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Thursday, October 19, 2017

X-amining X-Factor #94

"Evening Where: The Longest Day Part II"
September 1993

In a Nutshell
Havok & Polaris go on a date while Wolfsbane arrives on Muir Island.

Plot: Scott Lobdell
Script: J.M. DeMatteis
Penciler: Paul Ryan
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Lorna and a distracted Alex are on a dinner date, but their presence offends a nearby diner. Meanwhile, Guido accompanies Rahne to Muir Island, and Rahne tells Guido she knows he's more sensitive than he lets on. At X-Factor headquarters, a sculpting Quicksilver is interrupted by one of Madrox' dupes, hoping to escape Madrox' morose mood. Back at the restaurant, Lorna confronts the bigoted customer, much to the pleasure of a figure watching from the shadows, leading to a brawl in the restaurant among the customers. On Muir Island, Rahne fully reverts to her human form, becoming a mindless mutate, and is carried away by the scientists there. At the Pentagon, Forge deals with the situation caused by Lorna, then returns to his briefing with Val. Across town, Lorna is released from jail, and gives a brief statement condemning bigotry and declaring that mutants are a part of the world, and everyone had better get used to it. She is watched once again from the shadows by Random, who laments having to kill her.

Firsts and Other Notables
Random returns, and is revealed to have been hired by someone to kill Polaris, setting up next issue's main plotline. He also makes an offhand comment about being in love with her; his unrequited love for her will be something of a thing moving forward.

Forge tells Val that he has a feeling things are about to get much worse for mutants; while he's not wrong, this seems to be more an attempt to build a general aura of suspense and foreboding than an attempt to foreshadow a specific upcoming plotline.

This issue is set after Illyana's funeral and thus after Uncanny X-Men #304.

A Work in Progress
As Alex spends his dinner date angsting about Rahne, Lorna jokes that she didn't realize she was on a date with his brother.

Alex & Lorna are recognized in public, and Lorna notes that they are amongst the most famous mutants as a result of being a publically-operating mutant team.

X-Factor's jet apparently comes equipped with a smaller, portable Danger Room.

Quicksilver has taken up sculpting, a hobby recommended to him by Doc Samson as a way to force himself to slow down.

Madrox is seen to be even more withdrawn and depressed.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
A reporter at Polaris' press conference mentions Senator Dole.

Strong Guy hangs a lampshade on 90s grim 'n' grittiness.

Young Love
Quicksilver laments that he seems to torpedo any effort to reconcile with his wife.

Human/Mutant Relations
The Havok/Polaris plot in this issue centers around the pair confronting a bigot at the restaurant where they're dining.

This leads to everyone in the restaurant weighing in, with one patron calling another a racist when he speaks out against mutants.

Which in turn leads to a full blown brawl.

In the wake of that, Polaris gives a speech speaking out against bigotry and essentially giving a mutant version of "we're here, we're queer, deal with it".

Austin's Analysis
Lobdell & DeMatteis continue their more measured, character-driven approach with another issue featuring nary a fight scene (outside of a training sequence and a restaurant brawl). The central plot, if there is one, involves Havok & Polaris going on a date and confronting bigotry, and everyone else, from Wolfsbane & Strong Guy to Quicksilver & Morose Madrox, spends the issue doing some form of soul-searching and self-examination. Again, this doesn't feel entirely out of place for this iteration of the series, even after two consecutive "quiet" issues: the series was always less concerned with big action spectacle and more with characterization under Peter David. But while DeMatteis has a penchant for the psychological (which is on full display here), David leaned more towards comedy. As a result, what was once one of the more humorous (or least smirk-worthy) of the X-books has become increasingly grim. Granted, some of that is circumstances of plot moreso than change of writer, as the angsty grimness that has long-defined the X-Men is spreading throughout the franchise via "Fatal Attractions" and ancillary events (it's understandable if X-Factor is less quippy than usual in the face of a young girl's death at the hands of an uncurable mounting plague targeting their species), but it nevertheless puts the series at this point in stark contrast to the earlier Peter David days, even while it remains much more character focused than its companion series. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine fights the Sentinels in Wolverine #73. Next week, X-Men #24 and X-Force #26.


  1. Is Forge a sneaky favorite Lobdell character? He went through the trouble of writing him out/nuking the Storm relationship as a deck-clearing exercise, but pretty much brought him back as a supporting character at the first opportunity. Forge is around for UNX #299-302, which is more exposure than is really needed to set up his new role in this book. Gets a lot of shine in that Fitzroy story too. In any case, I do like the way that was handled: easing the character back into circulation rather than having him just randomly pop in as X-Factor's new government liaison.

    It's too bad this book is entering the doldrums. I've already lamented how DeMatteis doesn't get a proper crack at the series since he is such a logical replacement for PAD. He's already pretty much got the voice of these characters down and a tone that's balanced between lighthearted and maudlin. I would concur that PAD's hyperactive slapstick (with occasional digressions into gallows humor), while a welcome change of pace, probably had a limited shelf life. Can you imagine if he'd stuck it out and plowed ahead through all the editorial remits? PAD would've either had to adjust his writing style accordingly, or churned out scripts painfully at odds with the overall direction of the line. Looking back, jumping ship when he did was probably for the best (at the risk of offering a hot take).

    1. Always thought it was so weird that they brought in the only guy who could've replicated David's brand of humorous yet serious superhero stories-hell, you likely couldn't have HAD a Peter David without the Giffen/DeMatteis JLA-and then did so little with him. When the entire X-line was being largely set to melodrama, and any odd edges, like Excalibur, being filed off and turned into part of the X-Machine. I stopped reading, I think, after the next issue because it just felt like a waste of my time. Could just read Uncanny and X-Men and maybe X-Force if they were going to make all the books alike.

  2. Is it explained how Quicksilver is such a good sculptor out of nowhere?? I think it would've been much more realistic (and really funny) to see him being all melodramatic about Crystal while staring at a vaguely human-looking blob of clay with a crude smiley face.

    In other news, I've always thought Paul Ryan was kind of an underrated artist. You never see him mentioned with the bigger stars of the 80s/90s, but he had a great handle on nearly every character he drew. In particular, if you're into John Byrne, Ryan nailed the Byrne-style Fantastic Four during his run on that series with Tom Defalco.

    1. Quicksilver being a shitty sculptor is a funny visual and would be right in line with this book's (declining) sense of humor.

      And yeah, Paul Ryan is a welcome reprieve from the typical fill-in artists the X-office would tap at this time. Just a solid draftsman, and one who adapted his style to the '90s smoother than others and without making too many compromises. I think he gets overlooked because he spent SO long on the DeFalco FF, which is either derided or forgotten these days, depending on who you're talking to. But prior to that, he had Squadron Supreme to his name, which is one of my all-time favorites. Probably not at the top of anyone's list, but he's a rare blend of quality and dependability, with a resume spanning a little bit of everything.


  3. // Lorna confronts the bigoted customer, much to the pleasure of a figure watching from the shadows, leading to a brawl in the restaurant among the customers. //

    I couldn’t help but wonder if there was still a bit of Malice left in Lorna after the way that restaurant melee broke out. Not that the sentiments weren’t genuine — without any outside superhuman force amplifying them, even — just that the way it escalated to a physical fight felt suspiciously fast and furious.

    // On Muir Island, Rahne fully reverts to her human form, becoming a mindless mutate, and is carried away by the scientists there. //

    We don’t see Moira with the crew there, and while that fits nicely with her showing up in X-Men at this time if they’re supposed to be roughly contemporaneous it’s hard to believe that even the importance of the Legacy Virus would take her away from her own research facility right when her foster daughter arrives for not just life-changing but potentially life-ending treatment.

    // Lorna is released from jail, and gives a brief statement condemning bigotry //

    Her dialogue in the first panel could literally be ripped from today’s headlines.

    // X-Factor's jet apparently comes equipped with a smaller, portable Danger Room. //

    Yeah, no.

    // DeMatteis has a penchant for the psychological //

    That’s absolutely true but the issue reads to me like DeMatteis is actually trying to mimic Peter David’s voice. Which is pretty odd since, as folks have been pointing out, David’s X-Factor read very much — fairly to David or not, given his natural inclination towards that kind of banter and punnery — like Marvel’s version of Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League. Then again I suppose it’s worth noting that we don’t know exactly how removed DeMatteis’ scripting was from Scott Lobdell’s plotting, and that could, uh, factor into things.


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