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Thursday, December 6, 2018

X-amining X-Factor #108

"Promised Vengeance"
November 1994

In a Nutshell
X-Factor hunts Mystique who is hunting Legion.

Plot: John Francis Moore
Script: Todd DeZago
Pencils: Jan Duursema
Inks: Al Milgrom
Letters: Starkings/Comicraft
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Forge revisits the events of Mystique's apparent death with Rogue & Nightcrawler, suspecting she may have survived. His suspicions prove correct when Nick Fury shows Forge & Val Cooper footage of Mystique posing as a secretary at the Israeli embassy, in order to obtain a visa for Avalanche & gain info on Gabrielle Haller. After Havok & Strong Guy fail to capture Avalanche, X-Factor realizes Mystique is targeting Haller's son, Legion, to make him pay for killing Destiny. X-Factor travels to Te Aviv & confers with Haller at the hospital where the comatose Legion is being treated. As they hunt for Mystique, Mystique poses as Haller and prepares to inject Legion with a lethal drug via syringe. But the real Haller enters the room, and begs Mystique to spare her son. Shortly thereafter, X-Factor also arrives, triggering a standoff which ends when the syringe is telekintically suddenly flung from Mystique's hand by a now-conscious Legion.

Firsts and Other Notables
Legion, the son of Professor X & Gabrielle Haller, last seen in issue #70, after serving as a host for the Shadow King during the "Muir Island Saga" (which resulted in him being comatose), returns this issue. Having been cared for in a hospital in Israel, he wakes up just as Mystique is about to kill him. This in turn sets the X-books on the road towards "Age of Apocalypse", as the newly-conscious Legion, in the course of the "Legion Quest" story, will attempt to rewrite reality by killing Magneto in the past, in the process inadvertently creating the "Age of Apocalypse" reality.

With Legion poised to have his profile raised significantly across the X-line over the next few months, this issue provides a handy recap of his history.

X-Men 2099 scribe John Francis Moore joins the series as the book's new regular writer (here just plotting while DeZago continues to script); he'll remain on the book through "Age of Apocalypse", then depart shortly thereafter.

The Chronology Corner
Rogue appears here following "Phalanx Covenant" and before X-Men #38; Nightcrawler, after Excalibur Annual #2, but before Excalibur #83.

A Work in Progress
Rogue & Nightcrawler are on hand to help Forge revisit the circumstances of Mystique’s apparent death.

It’s said that the events of X-Men Unlimited #4 happened a three weeks ago, which, in the sliding timeline, probably means it happened earlier in the day.

We’re reminded that in her earliest appearances, Val was friends with Mystique in her Raven Darkholme identity.

Val immediately recognizes “Jon Bloom” as one of Avalanche’s aliases, though I don’t think we’ve ever seen it used before.

Mystique claims she would have killed Legion for killing Destiny a long time ago, if it hadn’t been contrary to her plans, which seems like a vague explanation (at best), for why she’s only going after him now (instead of at some point more immediately after the "Muir Island Saga".

It’s revealed here that Blob’s foiled hijacking in the previous issue was setup to be a distraction for X-Factor.

Austin's Analysis
Just one month after the completion of one line-wide crossover, this issue kicks off a storyline that sets up the next one, a scant few months away (for all the talk of event fatigue in modern Marvel, it's hardly a recent phenomenon...). But even without knowing what's coming, it's a strong issue, as the Russian nesting doll of plot, in which X-Factor is hunting Mystique who is hunting Legion generates a lot of tension (and, of course, Mystique's particular power set works really well in these kinds of stories to that end as well), which is beautifully heightened even further when Legion - established earlier in the issue as a true wild card and mega-power threat - wakes up at the end of the issue, to leave us hanging from a cliff. Moore & DeZago also make good use of the characters' histories, not just in the direct "Mystique wants to avenge Destiny's death", but also Mystique's brief insanity period that led to Forge leaving the X-Men, and the shared past between Val, Mystique-as-Raven, and Forge, when all three were working for the government. So even as this technically starts the X-books on the road to their next big event, there's plenty to enjoy independent of that.

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  1. "It’s said that the events of X-Men Unlimited #4 happened a three weeks ago, which, in the sliding timeline, probably means it happened earlier in the day."

    In terms of the publication of these comics, however, that actually works... surprisingly well! You reviewed X-MEN #30 (the wedding issue) and UNLIMITED #4 within about a week of each other, meaning they were on sale right around the same time -- and in UNCANNY 316, Banshee mentions Scott and Jean have been honeymooning for two weeks. "Phalanx Covenant" probably only took place over a few days at most, so calling this three weeks since the wedding is just about perfect.

  2. I think this is when I started picking up X-Factor regularly. As soon as I saw this cover -- still one of my all-time favorites for X-Factor! -- several panels from inside the issue popped into my head, including that scene where Legion wakes up.

    This one hits me hard right in the nostalgia feels.

  3. Ha, nostalgia hits me differently because of my UXM #199 introduction to the X-Men, which was the issue where Mystique broke and entered into Val's apartment to bargain for her Freedom Force initiative. (The post-#70) X-FACTOR is exactly the right book for this stuff.

    Val tells her relationship with Mystique soured after she learned "Raven" had made a fool out of Val. I wonder when this happened because Claremont never addressed this matter.

    I'll just headcanon it to Mystique having boasted about it off-panel to Shadow King -controlled Val when she failed to kill Mystique.

    It's kind of funny that Mystique starts here to bring the crystal dream of Destiny into reality.


    1. // I wonder when this happened because Claremont never addressed this matter. //

      I was going to ask if I’d missed that, since whether and when Mystique was exposed as Raven Darkholme to Val or anyone else at the DOD has bugged me to the extent that I’ve periodically asked about it before; I didn’t because it turns out that nearly all the stuff that I feel doesn’t quite add up, but that I write off as potentially me having missed something due to not being familiar with this era of the X-titles, almost invariably gets mentioned by Teebore as, indeed, not quite adding up.


  4. That nicely drawn cover from Steve Epting is mucked up by the color modeling, on Mystique’s face in particular. And while I really like the general trade-dress placement, the way the X in the box under the logo isn’t quite aligned with the one in the logo seriously bugs me. Sigh.

    // Forge revisits the events of Mystique's apparent death with Rogue & Nightcrawler //

    Via a device he worked up to display Rogue’s memories — “Y’all just saw it with mah own eyes” is a good line. We’ve come across tech like that in comics universes before but such an impressive display of Forge’s power at the outset can’t help invite the question of why he doesn’t have a gizmo to detect Mystique in whatever form she takes.

    Mystique obviously could have survived, never mind that we find out she did for sure in this very issue, and Rogue’s insistence that she’d clearly be a goner when there was no tangible proof was not sufficiently written around. How much of a shapeshifter is Mystique, anyway? Is she limited to a humanoid form? Could she have turned into either a mundane animal or a known alien or metahuman whose abilities would allow her to fly away or withstand the impact with the water and survive while submerged?

    // Havok & Strong Guy fail to capture Avalanche //

    They comment on how lame it was, yeah, but if your heroes are lying in wait for someone whose power set they’re familiar with then even if you allow for them giving that someone a chance to talk it out first they’d better not be shown up like chumps or it’s just bad writing.

    // which, in the sliding timeline, probably means it happened earlier in the day //



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