Don’t you miss the days when annuals were just extra-length adventures? This annual doesn’t have any huge reveal, any huge crossover, or really anything to differentiate it from a normal storyline in X-Factor. Maybe having Bob Layton on both writing and penciling duties was enough to justify this going in an annual? Regardless, this is just another case-of-the-week procedural adventure for early X-Factor.
As a kid, I remember loving the stealth costume Angel is wearing on the cover. It isn’t that radical or awesome, and the story reason he wears it seems a tad unnecessary. You see, Russia contracts X-Factor to come give a talk on detecting and capturing mutants; X-Factor wants to go investigate how Russia is treating its mutant population. Everyone but Angel goes along by plane. Angel is the scout and has to FLY TO RUSSIA. Now, I know he didn’t fly the whole way, but dang, his wings are gonna be tired! (It is still worth it for this nicely toyetic new costume though.)
Since this is a story involving Russia in the ‘80s, the Russian mutant prison camp is guarded by Crimson Dynamo. I was sort of shocked to see Dynamo’s enormous scale compared to the mutants. And let me tell you, the original five X-Men vs. Dynamo is not a fair fight. Dynamo mops the floor with them. Seriously, was the disparity between mutant characters and Avengers characters always this strong? It is pretty neat seeing Iceman have to resort to subterfuge to win the day.
No one draws tech or armor better than Layton. Dynamo looks tremendous. Heck, even the mutant labs look striking and perfectly “comic-booky” to my eyes. (Since this was an early comic for me, that doesn’t surprise anyone.) I also love the way Layton draws Beast’s flattop as a near match for James Rhodes’ in Iron Man.
This Cold War throwback is GOOD!