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Thursday, June 21, 2018

X-amining X-Factor #103

"Friends and Family"
June 1994

In a Nutshell
Polaris joins Havok in Hawaii while Wolfsbane joins Strong Guy on a visit home.

Plot: DeMatteis/DeZago
Script: Todd DeZago
Penciler: Jan Duursema
Inker: Al Milgrom
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Hitching a ride with Random, Strong Guy & Wolfsbane arrive at the upstate New York home of Strong Guy's aunt & uncle. Meanwhile, Polaris joins Havok in Hawaii, though the the couple is being unknowingly watched by a Malice-possessed Beatrice Connors. Back in New York, Wolfsbane is charmed by Strong Guy's family, while Val Cooper testifies at the Pentagon that Madrox' death was caused by Haven, not the Legacy Virus. In Hawaii, Polaris helps Havok get over his guilt for Madrox' death, while in New York, Strong Guy & Wolfsbane explore the town, meeting people from Strong Guy's past. In Hawaii, Havok is confronted by Connors, while in New York, Wolfsbane suddenly senses that he's in trouble, but Strong Guy reminds her they are no longer psychically bonded. However, when Polaris approaches Havok, she is shocked to discover he has been taken over by Malice!

Firsts and Other Notables
This marks the beginning of Todd DeZago's short tenure as the scripter of the book. He will be onboard up to "Age of Apocalypse", working first off J.M. DeMatteis' plots and then John Francis Moore's (while handling both plotting & scripting duties on issue #107).

Val Cooper testifies at the Pentagon that Madrox died at Haven's hands, downplaying reports of his illness beforehand, in an effort to keep word of the Legacy Virus from leaking out  (ultimately, public knowledge of the virus will become one of the turns the plotline takes before moving more to the backburner of things).

Upon being possessed by Malice, Wolfsbane senses Havok's distress, despite, as Guido points out, the fact that Haven broke their psychic bond; I honestly don't recall if this goes anywhere (but suspect it doesn't, as Wolfsbane will soon be leaving the series for Excalibur).

I have no idea if The Body Thief is a real book (I mean, it's a generic enough title that I'm sure some book out there exists with it, but I can't recall a particularly notable example offhand), but that's what the Malice-possessed Beatrice Connors is seen reading on the beach, in a fun little sight gag.

A Work in Progress
In perhaps the most egregious example yet of shoehorning Random into a story, Strong Guy & Wolfsbane hitch a ride with him to visit Strong Guy's family after learning he was heading to Albany. This leads to a now-typical exchange in which Random gruffly rebukes the offer to stay with Guido's family for awhile, only to then depict him watching the scene with longing while standing out in the cold.

It's noted that X-Factor's uniforms, made of unstable molecules, protect the wearers against the cold (which has long been a staple of the Forge-made uniforms. Of course, Guido's arms are bare even while wearing his uniform, so you think he'd still be cold (ditto their heads, etc.).

Havok wonders if his guilt over Madrox' death is what Cyclop's felt after Thunderbird died.

Points to DeMatteis for remembering that, at one point in time, Havok & Polaris left the X-Men to study geology and were working in that field before getting sucked back into the life of the X-Men just prior to the Outback Era.

It's in the Mail
The upcoming "Life Signs" sub-crossover (within the larger "Phalanx Covenant" storyline) with X-Force & Excalibur is mentioned in the letters page.

Austin's Analysis
While this technically advances the Malice/"Attack on Polaris" plotline - with the Malice-possessed Beatrice Connors trailing her to Hawaii before possessing Havok in the issue-ending cliffhanger - it's really another quiet, character-centric issue. Polaris helps Havok get over the loss of Madrox, while Strong Guy and Wolfsbane visit Strong Guy's family. It's all the type of solid character work we've come to expect from DeMatteis (who continues to get great dividends from the Guido/Rahne pairing), but at the same time, it remains tough to get very excited about much of this. Much of DeMatteis' run has featured this kind of solid, dependable writing, backed by solid, dependable artwork, which is a benchmark far too few series were hitting at this time, but very little of it manages to break out of that average to become truly memorable or have much impact. For all that this era of comics led to extremes, either in terms of massive trainwrecks or surprise gems that managed to rise above the trends, X-Factor post-Peter David has managed to remain remarkably even-keeled and under the radar. Which is a shame, because DeMatteis & Duursema are doing some good work here. It's just that very little of it lingers, good or bad, past the reading of it.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine remembers a lost love in Wolverine #82. Next week, X-Men (vol. 2) #33 and X-Force #35.


  1. The Tale of the Body Thief is an actual book by Anne Rice, fourth in her Vampire Chronicles series started by The Interview With A Vampire, and the title on that book cover in the panel is a (kind of) direct lift from one version of the real life cover of the book:

    1. Ah, you're totally right about that! Tales of the Body Thief was (I think) first published around this time as well, so it would have been more in the zeitgeist. I bet they left off the "Tale of" for legal reasons.

      Dur. I really should have thought of that. Those books were still all the rage when I first started working at B.Dalton and I handled them constantly. I've even read INTERVIEW & LESTAT (never made it to BODY THIEF, though).

    2. Actually, this version has also the same image:

    3. I borrowed Vampire Lestat from my local library at my teens but couldn't get past halfway with it.

      The librarian messed with me when I checked it out because The Interview had been on the telly just the previous night and, well, she read me like an open book there.

    4. I read INTERVIEW (because of the movie...) and mostly enjoyed it. I managed to finish LESTAT, but it was...a slog to do so, which I probably why I never continued with the series.

    5. I’m sure fantasy and supernatural fiction is no less popular in the Marvel Universe, but perhaps using “real”-world knowledge (skewed or incomplete though it might be) as a springboard; anyway, I like the idea of a bestseller there that is based on an actual interview with a vampire.

    6. I am now imagining a livid Marvel Universe Anne Rice raging against the Montesi formula pulling the rug off from under her career in the early 80's by killing her sources.

  2. It just gets worse from there. Interview is easily the high point of Anne Rice's writing career, and very much worth a read. After that, the books get harder and harder to make it through. I read all of her original five Vampire books, because I was a fan, but looking back, it was all a waste of my time after Interview.

    Tale of the Body Thief spends a lot of pages with the main character complaining about how much it sucks to have a mortal human body.

    Sure, he's absolutely right, but it might have read as more interesting if Rice's core readership wasn't made up of Homo Sapiens, who probably already have some notion that our bodies can really be a pain quite a bit of the time.

  3. "Points to DeMatteis for remembering that, at one point in time, Havok & Polaris left the X-Men to study geology and were working in that field before getting sucked back into the life of the X-Men just prior to the Outback Era."

    Alex was studying geology, and Lorna was studying archeology. For what it's worth. :)


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