X-Factor #42 (July, 1989)
“All that Glitters…”
Writer – Louise Simonson
Pencils – Arthur Adams
Inks – Allen Milgrom
Letters – Joe Rosen
Colors – Tom Vincent
Edits – Bob Harras
Chief – Tom DeFalco
Cover Price: $1.00
Well, we’ve come this far… why not take a day to finish up Our Alchemical Romance?
We open in the Troll Tunnels, and X-Factor is still all chained up. The baddies reveal their plan that, with the use of Thomas Jones’ alchemical powers, they can destroy the British economy… and, ultimately drive everyone out of the country, reclaiming it as their own. Sounds like an air-tight plan, dunnit? Anyhoo, the Troll Associates, who are named Phy, Phay, Phee, Phough, and Phumm (not that I can tell ’em apart), work out their plan… two will remain with the prisoners, the other three will start turning things to gold with Thomas. Worth noting, these Trolls are annoying. The Trolls that stayed behind spot Baby Cable! The one called Phumm (I think) shape-shifts into a dinosaur and goes to crush the tot, but the Cablet protects himself with a telekinetic bubble.
Jean starts to stir and knocks some of the baddies over with her TK abilities… after which, X-Factor makes short work of their bindings. I mean, they’re still super-powered mutants, right? It’s not like they’ve been inhibited or anything. We get two or so pages of X-Factor bustin’ loose.
Meanwhile, we join the rest of the Trolls (and Thomas), as they’re reaching the Tower of London via magic carpet. They want Thomas to turn the White Tower, which is apparently the oldest part of the Tower of London… to gold. Tower, tower, tower. I don’t think I’ve ever typed that word as many times as right now. Anyhoo… Thomas isn’t so sure. Suddenly a dog arrives on the scene, and starts yippin’. One of the Trolls… slashes the dog’s throat? Oh, c’mon, flag on the play… I didn’t wanna see that. If I rated things on a numerical scale, this scene would’ve just cost this issue an entire point.
Thomas uses his alchemical powers to transmute the dying and suffering dog into gold. The Trolls are oddly tickled… and decide, perhaps the Tower of London ain’t important enough a place to turn to gold… and so, they set their sights on Buckingham Palace. Hey, there’s a place even I’ve heard of! Thing is, he’s not to transmute the building… but, the actual Royal Family!
The Palace Guards do their damnedest to hold off the Trolls… but, I mean… they’re Trolls. Do guns even work on them? (No, they don’t). Suddenly the Police show up, and flash the baddies with their headlights. This causes the Trolls a fair amount of pain… and does not go unnoticed by young Thomas.
The Trolls go to flee… and it’s at this point that X-Factor arrives on the scene. A fight ensues over the course of several pages, finally ending with the Trolls running back to the tunnels… and not a minute too soon, ya see… the Sun’s just about risen. X-Factor continues their pursuit, and Thomas is able to inform them that the Trolls’ weakness is… Sunlight!
And so, another fight breaks out. Iceman attempts to block off the Trolls’ path with a wall of ice… but, it barely slows the bad guys down. At this point, Thomas actually considers using his newly-minted alchemical powers to… turn the Trolls into gold. He quickly dismisses this notion, almost equating it to murder… as there’s no way he’d ever be able to return them to flesh and bone.
As the chase continues, Thomas calls out to X-Factor, revealing their current location (they’re actually very close to his house… just, ya know, underground). He asks Cyclops to smash a hole in the ceiling of the tunnel to let some sunshine in… and so, ZAPT! Unfortunately for the good guys… it’s just another rainy London day… ain’t no Sun in the sky right now!
The Troll Associates are soon reunited in full… so, those two that X-Factor gave the slip earlier on, are back in the picture. The Trolls decide that… maybe the best way to get this alchemical kid to do their bidding would be to, well… threaten his mum. And so, they nab her! If Thomas doesn’t turn all the things to gold… they’re going to flick her head clean off her shoulders.
Thomas is outta luck. He’s kind of run out of choices here… and so, he mulls it over. He equates the Trolls to terrorists… who have no qualms about threatening and endangering innocents. And so, he does what he’d thought about doing earlier this issue… he… turns (two of) the Trolls to gold! Not sure where the other three got off to, but… I’m glad they’re gone regardless.
After this, Thomas vows to the Golden Trolls that he’ll become a Molecular Biochemist, and one day return them to flesh and blood. Well, whatever helps ya sleep at night, Tom.
X-Factor and the Joneses decide to drop the Troll Figures in Hyde Park… but, before leaving, Thomas transmutes the gold into lead… ya know, this way they won’t be so enticing to thieves. Beast offers the kid a spot at their School for Mutants… but, Thomas turns ’em down… he’s set on going to University so he might eventually bring the bad guys back to “life”. Ah, what could’a been!
We wrap up with X-Factor heading back to their Ship… and a teaser that there’s about to be a kidnaping (with one p?). The Judgment War is upon us!
I definitely don’t have quite the same “soft spot” for this issue as I did for the first half of the story. Frankly, I feel like we paid a bit too much attention to the darn Trolls here… and, boy… weren’t they just a bit on the annoying side? Eesh.
That said, I suppose I can be a bit more objective about this issue… and the story, than I was yesterday. What we have here feels like… I don’t wanna say “filler”, but it’s definitely doesn’t feel like “must reading”, ya know? Gotta wonder if they already had the upcoming Judgment War plotted out, and wanted to end it in the milestone 50th issue of X-Factor… and, maybe this two-parter was more a “means to an end” than anything that absolutely needed telling. I mean, it did give us an extra issue of Art Adams… which, might make the whole thing worthwhile… but, I think, as a story, this probably could’ve been tightened up, and told in one.
Let’s talk Thomas. We see that he realizes that actions have consequences. He’s got this unbelievable power to tinker with the chemical makeup of… anything, living or otherwise! He knows that, if he were to turn the Trolls to gold… it’d very likely be a one-way trip… and, as such, really has to be pushed to his limit before he does so. I thought this was pretty cool… and added a bit of nuance to his character, as well as direction for the future.
Though… just a few pages before he begrudgingly turns the Trolls to gold, he does tell X-Factor that sunlight will “destroy” the bad guys… so, maybe he’s not really above killing… just as long as he ain’t the one actually doing it? Whattayagonnado?
Overall… as much as I had a hard time remaining objective about the first half of this story… this one, I dunno… kinda felt a bit sloggy. The Trolls were almost aggressively annoying… and, I’d be fine never seeing them again. I do wonder if there were some sort of jargon in the fine-print of the Mutant Registration Contest, where “Alchemy” (which he’s never referred to as) couldn’t become a regular featured character? I remember something similar went down in the pages of Thunderbolts in the late-90’s with the character Charcoal (who was the winner of a contest run for Marvel in Wizard Magazine, if I’m remembering right)… it got pretty sticky, if I recall. So, maybe Alchemy couldn’t (legally?) ever be more than what he was here? I dunno… I ain’t a lawyer, and I’m one’a the few guys on the Internet who won’t pretend he is either!
Overall… I think if you read this two-parter in one “go”, you’d really enjoy it. In going through it one-per-day, I feel like the “seams” show a bit more. So, I don’t not recommend this… but, if you do decide to check out the dazzling debut of Alchemy, I’d suggest you hit up both issues at once. And, uh… did I mention… Art Adams!
Bonus Book??? (No, not really…)
Podcast Plugs (you’ve already stopped scrolling at this point!):
Today I dropped the latest episode of the show named after this site, in which I discuss our recent visit with Leonard the Duck!
Also, this week…
Morituri Mondays, Episode 18!
From Claremont to Claremont: An X-Men Podcast, Episode 2!