XF # 71 - 78, Hulk # 391 - 392
We all know the messed up origin behind X-Factor by now (originally covered here). Editor Jim Shooter went behind Chris Claremont's back to bring Jean Grey back to life and have Bob Layton create a second X title starring the original X-Men. Eventually Louise Simon came on board and began repairing the comic, but a LOT of damage had been done. For starters, the original premise that the team would pretend to be mutant bounty hunters was just terrible. In addition, in order to get Scott back to the team, he needed to abandon his wife and newborn son. These were both insurmountable obstacles that any writer would struggle to repair. While there's a lot to try and forget, we also got Apocalypse, Archangel, Boom-Boom (even though she first appeared in Secret Wars 2), and Rictor.
In 1991, Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson left Marvel, leaving the X books in the capable hands of the artists: Jim Lee on a new X-Men comic, Whilce Portacio on Uncanny X-Men, and Rob Leifeld on X-Force (the old New Mutants). But with the X-Factor team all re-joining the X-Men, this comic was left to go in a very unique direction as part of the line-wide relaunch.
Peter David brings the lessons he learned from a successful run on Hulk to the X-Factor comic, starring a bunch of cast off mutants. Prior to two weeks ago, I had NEVER read this incarnation of X-Factor or anything by Peter David, so I had no idea what to expect. And I have to say, I'm digging it. I think they did the right thing by not taking the comic too seriously. David had a bunch of B list characters to work with, so he leans into the weird and the humorous and it works in a way that Excalibur and the whimsy stuff never really has.
Larry Stroman is the artist for most of these early issues and I'm really not impressed. It doesn't help that all of the other X series are drawn by amazing artists, so it makes this a bit worse by comparison.
XF # 71 - 75: A new team is born
Writer - Peter David
Pencils - Larry Stroman
This opening scene is just a perfect way to introduce us to the tone of the comic. Lorna Dane (Polaris), Guido (Strong Guy), and Jamie Madrox (Multiple Man) are sitting around a government conference room, messing with each other. Guido and Lorna are going back and forth joshing each other. Everyone who walks into the room is challenged to open a can of mayonnaise, which we learn later was actually rigged by Jamie to only open by remote control.
Val Cooper, who we've seen a lot of in Uncanny X-men, is the government liaison trying to re-build Freedom Force. She goes to Genosha to convince Alex Summers (Havok) to take on the leadership role of this team. I get why he would be chosen from a publishing perspective as he is the most well known hero and the brother of another great leader, but he's really been more of an easily manipulated whiner of what we've seen of him so far. We'll have to see how he presents in this series.
As a beam almost drops on Val, Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane), who was also in Genosha the last time we saw her, pops out and saves them both.
I'm going to take a second to point out how much I'm disliking this art. This depiction of Wolfsbane is just rough to look at.
Quicksilver shows up with the Inhuman's giant teleporting dog, Lockjaw. For those of you who don't know Quicksilver from other title's, he's an arrogant prick. But he's somehow likeable. We'll see how David does with him.
Havok is really not interested in taking over leadership of this new Government organization. He needs a little kick in the rear, and that's what he gets...
Xavier and brother Scott convince Alex that this is an important opportunity for mutants. Their arguments go a long way, but Charles knows he's sitting on the ace in the hole.
Charles tells Alex that Lorna has already agreed to join the team. The two of them have been through hell. For a long time, Alex and Lorna lived together away from the hero scene happy. However, the day Alex left to join the X-Men Lorna was taken over by the Marauder Malice, and spent years being forced to do evil deeds, including slaughtering hundreds of Morlocks. After that, she was kidnapped by Zaldane where her powers were stolen and perverted. Anddddd then she was taken over by the Shadow King. Been rough.
Alex on the other hand was roughing it with the X-Men in Australia, was manipulated by three straight women (in Marvel Comics Presents, Meltdown, and Inferno), then had his memory wiped in the Siege Perilous and was living as a brainwashed baddie in Genosha.
More humor. This time Quicksilver razzing Madrox as he thinks Lockjaw is an actual human.
We learn that Quicksilver showed up because some evildoer has turned his powers against me. Every time he runs fast, he becomes older.
Issue #71 ends with Madrox being shot in his apartment. It's obviously just one of his multiples, but still.
The "real" Madrox shows up at the crime scene. There's actually a big moment here where Jamie tries to absorb the dead dupe back into himself and can't. This opens up some serious questions about whether or not the individual dupes have their own souls. He didn't think it was possible for them to die and not be re-absorbed.
We learn that Madrox sent a dupe to answer the door so he wouldn't put himself in danger.
Val officially introduces the new X-Factor.
Here's the new team! The only one missing was Guido. As he walked out someone yelled "You must be the Strong Guy of the team. What's your name?" And his response was "Strong Guy." Alex immediately told him he can't call himself that, so of course he did.
And now the first team conflict is presented. Not by a villain, but by an interesting character conflict. Another Madrox shows up and claims that he is the real version.
The two versions break into a fight.
The new version is strapped down for questioning.
He claims that he snuck out of Muir Island and that the Madrox we've seen has been the dupe all along. (This gets confusing).
For this first time we see that there is some mysterious mutant named Richochet who is turning mutants powers against them (he must be responsible for Quicksilver's ailments). Also, Mr. Sinister is back!
Val's ex husband is a polygraph expert and comes to the conclusion that the new dupe is telling the truth and is the real Madrox.
Meanwhile, a new giant mutant named Slab shows up at the Washington monument calling for Strong Guy, looking for a fight.
We end up learning that Mr. Sinister has a new band of mutant lackeys called the Nasty Boys. The big Slab we already met, and now we meet Gourgeous George who appears to be made of some sort of malleable substance and Hairbag who is...a hairy strong guy or something? I recall seeing these 3 from the animated series so yay!
The old Madrox (in the costume) agrees to be re-absorbed by the new Madrox.
Here we see the full Nasty Boys lineup, led by Ruckus.
The new Madrox being immediately reports to Mr. Sinister, so we learn that maybe the Madrox we had been seeing was the right one all along. Mr. Sinister introduces the group (including Madrox) to Senator Steve Shaffran, who is apparently a mutant and working with him.
Once again, we see a field leader (Ruckus) challenge Sinister and quickly be put in his place. I wonder if Peter David knew this exact scene took place in Uncanny X-Men with Sabretooth.
Madrox starts freaking out, something is wrong.
It turns out that the Madrox we knew was the right one all the time and was hiding out inside of the new dupe (I guess he can do that) and eventually re-emerged since he was the primary personality. So we are learning a bunch here about how his power works. The dupes have their own personalities. They can live on their own for years. The primary one can never be replaced. We also learned earlier that all dupes disappear when the primary is unconscious.
Anywho...he escapes and heads to the capital to stop the Senator.
A brawl busts out between X-Factor and the Nasty Boys.
In a scene that makes no sense to me, the Senator shows up using his powers and is quickly defeated.
More things that don't make sense yet...Sinister kills the Senator, so I guess that plotline is done.
XF # 76, Hulk # 391 - 392: Trans-Sabal
Writer - Peter David
Pencils - Tom Raney, Kevin West
So this was a 3 issue story that started and ended in the Hulk. It wasn't great and nothing happened that makes a large impact so I'll provide a brief overview. X-Factor joins The Hulk in a country called Trans-Sabal to fight against some super powered terrorists. That's about it.
XF #77 - 78: MLF fun
Writer - Peter David
Pencils - Larry Stroman, Brandon Peterson
The central conflict of these two issues comes from a doctor who can identify if an unborn child will be a mutant and has the ability to eliminate that mutation. This is obviously an allegory for the abortion debate.
This also creates some interesting conflict for these issues as two members of the team are not comfortable defending this doctor. Wolfsbane is obviously a fundamentalist and would be pro-life, but we also learn Quicksilver isn't comfortable because he has a daughter who was born without powers.
The doctor seems like a good target for some mutant terrorists. Do we know any?
Yup, the MLF show up, but first to break the Nasty Boys out of jail.
Reaper of the MLF incorrectly refers to X-Factor as X-Force.
We learn that Slab is Thumbelina's brother. The MLF is able to get away with Slab and the Nasty Boys.
Also in this issue, Cannonball shows up. He wants to take Rahne away, assuming she's being held against her will. We actually see that X-Factor, working for the government, is compelled to bring Sam in since X-Force is believed to have gone rogue. Rahne is happy to see him but she tells him that she's over Rictor and wants to stay with X-Factor.
Lorna let's Sam leave, making Alex angry.
Someone calls the doctor and warns him that he is going to be attacked.
Val informs the team that she has installed a new training facility, similar to the danger room.
In a bout of kewl X-Universe connective tissue, Havok shocks Charles and Scott about Mr. Sinister still being alive.
The MLF shows up to attack the clinic.
Wildside is about to attack Polaris from the back. I also want to point out that this art is pretty damn good. At first I was thinking that maybe Larry Stroman is able to pull it together for some panels, but I realized there are two artists credited here and the second one (Peter Sanderson) probably drew this panel.
Wolfsbane, who had originally not come on the mission, shows up at the last minute to protect her friends. She intervenes at the last minute to stop Wildside from killing Polaris.
The MLF is able to kill the doctor and flee quickly, but not before the portal closes cutting off Reaper's leg. Reaper lost an arm in X-Force, so this seems to be an ongoing gag.
Wolfsbane helped her team, but she destroyed the doctor's equipment when no one was looking. Except Polaris, who once again looked the other way to protect her.
In addition to us seeing that Reaper will need another bionic limb, we also learn that Tempo was actually the daughter of that doctor and was the one who called him at the beginning of the issue to warn him.
Ironically, Peter David wrote on his blog about how this story was originally going to go in a very different direction:
"Originally, I developed a story in which a scientist developed a fool-proof test that would enable couples to determine—along with the currently existing tests for actual genetic-based diseases–whether or not a mother’s unborn fetus was going to be a mutant. “You will give birth to something that many people will term a freak,” the doctor intoned. Parents had to decide whether or not to abort their child. Among other things, there were several intense discussions among the team members about a woman’s right to choose, with the pro-choice Polaris being particularly at odds with the right-to-life Rahne Sinclair.
The editors were gung-ho on the story, and it was drawn and scripted as intended… until a ton of backlash hit Marvel over Northstar’s being gay in Alpha Flight. And I mean backlash: For starters, representatives of a major retail chain told Marvel they didn’t want to carry any mutant-related toys, including the entire X-Men line, because the mutant line had been “tainted.” It was nuts. And no, I don’t blame John Byrne for it, so don’t even go there. But the upshot was that the Powers That Be ordered that nothing of any controversial nature was to see print in any Marvel book… especially a mutant book.
So key scenes were rescripted, mooting the question of abortion by having the doctor develop a procedure that would simply remove (somehow, amazingly, mystically) the mutant gene from the fetus. Yes, that’s right: He could rewrite DNA while in utero. Don’t look at me, I just work here."
This X-Factor Squad is essentially taking the role of Freedom Force, working as a bunch of government agents, except that these are actual heroes.
Havok, who has always been as engaging as plain toast takes the lead. Havok can't go far without Polaris lagging too far behind, however this combo is far more interesting because these two have been apart and tortured in various ways for years. I'm pretty captivated by watching them try to put their life together.
If you look around for other neglected mutants, you'll find Wolfsbane, cast aside by Rob Leifeld. She's still hanging out with Havok in Genosha when the comic begins. She isn't quite the character I know from New Mutants, but I never loved her there so a change is welcome.
Quicksilver shows up and his casual arrogance is always entertaining. Plus, he's been around since the very start of the X-Men run (as a villain in the original run) so he brings some legitimacy to the series.
Guido, AKA Strong Guy, is another character who happened to be hanging around the X-Men when the Muir Island saga wrapped up with nothing to do. I will just say that he is an absolute revelation. This guy cracks me up and I can't quite get enough of him.
But the real show stealer is Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man. I had been raving about him since he was first introduced in the Fantastic Four, but this comic really taps into his humor. This guy (or guys) is constantly there for comedic relief and I can't have enough of it. Also, it looks as though we are going to get a really deep look at how his duplicates function as individuals and I'm here for that emotional roller coaster.
As discussed earlier, Alex is shown as the reluctant leader.
Alex and Lorna
There is some tension early on as Alex talks about getting a room of his own and Polaris is hurt that they aren't assuming they will move back in together.
Polaris seems to be the more assertive one regarding the relationship. Probably because the Summers men are idiots.
They agree to talk about their relationship and agree to start as friends.
Later, this is a moment where Alex almost dies and it makes him realize he still loves Lorna. I believe the two of them will just be together from this point on.
So Rahne is introduced as having feelings for Alex. Apparently they grew close in Genosha.
There is a creepy scene where Alex is having a nightmare and he wakes up with Rahne sitting on the edge of his bed. Man, this art is so bad. Stroman seems to really struggle with her.
At least she's still acting like a child, which she is (a teenager, probably around 15).
We also get some characterization showing her standing up for mutants. She's always been a very passionate character.
While playing Racquetball, Alex tells Lorna about Rahne having a crush on him and perching on his bed.
Lorna is very disturbed by this and decides to have a little chat with Rahne. Creating some conflict between the two of them.
The talk doesn't exactly go well.
In other news, a man in the media makes a comment about the mutants never staying dead. Rahne freaks out about Warlock and Doug Ramsey dying. She claims that Doug was her first love, but I don't really recall those two being emotionally involved.
There is also a comment about Rahne purposely trying to stay in a wolf form that is as close to her human form as possible. I believe that she thinks if she goes to her human form, her Genoshan controls will kick back in.
Right before Sam comes and talks to Rahne, Lorna and her have one more talk. As you saw in #78, Wolfsbane ultimately protects Lorna in battle and I think we are left to believe that these two are actually brought closer due to this initial conflict between them.
Sam shows up, thinking she needs saving. Rahne has a chance to go back to her old life, but she chooses to stay. She also makes it definitive that she no longer has feelings for Rictor, which seems harsh.
As mentioned earlier, Jamie Madrox is shown as being a prankster. This trick Mayo bottle is a recurring prop throughout the series.
We learn that his duplicates are more complicated than originally thought. They might have their own souls.
I just thought this was hilarious.
We learn that the dupes revert back to Jamie when he's unconscious.
The longer the dupes are apart, the more independent they become.
We learn a bit about Guido. His parents were killed when he was young and he inherited a lot of money. He seems to live a pampered life.
We see a cute friendship between Lorna and Guido.
Dude cracks me up.
The guy is also "deeper" than he might look on the surface. He creates a new term called "Genetically Challenged" or "Geecees" for short, but I'm not sure if this will stick around.
Peter's droll personality is growing on me.
Officially addressed that uniforms are optional.
Quicksilver is cured and apparently under a lot of stress. I don't know all his backstory, but I know there is a lot of baggage with his Ex-Wife, the Inhuman Crystal, and his sister the Scarlet Witch. I'm glad we'll get some of that here.
As mentioned earlier, Peter refuses to contribute to the mission to protect the doctor because of his daughter.
I'm not entirely sure what is up with this guy yet, but we are introduced to a guy named Vic Chalker who seems to be obsessed with an anti-mutant agenda.
Vic creates a machine he can go inside of to kill mutants.
To keep up with the human of the series, it turns out that he didn't make the suit the right dimensions and he can't get into it.
Later, we see him get into the armor, but he forgot to power it properly and it won't move.
Even later in this issue, we see that he can get in it and it's powered, but he starts to be concerned about the rain and wondering if there are any exposed wires.
Andddddd he gets electrocuted. So...I guess that's it. The end of Vic Chalker? Not sure yet why he got so many ongoing panels. We'll have to wait and see.
My Rating - 7/10
Next up, we'll check in on the best selling comic of all time! You demanded it, so you get it! X-Men # 1.
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