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Friday, September 30, 2016

X-amining X-Factor #79

"Rhapsody in Blue"
June 1992

In a Nutshell
Quicksilver & Madrox confront a mutant suspected of murder.

Composed by: Peter David
Melody by: Jim Fern
Harmony by: Al Milgrom
Notes by: Michael Heisler
Chorus by: Glynis Oliver
Orchestrated by: Bob Harras
Lead Guitar: Tom DeFalco

Plot
After a mutant is suspected of murder, Quicksilver & Madrox are dispatched to Maine to help the local authorities capture her. Meanwhile, Lorna is attacked and knocked out by an unseen assailant while shopping. In Maine, Quicksilver & Madrox learn the suspect is a young woman named Rhapsody, whose mutant abilities only recently manifested, causing her to lose her job as a music teacher after the school board fired her. The biggest supporter on the board was Harry Sharp, who was recently found dead, with Rhapsody looking over his corpse. When the pair encounter her, she uses her power to hypnotize Madrox, but Quicksilver manages to capture her and snap Madrox out of her hallucination. But in the face of her insistence that she's innocent, Madrox  gets Quicksilver to agree to stay in town until everything gets sorted out, to ensure Rhapsody doesn't get railroaded by the local authorities. Back in DC, Val is briefing Alex on X-Factor's next assignment when Rahne interrupts, saying that Lorna's in the hospital, and they don't know if she'll survive.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the first appearance of Rhapsody, a young woman with blue skin and the mutant ability to use music to manipulate emotions/cause hallucinations/fly (it's not terribly clear how her power works, beyond "with music!"). She will appear in the plotline that runs from this issue through #81, but has yet to make an appearance outside of those issues.


In a subplot scene setting up next issue, Polaris is sucker punched by someone with a metallic hand and ends up in the hospital. Next issue will reveal her attacker to be Cyber (from the first Sam Keith-drawn Wolverine story in Marvel Comics Presents, written by Peter David), and she'll end up getting her jaw wired shut as a result of his punch, which she'll sport up through "X-Cutioner's Song".


In another setup for next issue, Val tells Havok that X-Factor has been tasked with protecting a mutant named Shrew (the person Polaris was warned not to protect), a former member of a group called Helles Belles, against which she's testifying; Cyber will turn out to the Belles' leader.

Creator Central 
Jim Fern fills in for Larry Stroman this issue.

A Work in Progress
There's a neat bit at the start of the issue where Quicksilver teaches himself to play piano at super-speed, such that for a few seconds, it sounds awful, while he's figuring it out, but then he settles in to play "Moonlight Sonata" by ear, from memory.


The idea that, in general, mutants manifest their powers at puberty is apparently known amongst the general public; when discussing Rhapsody, she's called a late bloomer because she's nineteen but her powers only recently manifest.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Following up the earlier mention, in this issue, Guido goes on a date with Sean Young, still wearing a Catwoman costume (even though, as Guido points out, Batman Returns has already been released). Or, he goes on a date with someone dressed in a Catwoman costume whom he claims is Sean Young, as Madrox muses.


Human/Mutant Relations
While meeting with local authorities, Quicksilver defers to Madrox and manages to restrain his temper in the face of their attitudes towards mutants. Alone, he tells Madrox it's important that they present a united front.


Young Love
Just before getting attacked, Lorna is shopping and musing on her relationship with Alex. Apparently, their exact status is still unclear, and they're stilling living with Guido because they aren't sure what their next step is.


Austin's Analysis
In a lot of ways, this reads like what a "typical" issue of a series starring a government-sponsored team of mutant superheroes would read like. Local authorities have a mutant problem, so the federal solution to mutant problems gets called in to handle it. Meanwhile, the rest of the team gets assigned another federally-mandated mission. For a series about a government-sponsored team of mutants that hasn't yet really done this kind of "day in the life of government mutants" story (outside the "War and Pieces" crossover, but that was a really a Hulk story first and foremost), this should at least be interesting stuff. But it's not, really. The scratchy fill-in art from Jim Fern, doing his best Larry Stroman impersonation, doesn't help, nor does the central antagonist, a character who seems, in pure Peter David fashion, to be built around a pun and little else (she's a music teacher named Rhapsody, and she's blue...because, see, there's this famous piece of music called "Rhapsody in Blue"...). Not surprisingly, this story gets a lot more interesting when Larry Stroma returns and the Helles Belles show-up next issue.

Meanwhile, where this issue does work is the character stuff. No matter how drab Rhapsody is, pairing up Madrox and Quicksilver is fantastic. Both are capable of being funny, in their own ways, but they're also a pretty hilarious odd couple, the always-serious Quicksilver and the rarely-serious Madrox. Quicksilver has one of the strongest personalities in the Marvel Universe - arrogant, snotty, a little droll, but still heroic, while Madrox is still, aside from being a jokester, something of a cipher as a character. David gets a lot of mileage out of the pairing here, and it's a great example of how, once again, characterization really is the key to this series' success.

Next Issue
Next week, Ghost Rider #26 and Marvel Comics Presents #101-108 (Wolverine).

Collected Edition

7 comments:

  1. I'm not sure why I bought this one. I'd already stopped picking up X-Factor regularly, and picked up my last X-Factor as part of the X-Cutioner's Song crossover. But for some reason grabbed this one as my 2nd-to-last X-Factor issue. I remember nothing about it--maybe it's why I stopped altogether.

    I know folks praise the Peter David iteration of the book, but I just never had much interest in anyone on the team.

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  2. "but has yet to make an appearance outside of those issues."

    She did have a cameo in the 198 miniseries, as one of the mutants who still had her powers.

    "Polaris is sucker punched by someone with a metallic hand"

    How embarrassing for someone whose powers are based on magnetism.

    "Jim Fern fills in for Larry Stroman this issue."

    And another cover by future artist Joe Q. And one of his better ones, too. I like it.

    Overall, I liked this issue. Yes, the fill-in art isn't the best or the most exciting, but at least it isn't as bad as the fill-in art we are getting over at X-force.

    What makes this issue work for me is the character work, and how PAD plays the characters off of each other. Not just Quicksilver and Madrox, but also in the shorter scenes between Quicksilver and Guido and between Guido and Madrox as well. True, next issue is better overall, but this is still a nice fun issue. The bit with Quicksilver at the beginning was also good; PAD really did some good stuff with Quicksilver on this title.

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  3. In a universe where "Richard Roper" would suggest someone who fights crime with his superpowers, someone chooses to be called Dick Roper.

    In a universe where "Tygerstryke" is a name that can be used by a government operative, someone chooses to be called Dick Roper.

    Dick Roper, the fifth member of the Wrecking Crew who left before they got famous.

    Dick Roper.

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  4. The whole “Sean Young dressed as Catwoman” deal is really funny to me purely for you-had-to-be-there personal reasons. (Nothing scandalous, I assure you.) Also her spine is seriously deformed and with those utterly ridiculous legs she’s about twelve heads tall.

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    Replies
    1. From what I've seen, that just happened to anyone drawn in a Catwoman suit back in those days.

      At least Rhapsody's punnish name makes more sense than Mightily N. Dowd in David's Young Justice. That will always be the worst.

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    2. That right there is why I barely ever read David’s Young Justice.

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  5. Yeah, this one is a little bland. But to be fair, it's Part One of a three-parter, so it is just getting things rolling. (But I hated it at the time.) As I recall, "Hulk," PAD's only other series at the time (?), came out the same week as X-Factor, and this month, "Hulk" ALSO was a low-key story drawn by a fill-in artist. It was a really depressing night of reading for this young PAD-o-phile.

    Quicksilver has all the best bits. (As a little nod to the bit in this issue, Quicksilver will -- about two years later -- be the organist at Rick Jones' wedding over in "Hulk.")


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