In a Nutshell
Val Cooper attempts to assemble a new, government-sponsored, X-Factor team.
Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Larry Stroman
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
In Washington, D.C., Lorna, Guido & Madrox are staying at a friend of Madrox's condo, having been asked to join a new iteration of X-Factor, and Lorna is anxious because her old boyfriend Havok is being targeted to lead the team. In Genosha, Val Cooper tracks down Alex, who is with Rahne as well, but he is reluctant to take the job. Meanwhile, Quicksilver arrives in Washington, seeking X-Factor, and disarms a bomb threatening a hotel before receiving directions to them. In Genosha, Alex & Rahne are visited by Cyclops & Professor X, who urge Alex to take the X-Factor job, saying it will be good for all mutants. However, Alex is most intrigued when he learns Lorna will be on the team. In D.C., Quicksilver collapses on Madrox's doorstep, and explains that he needs X-Factor's help: someone has turned his powers against him. Meanwhile, Alex, Rahne and Val fly back to the states, with Val briefing Alex on the team as they go. Back in D.C., Quicksilver explains that whomever is targeting him sent a threatening postcard with a D.C. postmark, so he came to the city and, having heard that X-Factor was being reformed, sought them out. Just then, Alex, Rahne and Val arrive, and Lorna and Alex reunite, much to Rahne's dismay. Later that night, someone knocks on Madrox's door, and when he answers it, he gets shot and blasted out the window.
Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the debut of the All New, All Different X-Factor, a team comprised of Havok, Polaris, Wolfsbane, Strong Guy, Madrox the Multiple Man and Quicksilver, assembled by Val Cooper, former liaison to Freedom Force to serve as that group's replacement as the government's public mutant response team (Val isn't technically considered a member of the team, but will be a starring character in the series for the duration of this iteration). Beyond the name and the vague notion that the original X-Factor was also something of a public, albeit not a government-backed, team, this iteration of the series has little in common with what's come before.
In particular, new writer Peter David (who came aboard as of last issue) will strike a much more humorous tone with this series, particularly via Strong Guy and Madrox. Like Excalibur, it won't be a straight comedy series, but it will be much lighter in tone than the other X-books.
With Whilce Portacio over on Uncanny X-Men, Larry Stroman steps in as the new series artist, sticking around through issue #81 (with a few fill-ins). Stroman got his start on Alien Legion, but never quite hit it big; after this run, he launched a series at Image and worked on a handful of other titles (and re-teamed with Peter David for a few issues of X-Factor not too long ago) but never really had a lengthy or established run on anything after this. His style is definitely different, featuring often-cartoony figure work with more Image-like big, wide panels and quirky layouts. He's not too far removed from the future Image guys on the other X-books, but also has shades of Mike Mignola and an almost-surrealistic look to his work.
The cast is an eclectic one, made up mostly of leftovers from other series. Both Havok and Polaris are former X-Men, but only Havok has ever had a lengthy stint with the team, and neither has been active of late. Wolfsbane gets ported over from New Mutants, after she was written out following "X-Tinction Agenda". Madrox appeared all the way back in the 70s and has existed mostly as a background fixture on Muir Island ever since (barring his appearance in the Fallen Angels miniseries), including most recently as one of "Muir Island X-Men" under the Shadow King's thrall. Guido (who hasn't yet taken the codename Strong Guy) was also briefly one of those thralls, and prior to that made brief appearances as Lila Cheney's bodyguard.
Guido and Madrox in particular are essentially blank slates, and David will quickly develop the pair into a sort of comedy duo, and both will remain fixtures of David's X-Factor work in the future, notably when he returns to relaunch the series in the 00s.
Quicksilver, who first appeared in X-Men #4, joined the Avengers, and went back and forth between being a hero and villain through the intervening years, comes to the series from a recent stint in Avengers West Coast. He is the one character not sought out by Val; he comes looking for the team because he'd heard they were forming, and needs help as someone is targeting him, causing his powers to age him prematurely.
Professor X and Cyclops appear briefly in this issue, helping convince Alex to lead the new X-Factor team. Cyclops is still wearing his yellow-and-blue X-Factor uniform, but Professor X is in his Jim Lee-designed gold hoverchair.
This issue rather randomly undoes a John Byrne retcon involving Lockjaw, the Inhumans' dog, in which Byrne revealed that Lockjaw was actually a (relatively) normal Inhuman who was transformed into a dog-like creature by the Terrigen Mists, as part of a story in which Quicksilver decides not to expose his human daughter to the mists. Here, David reveals that Lockjaw is in fact, a dog, and that the idea that Lockjaw is a transformed Inhuman was all part of joke played by Karnak and Gorgon on Thing. It seems highly unnecessary, but the re-retcon sticks, as Lockjaw has been considered a superpowered dog ever since.
Like every other one-time hot issue of this vintage, this issue received a second printing, with a gold background instead of red, but unlike the two X-Men titles (and X-Force) it doesn't get any 90s frills.
Similarly to how back issues of the original X-Factor were always cheaper than contemporaneous issues of X-Men (and Liefeld-drawn issues of New Mutants), as I started collecting back issues, I was able to fill-in this series much faster than the rest, and as such, read them a lot more. Though I had to settle for a second printing of this issue initially, as the first printing was outside my price range back then.
The Chronology Corner
A footnote tells us this story take place before X-Men (vol. 2) #1.
A Work in Progress
This issue introduces the term "blork", Guido's preferred pejorative noun throughout the early issues of the series.
At the start of this issue, Havok and Wolfsbane are still in Genosha, working to help rebuild the country after the events of "X-Tinction Agenda".
Though it goes unremarked upon, this issue represents the first time Professor X has been in Genosha, while Rahne's excitement at seeing him is understandable; this is the first time she's seen her old teacher since New Mutants #51.
The new X-Factor is likened to Delta Force.
The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
This issue opens with Guido asking for Grey Poupon mustard, which, I assure our younger readers, was very much a thing in the cultural zeitgeist at this time.
Guido refers to himself as being sensitive, aka a 90s guy.
Val Cooper says she has a brother who's an FBI agent, and mentions a case involving a girl wrapped in plastic; this is a reference to Twin Peaks, whose main character is FBI agent Dale Cooper.
Lorna is anxious about being reunited with Alex, with recent events having conspired to keep them apart (the last time they were together was circa Uncanny X-Men #219, before Polaris became possessed by Malice. Since then, she got captured and assaulted by Zaladane and possessed by the Shadow King, while Alex rejoined the X-Men, went through the Siege Perilous, and emerged a Genoshan magistrate).
Alex, meanwhile, is ultimately won over to the idea of leading X-Factor by the promise of being reunited with Polaris, while Rahne is presented as having a crush on Havok this issue; this marks the beginning of a rather creepy storyline in which its revealed that as part of the Mutate process she forcibly underwent in "X-Tinction Agenda", Rahne was bonded to Havok, such that she no longer has any control other her feelings towards him, which will continue to grow over time.
In discussing X-Factor, Havok worries that he'll be viewed as an "Uncle A-Tom-ic" for leading a government-sponsored mutant team; Xavier counters that having mutants in a high-profile public setting is a good thing.
Pun with Peter!
Peter David is a writer known for injecting humor, particularly puns, into his stories, and his X-Factor will be notable for its consistent use of humor and lighter tone (especially relative to the rest of the X-titles at this time). That's evident already in this issue, starting with Lorna and Guido attaching "it is" to the ends of their names after introducing themselves.
When Lorna expresses anxiety about being on a team with Havok after everything they've been through, Guido nonchalantly asks she wants him to hose them down. I found it legitimately laugh-out-loud funny.
There's also a running gag involving a jar of mayonnaise that nobody can open, until Val raps it on the counter a couple times and it pops open. In the end, it turns out to have been created by Madrox, and designed to only be opened by remote control (which is actually a pretty astonishing feat of engineering).
Around this time, the Bullpen Bulletins page started to feature a Cool-O-Meter, in which current pop culture things would be ranked based on how cool they are. It makes for a fantastic snapshot of the times.
This month's column also features a rundown of recent staff changes at Marvel; notable mentions include Mark Powers, who will go on to be the X-Men group editor in the early 00s, and Tom Brevoort, who is still at Marvel today as an Executive Editor and the Senior VP of Publishing.
It's in the Mail
This issue gets a two-page letter column, featuring mostly letters about the conclusion to the Apocalypse story and praising Whilce Portacio's art (sad trombone).
At the time of its publication, the "All New, All Different X-Facto"r was viewed by many fans as the least of the four core X-Men titles. While Larry Stroman certainly brought a different level of energy to the series, his art is much quirkier than that of Lee, Portacio, Liefeld and Silvestri (over on Wolverine), and this is an era driven by the books' artists. With the former leads of X-Factor absorbed back into the X-Men (the better to fill out the rosters of two X-Men titles), Peter David is left to assemble a team from the leftover scraps of the X-Men universe (Wolverine or Gambit, Madrox the Multiple Man is not). And while it's not quite an out-and-out comedy book, Peter David's X-Factor is definitely lighter in tone and more tongue-in-cheek than the kind of teeth-clenchingly gritty, self-consciously serious fare featured in the other three books. However, of all the titles from this era, X-Factor is probably the one that has aged the best, that is the best well-regarded by fans today, and it's easy to see why.
Shed of the proto-Image trappings of the other books, and with a cast of characters that pretty much all fall on a range from "underused" to "blank slate", David and Stroman put the focus on characterization. Where Uncanny X-Men's Gold team just appears on the page, one issue after not existing, without explanation, this entire issue is dedicated to assembling the book's roster. They don't even have costumes yet; Guido remains without a codename. No villain (outside of the mysterious stranger who shoots Jamie in the closing pages) even appears in these pages, and in general, David's run on this series will be notable for not dealing much with super-villains at a time when so many other series were building entire story arcs around them. What matters here are the characters: why they're a part of this team, how they relate to each other. That focus on characterization is why it holds up so well today, and why it struggled in comparison to the tastes of the market at the time of its initial publication.
Next week: the best-selling comic book of all time, X-Men (vol. 2) #1, Alan Davis returns in Excalibur #42, and, uh, Wolverine wolverines in Wolverine #46.