhile, is wearing a large belt to regulate his powers thanks to a spell cast by Loki.

The telepaths who react to Val-or's cry for help include Marvel Girl, a blonde woman who I suspect to be Emma Frost, Psylocke of the X-Men, X-Factor's Ward Artie Maddicks, Doctor Druid of the Avengers, Franklin Richards, Exacalibur's Rachel Summers, Caliban the mutant-sensing Morlock, and the High Evolutionary.

Caliban is a prisoner of Apocalypse.

The High Evolutionary's Plot: As explained by Apocalypse, the Evolutionary has sent his Gatherers and Purifiers out to cull evolutionary dead-ends from the Earth's population in order to remake the world in his image. In the Evolutionary's own words, he is "... like a benevolent parent... who makes the choices for those who are too immature to choose for themselves."

My Thoughts: The story begins en media res, which which is normally a perfectly valid way to start an issue, but it just feels off here. Normally such an opening would include some narration explaining the situation or perhaps a flashback a bit later explaining how we got to this point, but this book literally starts in the middle of a scene, in the middle of a conversation, and it really feels like a page or two of lead-in material is missing.

And in fact throughout the issue, Louise Simonson seems averse to narrative captions of any sort, save the barest minimum necessary to set a scene. This is something that could work on the regular X-FACTOR title, where her husband Walter was the arist at the time, but -- with all due respect -- Terry Shoemaker is no Walt Simonson, and his pictures are often hard to follow without some sort of narrative description. I'm not a huge fan of too much narration, but in this case we have far too little, leading to a very confusing reading experience.

That said, the fight between the Evolutionary and Apocalypse is entertaining, as these two seem like natural enemies. The former's goal is to cull those he believes to be unnecessary from the genetic pool, while the latter has dedicated his life to natural selection. Apocalypse comes across as the voice of reason here, telling the Evolutionary that everyone, every species, deserves its chance at survival, and to make that choice for a species is a crime against nature.

In most of the stories I've read about the High Evolutionary, he seems like a decent guy, not a superevillain. He's misguided sometimes, but rarely, if ever, does he come across as a genocidal madman. But maybe I haven't read enough of his stories, because that's exactly how he looks here. When a character's words and actions make Apocalypse seem perfectly sane and reasonable, something's obviously wrong with the character in question.


  1. Based on Louise Simonson's X-Factor:Forever, it seems she always wanted to make Apocalypse seem more benevolent than we ever got to see on the actual page. This might be a case of her trying to make Apocalypse look less insane by making the High Evolutionary look worse.

    Based on the stories I remember, High Evolutionary always seemed to be pursuing the goal of speeding up evolution by genetic experiments. He never came across as someone who was trying to purge creation of the unworthy, but to help jump start other species.
    I'd say he is being written wildly out of character in this story.

    I can't see that Apocalypse's goals are that different from the High Evolutionary here, considering that Apocalypse wanted to set up a society where humans would be purged by mutants, and where only the strongest mutants would be able to flourish.
    That's based on the Age of Apocalypse version.
    I don't believe the latter Apocalypse would see a problem with sending the strong to cull the weak.

    I can't speak for the High Evolutionary's characterization in the rest of the cross-over, because I barely remember any of these annuals. I pieced them together slowly over the years, and haven't read any in a large number of years, and some of the annuals I never did buy. So, I have zero idea what the High Evolutionary's goals were actually meant to be in the Evolutionary War.

    1. Interesting; I didn't read X-FACTOR FOREVER, having never read Simonson's original X-FACTOR run in full to begin with. I had no idea she might have intended him as not so evil.

      Your recollection of the High Evolutionary is on par with what little I know of him -- his goal was usually to accelerate mankind's evolution, not cull the population. It's odd he was so misrepresented in this storyline.

  2. He spends this issue pretty dumb. Iceman, meanwhile, is wearing a large belt to regulate his powers thanks to a spell cast by Loki.

    The former eventually gets resolved. The latter, not so much.

    Caliban is a prisoner of Apocalypse.

    I believe at this point (post-FotM), he's w/Apocalypse willingly, having been promised the power to avenge his fellow Morlocks.

    Normally such an opening would include some narration explaining the situation or perhaps a flashback a bit later explaining how we got to this point, but this book literally starts in the middle of a scene, in the middle of a conversation, and it really feels like a page or two of lead-in material is missing.

    No kidding. I was shocked to realize this was the first chapter of the Evolutionary War. Like, there isn't even any introduction to who the High Evolutionary is or what his deal is.

    Terry Shoemaker is no Walt Simonson

    No kidding. Especially when inked by Milgrom. You talked in your introductory post about annuals suffering from subpar art, especially relative to the main book. Here's Exhibit A.

    Like you, I found the Apocalypse stuff most compelling (far more than the Subterranean junk), both in terms of how it does and doesn't fit Apocalypse's later characterization.

    1. Funnily, Beast's condition is apparently fixed in the regular X-FACTOR series at some point during this storyline. He shows up here in the first chapter dumb and human, but when he reappears for the final installment in AVENGERS ANNUAL, he's furry and smart again! It's a little jarring if you're reading only "Evolutionary War" without the ongoing series.

      Thanks for the correction on Caliban, by the way -- I haven't read much X-FACTOR outside of crossovers, so I was uncertain of his situation here. I should've referred back to your X-aminations!

    2. There's the back-up feature in all the annuals which details the Evolutionary's history by way of introduction, but it takes its time and obviously comes after this one.

    3. Yup, I'm going to cover that full serial in full after I do all the individual crossover chapters. I liked about half of it.

  3. The cover is a beauty, and the X-Factor are hilarious on it. It's like they're watching the Apocalypse stealing the show. THIS Apocalypse here is worthy of being the one ultimately giving Wolverine his adamantium skeletor, though his reasons for it are harder to come by. Unless he was planned a Horseman from farther than thought.

    I kind of like the Subterraneans, if only because Belasco seems to always show up later if not sooner. "I am Belasco and I rule Limbo!" "No, you seem to really just live in a big cave carved underneath the planet's crust, and got moloids for your Children of Dis. It's Illyana who got the real powers, you're a charlatan using chutes and ladders. Stepladder wizard you."

    1. Yeah, I really like that cover. Makes me wish Walt Simonson could've drawn the story.

  4. It's hard to believe the same High Evolutionary who sent Adam Warlock to clear the Counter-Earth from evil in extremely "gave his only son" way would now be employing someone named Major Purge.