X-Factor Annual #1

Issue Date: 
October 1986
Story Title: 
Grand Design

Bob Layton (writer & penciler), Brett Breeding (inker), Petra Scotese (colorist), Bob Harras (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

X-Factor is invited to the Soviet Union by the Russian government to talk to them about methods of dealing with mutants. They are not interested, until their man on the mutant committee, Senator Thompson, tells them that mutants in the Soviet Union are captured and detained at a certain facility where they are experimented on. They are to free them and abduct the man responsible: East German scientist Helmut Heinreich. Four members of X-Factor officially travel to the USSR, while Angel flies in by himself to search for the facility.
At a reception, X-Factor makes the acquaintance of Heinreich himself. They do not know that he has superpowers and identifies them as mutants. With the help of two strongmen, he kidnaps Iceman and, thanks to his own powers, adopts his looks and powers. He goes to join X-Factor, while telling his men to kill the real Bobby Drake. Before that can happen, though, Bobby is saved by a group of Russian mutant freedom fighters, led by the charismatic Father Garnoff. Quickly, they realize that they have the same goals. X-Factor (alongside Heinreich) have received Angel’s message and join him outside the compound. They enter to find dissected mutants. While he and Cyclops are split off from the others, Heinreich shows his true colors, takes out Cyclops and alerts the Crimson Dynamo of the mutants’ presence. The other members try to flee but have both the Dynamo and the Russian guards to contend with. Luckily, they are joined by Imcena and Garnoff’s mutants. Iceman helps Cyclops against Heinreich, with the result that Heinreich seemingly falls to his death, and, with some of Beast’s coaching, Iceman convinces the dynamo that he is Heinreich and orders him to back off. Together with Garnoff’s group, they free the mutants but realize that their cover is now blown. Garnoff offers help. He hypnotizes them and, a short time later, X-Factor (back in their mutant hunters guise) offers Garnoff and Iron Curtain as prisoners to the Russian officials. They are led to their plane and only awake from their trance once they are safely aboard. There is some commotion aboard, as Angel passes them by and, back in the plane, a very much alive Heinreich flirts with the stewardess.

Full Summary: 

It’s been a hard week for the members of X-Factor, as they’ve gone on one assignment after the other trying to find and help mutants under the guise of mutant hunters. Exhausted, the five reach their headquarters, where they are expected by their agitated PR manager, Cameron Hodge. He informs them that there are two officials from the Soviet embassy waiting to speak to them. But he has no idea what they want. They insist on speaking to X-Factor directly. Scott asks Cameron to entertain their guests while they freshen up.

Wondering what the Soviets might want, the members of X-Factor join their guests in the conference room twenty minutes later. Hodge introduces them as Ms. Sasha Yasinov and Major Nikoli Uzbek. How can they be of service, Scott inquires. Sasha quickly explains that they are not there to hire X-Factor’s services. Their government is interested in studying X-Factor’s techniques in mutant detection. Of course, they don’t have this kind of problem in the Soviet Union. But their government would like to develop a contingency plan, should such problems ever arise. They would like X-Factor to come to Moscow and address their scientific community on how they handle this “mutant phenomenon” in America. Scott quickly points out that their methods are trade secrets. And they’d need permission from their government. They have already discussed this with the state department, the Soviets explain. They expect their approval within twenty-four hours. They are just interested in a friendly exchange of information, Sasha stresses. Scott tells them that they need to discuss this among themselves and the Soviets take their leave.

Afterwards the members of X-Factor quickly agree that the idea of them assisting the Soviets is preposterous, plus the two of them were obviously hiding something. Angel who was not present but listening in via the com-system agrees. They should refuse. Realistically they don’t have to offer them anything anyway.

Suddenly, Cameron Hodge announces that it’s not going to be that easy. He’s just received a call from their friend inside the committee on mutant affairs. He insists that they accept the Russians’ invitation. He wants to meet with X-Factor. According to him, the lives of hundreds of mutants behind the Iron Curtain could depend on their actions.

Deep inside the Soviet Union lies a fortress of concrete and steel. It’s a place that is spoken of in fearful whispers by mutants. Many of their kind enter never to be seen again. But that may change this day. One Mongolian mutant has almost made it outside. There is just one more wall that he has to breach. Waiting until the searchlight passes, the panic-stricken escapee makes his dash for freedom. He tries to summon enough energy to blast through the wall, when a voice announces that he is to surrender. The mutant panics when he sees the speaker. He stutters that he thought he didn’t exist, that he was a lie meant to frighten them. He uses his blasts on his foe. In response, the Crimson Dynamo shoots to kill. Alive or dead, the mutant still serves his function in this place, he announces.

New York. Hodge rushes the members of X-Factor into one of the World Trade Center’s service elevators. On the ninety-sixth floor, they are joined by Senator Thompson. The elevator begins its upward progress once more, until Thompson stops it between doors. Bobby tells him he recognizes him – he’s on the committee for mutant affairs. He also knows the truth about X-Factor, Thompson replies and proceeds to tell them the reason for this clandestine meeting. He shows them spy photos recently smuggled out of the Soviet Union. This is how the Soviets are dealing with their mutant problem. The X-Factor members are sickened when they see the atrocities shown on the pictures.

Thompson explains that an operative in CIA intelligence leaked what they knew to the committee but died before he could reveal the exact location of this medical death camp. But Thompson has pieced together enough to perhaps be of some use to X-Factor and perhaps they can help those unfortunates. Thompson continues that there’s a program underway to discover and replicate the biological information stored in mutant genes. The project’s goal is to reproduce at will the non-random “X-Factor” anomaly. In essence, they wish to create an army of mutant children. It’s the “master race” scenario gone mad. The KGB has been rounding up alleged Soviet mutants for some time. They believe one man to be responsible for the project. He shows them a picture of a haggard, middle-aged blond man: Dr. Wolfgang Heinreich. Born in East Germany in 1932 and recruited by the KGB, he worked as a biological weapons scientist until recently. It is rumored that his father was instrumental in Hitler’s genetics program during the war. They suspect he’s carrying on the family business in Russia. X-Factor is to accept the Soviets’ invitation. Once inside, they are to locate Heinreich and the medical facility and incapacitate both. The lives of hundreds of mutants depend on their success. Hank bursts out they’d be exposed for certain if they attempted this mission. And all they have to bank on is the information from a member of a government committee obsessed with hounding mutants right here in the USA. Thompson assures them that he’s worked hard to get on the committee because he’s on the mutants’ side.

One week later, a private jet touches down on an airport outside Moscow. The four X-Factor members inside are nervous to the point of paranoia or, as Jean states, it’s her first suicide mission. Sasha Yasinov greets them and leads them through the terminal. Cyclops comments on all the military personnel stationed here. Are they expecting a threat? Sasha denies this, claiming the soldiers are only there for their protection. While she does her spiel about the evil imperialist forces, suddenly two Russian mutants attack, intending to take one of the Americans hostage. The military fire as one of the mutants – a flyer – grabs Iceman and tries to fly away, announcing that they will use him to free their captive comrades. The members of X-Factor dare not use their powers.

As they wonder what to do, one soldier shoots the mutant in the back. The enraged Bobby calls them stinking commie butchers, until Scott silences his display, which did not go unnoticed by Sasha Yasinov. Out of earshot, Scott tells Bobby that the man will be avenged. Bobby cynically replies whom they are kidding. It’s them against an entire country.

A short time later, the group arrives at a Moscow hotel and they are left to their quarters on the tenth floor. Yasinov stresses that they are requested to stay on this floor for their own security. If they wish to see the city, a party-approved guide will be provided.

Inside Scott’s room, Iceman drops the room temperature to sub-zero to effectively render an bugging device inert. Scott tells them that Warren should be at the halfway mark by now. That gives them twelve hours Once he locates the facility, Hank continues, they’ll be able to home in on his signal and rescue their brother mutants. He addresses that business at the airport and Scott concludes that the mutants in this country obviously consider them a threat. They can’t risk making contact with them. They’ve got to bide their time until they hear from Angel.

Speaking of whom, dressed in a specially insulated costume, Angel flies over the mountain range of Eastern Russia. He worries about what may happen to his friends and starts growing tired after six hours of non-stop flight from Geneva. Flying low to avoid radars tires him a lot quicker, constantly fighting downdraft and avoiding terrain.

Suddenly, Soviet control helicopters fire at him – he’s gotten careless. In his condition, Angel cannot outrun them, so he has to take them out. He flies low and tosses a pine branch into the rotor of one helicopter. Then he attacks the next aircraft by opening its hood and yanking out a few connections. Both helicopters lose control and are forced to land. Minutes later, so does Warren in a secluded spot. He reminds himself to be more careful, aware that they‘ll be combing the countryside for him soon.. He takes to the air again, remembering that, according to Thompson, the camp is in this general area.

Meanwhile in a restaurant, Warren’s teammates go through their next step. They’ll give the guests the usual anti-mutant song and dance, Scott explains, and avoid any questions as to the inner workings of their organization. What about Heinreich, Hank asks. Abducting him is one thing. Getting him out of Russia, another. The legal implications – Scott reminds him that Thompson told them it’s been taken care of. The man has to be brought t justice. They have dinner guests, as Sasha Yasinov introduces the group to the man they’ve been looking for. Dr Heinreich, Russia’s most respected bio-physicist. Surprised, Scott shakes his hand. Heinreich is even more surprised. He senses mutant energies and realizes that the members of X-Factor are mutants themselves.

Yasinov and Heinreich escort X-Factor to the conference room, where X-Factor shows their TV sports and explain their methods. Backstage, Heinreich pays a strongman named Anatoly money and orders that he and Yuri are to wait for him in the hotel’s laundry room He has a disposal job for them.

A short time later at a reception for X-Factor, Heinreich and McCoy make small talk. However, when Hank asks Heinreich how an East German comes into such a position of authority, Heinreich makes excuses and starts mingling. Later, he locates Bobby Drake, luring him with the promise of an attractive but shy secretary. Intrigued, Bobby follows him to a deserted corridor outside the hotel’s laundry room. The moment he enters, one of Heinreich’s goons presses chloroform against his face. Iceman passes out and Heinreich starts the process he refers to as transference.

He changes and takes on the features of Bobby Drake, announcing that whatever ruse the Americans are planning he will get to the bottom of it. Soon, they will know the frightening power of Doppelganger. His hand ices up, as he tests the mutant powers he has also duplicated off Iceman. Those powers will be of great use to him, he announces, as will those of his friends. What should they do with the real Drake, the thugs ask. Standard protocol Heinreich replies. They are to kill him. He will go to ensure that his friends share the same fate.

Unknown to the two assassins, a waiter has secretly been watching the scene. Calling himself “Holy Grail,” he contacts a man codenamed “Holy Ghost” via his walkie talkie and tells him to intercept a package at the service entrance. Affirmative, the other man replies. His will be done.

One of the goons wonders why the doctor doesn’t want them to transfer Drake to the camp like the others. Probably because he can analyze them on his own body for as long as he shares the powers, the other man replies.

The men open the trunk of their car when, suddenly, a huge fist comes out hitting one of them. The other Anatoly turns around to see a priest before him. He stutters that they are interfering with a party operative. The priest orders him to stand aside and relinquish his prisoner. His stare becomes mesmerizing, as Anatoly finds he cannot disobey. The strongman takes the still unconscious Bobby and informs the priest, Father Garnoff, that they must act swiftly. He’s aware of that, Garnoff replies. With the American as a hostage, they now have something to bargain with. He orders the strongman, Simas, to place him in the car while he erases the two men’s memories.

Meanwhile, back in the reception area, Heinreich, in the guise of Bobby Drake, joins the others who are already impatiently waiting for him. Scott asks him to stay clear of Heinreich. It’s time to blow that camp to kingdom come; then Heinreich will be taking a little trip with them. Hank adds they have to stay close from now on. Angel’s signal could come at any moment. Heinreich begins to understand what X-Factor secretly wants and vows that once they enter his facility they won’t leave alive.

A few hours later, in a hidden cellar located near the Kremlin, the true Bobby Drake awaits blindfolded and tied to a chair, surrounded by the mutants who saved him. One of them, Concussion, means to rough him up to get his answers. After all, his people treat mutants the same way. The confused Bobby asks where he is and the priest explains that they have rescued him from the KGB but, if he lies to them, he shall fare no better. If he has come to persecute their brother mutants, he will rue the day. Bobby understands that they are mutants and believe him to be a mutant hunter. He assures them he’s there to help. Of course they don’t believe him and he demonstrates his point by icing him and freeing himself.

Angrily, he tells them, if they want to play hardball, he’s ready to take them on. The priest tells him to stay his hand. Obviously, they have much to discuss. First, he wants to know how a mutant can be among a group of mutant hunters. Bobby tells them the whole story of X-Factor and their mission here. The priest tells him that he believes him and maybe they can help each other. He introduces himself as Father Alexi Garnoff and goes on to introduce the other men: Mentac, Concussion, Iron Curtain (Simas)and Siberian Tiger.

They must be pretty good to have evaded detection for so long, Bobby commends them. Together with his friends, they should be able to pull his caper off. Garnoff corrects him. His friends will have to be rescued as well. He explains to Bobby that Heinreich apparently is a mutant as well and has now taken Iceman’s place.

At that moment, X-Factor has gathered in Scott’s room. He has received Angel’s signal. “Bobby” tells the others that he forgot to mention that Heinreich made it back to the research facility. He secretly gloats about their foolishness, as they get ready, and Jean telekinetically flies them out into the darkness. Then, she uses her abilities to start a nearby, parked car and the team speeds off into the direction of Angel’s homing signal.

A few hours later, in a secret area outside the top-secret facility, the members of X-Factor change into their costumes and await the arrival of Angel. Beast notices that Bobby’s behavior is erratic but Cyclops thinks nothing of it.

Angel finally joins them, having made a quick recon flight. He tells them that the place only has a small contingent of troops. They’ll be more than a match for them. A few minutes later, after final instructions, the team gets read for action. Marvel Girl levitates the group over the first fence and attaches some explosive devices Angel has brought to the wall. She levitates them over the second fence, avoiding the guards. Following Thompson’s instructions, the team gets closer to the main lab, while Heinreich secretly gloats.

Marvel Girl telekinetically opens the lab door but none of them, save one, is prepared for the sight in front of them, as they see mutant bodies in diverse states of dissection being kept artificially alive.

Scott orders the others to check the subjects’ conditions, while he goes looking for Heinreich’s notes. Beast deduces that the mutants are already brain-dead and kept alive artificially. Heinreich must be insane to do this.

Cyclops checks out Heinreich’s private office and “Iceman” follows him, secretly activating the alarm. When Scott muses that there must be hundreds of case files there, Heinreich replies, with a changed voice, that the current number is 163. He tells the flabbergasted Cyclops that he may call him Doctor Heinreich or Doppleganger but, for all intents and purposes, he is the Iceman as well. He uses his icepowers on Cyclops and knocks him out.

The other three, in the meantime, worry. Where are Cyclops and Iceman? Plus, they must locate the imprisoned mutants before the explosive devices explode. Heinreich rejoins them, telling them not to worry. He just had them disarmed. Is that some joke, Iceman, Beast demands. Iceman yes, Drake he’s not, Heinreich replies as he is joined by Crimson Dynamo.

He dictates a code in Russian to the Dynamo – Heinreich-four-four-seven-zero-delta- As a result, the Dynamo recognizes him and awaits his command. The mutants wonder if Iceman had gone mad, apart from Beast, who realizes he is Heinreich. What happened to the true Iceman, he asks. He is quite dead now, Heinreich replies, a fate they are about to share. He and the Crimson Dynamo attack in sync but, luckily, Marvel Girl manages to deflect their attack with a telekinetic shield.

It’s beyond comprehension, Beast marvels. Heinreich must be a mutant. He’s done this to his own kind! Not their kind, Heinreich replies as he presses the attack. He is one of a kind – the first genetically engineered mutant with the ability to adapt into any form with all its inherent skills. He tries to bury them under tons of ice.

Angel grabs Jean and flies away, while Beast stays ahead of the ice with his amazing agility. They wonder what happened to Cyclops and fear the worst. Beast tells them they have to escape. They must survive on order to save the prisoners in her from this butcher.

Heinreich gloats. There’s nowhere for them to run, after all. The Dynamo asks whether he should alert the military command. Heinreich tells him not to. This is his affair. Suddenly, he is hit by an optic blast. A very angry Cyclops announces that he may be a crafty murderer, but he is sloppy when it comes to combat. Let’s see how he does in a fair fight! Heinreich complies but orders the Dynamo to capture the other three mutants.

Outside the compound are the real Iceman and Father Garnoff’s group. Iceman points them to the optic blast coming through the complex’ ceiling. He announces that they have to help. Garnoff holds him back - they cannot simply rush in. They must devise a plan first. He turns to Mentac, who quickly develops a plan and passes it on to the other cell members. He has found the weak spot in the gates’ construction, allowing Concussion to blow the gate open. The Russian mutants proceed to free the prisoner, while Iceman hurries to join his friends.

Marvel Girl, Beast and Angel are still struggling with the security force, when the Crimson Dynamo finds them. Fed up with running Jean telekinetically topples him with some debris.

In the main lab, Cyclops finds Heinreich, a crafty foe, managing to exhaust his enemy’s optic blast with his ice constructions. Heinreich sadistically considers how to kill Cyclops, when they are joined by the real Iceman, who tells Scott to help the Russians. He’ll hold the good doctor. In another part of the compound, the Russian have found the prisoner and now proceed to free them.

Meanwhile, the other members of X-Factor try to keep the giant Dynamo busy but he finally snatches Angel. Luckily, they are joined by Cyclops, whose optic blast hits the Dynamo in the back forcing him to drop Angel.

Back in the main lab, Heinreich boasts that, with his superior intelligence, he can use Iceman’s power in ways the young man never dreamed of. Iceman proves, though, that this is no match for years of experience. Almost beaten, Heinreich rambles that nothing must stop the master plan. Even the Russians have no idea of the “grand design” he’s been implementing. He was bred to fulfil that destiny and shall not be thwarted by biological trash like him He’ll bury him alive, first, he announces and wildly creates an ice avalanche over Iceman’s warning shouts that the floor will collapse – as it does. Doppelganger tumbles down alongside tons of ice and steel.

Afterwards, the lab becomes silent until Beast joins him. He reminds his friend that Heinreich was responsible for hundreds of deaths. This wasn’t his fault. They still have the Dynamo to contend with and need Bobby’s help – revealing that he speaks Russian, Beast explains the Russian codewords Heinreich spoke to the Dynamo and makes Iceman learn them by heart. Iceman joins the others and successfully orders the Dynamo to leave them alone.

Quickly, Garnoff’s mutants and X-Factor carry the prisoners outside to the Russians’ hiding place, where they are helped aboard vehicles. Only Garnoff and Iron Curtain remain with X-Factor, who realizes their current predicament. The KGB knows they are missing. If they put two and two together… Garnoff tells them that he has an idea that might save them but, understanding their idealism, they would never agree. His eyes become mesmerizing once more…

A few hours later in Moscow, X-Factor, back in civilian clothing, find themselves surrounded by armed Russian guards and Yasinov announces that they are under arrest. Cyclops quickly explains and points to their “prisoners,” Iron Curtain and Garnoff. During the reception, they noticed these two suspicious mutant individuals and pursued them through the city. Using their secret methods, they neutralized their powers and were bringing them back to Yasinov for interrogation. Taken aback Yasinov is forced to thank them and quickly ushers them back to the airport.

On board, X-Factor awakes from the trance, realizing that Garnoff had hypnotized them. Over the Atlantic, they discuss Garnoff’s actions and hope that with his power he will be able free himself again. Bobby tells them to look outside, where they see Angel flying back home on his own. The usual anti-mutant slogans fill the cabin, leaving Hank to wonder if it will ever cease.

Further back in the cabin, a gentleman asks the flight attendant what the commotion is about. She tells him that they are having a mutant sighting. Isn’t it fascinating? A very alive Dr Heinreich tells her that this is interesting indeed. Who knows, someone on the plane might be a mutant as well. There’s no way of telling. It could perhaps even be… her. Oh, he’s such a kidder, she replies good naturedly.

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Marvel Girl (all X-Factor)

Cameron Hodge (X-Factor’s PR manager)
Senator Thompson

Father Yuri Garnoff, Concussion, Mentac, Siberian Tiger, unnamed waiter / “Holy Grail” (Garnoff’s mutant resistance cell)

Major Nikoli Uzbek, Sasha Yasinov (Soviet officials)
Crimson Dynamo
Dr Wolfgang Heinreich
Anatoly, Yuri (Heinreich’s henchmen)

Russian soldiers
Mutant prisoners

Story Notes: 

Heinreich’s survival at the end is unexplained, as so far he has not resurfaced. Presumably, Bob Layton wanted to follow this plotline but couldn’t, as this turned out to be his last issue of X-Factor.

Father Garnoff’s group kept opposing the Russian government’s treatment of mutants under the name of both the Exiles and Siberforce. At some point, they were also joined by former members of the Russian super soldiers, such as Darkstar.

“Doppleganger,” or more correctly “Doppelgänger,” is the German word for “Double.”

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