The 1987 Fall of the Mutants title was a catch-all title applied to three part storylines in X-Factor, X-Men and New Mutants that left the teams significantly changed after a crisis point, or, to be accurate, a more fraught than usual crisis point. Beyond the title and featuring mutants, the stories only connect thematically, and how loose the whole affair was is seen by the number of other titles onto which Marvel slapped a ‘Fall of the Mutants’ tagline. Issues of Captain America, Daredevil Fantastic Four, Hulk and Power Pack accompany an eight issue run of X-Factor in this second collection.

This X-Factor is the first comic version of the team, in which the original X-Men banded together pretending to be mutant hunters, but in fact rescuing endangered and persecuted mutant children, protecting them and training them in the use of their abilities. While her plots are solid, indeed ambitious, Louise Simonson’s writing is very much of its era, the cast all too often explaining the plot as they go along. The primary menace is Apocalypse, his machinations ensuring X-Factor stand revealed as fraudulent, adding a new angel of death to his Four Horsemen and pitting them against the core X-Factor team. Insecurity in various forms is an ongoing theme, from Cyclops’ uncertainty about whether Jean Grey has really returned, to the youngsters’ lack of confidence in using their powers.

Walt Simonson draws most of the X-Factor material in his economically effective style. Everything that’s necessary is present and correct, but there’s not the dynamism associated with projects he’s more enthusiastic about. June Brigman and Sal Buscema also illustrate chapters, but again, both are functional rather than spectacular. The same could be said of Todd McFarlane, just beginning to find his style on the Hulk, with X-Factor called to investigate reports of a mutant and discovering Bruce Banner. Peter David’s two part story is high on slimy manipulators, but fun.

It’s typical of the reprinted issues labelled as Fall of the Mutants tie-ins on the covers. In practice this label just means X-Factor guest star in whichever title, or the events occur during X-Factor’s desperate attempt to save New York from Apocalypse. As the Power Pack contribution was also written by Louise Simonson it’s more closely connected, and you might have forgotten how charmingly well she handled what on the face of it is the ludicrous idea of children superheroes in the real world. There’s a lot of humanity to Ann Nocenti’s Daredevil story during a blackout, and seeing John Romita Jr’s effective old style is nice, as is his use of Mick Belker from the then acclaimed Hill Street Blues. The Captain America and Fantastic Four material isn’t anywhere near the same quality.

Anyone just wanting the core storylines can find them in a 2002 paperback, while anyone who’d prefer the luxury format can find this combined with volume one in an oversized Omnibus.