X-Factor, Volume 1 # 87 - 91, X-Factor Annual # 8
Today we're covering X-Factor # 87 - 91 and XF Annual # 8. This includes a fabulous trip to the psychiatrist to unwind after X-Cutioner's Song, an introduction into the very 90's mutant antihero Random, we make a trip to Genosha, and all the Vic/Rick/Dick Chalker stuff finally gets it's payoff.
#87: The Psychiatrist
Writer - Peter David
Pencils - Joe Quesada
As mentioned above, this has cracked my top ten favorite issues of all time. It might not sound like anything earth shattering since it only contains the team sitting down with a psychiatrist, but boy is it great.
Rahne is struggling with her sense of self, trying on different personalities (and versions of her wolf form) still trying to find a version of herself that she's happy with.
We get some amazing flashback scenes from Guido. We learn that he is deformed from the first time he bulked up on kinetic energy in his teenage years. He didn't understand that he needed to release the energy and the result was his shoulders being gigantic and deformed forever. We also learn that this causes him severe pain every day and he uses humor (and being a wiseass) to help cover up the daily pain he's in.
Alex talks about how he's scared to truly be a leader and that he doesn't think he can live up to his brother.
Lorna talks about issues with body image and gets deep into how scared she is from all the times her personality had been taken over by others (Malice, Shadow King, etc.). This is also the first time her brand new costume is on display.
Jamie is scared of being alone. The man with a million duplicates just never wants to be without company. Pretty clever.
And the most fascinating revelation to me is with Quicksilver. He basically explains that he's a prick because he can move super fast and he gets super annoyed with everyone else moving so slow. He gets irritated constantly. I love this explanation because it makes total sense.
At the end, Val Cooper meets with the shrink and talks about how well she knows her team and ends up giving the exact opposite prognosis of each teammate. For instance, she says that Alex has truly embraced being a leader and he loves it.
#88 - 89: Enter Random
Writer - Peter David
Pencils - Joe Quesada
The long running X-Patriots story line comes to a close, to the disappointment of exactly no one. Another member of the Chalker family, this time Dick Chalker, meets his untimely demise.
There is a Quicksilver side story in # 88 & 89 that shows Crystal and QS trying to make it work, however their rekindled relationship falls apart. Some outside force shows QS pictures of Crystal with another man (The Black Knight, perhaps) and when he comes back home he's being a jerk again, driving her away. QS's depression over this will carry over for the next few issues.
This is also where Rahne starts being in Heat, hitting on Jamie and having dogs barking at her, but the plot doesn't get more direct than that due to censoring. Speaking of Rahne, we learn a major plot point here where it turns out that Rahne's connection to Alex is actually the result of the Genoshan experimentation, where she was purposely bonded to him to make her a better slave. I actually like this as one of the more clever retcons I've seen. This sideplot was making her look a bit pathetic and it was growing tired, so this gives us a solid excuse for it. It's not that Rahne was young and naive, it's that she was biochemically engineered! And now that she knows it, she can move on!
And of course, this issue gives us Random. As mentioned earlier, I had never read a Random comic before, but I knew him quite well from action figures and super hero cards. He's introduced as a mercenary here. I always thought he was a member of X-Factor, but he's certainly introduced here as being more of a villain so there will be a lot of character work needed if we are going to start sympathizing with him. In one clever move, Alex decides to pay him off (since he's a mercenary) instead of fighting him further. For some reason, this struck me as quite clever and not the type of thing we usually see in comics, but it makes sense.
#90 - 91: Back in Genosha
Writer - Peter David
Pencils - Joe Quesada
There is an AMAZING scene here where Rahne is moping around about how terrible it is that someone messed with her psyche. She's acting out and throwing a tantrum, telling Polaris that she could never understand. Well...Polaris puts her in her fucking place! Lorna reminds Rahne of all the times her psyche was messed with (Shadow King, Malice, and even Erik the Red!)
Alex is pissed off upon arriving at Genosha, both about this Rahne revelation and how the mutates are still not being treated well. He gets into a fight with the President's bodyguard Piecemeal who has a cool power set (super malleable) but I don't think we'll ever see him again.
Moria is on hand and tells the team about the mutates suffering from a new disease that only affects mutates. I'm pretty sure this is the beginning of a long running Legacy Virus plotline where Mutants will start dying off from this disease.
All of #91 is spent chasing down an infected mutant who only wants to die in peace. The Genoshans are tracking him down to kill him (to stop the spread of the disease) and X-Factor goes out to protect him. In a pretty emotional scene, Jamie is the one to find him and gives him mouth to mouth to save his life, however we start to get hints that he may have been infected. I don't know where this is going because I highly doubt that he will die, but let's see where this goes.
There also might be some sort of Evil Val Cooper plotline going on. There have two scenes where's depicted with these evil eyes and doing uncharacteristic stuff, including hitting on QS after she learns that he's separated from Crystal. This almost reminds me of the Shadow King stuff, but I hope he's not back since we just got past him.
Annual # 8: The Chalker's strike back!
To make a long story short, a boy from Guido's past who hates mutants makes a deal with a demon to help him kill mutants. He brings all of the Chalker family back from the dead to help him fight X-Factor. A battle ensues and of course the Good Guys win with the Chalker's being dispatched comically.
There is a second story that goes over the back story of each team member, but it's not really new information at this point. It could be for a new reader though.
The 3rd story in this Annual shows Strong Guy helping after a brutal train wreck where everyone dies. I REALLY don't understand the point of this because it's really depressing and I don't see it taking the character or overall narrative forward.
First of all, Issue #87 has made it's way into my top ten favorite issues of all time. I'll dive into the details later, but it's a brilliant "quiet issue"with each of the characters talking to a psychiatrist. In my opinion, this helps solidify that the best issues are the ones where we focus less on bombastic battles and more on character development. We also get our first introduction to Random, who I have never read in a comic, but no super well from the action figure and super hero cards I had growing up. Who wouldn't like this rad dude who can turn his arms into guns!
This was the swan song for Peter David. It was a poorly kept secret that Peter David hated crossovers. He liked what he was doing in his comic and didn't want to be interrupted. He was pissed that he had use his comics to feature non X-Factor characters during X-Cutioner's Song. After the event was over, he made it clear that he wanted out of the X office. I hear the did fabulous work with a later reincarnation of X-Factor starring Jamie Madrox, but we'll have to wait several years for that.
I'll reflect on Peter David by starting with a quote from one of his editors, Bob Harras:
"He came up with this whole slightly lighter approach for X-Factor. It wasn’t as hand-to-the-forehead or as grim-and-gritty as some of the other X-Books could get. I don’t think we ever sat down and said, ‘Peter, be funnier, Peter be this…He just created his own type of light touch for the series."
I think this is right on. I had never read a single issue of the re-booted X-Factor before starting my X-Men journey and I have to say that I have really enjoyed this run. It's almost like he knew he was getting any A-List characters, so he didn't even try to be like them. He focused on character development and used humor to tell his stories. And you know what, I dig it.
I also need to point out that I am sooo happy Larry Stroman is no longer on hand for the art. Jae Lee wasn't bad, but Joe Quesada's art (who did pencils for # 87-91) is a breath of fresh air. It's so nice to actually enjoy the look of these characters! I hope Quesada sticks around.
Quicksilver's love life gets it's own sad solo story in this one.
Rahne officially works through her feelings/attachment to Alex as she learns that her connection to him was engineered by Genoshan Scientists. Rahne gets the most focus in this arc and the best way to explain one of the things that happened to her is through Peter David's own words as he talked about how Marvel had to censor his plans a bit.
"When I took on X-Factor, Rahne Sinclair’s status was as follows: She had been made Havok’s more or less willing slave through mental tinkering at Genosha, and she was spending all her time; in her wolf form, because in her human form she was a totally subservient airhead, one step up from a zombie.
And I thought about this and came up with a fairly demented storyline. Over the next issues of X-Factor, I had the previously sedate Rahne become not only more and more enamored of Havok, but progressively more erotically charged in her increasing lust for him. It was screamingly out of character for her, and then, in issue #89, I had her realize why: She was in heat. From spending so much time in her animal form, she had picked up traits she wasn’t expecting, and that was one of them. This was revealed in a scene wherein she was talking down the street with Moira, trying to figure out just why she was so sexually obsessive about Alex… and dogs start barking at her. Barking big time. And she basically says, “Oh my God!” as she understands what her biology has done to her.
But when I departed X-Factor due to a variety of—well—factors… the entire reveal on that storyline was dumped and the scene rescripted by other hands into pointlessness. But you can still see the barking dogs and Rahne’s shocked expression in the printed issue."
Rahne and and Lorna get even closer with Lorna continuing to battle issues with her own body image.
Jamie puts his joking aside and acts selflessly, potentially contracting the Legacy Virus.
We learn a gigantic motivation for Guido as it turns out he is in pain every day due to his deformed body and uses humor and sarcasm to hide from it.
My Rating - 9/10
I'm going to give this one a 10/10 thanks to issue # 97's amazing psychiatrist beat which has cracked my top ten favorite issues of all time (I will update this every 5 years, so next up is 1995).
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