X-Factor, Volume 1 # 101 - 105 (April - Aug '94)
#101: Multiple Sad Characters
Writer - J.M. DeMatteis
Pencils - Jaan Dursema
This is essential an entire issue where the characters sit around coming to terms with the death of Jamie Madrox from the Haven story.
Alex begins the process of letting his grief overcome him, pushing him to spiral out of the series (at least temporarily). Alex blames himself for Jamie's death since Haven had put the question to him whether or not she heals him.
Professor X and Storm are on hand this issue after attending the funeral. They bond with Polaris over their shared grief.
Moira is on hand, getting a lot of extra attention about her own devastation. I thought this was a nice touch considering how much time Jamie spent at Muir Island before being promoted to an X-Team, so I'm glad that wasn't forgotten.
Forge offers Random a full time spot on the team (since JDM has a hard on for Random), but he rejects the offer. However, he clearly is a full time member of the team (even on a contract basis) so I am officially including him as part of the roster in my graphic as of this issue.
#102: Nobody Fucks with Polaris
Writer - J.M. DeMatteis
Pencils - Jan Duursema
Closing the loop on the ongoing story thread which started in # 95, Forge, Polaris, and Random set out to get to the bottom of who in the government is trying to attack Polaris, once and for all. As the following Random's lead, they are led to the government where they are attacked by Commando and Avalanche, last seen working for the government in X-Men Annual # 2 (which is when we found out that Pyro had the Legacy Virus, but I don't believe we've heard any more about that in a while. I wonder if he's still kicking?).
It turns out that Polaris was part of the government's Magneto protocols and she was supposed to be utilized to stop Magneto with her identical powers, however a crazed military dude (Malone) decided to either kill or brainwash her. This plot is seemingly over, but it's not because we learn Malice is back and had a role in this as well.
There is a minor sub-plot with Strong Guy acting really nervous around Professor X and we learn that he really looks up to him. Kind of a cute story beat.
#103 - 105: Malice Returns
Plot - J.M. DeMatteis/ Todd Dezago
Script - Todd Dezago
Pencils - Jan Duursema
Alex quit the team over his grief and fled to Hawaii, however Polaris follows him. We learn that Malice was actually taking over various government agents and had been behind the plot all along. There is an attempt at explaining why she didn't just kill her directly as Malice states that she needed to work covertly to hide from Mr. Sinister.
Malice takes over Alex and a protracted battle takes place between Alex and Lorna where she is trying to beat her without hurting him. Eventually Mr. Sinister and the Nasty Boys show up (who fight the rest of X-Factor who also showed up) and appear to be aligned with Lorna as he's looking to hunt down Malice, who disobeyed him.
At the end there is a pretty emotional moment where Lorna agrees to let Malice take her over as an expression of her love for Alex, but Alex fights back not wanting to subject Lorna to her possession again. This power of love traps Lorna between both of them, allowing Mr. Sinister to kill her. I looked Malice up and she won't appear again for 13 years so as far as I'm concerned, this is character is dead-dead. Not kind of dead (like Jamie Madrox).
This is the part of the blog where I just go freestyle and either fanboy out about something I love or bitch about things I don't like. So in today's segment, I'm going to comment about Alex blaming himself for Jamie's death. So...I get it. Hey, let's use this as a plot device to get Alex to feel bad and quit. That's interesting. But, not so fast people. It's clearly not his fault, for three reasons.
First, there is a lot of talk that Alex is responsible for killing Jamie. She didn't really kill him, she just failed to cure him. Second, it wasn't even really his decision because Jamie was already begging to be cured before Haven put the question to Alex. Third, Jamie died but he was about to die anyway of the Legacy Virus. Alex was only trying to save him since modern science wasn't saving anyone infected and he had every right to believe it would work since he just cured Rahne. So...I just don't buy this. Not to mention that this reminds me too much of his brother Cyclops and I've seen enough of that in my day.
I'm not quite sure what's going on with the writing here. J.M. DeMatteis has moved more into the plotting stage and this guy Todd Dezago is taking over scripting. This usually marks the end of one writer, so this may be the end of JMD's reign as writer.
Reflecting on his run, JM DeMatteis writes more slow stories than action stories. If you feel my blog, then you know that I prefer the slow character issues more than issues with nothing but punching, but...maybe this was a bit too many of those slow stories.
Overall, I really liked JMD's writing, but there one really poor example of writing. You have probably seen me talking about how a good author can "show" instead of "telling." There is a quote by Professor X talking about Random where he says:
"There’s more to this man than meets the eye. I sense a depth of spirit and a depth of pain… worthy of further investigation."
Ok, this is laying it on a little too thick. You have already been showing us his file that he actually only killed people when he had to. And we've clearly seen that he really cares about Lorna. We didn't need this quote to hit us over the head with what you are trying to get us to think. We were already getting it, JDM. I wonder if this new writer will continue propping up Random as much. I'll check back in on this topic in the next X-Factor blog.
Random and Polaris are still vibing in this arc. I don't think they are going to get romantic or anything, but it's clear that Random cares about Polaris and is probably "secretly in love with her." I'm not sure. Lorna also seems to be trying to get everyone else to like him, and since she has the respect of everyone as "the mom" of the team, she is effective at that. Polaris is a successful and respected team mom, much like Jean is in Uncanny, but unlike Domino in X-Force. Leifeld tried to establish that with Domino without it being earned, but I digress...
I bitched earlier about Alex's moping and quitting reminds me too much of his brother, Cyclops. I'm very interested to see if this sticks, at all, or if his three issues in Hawaii is the extend of his absence. While I don't buy the idea of him blaming himself and I think the quitting trope is tired, I do think it was wise to connect this to Alex talking about how he never wanted to be a hero in the first place. This is absolutely established from the earliest Stan Lee issues and it does make sense that he would see someone under his command killed and think "Eff it, I didn't even want to be here in the first place."
Rahne and Strong Guy's relationship is getting even stronger. I had been talking about how they had a few scenes previously and had some surprisingly good chemistry. Here it seems like this relationship is being strengthened and highlighted and I think it's a wise choice. I really hope they just stay as friends and don't get romantic, but we'll just have to wait and see.
FYI, Forge and Storm were making out in the series. So I guess they are either back together or at least friends with benefits at the moment. I'm really curious to see if Lobell and Nicieza treat them this way too or if this was JMD going a bit rogue.
There is a quick moment where Val (Yea, she's still around) asked Quicksilver if he can quickly run to Hawaii to save Polaris, but he says he's busy with the Avengers. I appreciate JMD acknowledging QS still, but this makes it seem like he's not coming back anytime soon.
Strong Guy takes Rahne (and Random) to the house he grew up in and tries to re-kindle things with an old flame, but she is pretty damn brutal telling him he's not good enough for her. JMD is clearly trying to keep plucking at our heart strings on the tragic Guido story here, but I feel like this might be a bit too much. He needs a win soon.
The strongest emotional beat of the series takes place when Lorna lets Malice take her over. This comic has made a HUGE DEAL about Lorna being self conscious about all the times she's been manipulated, with Malice being the worst offender. I honestly felt terrified for Lorna to think that Malice is back and may once again possess her. This instantly reminded me of a movie where someone is kidnapped and spends time enjoying life once freed, but then instantly freezes and pees themselves when the kidnapper appears again ( I feel like I'm referencing a specific movie, but I can't place it). My heart broke to think of how scared she must have been, and then when she agrees to be taken over for Alex...just so powerful. I'm glad it didn't happen. THIS is how you get the reader to feel an emotion. THIS made me believe the love that Alex and Lorna have for each other, I didn't need Professor X saying "I can see that the love these two have for each other is something truly special." We saw it, we didn't need to be told. Well done, JMD!
My Rating - 6/10
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