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Friday, June 24, 2016

X-amining X-Factor #75

"The Nasty Boys"
February 1992

In a Nutshell
X-Factor battles the Nasty Boys & learns the truth about Madrox.

Written: Peter David
Pencilled: Larry Stroman
Inked: Al Milgrom
Lettered: Michael Heisler
Colored: Glynis Olvier
Edited: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
The Nasty Boys are watching news coverage of Strong Guy's arrest when they're visited by their boss, Mr. Sinister. At their headquarters, X-Factor confers with Moira MacTaggert, who helps verify Madrox's identity. They release the Madrox claiming their teammate is a rogue dupe, with their apologies. He proceeds to absorb the other Madrox, then meets with Edmond Atkinson, who turns out to be Mr. Sinister. Later, Quicksilver is examined by a doctor, who declares the problems with his powers are all mental, likely brought on by stress. Madrox arrives at the Nasty Boys' headquarters, where he's introduced to Senator Shaffran, thanking him for helping him gain control of the real Madrox at long last. Back at X-Factor's headquarters, the team discusses the results of Quicksilver's tests, and realizes someone is turning their powers against them, and likely did the same with Madrox, prompting the team to set out in search of him.


Elsewhere, Madrox is suddenly overcome with pain, and collapses into a heap, gradually disappearing until the real, original Madrox emerges. He escapes, attempting to track down Shaffran, who's giving a speech to Congress. He reaches the capital just as the Nasty Boys and X-Factor arrive on the scene, and a fight erupts. Enraged by the battle, Shaffran outs himself as a mutant, attacking X-Factor, then flies off. Later, Mr. Sinister visits Shaffran, who is angry that Sinister, posing as Shaffran, outed him as mutant. Sinister explains that was his plan all along, as Shaffran's agenda conflicted with his own, and when Shaffran tries to shoot him, Sinister deflects the bullet, killing the Senator.

Firsts and Other Notables
Mr. Sinister returns this issue, and is revealed to be the secret partner of Ricochet/Senator Shaffran. This marks Sinister's first appearance since his apparent death in issue #39, and no indication is given as to how he survived the events of that issue. Given that from this point on, Mr. Sinister becomes arguably one of the three most significant X-villains of the 90s, it boggled my mind when I was younger to realize this story is really only the third significant story to feature the character (after his brief first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #221 and then "Inferno"); I'd just assumed there were additional appearance between issue #39 and this one, somewhere, in some series, that I just hadn't read.


The Nasty Boys, Mr. Sinister's latest group of henchmen, appear for the first time this issue (save for Slab, who appeared last issue). They are Ruckus (mimics and amplifies sounds), Ramrod (controls wood), Gorgeous George (some kind of purple putty man), Hairbag (canine-like appearance and abilities) and Slab. Though they featured as Sinister's henchmen of choice in the animated series, outside of Slab (who pops up briefly in "X-Cutioner's Song"), the Nasty Boys won't appear again until issue #105, which is also their last appearance to date.


The Madrox-claiming-X-Factor's-Madrox-is-a-rogue-dupe is confirmed to be the rogue dupe this issue, with the Madrox who joined X-Factor confirmed to be the real one. As part of that, it's also revealed that the Madrox who participated in the events of the Fallen Angels miniseries was the rogue dupe (which is why the real deal had no memory of those events last issue, and will continue to not remember it, which becomes a minor plot point later). The rogue dupe is also revealed to be working with Sinister, in exchange for his help gaining dominance over the real Madrox, and seems chummy with the Nasty Boys.

Moira MacTaggert appears briefly in this issue, contacted by X-Factor to corroborate the events of Fallen Angels. The Marvel Chronology Project places her appearance here after X-Men #4, though she's significantly more put together than she was in that issue (I'd have thought this entire story took place prior to X-Men #1, but maybe there's other chronological reasons that can't happen).


Polaris bemoans the presence of the media at one point, saying the camera adds ten pounds, which is the start of subplot involving Lorna having body image issues.


This issue ends with the team being called away to the country of Trans-Sabal; this is a setup for the upcoming crossover with Peter David's Incredible Hulk, which begins in issue #390 and #391 of that series, before moving to this book next issue.

Vic Chalker check-in: he's adjusted the size of his armored suit, but it now consumes too much power, to the point where he can't open the hatch that lets him out of it.


Being an issue with a number divisible by 25 published in 1992, this is a double-sized anniversary issue, though it avoids having any kind of gimmicky cover. It does include a double page pinup by Tom Raney, featuring the old X-Factor (in their new X-Men uniforms) and the current team.

A Work in Progress
Moira provides some handy exposition on how Madrox's power (usually) works.


The way Ricochet's power work also gets some explanation.


It turns out that the Edmond Atkinson whom administered the lie detector test to the Madroxs last issue was actually Mr. Sinister in disguise, which is why the real Madrox "failed" the test.


In lieu of their Batmobile-esque car last issue, X-Factor arrives to fight the Nasty Boys this issue in a vehicle reminiscent of the early FantastiCar, which Guido references. He also jokes about the team "having to be" X-Factor because all the good names were taken.


Threatened with getting punched to the moon, Quicksilver notes that'd be fine, as he has relatives there.


Mr. Sinister reveals that he only partnered with Ricochet in order to discredit him, as his anti-mutant agenda threatened Sinister's plans, specifically those involving Havok & Polaris.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Ricochet claims he used his power on President Bush in the 1988 election, leading to his selection of Dan Quayle for Vice-Prsident.

Young Love
Lorna tries to have a heart-to-heart with Rahne about Alex, but they get interrupted by the news of Quicksilver's health.

For Sale
There's a house ad this issue for "Operation: Galactic Storm", the big crossover amongst all the various books in the Avengers line, which ends with the Shi'ar Empire ruling over the Kree (the X-Men don't get involved in the storyline, but it does get referenced in later X-books).


Austin's Analysis
Peter David's first X-Factor story comes to a close, in a manner fitting what's come before: an emphasis on characterization, helped along by the issue's extra pages (which enables him to do both the character stuff that's already the series' bread-and-butter plus wrap up the mystery and put in a little X-Factor/Nasty Boys action scene). The return of Mr. Sinister is another highlight, and while his declaration of the Nasty Boys as his proteges is eye-narrowing (Sinister should have higher standards in underlings), David uses him well, maintaining his role as a behind-the-scenes schemer (the twist that he was only partnered with Ricochet in order to manipulate him into defeating his own agenda is genuinely clever), never interacting directly with X-Factor. Some of the plotting, particular X-Factor's overall leap from "Quicksilver's problem is all in his head!" to "someone's turning our powers against us!" is dubious, but overall, this is a strong finish to the revamped series' first big storyline. It's not the flashiest conclusion, another reason the book was never quite as popular as its contemporaries, but its wholly consistent with the work David & Stroman have been doing, and plenty entertaining.

Next Issue
Next week: X-Men #5, Excalibur #47 and Wolverine #51.

Collected Edition

7 comments:

  1. Ugh, the Nasty Boys. It still bugs me that, thanks to this being Mr. Sinister's then-current set-up in the comics, we got them in the cartoon rather than the far superior Marauders.

    (And why isn't he still using the Marauders, anyway? They're all clones, yet Sinister pretty much never utilizes them again as a unit.)

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    Replies
    1. Sinister does use them again in Mike Carey's run -- I remember it being a big deal at the time, with Carey saying in interviews that he wanted to restore the sense of menace he felt the Marauders had lost. All or most of the originals were there, plus Gambit and Sunfire and the new Mastermind, with Malice possessing Omega Sentinel, and Mystique as their new leader. They killed Cable (making them my favorite characters forever), then appeared again in the Messiah Complex crossover, and then... I think some of them eventually moved to Utopia. And I think Magneto killed most of them in his solo series, but saved more clones of them to be his personal army.

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    2. Oh yeah, I forgot about Carey's stuff. I had one foot out the door of the Marvel Universe by that point, but I did actually like that run.

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  2. // and realizes someone is turning their powers against them //

    I feel like Havok made a tremendous deductive leap there, like you say.

    Are Ricochet’s powers long-range enough to have affected Quicksilver? If so why go after him specifically? Was Quicksilver’s the only postal address Ricochet had on file? Yeah, Mister Sinister is the master planner here (with apologies to Doctor Octopus), but it almost reads like one writer had to come in and make sense out of disparate elements another writer introduced without knowing where they were going.

    // Hairbag //

    That’s close to being so bad it’s good but, nope, it’s awful.

    // Peter David's first X-Factor story comes to a close //

    It does?!? Huh. Not only isn’t it the flashiest conclusion, I wouldn’t have figured it to be the conclusion, period, despite Ricochet’s death and even understanding that of course subplots will continue.

    Ricochet’s codename doesn’t really make sense, either.

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  3. It's not clear from the story whether or not Sinister WAS Val's ex-husband or was merely impersonating him. (Later stories confirm that he was merely impersonating him.)
    "Though they featured as Sinister's henchmen of choice in the animated series, outside of Slab (who pops up briefly in "X-Cutioner's Song"), the Nasty Boys won't appear again until issue #105, which is also their last appearance to date."
    Ruckus later appears in Nicieza's X-Men Forever 1.

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  4. I find Stroman's work kind of hit or miss, but his version of Mr. Sinister is definitely a hit in my book. It looks almost as good as Silvestri's.

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  5. Rukus also appears in the latest reiteration of X-Men Legacy (the Legion-focus ones). And I think both Hairbag and Slab appeared in the next storyline. (And to be fair, are the "Nasty Boys" really any worse than say the Externals or the MLF?)

    Keep in mind that I think the Marauders were thought off to be "dead" at this point (I think this was suppose to be before it was established that they were all cloned. There return from before was suppose to be attributed to the "craziness" of Inferno.) You mentioned this before, Austen, but it's still odd that Mr Sinister gets revived here instead of in a more "prominent" book.

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