CLAREMONT, Chris. X-Men: Fall of the Mutants. Marvel Comics, 2001 (originally published in 1988). ISBN: 0785108254
It's part two of our Fall of Mutants series. This time, we are focusing on the original team of X-Factor. I actually briefly talked about their formation during the Phoenix Rising post since that included X-Factor #1 as the very last tale. This particular story took place over three issues from X-Factor #24 - X-Factor #26. It's not exactly the most finely crafted story, but it does introduce several elements that factored into the early nineties run of X-Men that I really loved. The first was Apocalypse as a villain. While Apocalypse had previously appeared in X-Factor #6, he's really introduced as a supervillain here. Why is that, you ask? Well, because Warren Worthington III is revealed as alive and as Death, one of Apocalypse's horsemen in the early pages of this story. Many interpretations of Warren becoming Death (and ultimately Archangel) show him as an unwilling participant in his own transformation. This story very clearly puts the blame on Warren; while Apocalypse goes to him and gives him the option to become one his servants - to "fly again." Totally not mind-controlled. Warren readily accepts his fate as he, at this point, literally had nothing else to loose.
Caliban, a mutant-tracking character from The Morlocks, was also hanging around X-Factor at this time and kidnapped with them by Apocalypse. Other than tracking mutants, he really had no other skills to aid the team. When Apocalypse defeats and captures the team, which consisted of Cyclops, Jean Gray, Beast, and Iceman- he doesn't even bother to lock Caliban up. Poor dude. Beast has also been touched by Pestilence in a previous encounter. The effects this seem to be whenever he uses his strength he gets dumber. The bonus is that at this point, he's really strong. Apocalypse brings them aboard his Ship, where most of the story takes place. The Ship is later retconned as Celestial technology. It works as this gigantic ominous thing here. As an evil mastermind, Apocalypse would have an equally evil headquarters. His horseman are War- a telekinetic who "claps" his hands together for dramatic effect, Pestilence- a Morlock whose very touch is deadly, and Famine- a teenager with an eating disorder who can literally wither away food, both outside and inside of people. They are based on the biblical four horseman from Revelation. Yep, the same one from The Bible.
Apocalypse kidnaps X-Factor with the intent to lure them over to his way of thinking. He briefly goes over his history, basically saying he's been around as long as the days of ancient Egypt. He's been worshipped as many different things by many different cultures, but essentially he's his namesake; the end of all things. He alludes to how only the strong should survive a number of times. It's weird, because X-Factor defeats the first three horsemen super fast during their first attack. Your horsemen are WEAK, Apocky. When he introduces Death, and then X-Factor realize it's an altered Warren, they are all defeated in short order. Apocalypse uses Warren as a case study in how human beings will ultimately betray all mutants, and how they all must join together to obliterate humanity before they have the chance to act. He kind of makes a good case for it, especially with Warren's downfall essential single-handedly engineered by his human best friend Cameron Hodge. X-Factor, with Cyclops being their most often spokesman, impolitely declines Apocalypse's offer whenever it comes up.
The story is essentially that. The horsemen then go to lay waste to Manhattan, and X-Factor goes off in hot pursuit. The Power Pack show up. Pestilence dies when the top of the Empire State Building falls on her. She was also trying to poison the Power Pack member saving her, so maybe she kind of deserved it? Iceman tricks Death into destroying an ice replica of himself. When Warren thinks he kills Bobby, he snaps out of it. Apocalypse is almost impressed, saying something like "strong in body, strong in mind!" Caliban joins him, and X-Factor realizes they did not do him a solid when they ignored him for the whole story. The dialogue is definitely dated- and not in a cute way. The art is also kind of thrown together, although some close up of Beast and Iceman work really well. This ended the 'X-Factor pretending to be Mutant Hunter' storyline that went on for two years and made no sense, so the story is good for that reason. It's good for the history lesson on Archangel, but... someone can just kind of tell you what happened. It makes this story ultimately skippable.