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Thursday, June 15, 2017

X-amining X-Factor #89

"Dark Homecoming" / "Cabin Fever"
April 1993

In a Nutshell
X-Factor arrives in Genosha.

Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Joe Quesada, Chris Batista (2nd story)
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Richard Starkings, Lois Buhalis (2nd Story)
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
X-Factor and the X-Patriots arrive in Genosha, and are introduced to the Genoshan president and reunited with Moira. Elsewhere, mutant Dick Chalker, blaming himself for his brother and cousin's deaths, rushes out to wipe out every last mutant on the people, and is promptly run over by a truck. That night, Rahne experiences another nightmare, and Moira agrees to start running tests on her immediately. As Strong Guy goes with Jo Beth to meet her grandmother, Havok & Prodigal meet with the Genoshan president, while Moira & Sasha Ryan determine that Rahne's connection to Havok is a result of the process that turned her into a mutate. Later, Sasha Ryan meets with a shadowy figure, telling him they can't continue their plans until X-Factor leaves. He agrees, but vows that one day their country will once again be free of mutants.

2nd Story
Crystal sends Quicksilver into town for groceries. There, he is confronted by a tabloid reporter, who shows him pictures of Crystal being friendly with her teammate Black Knight, telling him there are more explicit pictures. Quicksilver denies it and attacks the reports before running off, clearly rattled, The encounter causes the reconciliation between Crystal & Quicksilver comes to an end, which was the plan of the reporter and the old man monitoring the couple, who are happy they've stirred the homicidal tendencies of the Son of Magneto.

Firsts and Other Notables
This is Peter David's final issue of the series, ending a run that began with issue #70 and oversaw the revamping of the book in issue #71. Though he won't return for this iteration of the series, David will return in the 00s to write a Madrox limited series, which will lead in turn to a revamped X-Factor book (positioning the characters as private investigators instead of government agents), which will eventually take over the numbering from this volume. So this isn't the last we'll see of David's take on many of these characters.

On his way out, David establishes that during the process that transformed Wolfsbane into a mutate, she was bonded to Havok in a master/slave sort of relationship, which has been the cause of her crush on him throughout David's run on the series.


This issue contains the scene in which Peter David meant to establish that Rahne is in heat but which, in the wake of his departure from the series, was re-scripted, as detailed here (I'm not sure who re-scripted, but I'd guess Lobdell, as he writes the next issue). The art is unchanged, though, so we're left with a page where a bunch of dogs are giving Rahne a funny look for no apparent reason.


Genoshan scientist Sasha Ryan meets with a shadowy figure behind a mysterious door (with an eye that glows not unlike Cable/Stryfe/Longshot); this will eventually be revealed to be the Isolationist, though not for much, much later (the Isolationist is a character from David's second X-Factor run in the 00s/10s), and he's almost certainly not who he intended this character to be at the time of publication.


Quicksilver & Crystal's short-lived reconciliation is cut short as Quicksilver is given pictures of Crystal dancing with her teammate Black Knight (Crystal & Black Knight are involved in a love...square over in Avengers, also involving Quicksilver and their teammate Sersei). The pictures are relatively innocuous, but they're enough to plant seeds of doubt and make the "Son of Magneto" mad.


The final Chalker brother, Dick, aka Carnivore, appears in this issue. Dick is a mutant who can turn into a large lizard, and blames himself for the anti-mutant hatred that led to his brother and cousin's deaths. He rushes off to make amends, and is promptly hit by a truck and killed, in true Chalker fashion. The whole point of all this Chalker business will be revealed in the series' upcoming annual.


A Work in Progress
Madrox and Moira share a moment together, a nice acknowledgement of the fact that Madrox spent the vast majority of his time between his first appearance and becoming a regular player in this book working with Moira on Muir Island.


Young Love
A hot-and-bothered Rahne makes another pass at Madrox, pinching his butt.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Rahne experiences another pop culture-influenced dream, this time inspired by Disney's Aladdin (her version of the genie has the same anachronistic stand-up comic schtick as Robin Williams').


Pun with Peter!
Watching the sun rise, Quicksilver tells his wife (one of the Inhumans), it's an inhuman hour to be awake.


There's also a protracted joke in which Quicksilver tells Crystal he's someone with green hair, and she think he's romantically involved with Polaris but he means he's seeing Doc Samson for regular therapy.


Austin's Analysis
Peter David's impactful but too-short run on the series comes to a close, as the writer departs reportedly out of frustration for the way his own stories were being affected by other books (notably the intrusion of "X-Cutioner's Song"). On the one hand, his frustration is understandable (and it will remain a consistent frustration for him throughout his career at Marvel). On the other hand, it is, unfortunately, the cost of doing business in a shared universe. Regardless of the reasoning of his departure, his loss from the series is a significant one, as so much of this series' success - chiefly the blend of characterization and humor amidst the familiar X-book elements - comes directly from David. Though the "government sponsored" mutant angle will continue for some time, the series will never really have the kind of unique voice or hook setting it apart as it did under David.

It's also unfortunate that David leaves mid-story, unable to wrap up the X-Patriots storyline which "X-Cutioner's Song" interrupted, with most of the character arcs he set in motion unresolved (even the revelations regarding Rahne here are changed from what he initially intended). The X-Patriots, on the whole, remain a bunch of duds, but there's some narrative juice in the idea of sending X-Factor back to Genosha, in terms of both the effect it has on Havok & Wolfsbane (two characters with strong ties to that country) and in terms of X-Factor's role as representatives of the US government. But its hard to get too excited about much of this knowing David is out the door. Neither the immediate story, nor the series as a whole, will ever quite recover from that departure.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine #68. Next week, X-Men #19 and X-Force #21.

Collected Editions

   

11 comments:

  1. After the cartoon came out, this issue and X-Men #19 were the first books I picked up. (They were on sale in the grocery store magazine section.) After this I found copies of X-Factor #71 and UXM #281 and started collecting everything X-related, except X-Force and Wolverine, for whatever reason. I guess I figured they were more macho and less soap-opera melodrama. Out of all the books at the time Classic X-Men was my favorite (JRJ era), since this is what I interpreted as the X-Men at their prime. Imagine my disappointment when characters like Colossus and Nightcrawler were mere guest stars on the cartoon. At least they used Moira prominently. They eventually put this version of X-Factor in an episode, but it was long after I stopped reading the book (around the Mackie/Matsuda era I think).

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    1. I had a similar reaction at the time - my love of the JRjr run w/Claremont was born of the X-MEN CLASSIC reprints from this era, and was always bummed that a lot of the characters from that era rarely (or ever) appeared in the animated series.

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  2. // every last mutant on the people //

    That’s a great album title right there. 8^)

    I feel like the Chalker Family interludes could be funny, but (IMO) they’re not, and calling out how simultaneously tedious yet ridiculous they are with promise of an upcoming explanation/revelation doesn’t help any.

    // so we're left with a page where a bunch of dogs are giving Rahne a funny look for no apparent reason //

    For me the row of dogs checking her out (and vice versa) wasn’t as strange — it could just be the storytellers calling attention to their animal kinship, and of course everyone in this formerly (?) Stepford Mutate white-picket-fence neighborhood of Genosha has a family dog — as the now-overboard visual drama afforded the panel that previously depicted her realization that she’s in heat. Also, whether it’s a failure in the original script or the rewrite of that page, there’s a disconnect between Moira reassuring (if not dismissing) the angst Rahne has by saying that she’s just going through a typical teenager’s “rampaging hormones” and the mention on the next page of “Moira’s theories” about her “accentuated proclivities”.

    // Quicksilver & Crystal's short-lived reconciliation is cut short //

    Not sure whether it belongs under Young Love (I don’t think of Pietro as young) or Pun with Peter (it’s risqué wordplay if not necessarily a pun) but Crystal’s request for him to “do my back” after he disrobes to join her in the shower raised my eyebrow as much as it presumably raised his own, um, interest.

    On another note, I was pleasantly surprised by how mature the dialogue between them is here, befitting a married couple navigating a rough patch in their adult relationship, so points to David for that even if the wildly varying tones in his stories often give me whiplash.

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    1. I kind of like the Chalker stuff. It's not especially high-brow or anything, but at least it reminds us that you need more than a gimmicky gadget and corny name to become a recognized and enduring public menace; it takes hard work, dedication and at least partially functioning brain.

      Gentlemen, and ladies, I propose a toast for Peter "Paste-Pot Pete" Petruski!

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    2. "I don’t think of Pietro as young"
      Bob Harras apparently did. In an Avengers story a year from now, he had the High Evolutionary comment that he evolved Bova "a quarter century ago" and shortly afterward she delivered Pietro into this world. Now, a quarter century can mean 26 or 27 years but Pietro would have to be pretty young.

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    3. I feel like the Chalker Family interludes could be funny, but (IMO) they’re not, and calling out how simultaneously tedious yet ridiculous they are with promise of an upcoming explanation/revelation doesn’t help any.

      It also doesn't help knowing that the payoff to all this isn't really worth the time spent setting it up.

      That said, like Teemu, I do find some amusement in the general premise of wannabe super-villains never really getting off the ground. David just takes it a little too far.

      Not sure whether it belongs under Young Love (I don’t think of Pietro as young) or Pun with Peter (it’s risqué wordplay if not necessarily a pun) but Crystal’s request for him to “do my back” after he disrobes to join her in the shower raised my eyebrow as much as it presumably raised his own, um, interest.

      See, I passed on commenting on that because I thought maybe it was just *my* dirty mind catching an innuendo that wasn't there. Glad I'm not the only one. :)

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    4. I'm sorry, but the payoff for the Chalker setup is nothing short of awesome.

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  3. "This issue contains the scene in which Peter David meant to establish that Rahne is in heat but which, in the wake of his departure from the series, was re-scripted, as detailed here "
    It's probably a good thing it was rescripted since a teenage girl in heat is incredibly skeevy.
    "Genoshan scientist Sasha Ryan meets with a shadowy figure behind a mysterious door (with an eye that glows not unlike Cable/Stryfe/Longshot); this will eventually be revealed to be the Isolationist, though not for much, much later (the Isolationist is a character from David's second X-Factor run in the 00s/10s), and he's almost certainly not who he intended this character to be at the time of publication"
    It was intended to be a new villain called Armageddon but Scott Lobdell felt Peter had put a lot of thought into this villain and decided to leave PAD to use the villain himself. PAD later introduced an Armageddon in Hulk that had nothing to do with this plot.
    "Madrox and Moira share a moment together, a nice acknowledgement of the fact that Madrox spent the vast majority of his time between his first appearance and becoming a regular player in this book working with Moira on Muir Island."
    I realize that it's sexist to judge a woman by her appearances but Moira looks like a green dinosaur. :)

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    1. "It's probably a good thing it was rescripted since a teenage girl in heat is incredibly skeevy."

      I didn't say anything, but yeah, I thought the same thing. It struck me as one of those patented "not as clever as you thought it was" ideas that Peter David does in a lot of his stuff, but this time with an added layer of grossness.

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    2. Yeah, Rahne's age is definitely problematic as far as the "in heat" storyline goes. In (slight) defense of David, I sometimes think writers (and readers) of characters who have been around forever but exist in the kind of near-timelessness of Marvel/DC-style shared universes can sometimes subconsciously "age-up" characters in their minds.

      Like, in-universe, Rahne is still a teenager, but she's been around for 10+ plus years since being introduced as roughly a thirteen-year-old, plus in this series she's hanging around a bunch of adults and acting as, essentially, a Federal agent, so I can imagine David not really thinking of her as a teenager even though she technically still is within the narrative.

      (This is not unlike how on shows in which adults play teenage characters, like my beloved BEVERLY HILLS 90210, it is relatively easy for both the writers to write and the audience to accept things happening to the characters that really, only adults would/should be dealing with - because no matter what it says on paper, an adult is still acting the part, the audience is still seeing an adult on screen).

      All that said, Rahne is still technically a teenager, and David, as the series' writer, has a responsibility to know that when he starts thinking up storylines for her that, were they to involve an adult, would be less skeevy than when involving a teenager.

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    3. I don't think nature much cares what one might find skeevy. In any case, the whole concept of the mutant powers showing up specifically in the teenage is pretty difficult to unmarry from the other changes happening at the same time. Especially with someone half animalistic like Rahne there's a legit place where such a storyline might be coming. IF one should write one is a question of its own obviously, but at some point the sheer believability of everything is starting to suffer if everyone except Empath is an abstinence poster boy/girl.

      Any adult character becoming a part of such storyline obviously must be a character of rigid morals like Peter Rasputin who has a threeesome only occasionally and only in a cultural environment where that sort of thing is accepted.

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