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Friday, June 10, 2016

X-amining X-Factor #74

"Politically Incorrect"
January 1992

In a Nutshell
Strong Guy fights Slab

Writer: Peter David
Pencils: Larry Stroman
Inks: Al Milgrom
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Coloring: Glynis Oliver
Repeated Phone Calls to Peter & Larry: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chiefing: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Late at night, Alex awakens from a dream to find Rahne perched at the end of his bed. The next morning, he, Lorna, Rahne and Guido are called to X-Factor headquarters, while Ricochet meets with his shadowy ally, then says goodbye to his family before heading off to the Senate. At X-Factor HQ, the team meets with the lie detector expert, Val's ex-husband Edmond Atkinson, just as word comes in that a lunatic has taken hostages at the Washington Monument and is calling out Strong Guy. X-Factor arrives on the scene, and Strong Guy confronts the hostage taker, a massive mutant named Slab, who declares he's rigged the monument to explode. Havok has Quicksilver check for explosives, but he collapses outside the building due to the strain of his powers. Back at X-Factor's headquarters, Edmond declares that the Madrox who didn't join X-Factor is the real one, and Val releases him with her apologies, much to the dismay of the other Madrox. Back at the monument, Wolfsbane finds the collapsed Quicksilver, just as Strong Guy's battle with Slab brings the monument crashing down. Amidst the rubble, Ricochet appears as Senator Steve Shaffran, declaring he wants X-Factor arrested.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue is the first appearance of Slab, the first of Mr. Sinister's newest group of henchmen, the Nasty Boys (who get indirectly name-checked here) to appear. He strong and not traditionally-attractive, and we'll eventually find out that his sister is Mutant Liberation Front member Thumbelina.


We also learn that Ricochet, the mysterious villain attacking the new X-Factor team, is a US Senator named Steve Shaffran, while Mr. Sinister, though unnamed, is clearly shown to be his secret associate.


This issue establishes how Strong Guy's power works, as he absorbs kinetic energy and transforms it into increased strength (more or less like Sebastian Shaw); the idea that the energy he absorbs also distorts his body mass will come later. We also learn that before his power manifested, he was bullied as a child.


Val's ex-husband, the polygraph expert Edmond Atkinson, appears for the first time (he'll pop up again in later issue of the series).


After examining the two Madrox, he declares the fake Madrox (ie the one who didn't join X-Factor) to be the real one. That Madrox also establishes that X-Factor's Madrox has no memory of the "Coconut Grove affair" aka the events of Fallen Angels.


Early in the issue it's said that Lorna's dream are haunted by a white-haired man in red and purple.I don't believe this ever comes up or gets confirmed, but it could be a reference to Magneto (who at this time is not officially Lorna's father though I think nowadays he is. Comics!).


Quicksilver appears to be dreaming of Crystal, his estranged Inhuman wife. Their estrangement will become something of a plot point both her and over in Bob Harras' Avengers, where Crystal is currently serving as a member.


A Work in Progress
For whatever reason, Slab is colored green on the cover.

The opening splash features the original X-Factor logo.


Rahne says that she's experimenting with her look, trying to look as human as possible without reverting to her full human (and thus mindless) state.


It's noted that X-Factor doesn't know Guido's last name (it will eventually be revealed to be Carosella).

X-Factor arrives at the Washington Monument in a fancy car, which I don't think ever appears again.


Pun with Peter!
When Alex asks Lorna about Rahne, she responds that it helps the grass grow.


The issue of Madrox' identity is referred to as a "multiple choice question".

Strong Guy, clearly not serving as the voice of the author, declares that he hates puns.


Young Love
Rahne has now reached the point that she's creepily sneaking into Alex's room and watching him sleep while perched on the end of his bed.


It's also worth noting that despite their recent reconciliation, Alex & Lorna are not sleeping together.

Austin's Analysis
The penultimate chapter to his first storyline on the book, and Peter David continues to balance plot, characterization and action masterfully. Nothing about this issue on the surface screams that it's leading to the big conclusion next issue, yet at the same time, we're definitely at a point where the overall mystery of who is secretly attacking X-Factor and why is ready to be revealed. And just as with Madrox last issue, the focus this issue on Strong Guy puts the spotlight on one of the lesser known members of the team, a smart way to afford page time given that Havok, Polaris and Wolfsbane are probably much more familiar to the average reader of the series. Stroman's art gets a little wonky is places (well, wonkier than usual), with some curious faces popping up throughout the issue, but he also continues to turn in some really strong pages, layout-wise (like Strong Guy pummeling Slab while explaining how his power works, or the crumbling of the monument), and overall, this is another strong installment in what is easily the best of the four relaunched X-books at this time.

Next Issue
Next week: X-Men #4, Excalibur #46, and Wolverine #50.

Collected Edition

13 comments:

  1. In the post American Pie world it's difficult to take name like Steve Shaffran seriously.

    Edmond Atkinson of course is another reference to popular culture to begin with, the British historic sitcom "Blackadder" where Rowan Atkinson plays the hapless schemer Edmund Blackadder in various historic eras.

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    1. Ah, I had an inkling "Edmond Atkinson" was another BLACKADDER reference, but I wasn't quite sure how. Thanks.

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  2. // Wolfsbane finds the collapsed Quicksilver //

    There wasn’t any follow-up on this in your commentary, but it reminds me of a question I had about #71 and neglected to pursue then: Quicksilver shows up at Madrox’s doorstep because his metabolism has gone haywire and he got a threatening postcard with a “D.C.” postmark. Now, I realize that the new X-Factor is actually based in Washington and that something really is going with Pietro’s speed; Peter David being Peter David, however, and especially Peter David of this era, the first place my mind went was to how Wally West, post-Crisis, was established in DC’s new Flash series as being limited to about Mach 1 and needing to consume enormous amounts of calories in an interesting — but ultimately, to me anyway, nonsensical — attempt to show the demands of superhuman speed on his metabolism. (No mention of his body aging faster, to my recollection, although the brief mid-’80s run of THUNDER Agents published by Deluxe found that team’s speedster, Lightning, dealing with the issue.) That Flash series was already a few years old by the time of X-Factor #71, and like I said I realize neither X-Factor’s new headquarters nor Quicksilver’s troubles are just throwaway gags, but we’re talking about a guy who wrote the obscure character Dolphin into Aquaman purely because he liked the story title “Single Wet Female”. Does anyone know if he ever mentioned that, once he decided and/or Marvel Editorial dictated, that the new government-affiliated X-Factor would be based in Washington, he brainstormed "Quicksilver + D.C. = riff on DC’s Flash"?

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    1. I see the connection you're making, but I've never encountered anything from David suggesting it was intentional/conscious on his part.

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    2. Okay. Thanks for listening. 8^)

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  3. The guy Lorna is dreaming about has to be Magneto. Who else could it be? That panel messed with my brain for years. PAD likes his subplots, but he is usually not one to let a reference like this so completely and Claremontishly drop.

    To this day I wonder where David was going with that one.

    On the other hand, David clearly already has the idea in mind that Guido's body distorts if he can't release his absorbed energy, even if he's vague about it here. The "things get ugly" line is very obvious in retrospect (but was suitably curiosity-inducing at the time).

    This issue was a good'un.

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    1. Yeah, the idea of Guido's body getting distorted isn't established here, but he definitely lays the ground work for it.

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  4. Oh, and doesn't Slab get colored green on next month's cover too? Clearly some behind the scenes confusion was going on there ...

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  5. X-Factor's Car shows up in the Shattershot Annual.

    It's easy to see why X-Factor wasn't the popular title even if it had the better writing.

    Adjectiveless X-Men were getting Omega Red, and here with have Slab and the soon to be forgotten Nasty Boys.

    The colors here make this so much brighter than PAD's later noirish X-Factor.

    Come to think of it, all of the X-titles are so much brighter here than all the darkness and murky art that pervades the Nation X-AvX arc.

    CR

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    1. As Jason says, the Nasty Boys do get a bump thanks to the cartoon, but even then, I agree the Nasty Boys are pretty forgettable (if anything, their cartoon appearances only highlight their forgettableness - "wait, THOSE guys were on the cartoon?"). Omega Red burned out fast, but he burned bright - a handful of appearances in the X-books, a few outside the X-books, whereas I don't think the Nasty Boys, aside from Slab, appeared anywhere outside of next issue (and, of course, the cartoon).

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  6. I don't know that I would agree that the Nasty Boys are so demonstrably worse than Omega Red. :)

    They both made it into the 90s animated show, after all. :)

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    1. Yeah, but you also get Sabretooth, the Hand and Fenris in that story. I'd say they outrank the Nasty Boys. I guess this has Mr. Sinister though...

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    2. Mr. Sinister is definitely a boon, making, bizarrely (given his soon-to-be-high profile in the X-books), only his second significant appearance in a story (after "Inferno"). I tend to think of this story as "the one w/Mr. Sinister" much moreso than "the one with Mr. Sinister and the Nasty Boys".

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