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Friday, April 8, 2016

X-amining X-Factor #71

"Cutting the Mustard"
October 1991

In a Nutshell
Val Cooper attempts to assemble a new, government-sponsored, X-Factor team.

Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Larry Stroman
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Washington, D.C., Lorna, Guido & Madrox are staying at a friend of Madrox's condo, having been asked to join a new iteration of X-Factor, and Lorna is anxious because her old boyfriend Havok is being targeted to lead the team. In Genosha, Val Cooper tracks down Alex, who is with Rahne as well, but he is reluctant to take the job. Meanwhile, Quicksilver arrives in Washington, seeking X-Factor, and disarms a bomb threatening a hotel before receiving directions to them. In Genosha, Alex & Rahne are visited by Cyclops & Professor X, who urge Alex to take the X-Factor job, saying it will be good for all mutants. However, Alex is most intrigued when he learns Lorna will be on the team. In D.C., Quicksilver collapses on Madrox's doorstep, and explains that he needs X-Factor's help: someone has turned his powers against him. Meanwhile, Alex, Rahne and Val fly back to the states, with Val briefing Alex on the team as they go. Back in D.C., Quicksilver explains that whomever is targeting him sent a threatening postcard with a D.C. postmark, so he came to the city and, having heard that X-Factor was being reformed, sought them out. Just then, Alex, Rahne and Val arrive, and Lorna and Alex reunite, much to Rahne's dismay. Later that night, someone knocks on Madrox's door, and when he answers it, he gets shot and blasted out the window.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the debut of the All New, All Different X-Factor, a team comprised of Havok, Polaris, Wolfsbane, Strong Guy, Madrox the Multiple Man and Quicksilver, assembled by Val Cooper, former liaison to Freedom Force to serve as that group's replacement as the government's public mutant response team (Val isn't technically considered a member of the team, but will be a starring character in the series for the duration of this iteration). Beyond the name and the vague notion that the original X-Factor was also something of a public, albeit not a government-backed, team, this iteration of the series has little in common with what's come before.

In particular, new writer Peter David (who came aboard as of last issue) will strike a much more humorous tone with this series, particularly via Strong Guy and Madrox. Like Excalibur, it won't be a straight comedy series, but it will be much lighter in tone than the other X-books.

With Whilce Portacio over on Uncanny X-Men, Larry Stroman steps in as the new series artist, sticking around through issue #81 (with a few fill-ins). Stroman got his start on Alien Legion, but never quite hit it big; after this run, he launched a series at Image and worked on a handful of other titles (and re-teamed with Peter David for a few issues of X-Factor not too long ago) but never really had a lengthy or established run on anything after this. His style is definitely different, featuring often-cartoony figure work with more Image-like big, wide panels and quirky layouts. He's not too far removed from the future Image guys on the other X-books, but also has shades of Mike Mignola and an almost-surrealistic look to his work.

The cast is an eclectic one, made up mostly of leftovers from other series. Both Havok and Polaris are former X-Men, but only Havok has ever had a lengthy stint with the team, and neither has been active of late. Wolfsbane gets ported over from New Mutants, after she was written out following "X-Tinction Agenda". Madrox appeared all the way back in the 70s and has existed mostly as a background fixture on Muir Island ever since (barring his appearance in the Fallen Angels miniseries), including most recently as one of "Muir Island X-Men" under the Shadow King's thrall. Guido (who hasn't yet taken the codename Strong Guy) was also briefly one of those thralls, and prior to that made brief appearances as Lila Cheney's bodyguard.

Guido and Madrox in particular are essentially blank slates, and David will quickly develop the pair into a sort of comedy duo, and both will remain fixtures of David's X-Factor work in the future, notably when he returns to relaunch the series in the 00s.

Quicksilver, who first appeared in X-Men #4, joined the Avengers, and went back and forth between being a hero and villain through the intervening years, comes to the series from a recent stint in Avengers West Coast. He is the one character not sought out by Val; he comes looking for the team because he'd heard they were forming, and needs help as someone is targeting him, causing his powers to age him prematurely.


Professor X and Cyclops appear briefly in this issue, helping convince Alex to lead the new X-Factor team. Cyclops is still wearing his yellow-and-blue X-Factor uniform, but Professor X is in his Jim Lee-designed gold hoverchair.


This issue rather randomly undoes a John Byrne retcon involving Lockjaw, the Inhumans' dog, in which Byrne revealed that Lockjaw was actually a (relatively) normal Inhuman who was transformed into a dog-like creature by the Terrigen Mists, as part of a story in which Quicksilver decides not to expose his human daughter to the mists. Here, David reveals that Lockjaw is in fact, a dog, and that the idea that Lockjaw is a transformed Inhuman was all part of joke played by Karnak and Gorgon on Thing. It seems highly unnecessary, but the re-retcon sticks, as Lockjaw has been considered a superpowered dog ever since.


Like every other one-time hot issue of this vintage, this issue received a second printing, with a gold background instead of red, but unlike the two X-Men titles (and X-Force) it doesn't get any 90s frills.

Collection Recollection 
Similarly to how back issues of the original X-Factor were always cheaper than contemporaneous issues of X-Men (and Liefeld-drawn issues of New Mutants), as I started collecting back issues, I was able to fill-in this series much faster than the rest, and as such, read them a lot more. Though I had to settle for a second printing of this issue initially, as the first printing was outside my price range back then.

The Chronology Corner
A footnote tells us this story take place before X-Men (vol. 2) #1.

A Work in Progress
This issue introduces the term "blork", Guido's preferred pejorative noun throughout the early issues of the series.

At the start of this issue, Havok and Wolfsbane are still in Genosha, working to help rebuild the country after the events of "X-Tinction Agenda".


Though it goes unremarked upon, this issue represents the first time Professor X has been in Genosha, while Rahne's excitement at seeing him is understandable; this is the first time she's seen her old teacher since New Mutants #51.

The new X-Factor is likened to Delta Force.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
This issue opens with Guido asking for Grey Poupon mustard, which, I assure our younger readers, was very much a thing in the cultural zeitgeist at this time.


Guido refers to himself as being sensitive, aka a 90s guy.


Val Cooper says she has a brother who's an FBI agent, and mentions a case involving a girl wrapped in plastic; this is a reference to Twin Peaks, whose main character is FBI agent Dale Cooper.


Young Love
Lorna is anxious about being reunited with Alex, with recent events having conspired to keep them apart (the last time they were together was circa Uncanny X-Men #219, before Polaris became possessed by Malice. Since then, she got captured and assaulted by Zaladane and possessed by the Shadow King, while Alex rejoined the X-Men, went through the Siege Perilous, and emerged a Genoshan magistrate).

Alex, meanwhile, is ultimately won over to the idea of leading X-Factor by the promise of being reunited with Polaris, while Rahne is presented as having a crush on Havok this issue; this marks the beginning of a rather creepy storyline in which its revealed that as part of the Mutate process she forcibly underwent in "X-Tinction Agenda", Rahne was bonded to Havok, such that she no longer has any control other her feelings towards him, which will continue to grow over time.

Human/Mutant Relations
In discussing X-Factor, Havok worries that he'll be viewed as an "Uncle A-Tom-ic" for leading a government-sponsored mutant team; Xavier counters that having mutants in a high-profile public setting is a good thing.


Pun with Peter!
Peter David is a writer known for injecting humor, particularly puns, into his stories, and his X-Factor will be notable for its consistent use of humor and lighter tone (especially relative to the rest of the X-titles at this time). That's evident already in this issue, starting with Lorna and Guido attaching "it is" to the ends of their names after introducing themselves.


When Lorna expresses anxiety about being on a team with Havok after everything they've been through, Guido nonchalantly asks she wants him to hose them down. I found it legitimately laugh-out-loud funny.


There's also a running gag involving a jar of mayonnaise that nobody can open, until Val raps it on the counter a couple times and it pops open. In the end, it turns out to have been created by Madrox, and designed to only be opened by remote control (which is actually a pretty astonishing feat of engineering).


Bullpen Bulletins
Around this time, the Bullpen Bulletins page started to feature a Cool-O-Meter, in which current pop culture things would be ranked based on how cool they are. It makes for a fantastic snapshot of the times.


This month's column also features a rundown of recent staff changes at Marvel; notable mentions include Mark Powers, who will go on to be the X-Men group editor in the early 00s, and Tom Brevoort, who is still at Marvel today as an Executive Editor and the Senior VP of Publishing.

It's in the Mail 
This issue gets a two-page letter column, featuring mostly letters about the conclusion to the Apocalypse story and praising Whilce Portacio's art (sad trombone).

Austin's Analysis
At the time of its publication, the "All New, All Different X-Facto"r was viewed by many fans as the least of the four core X-Men titles. While Larry Stroman certainly brought a different level of energy to the series, his art is much quirkier than that of Lee, Portacio, Liefeld and Silvestri (over on Wolverine), and this is an era driven by the books' artists. With the former leads of X-Factor absorbed back into the X-Men (the better to fill out the rosters of two X-Men titles), Peter David is left to assemble a team from the leftover scraps of the X-Men universe (Wolverine or Gambit, Madrox the Multiple Man is not). And while it's not quite an out-and-out comedy book, Peter David's X-Factor is definitely lighter in tone and more tongue-in-cheek than the kind of teeth-clenchingly gritty, self-consciously serious fare featured in the other three books. However, of all the titles from this era, X-Factor is probably the one that has aged the best, that is the best well-regarded by fans today, and it's easy to see why.

Shed of the proto-Image trappings of the other books, and with a cast of characters that pretty much all fall on a range from "underused" to "blank slate", David and Stroman put the focus on characterization. Where Uncanny X-Men's Gold team just appears on the page, one issue after not existing, without explanation, this entire issue is dedicated to assembling the book's roster. They don't even have costumes yet; Guido remains without a codename. No villain (outside of the mysterious stranger who shoots Jamie in the closing pages) even appears in these pages, and in general, David's run on this series will be notable for not dealing much with super-villains at a time when so many other series were building entire story arcs around them. What matters here are the characters: why they're a part of this team, how they relate to each other. That focus on characterization is why it holds up so well today, and why it struggled in comparison to the tastes of the market at the time of its initial publication.

Next Issue
Next week: the best-selling comic book of all time, X-Men (vol. 2) #1, Alan Davis returns in Excalibur #42, and, uh, Wolverine wolverines in Wolverine #46.

Collected Edition

45 comments:

  1. Poor Weezie. Her and Walt's planned Havok & Polaris limited series fell through, and now that the two would finally be on X-FACTOR, Weezie isn't. Not that I'd necessarily want her instead of PAD to write the book right now, but gosh dang it I'd have wanted the Dreaming Celestial story as the Simonsons originally intended it.

    That being said, I never caught any issue of this iteration, barring I think the one participating in X-Cutioner's Song, and will be reading along with keen interest. Unless people start spoiling these 25 years old comics for me; then I'll speed up my reading.

    Wolverine is wolverining poorly, because of the week's books he seems to be not featured in EXCALIBUR #42 at all.

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  2. This era of X-Factor is where I started reading comics. I wish we had gotten more of this and less of the angst that permeated other series in general. (I was reading the Archie TMNT books at the time, and they too were becoming a total angst-fest).

    After this series, Polaris does not feel "right" under any other author. To me, she only sounds like herself when Peter David is writing her. (His latest X-Factor stint was criminally short.)

    Havok won't truly become an Uncle A-Tom-ic until he leads the Uncanny Avengers squad.

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    1. I agree - PAD's Polaris seems like the definitive Polaris. Of course, it helps that she was functionally a blank slate prior to this (ditto Madrox and Guido).

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    2. Oh I don't know. Claremont did work some of his magic that makes you care for a supporting character in Lorna (for me at least) in #218-219, which was when I first and pretty much only time saw her. Tastiest psyche since Dazzler, as Malice puts it. ;)

      Well, honestly, a part of the magic may have been Silvestri's, but it was enough for me to get interested on the character and annoyed over the continuous over-the-topness of Malice.

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  3. I love this issue, I love Guido, I love the term "blork," I love the coolometer. This issue and this whole run starts so, so strong. The art has not aged well, but it's not like Stroman was going for photorealism, it's just that his style can occasionally make his storytelling a bit sloppy. There's some very strong creative teams on these books, at least for a little while longer.

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  4. The "All-New, All-Different" X-FACTOR was, definitely, the underdog of the revamped X-books. Back then, I wasn't sure quite what to expect going into this one.

    It would seem that this book would've had an uphill battle to compete with the "Big 3" books in the line -- Lee's X-MEN, Liefeld's X-FORCE, and Portacio's UNCANNY X-MEN -- that were, most certainly, getting the lion's share of the attention. This book didn't have the benefit of a "Hot" artist and it felt, kind of, like a dumping ground for all of the "leftover" characters that the rest of the books didn't want.

    Personally, I wasn't reading INCREDIBLE HULK in those days, so I wasn't very familiar with Peter David's writing. I needn't have worried. This iteration of X-FACTOR, quickly, won me over. It was, certainly, the most smartly written of the X-books...at least until the other books got "real" writers, again, rather than being dictated by the artists' plots.

    In retrospect, I suppose you also have to applaud Marvel for continuing on with the same series title and numbering, despite the, completely, different cast and premise. The Marvel of today would, unquestionably, have jumped at the chance to use this as an excuse to relaunch the series with a brand new shiny #1.

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    1. That's actually something I meant to mention in the post, and forget; you're absolutely right that this would have received a new #1 nowadays (when it seems like every creative team change leads to a series relaunch), and it's kinda surprising it didn't get one even then. I mean, this iteration of X-Factor has as much, maybe even less, to do with the old group than X-Force does with New Mutants. Maybe Marvel just felt PAD/Stroman and a group of essential castoffs couldn't launch a series?

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  5. I literally never thought about it before tonight, but who is this supposed "friend" Jamie is condo-sitting for? He had to wear a containment suit from birth, leading his scientist parents to move to the middle of nowhere and become farmers, never letting Jamie leave the farm. He was home schooled and/or educated by a Professor X-made computer until his parents died in a tornado, after which he worked the farm by himself for years. Finally his containment suit malfunctioned, he went to NYC and fought the Fantastic Four, got passed off to Professor X, mmmmaybe met the original X-Men behind the scenes?, then got shipped to Muir Island, where he's been almost continually until this issue. At this point, Jamie's potential "friends" consist of:

    The Fantastic Four, maybe
    Professor X
    Maybe some of the original X-Men (but probably not)
    Moira
    Havok
    Polaris
    Banshee
    Wolfsbane
    Legion, maybe?
    Siryn
    Possibly members of the Morlocks after they relocated to Muir?
    The Fallen Angels, sort of (except they actually befriended Evil Madrox)
    Guido

    Andthat'sit. Isn't it sort of implied that Jamie barely ever left Muir, hence why his rogue dupe had to drug him just to go have an adventure? So who is this "friend"?

    I call bull****. Jamie rented that apartment himself and told X-Factor he was house-sitting just so they wouldn't know how hopelessly sheltered he is.

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    1. Now this is the sort of questioning the world so badly needs.

      Later on Val goes to comment on Madrox: "He's his own best friend." Madrox himself says: "Aside from the X-Factor, no one knows I'm staying at this condo." Not even the alleged "friends" so. So maybe he did rent it himself, but with what money? Did he sell the farm?

      Otherwise a midwest boy landing on a nice condo you can see the Washington Needle out of the window really yells out "Midnight Cowboy" like setup, an' pool table in middle of the living room decoration would suggest it ain't the sort of hard-as-diamond business exec lady who you would expect to find as the other party of such a setup that is the owner of the condo. But maybe PAD wasn't going for this sort of thematic here, despite the fact that he so did in his HULK.

      Anyway, I'll be on lookout if PAD will be asserting that you can see the Washington Needle from every condo's window like you popularly can see the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

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    2. That thought had occurred to me as well - I think it's a case of David tossing in a line of dialogue to explain one thing (whose place are they staying out?) without fully thinking through the ramifications of what that explanation could mean.

      But to further your idea that Jamie is renting it himself, I like to think that maybe he's renting it from one of the rogue dupes who broke off and started lives of their own, as seen in the later X-FACTOR series, without realizing that's who he's renting from. :)

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  6. Harras asked PAD to explain away the Lockjaw retcon. It's odd since Harras was writing Avengers at the time and Crystal was a member at the time.
    It was Kurt Busiek who suggested the practical joke explanation. That really doesn't work since (a) Karnak and Gorgon were present when Lockjaw spoke and (b) the trick stopped Pietro from tossing Luna into the Terrigen Mists (which would have granted Luna powers but with possible side effects).
    The problem with PAD's "character work" was that it required ignoring everything that went before. In Claremont's run, Alex was borderline psychotic and depressed- not the best candidate for leadership material. Plus, Alex tried to kill Lorna and slept with Maddie, Scarlett and Plasma- but PAD puts him and Lorna back together without comment. And yes, Inferno did leave Alex practically unsalvageable but PAD ignoring Inferno just doesn't work.

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    1. Interesting. Harras was a fill-in writer on Byrne's THING way back when the original Lockjaw revelation was made, so I guess he spent a long time in disagreement over it.

      Byrne, as you might imagine, hates that it was undone, but from his remarks he seems more perturbed over how it was undone, since Karnak and Gorgon were never really known as notorious pranksters.

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    2. Harras asked PAD to explain away the Lockjaw retcon. It's odd since Harras was writing Avengers at the time and Crystal was a member at the time.

      Yeah, you'd think he could have more easily undone it himself. As it is, whether you like the retcon or the un-retcon, either way, it reads as being kind of randomly shoehorned into this issue. I mean, take it out, and nothing about *this* story changes.

      In Claremont's run, Alex was borderline psychotic and depressed- not the best candidate for leadership material. Plus, Alex tried to kill Lorna and slept with Maddie, Scarlett and Plasma- but PAD puts him and Lorna back together without comment.

      I do wish he'd taken more time to build the Havok/Polaris relationship backup - as presented it here, it could just be a happy momentary reunion, but later issues make it clear they're pretty much back to being a full-on couple from this point forward.

      That said, they did get a little post-Malice reunion of sorts during the Zaladane story arc in UNCANNY, and I feel like that can be read as a sort of "clearing of the air" between the two. From there, they both go through some intense personal crap, but none of it is really built off their relationship with each other.

      And, as others have said, Havok's trip through the Siege Perilous does essentially offer something of a "get out of jail free" card for his past dickery.

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    3. And, as others have said, Havok's trip through the Siege Perilous does essentially offer something of a "get out of jail free" card for his past dickery.

      They should've done it to the other Summers boy. ;D

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    4. The problem with PAD's "character work" was that it required ignoring everything that went before. In Claremont's run, Alex was borderline psychotic and depressed- not the best candidate for leadership material.

      "Not being the best candidate for leadership material" is pretty much the standard plot for ANY Havok storyline (it has a "friends with benefits" relationship with the obligatory "Alex resents living in the shadow of his brother" subplot). In some ways, I like think that Havok is the "Hank Pym"of the X-universe. And on a related note...

      Plus, Alex tried to kill Lorna and slept with Maddie, Scarlett and Plasma- but PAD puts him and Lorna back together without comment. And yes, Inferno did leave Alex practically unsalvageable but PAD ignoring Inferno just doesn't work.

      But it's kinda acknowledged in the story (ok next issue, actually) that they've both been through a lot and had there minds mucked up with a bit through years. The point here was just a kind of "starting over" period for the two since this is the first time in a long while where tbey weren't the lynchpin in sone villainous plot (which is why we get a "cutesy" scene of the asking each other about thier favorite books as if they were first daters, znd not long-time lovers.) It made me more invested in their relationship then I ever was (even with an creepy Rahne jealously stalking them.)

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  7. Can you go more in depth if you can on the history of how PD got this over Erik Larsen. From what I get, Larsen had a group and a few drawings showing what he would do. What lead to the PD version? Was it an either or or were their a few proposals out there and PD won? I'm guessing Larsen went to Spider-Man instead of doing this and took a few of his designs with him. I believe his design for Crimson Commando went onto being in Spider-Man 18 as Cyborg X and then Super Patriot in Savage Dragon. I'm not sure if Cyborg X was actually Crimson Commando though the Marvel Wiki says he is http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Frank_Bohannan_(Earth-616) though I don't remember that actually being the case in the comic but it's been 10+ years since I've read it.

    I'm just curious about the behind the scenes on this.

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    1. In a later Annual cyborg Commando and Avalanche went to meddle into the businesses of the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants as government operatives. Not having read the SM n question I don't know how well the Cyborg X thing fits to that.

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    2. Erik Larsen intended Cyborg X to be Crimson Commando, and his dialogue in the SPIDER-MAN issue references the mission in Kuwait.

      Also, it sounds like Marvel held an X-FACTOR "bake-off" and Peter David won.

      Check out the little interview with Larsen at the bottom of this page for confirmation of both items: http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix/cyborgxs.htm

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  8. "Guido and Madrox in particular are essentially blank slates"

    One thing PAD does do for Guido is get rid of the "Nu Yawk" accent CC gave him.

    "He is the one character not sought out by Val"

    I always wondered if that was why he was the only one who doesn't get a new blue & yellow outfit? Or if they just decided his blue and white costume was too classic to be changed.

    "That's evident already in this issue, starting with Lorna and Guido attaching "it is" to the ends of their names after introducing themselves."

    It's a cute bit, but...they already introduced themselves to each other in the previous issue. Which, was also written by PAD...

    "In Claremont's run, Alex was borderline psychotic and depressed- not the best candidate for leadership material. Plus, Alex tried to kill Lorna and slept with Maddie, Scarlett and Plasma- but PAD puts him and Lorna back together without comment. And yes, Inferno did leave Alex practically unsalvageable but PAD ignoring Inferno just doesn't work."

    You could fanwank that going through the Siege Perilous kind of "cured" Havok of all of that. From what little we did seen of him as a Genoshan magistrate, he did seem much more confident and less whiny, he seemed to be a in a stable relationship with a fellow magistrate, and seemed to be much less...psychotic. So I guess it was a good thing for him, anyway, that he went through the SP.

    "Can you go more in depth if you can on the history of how PD got this over Erik Larsen"

    As per PAD himself, he never pitched for it, he was assigned the title. He didn't even choose the members of the team. Check out this link, http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/06/11/comic-book-legends-revealed-211/ PAD addresses it in the comments section.

    Yeah, at the time, this definitely was seen as the lesser of the "core four" titles, but it certainly has aged the best. The fact that PAD was able to craft an enjoyable series with strong characterization using characters he apparently didn't choose is a testament to his writing ability, whether or or not one enjoys all of his puns. The run does lose quite a bit of steam post X-Cutioner's Song, but until then, we get really good X-title.

    I will admit, Stroman's art did grow on me. I kind of hated it when the issues first came out, but I definitely learned to appreciate it. And his art does fit the tone of PAD's writing much more than had we gotten someone more EXTREME! like Liefeld or Portacio.

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    1. I'm certainly headcanoning that SP had an effect on Havok, though my take (on my previous comments here) has been that SP as suggested did grant the X-Men their heart's wishes with making Colossus an artist, setting Dazzler on her path to find answer to her conflicting lawyer/singer/superstar aspirations, releasing Rogue of the Carol residue and making Betsy an action girl, and that Havok's was to get some order in his chaotic life and SP made him an amnesiac fascist for a while.

      He seem to have turned into a community organizer of sorts in Genosha, and reluctant to go into government-mandated superheroics before the two bullies come to bully him into it on the auld great power, great responsibility lark. I'm for one actually reminded of Inferno and how Alex claimed to be the responsible one of the Summers boys by sticking up with Maddie, and in a way he may have been onto something then. It's the other one you really have to be watching.

      Plus of course he has now seen that he didn't kill Storm after all, which must be easing a bit. It's kind of sad that no one at any point even half thinks of asking him to rejoin the X-Men. Wolverine, you're a crappy best friend.

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    2. Well, it is kind of obvious the SP gave them all their hearts desire of sorts. And with the exception of Colossus, they all had something of a twisted warped realization of that dream. Personality wise it also affected Havok, Psylocke, and Rogue the most, too.

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    3. I remember reading somewhere that initially Legion was going to be on the team, but after they decided to do something else with Legion someone was asked if they'd rather have Quicksilver, and the answer was yes.

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    4. wwk5d, I don't know if you meant it that way but I rather feel SP in itself didn't directly effect anyone's personality but put each one into situation where such effect could take place. They were supposed to be judged or rewarded by the SP, and it would be kind of dick move if the proceedings within SP went along the line of: "Hear me , X-Man, for I am King Arthur! For your past actions you have been judged and rewarded, and from henceforth shall not be such a fuck-up, personality-wise!"

      As for Betsy, her alteration will later on given an explanation, of which merits and demerits we can discuss then. Of course what Claremont intended and did, and what everyone else after him did are two very different things.

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    5. But they all, except for Colossus, got their hearts desire but in a twisted warped way.

      Psylocke - Finally gets to be the strong warrior woman she has always wanted to be, except she's now brainwashed by villains.
      Havok - Finally gets to step out of his brother's shadow and become the confidant leader who can control his powers and seems to be in a healthy relationship, except he's not brainwashed by villains.
      Rogue - Finally free of the Carol Danvers persona and of her powers, except that persona and she now share a life force and one of them has to die.
      Dazzler - Finally has the career and fame she wanted, except she has a stalker now (ok, hers is a bit weaker than the others, but CC by that point didn't seem to invested in Ali).

      Obviously I didn't mean the SP itself changed them directly, of course the situations they were placed in is what changed them, personality wise. Havok doesn't revert back to his mix of angry/whiny persona, and Rogue is somewhat more relaxed now that she doesn't have to share her body with another persona. We don't see much change in Peter or Dazzler, though I guess you could say Dazzler becomes a bit more focused and determined to fight with Longshot to free his world or something. I guess like Havok she whines less now?

      "Of course what Claremont intended and did, and what everyone else after him did are two very different things."

      Yeah, but you can say that about almost every character and every writer, which would make any conversation pointless then.

      As far as I cam concerned, Psylocke was changed by her experience, and CC gives us a few hints at it in Vol. 2 before he leaves. But regardless of Nicieza giving us one of the worst retcons ever, she does get changed by going through the SP.

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    6. I'll wait for the Betsy hints by CC before committing to anything. I will insist though that Claremont is a bit of an exception in this case in comparison to a general creative team change, as there more or less clearly was a long-haul character arc for each of the SiegeƩ, and Betsy's may gave been going to somewhere, but then the line revamp explodes that everything up for everyone (and Claremont famously feels "who are these people!?" of the all-new, all-different X-Men.

      I always felt Colossus' realization of his heart's desire was the most obvious one of them all, the boy with poet's soul ending up an artist, totally (well, mostly) unencumbered by his X-past. He's the one that kind of got to the end of his character arc, the undoing of which allegedly/assumably finally broke Claremont down.

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    7. In X-men Vol #2, Psylocke thinks to herself that she is taking too many risks when she beats one of Magneto's Acolytes. Instead of using her telepathic powers from a safe distance, she seems to prefer fighting her opponents up close and personal. Or, in CC-speak, she craves it. She even notes that an opponent could use it against her. Which...lo and behold, that's exactly what happens in #2. She tries to sneak up on Fabian Cortez and use her psychic knife on him, again, rather than using her powers from a safe distance. Instead, he turns the tables on her by outfighting her and using her own powers against her by frying her brain.

      I'm not sure why we're arguing over semantics? Whether or not it was the SP directly or the situation that the SP placed them regardless of future retcons, going through the SP did change some of the characters, for better or worse once they re-emerged.

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    8. Oh, I'm certainly not arguing. I was just getting it clarified for myself how you meant it there, because I don't find the distinction merely semantic:

      If SP just went: "Well done, Alex. You get +3 on your Charisma and +2 on Leadership. Dazz, it's a superheroine that you want to be." That would be just crappy. Depriving their agency and whatnot, in modern talking. But if they instead gets put into situation where they make the change by their own actions, that's kind of cool.

      It's like the first Asgard story where suidical obese Shan spends eternity in desert and gets changed. Had they just done it with some Asgard magic, "yeah All-Father once degreed, off-panel, that only Volstagg is allowed to be voluptuous" that would have been crappy too.

      Aaand of course this is the point I realize that it was a misread of sorts on my part when you said "personality-wise it affected", and I read 'it' to refer to SP while you were rather referring by 'it' to their SP-induced experience.

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    9. I always wondered if that was why he was the only one who doesn't get a new blue & yellow outfit? Or if they just decided his blue and white costume was too classic to be changed.

      I've never encountered a real-world explanation for why they kept Quicksilver out of uniform for so long - his blue-and-white is an iconic look, but it's hardly the only costume he's ever worn, even at this point. I do know it becomes a HUGE point of discussion in the next few issues, in-universe and in the letter columns, and that I was one of those people bugged his lack of a uniform when I was a kid. :)

      It's a cute bit, but...they already introduced themselves to each other in the previous issue. Which, was also written by PAD...

      I suppose you could handwave it as them reminding each other (they've met once, but Guido probably met a lot of new people at that time), but at the same time, given that David wrote both issues, it's pretty inexcusable.

      I'm betting he may have written #71 before being told he was coming aboard and issue early to write #70 (or that he wrote #71 intending for it to be #70, then was told instead he needed to make #70 a "Muir Island" epilogue) and got things mixed up in his head as a result.

      Seems like the kind of thing you'd keep an editor around for, though, regardless...

      @Bedford: I remember reading somewhere that initially Legion was going to be on the team, but after they decided to do something else with Legion someone was asked if they'd rather have Quicksilver, and the answer was yes.

      I hadn't heard that before. Interesting. I've always assumed Legion was one of those pieces that Harras/the Future Image Guys wanted nothing to do with, since it detracted from Xavier's "classic" presentation, but I could see how PAD might be intrigued by the character. If nothing else, he'd fit in given that half the roster is already a Muir Island X-Men reunion.

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    10. I am/was a bit vague on Betsy, because back in the day they skipped the X-Tinction Agenda for us and I may have missed some early Claremont-work on post-Hand Betsy. I've read them now, recently, once, but it's not in the use memory for me.

      There were some serious danglers that got ignored post-Claremont: Betsy as closeted action girl getting it on now that she got the honed body and ninja skills for it certainly is not out of nowhere (even if the 'now she got the body' bit is dumb), or at least Claremont sells it well in the Body Shoppe transformation shenanigans. But there was the tease if she was a Hand sleeper, and we never got confirmation if Betsy actually really deceived the X-Men through the SP in Australia and was there some hidden sinister motivation for it that got lost in the shuffle.

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    11. In Uncanny 258, Betsy says that it was her doing that the X-Men were cast through the Siege Perilous and in Uncanny 271, Betsy says that she should have let the Reavers kill Alex rather than sending him through the Siege Perilous to become a Magistrate. So Betsy definitely deceived the X-Men through the SP but I'm not sure if there was supposed to be some sinister motivation.

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    12. Thanks, Anonymous. With sinister motivation was implying to the rather awesome fan theory that Betsy's bionic Mojotech eyes may have come with sleeper Reaver programmimg or something (though she rather saves the X-Men from Reavers, granted), what with she seeing herself as turned into cyborg in her premonition she had in Savage Land just prior and all.

      Though it was kind of haunting how she appointed herself as the mistress of ceremonies when sending the rest through SP all the way to taunting the Reavers afterwards, like she's possessed or something.

      Gateway featured in the premonition as the one pointing them to SP, I wonder it that and other dream stuff might have been addressed had Claremont had his way in making Gateway their mentor figure around issue #300.

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  9. YES! I've been waiting for you to get to the PAD X-Factor run! I only really got into comics a few years back, and had initially got into PAD's 2000's X-factor. I always heard such great things about this run, and it was totally worth checking out. It was this run and X-Cutioner's Song that pushed me into that deep dark hole of "90's X-Comics" (and thank god that G.Kendall's mighty Not Blog X was there to make sense of it all for me!)

    As others have mentioned, PAD's ability to take a bunch of underused/unused characters and make solid character-driven stories is impressive (there's an interview I saw once where, when asked about this run, he says something like, "Guido?? Who wants to be assigned Guido for a character?? Who the hell thought Guido would be a good idea for a character to begin with??? So I had the burden of fleshing him out.")For all the (justified) criticism PAD has vocally given Marvel over the years, there's a reason they keep him around.

    Anyway, I'm excited to see what you have to say about this era, Teebore! I think this X-Factor remains consistently good, even after PAD's departure (I love J.M. DeMatteis's "Haven" arc) up until right after Age of Apocalypse ends. Then... Howard Mackie/Jeff Matsuda take over (I think I vomited in my mouth a little) and it all crashes and burns.

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    1. I remember being somewhat lukewarm on the Haven storyline, but I might have just been stinging from the loss of Quesada (whose art I really liked). That said, I haven't read it in ages, so I'm curious to see what I think of it now.

      Everything up until that point, I pretty much loved, and I'm a huge Steve Epting fan, so I liked the post-Haven, pre-AoA stuff, and the stuff he stuck around for post-AoA, with the Forge-led team, I remember thinking was okay. But yeah, once Mackie/Matsuda (and Shard. I HATE Shard) come aboard, the whole thing just becomes a hot mess.

      @Teemu: Obviously someone with no knack whatsoever on character creation. :p

      To be fair, I don't think Claremont ever intended for Guido to be anything more than a guy with an accent for Lila to talk to on occasion.

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    2. Haven was such a Morrison-esque character. Her mutant power comes from her unborn fetus? I'm surprised nobody suggested her, she seems like a character he would have enjoyed using.

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    3. @Teebore: Steve Epting killed it on AoA, and I agree on the brief run he had before Mackie/Matsuda. Shard is indeed awful (but may have had potential?), as is that whole X.S.E. era that comes about.

      @wwk5d: Right? I thought the mutant fetus reveal was a great mix of creepy/off beat/awesome. I always wished someone would bring her back, but that would require them to address the whole "the fetus was really The Adversary!!! What a twist!!!" crap that Mackie pulled. Ugh. But more on that when we get there...

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  10. "Who the hell thought Guido would be a good idea for a character to begin with???"

    Obviously someone with no knack whatsoever on character creation. :p

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    1. It's actually hilarious when you start thinking about it: for all the trouble they went through with the attempted eradication of the Hellions and Reavers and Hellfire inner circlers,the Claremont-created villains, they certainly put twice as much effort to go and handpick certain unfleshed Claremont-created peripheral characters like Siryn, Madrox and Guido (as noted on this week's X-Force X-amination comments) and put them into super teams and limelight for their great line revamp.

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    2. I think that's a really good point. And that you also have all the deck clearing and introduction of new XTREME villains in the other titles, vs PAD using mostly established villains (Mr. Sinister, Cyber). Even the ones PAD introduces (The Nasty Boys, Rhapsody) aren't extreme. But yeah, there's a definite appreciation for continuity (e.g . the Madrox reveal) and characterization in this title of "C-list" X-people vs the "fresh start" and action focus of the main X-Men in the other titles.

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    3. It reads a bit like they're more or less intentionally set out to define villainy anew for the 90's. Mostly gone are the gimmicky codenamed easily defined powers villains, and what we get are young&pretty folks who go by their real names and are stuffed with endless money and resources and some incomprehensible mutant power. I so wish not to read it as they would be at least partially going the path of post-crisis Superman where Lex Luthor is a loaded corporate chieftain instead of mad scientist, but how the hell am I not when we're merely a couple of years away from Norman Osborn returning?

      Could be post-80's, post-yuppie zeitgeist catching on: this is what we fight now. Greed is not good, the spoiled rich kids are no-good. Working class villains are not the problem, Justin Hammer is.

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    4. //Could be post-80's, post-yuppie zeitgeist catching on: this is what we fight now. Greed is not good, the spoiled rich kids are no-good. Working class villains are not the problem, Justin Hammer is.//

      That's definitely what's going on... which is strange, right? You have the Upstarts, which are a bunch of rich, well-resourced mutants who are hunting other mutants for sport; themselves controlled by a mysterious "Gamesmaster". But aren't these very plots being constructed primarily by a bunch of "young guns" who have just sold the highest number of single issue comics of all time? One wonders what kind of statement they are trying to make? Is Marvel the Gamesmaster, setting these them loose to wreak havoc on the current X-landscape?

      Obviously reading a bit too far into this, but it is interesting to speculate where guys like Lee/Portacio/Liefeld are drawing these ideas from. I think you're onto something with the generational perspective, even if its a paradox that these young hot artists are in the process of becoming the very wealthy well-resourced yuppies that may be the inspiration for their stock of xtreme villains.

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    5. You know, I was meaning to laughingly comment on the fact that in a couple of years both the new cool kids* and their created characters will for the most part be gone (hilariously Liefeld's ones get to stay), but it surely beats me what it was meant to be about. And I never realized that your mentioned high parallels of the cool new kids getting to kill who they want both in-universe and out of it.

      * At least the Image guys. Nicieza and Lobdell and such will stay, and I don't actually know now at all if the division to Image guys and others is totally arbitrary at this point of time and fully made on strenght of hindsight. In less than year from this cover date Mackie will be making devastating satire of the Image guys in his GHOST RIDER #29: "Biting the hand that feeds you!", but one has to wonder how clear the signs of things going to the way of unavoidable Image exodus were at this point at the office. The sales figures for the various #1 issues were rolling in around this time.

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  11. I never read this stuff the first time around, though a friend of mine had a few of the David/Stroman issues. I finally read the whole run a few years back in Marvel's X-FACTOR VISIONARIES: PETER DAVID series, though I don't really remember much of it by now.

    I can say that I'm not a fan of Stroman's artwork and, as I've noted before, I find that David gets a bit too cute for his own good once in a while, often going for bits whether or not they fit into the story or even into established characterization. But there's very little of that on display here, at least. I think it gets a bit worse as the run goes along.

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    1. I'm generally more forgiving of PAD's humor than most (and I genuinely love a good, and even a bad, pun), but there's definitely some comedic bits a few issues down the road for which he labors way too hard for way too little payoff.

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  12. // This issue rather randomly undoes a John Byrne retcon involving Lockjaw //

    I was quite moved by that when it occurred (Thing #3). Funny to think it’s now just something that happened once upon a time and got overwritten several years later but still decades ago. Even if you feel Byrne’s move was misguided, given the circumstances, I’m not sure how undoing it here isn’t much more so.

    // Val Cooper says she has a brother who's an FBI agent, and mentions a case involving a girl wrapped in plastic; this is a reference to Twin Peaks, whose main character is FBI agent Dale Cooper. //

    Sigh.
    The first half of that would’ve been enough, but he had to throw in the second balloon’s worth. It’s like Peter David mixes up “subtle” with “subtitle” and plasters the joke onscreen for non-native speakers of cleverness.

    // That focus on characterization is why it holds up so well today, and why it struggled in comparison to the tastes of the market at the time of its initial publication. //

    I think you’re spot-on there, despite my problems with David’s more frustrating tendencies. Also, while some of the poses are stiff and some of the faces unfortunate, Larry Stroman’s general sense of design and stark spotting of blacks accentuated by judicious crosshatching are way more interesting to me than what’s happening in the other books. (Whilce Portacio seemed to be straddling a line between this kind of thing and what Jim Lee does, actually, on his issues of X-Factor at least.)

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  13. Even if you feel Byrne’s move was misguided, given the circumstances, I’m not sure how undoing it here isn’t much more so.

    It's just utterly random and pointless, both the undoing of it, and the undoing of it here, in this issue of this series.

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