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Thursday, September 27, 2018

X-amining X-Factor #105

"Final Sacrifice"
August 1994

In a Nutshell
X-Factor & the Nasty Boys battle Malice

Plot: DeMatteis/Dezago
Script: Todd Dezago
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Andy Lanning
Letterer: Starkings/Comicraft
Colors: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Washington, DC, a mysterious figure enters X-Factor's headquarters. In Hawaii, the Nasty Boys attack the Malice-possessed Havok, with orders not to harm Havok too much. The Nasty Boys manage to overpower Havok, until Strong Guy & Wolfsbane arrive. Believing they're helping their teammate, they attack the Nasty Boys, until Polaris intervenes, demanding that Malice leave Havok. At this point, Mr. Sinister suggests Malice cut her loses and simply possess Polaris again. Back in DC, the mysterious figure explores Madrox' old room. In Hawaii, Polaris agrees to host Malice, but when Malice leaves Havok, Mr. Sinister catches her in-between bodies, forcing her back into her necklace before destroying it. A dazed Havok demands to know what Mr. Sinister's ulterior motives in helping them are, but Sinister simply says that Havok's family is always in his thoughts, and that he'll return someday to take what he wants, before teleporting away with the Nasty Boys. Back in DC, the mysterious figure picks up a picture of X-Factor and is shocked when he sees Madrox.

Firsts and Other Notables
This marks the end of JM DeMatteis' run on the series (though has he's only been credited as plotter over the last couple issues so he's probably not been working on the series for a few months already). For the most part, it also marks the end of his brief involvement with the X-universe (he's got a couple of one-off things yet to come, like next year's X-Men annual, but this marks the end of his sustained involvement on an X-book).

Just five issues after the death of Multiple Man - not even half a publication year of time - this issue teases the return of Madrox through a series of interludes showing a familiar figure wandering through X-Factor’s headquarters. It will be a little while yet, though, before this is confirmed to be Madrox and he reunites with the team (after which he'll essentially disappear again for a good long while).


It's not entirely clear what happens to Malice in this issue, as Mr. Sinister forcibly puts Malice's ephemeral form back in the choker necklace worn by whomever she is possessing, which then transforms into a little ball of light. I've always taken it that Sinister is killing her, and that's how I've presented it here, but I'm open to other interpretations. Of course, Malice will return (but that's true of many/most characters "killed" in comics), though it won't be until X-Men (vol. 2) #200, so she'll be out of the picture for a good chunk of time.


Creator Central
Steve Epting, who will soon be the series' new regular artist, draws the cover to this issue.

Future superstar artist Bryan Hitch, who will eventually hit it big with Wildstorm’s Authority (which will lead to his work on The Ultimates, which in turn was a big inspiration on a lot of elements in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), in the process ushering in a new style of larger-than-life “widescreen” art, pencils this issue, his first work for the X-office (he’ll fill-in on a handful of other issues and special projects over the next year or so). Hitch comes over from Marvel UK, part of the second "British Invasion" of US comics that will shortly bring us Warren Ellis on Excalibur and eventually Grant Morrison's New X-Men. His work here is a bit more raw than his later style, but still pretty strong, with some remarkably polished figure work. It's a sort of cross between Tom Raney & Alan Davis (Davis especially in some of the faces).

A Work in Progress
Mr. Sinister reveals he’s well aware of Threnody’s betrayal over in X-Men #34.


Slab is able to increase his size and mass this issue, something he’s never done before.


X-Factor has a fancy new jet, compliments of Forge (since their magnetically powered one is of little use without Polaris).


Havok rightly points out that Sinister doesn’t do things out of the goodness of his heart, but in true Mr. Sinister fashion, he declines to share his ulterior motives (ultimately, this all just boils down to Sinister being Sinister).


It's in the Mail
This issue has a two page letters page, featuring an ad for the "Life Signs" portion of "Phalanx Covenant", of which X-Factor is a part, though I'm not sure who the artist of the ad is.


Austin's Analysis
Somewhat ironically, given the focus of his run, JM DeMatteis leaves the series on an all-action issue as X-Factor and the Nasty Boys alike battle a Malice-possessed Havok. It's a decent-enough conclusion to DeMatteis' second major story arc (after the Haven plotline), though somewhat unsatisfying given it never really leads anywhere. Regardless, it's always fun to see X-Factor battle Mr. Sinister, and points to DeMatteis for using the history between Polaris, Malice & Sinister as the foundation for this story.

With his depature, DeMatteis leaves X-Factor poised to become something new. It won't happen immediately, but over the time, the series will gradually move away from the quieter, more character-focused atmosphere it cultivated under first Peter David and then DeMatteis. While DeMatteis was no David, they both shared a character-first approach to the series, with DeMatteis approaching that from a psychological perspective, while David chiefly used humor as his vehicle for characterization. After this, over time, the series will become more of a generic action book, shedding much of the quirkiness, humor & focus on characterization that defined it under both David & DeMatteis. As a result, while this issue in and of itself is a fairly standard end to a fairly straightforward story, it nevertheless feels a bit like the end of an era, even though what follows immediately won't look or feel vastly different from it.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine #84. Next week, Unstacking the Deck: Marvel Flair '94. 

4 comments:

  1. I've never read this issue -- I really never read X-FACTOR regularly at all -- but I had an X-Men Poster Book which featured the text free cover as one of the pinups inside, so this cover is burned into my brain for all the time it spent on my wall during high school.

    "This issue has a two page letters page, featuring an ad for the "Life Signs" portion of "Phalanx Covenant", of which X-Factor is a part, though I'm not sure who the artist of the ad is."

    It looks like Steve Lightle's signature hidden in there. The style, especially Kitty's face, looks a little weird for him, though.

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  2. That next issue blurb box has, what, six or seven different fonts? I appreciate computer lettering as an instrument, but this era of Marvel kind of went crazy with it. I personally found it at its worst in the later 90s, when there'd be several text blurbs in several different fonts splashed all over the covers; half the time, you couldn't even read them. But that's just me.

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  3. I know this is a serialized publication with an ongoing story, whose main action is directly continued from the previous installment, but to have the sequence on the first page of an issue labeled an interlude seems… odd.

    Also: Guido ain’t talkin’ right. I made the same note last issue — to myself — but felt too lazy to browse previous issues and kept quiet. Now I’ve done a few spot checks, and I find that while he might not have displayed Hank McCoy levels of erudition he’d been quite well spoken over the David and DeMatteis runs with “ya” for “you” sprinkled in as a quirk that furthered the disconnect amongst his name and ridiculously muscled frame on the one hand, per stereotype, and his playfully articulate verbal style on the other. The last couple of issues, Dezago suddenly has Guido throwing out “wuz” and “dis” and “dat” as well, reading not as a sign of any regional dialect or conscious affectation but rather shorthand, again per stereotype, for being sloppy or uncultured. Maybe it’s been inconsistent over a longer period of time without my noticing.

    That next-issue box is actually better than the previous issue’s, but still definitely in need of discipline. I find it an interesting contrast to the Phalanx Covenant promo in the lettercol, whose text is definitely easier to read at a glance but which could’ve used a little more pizazz and dealt really poorly with all that red negative space.

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