ComicsVerse is celebrating the 12 Days of X-Mas by taking a look at some of our favorite X-Men holiday-themed issues! Today, we’re talking about how the members of X-Factor celebrated the holidays in X-FACTOR #27 and #52.

The first comic I ever read was an issue of the 1986 series X-FACTOR, so, naturally, it has an important place in my comic-book memory. While far from perfect, the series served as a nice companion to the X-Men’s traditional UNCANNY X-MEN title. X-FACTOR showed what the “classic” X-Men characters, like Cyclops and Marvel Girl, were doing while the newer additions, like Wolverine and Storm, were leading the traditional X-Men team.

Most X-FACTOR issues center around Jean, Warren, Hank, Bobby, and Scott as they attempt to take down mutant hate from the inside out. Posing as mutant exterminators, the X-Factor team would get calls asking for their “assistance.” Then, they would show up, rescue the mutant, and dive out. Naturally, things got a lot more complicated than that, but you get the gist.   

X-FACTOR
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

During the first X-FACTOR run, there were two holiday issues: X-FACTOR #27 and #52. X-Men veteran Louise Simonson wrote both issues, while Walter Simonson illustrated #27 and Terry Shoemaker worked on #52.

Just a warning, these issues aren’t the most joyful X-Men holiday issues in existence. Still, seeing how the X-Men celebrated the Christmas season during difficult times (and the X-FACTOR era was certainly difficult times for these characters) is important. In these issues, the team has to deal with some heavy stuff. The fact that it’s the holiday season doesn’t really make it any easier on them.

Post-Apocalyptic Christmas

X-FACTOR #27 takes place right after X-Factor’s near-death experience with Apocalypse and his four horsemen. Like most confrontations with the insane villain, the X-Men didn’t leave the battle unwounded. Beast lost his intellect and Apocalypse transformed Angel into Archangel. To make matters somehow even worse, in this issue Scott learns that Madelyne Pryor and his son are alive. This, unfortunately, puts a strain on his relationship with Jean. Iceman tries to get the team, and all of New York, into a festive mood by topping the Empire State building with a huge ice Christmas tree, but it’s mostly in vain. The team is hurting.

With the members of X-Factor in various stages of misery, this issue puts a lot of emphasis on X-Factor’s younger “trainees”: Rictor, Boom Boom, Leech, Artie, Skids, and Rusty. The rag-tag bunch of kids becomes inundated with toys after a news station reveals that they essentially “lost” Christmas thanks to Apocalypse. After some discussion, the kids decide to donate all the toys to a local children’s hospital. After they’re supposed to be in bed, the kids sneak out to complete their good deed, but Jean and Bobby catch them in the act. Instead of becoming angry with them, Jean, Bobby, and Hank help them give away the toys. At the end of the issue, things are looking up, but Scott and Warren’s distance speaks volumes. Christmas can only fix X-Factor’s problems temporarily.

X-FACTOR
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Archangel Stops for No Holiday        

The second X-FACTOR holiday issue, X-FACTOR #52, carries this same theme of hardships. Twenty-five issues see a lot of change for the team, from Scott’s infant son coming to live on the X-Factor ship to the entire team becoming minor celebrities thanks to “modern” (for 1990) news techniques. Most of the team takes the whole “celebrity” business in stride, but it affects Archangel negatively. This added to his penchant for violence makes for a nasty combo. Much of the issue sees a feral Archangel fighting an equally feral Sabretooth in a snow-covered NYC. Writer Louise Simonson knows how to give these characters really crappy Christmases. 

X-FACTOR
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

While Archangel is off being angsty, Jean, Scott, Beast, and his date go out for a holiday dinner at a surprisingly well-known restaurant: Windows on the World. Windows was located on the top floors of the North Tower of the original World Trade Center complex. For readers in 1990, the reference didn’t have half of the connotation that it does now. The whole scene is eerie and becomes even eerier when a herd of giant cockroaches breaks through the windows, flooding the restaurant. Similar to Jean and Scott’s holiday experience in UNCANNY X-MEN #98, their nice evening out ends before it begins.

X-FACTOR
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

X-Mas Isn’t Always Easy

Neither X-FACTOR holiday issue illustrates exceedingly happy tales. This is partly because the X-Men truly do sometimes seem to stop themselves from being happy. But, it’s also because this series represents a hard transitional time for these characters. Scott is coming to grips with his current relationship with Jean and his previous relationship with Madelyne. On top of trying to be a good superhero, he’s battling feelings of guilt over not being there for his son. By proximity, Jean is dealing with many of these issues as well. Angel is adjusting to life with a radically new appearance and personality. Naturally, this identity crisis is taking a serious toll on his mental health. Bobby and Hank, each plagued with their own personal problems, have to watch their friends go through hard times.

X-FACTOR
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

X-FACTOR isn’t a huge cry-fest. However, it does bring to light just how difficult it is being both a person, with real emotions and a superhero. The X-Factor members have very little time to process their own thoughts and feelings before they have to save the day. Even during the Christmas season, they become overwhelmed with personal trauma and superhero business. Jean and some of the others do celebrate Christmas at the children’s hospital in X-FACTOR #27. Though, if it weren’t for Rusty and the others, I doubt they would have even remembered.

As depressing as it can be, I think it’s important not to overly romanticize the holiday season in comics (and in real life, for that matter). Christmas and the holidays can help bring joy, but it doesn’t erase people’s problems. For the members of X-Factor, there was no ceasefire for the holidays. They had to keep dealing with the strain of living difficult lives even on Christmas.   

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