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Thursday, December 5, 2019

X-amining X-Factor #114

"That Certain Mystique"
September 1995

In a Nutshell
X-Factor grapples with the recent changes on their team as Mystique officially joins.

Writer: John Francis Moore
Penciler: Steve Epting
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Forge & Val Cooper test the limits of Mystique's new power inhibitor; satisfied it will keep her under control, she is told she will work for X-Factor, or go to jail. Elsewhere, Fatale checks in with her mysterious boss, while Havok & Polaris pack up X-Factor's brownstone headquarters. Forge checks in, and Havok, upset over the loss of control of his powers, lashes out at Forge for bringing Mystique & Wild Child onto the team without consulting him, then storms out. He visits Strong Guy, who is recuperating in a medically-induced coma. Later, Wild Child tries to talk to Val Cooper about Alpha Flight, but she blows him off, while Mystique meets with Forge, interrupting a holographic trip down memory lane involving his Vietname experiences. She says she can tell something more than X-Factor is bothering him; he denies it. But Mystique is not deterred, and insists she'll find out what the's hiding sooner rather than later.

Firsts and Other Notables
Mystique, who's been a regular presence in the series since issue #108 (and was, of course, the leader of Freedom Force, X-Factor's predecessor in the "government-employed team of mutants" game), formally joins the team as of this issue, the result of "keep your enemies close" strategy employed by Forge & Val Cooper and enforced thanks to a nanite inhibitor which prevents Mystique from transforming into specific people (members of X-Factor, the X-Men, etc.) for more than 30 seconds without experiencing excruciating pain. She will remain part of the series nearly until its cancellation with issue #149.

Remember Strong Guy? The series finally does, as we learn he’s alive but basically in a medically-induced coma to allow his strained heart time to heal.

Wolfsbane’s absence is noted as well, and she’s said to be on Muir Island with Moira.

Fatale is briefly seen checking in with her new mysterious boss, with more hints it's Dark Beast and he's locked into some kind of chess match with Sugar Man. It's also implied that Dark Beast created Fatale somehow.

X-Factor begins the process of moving out of their Washington DC brownstone headquarters and into a new facility, which will debut next issue.

Forge holographically revisits his time in Vietnam, and Mystique can tell something is bothering him beyond X-Factor business, all of which is setup for the return of the Adversary in the series' next big storyline.

This is John Francis Moore's last issue as series writer (something he did solo only for Factor X and the two previous issues). This isn't his last work for the X-office (he'll return for a lengthy run on X-Force following Jeph Loeb, and is also writing X-Men 2099) and I have no idea of he left on his own or was forced out. He does setup the upcoming return of the Adversary on his way out; similarly, I don't know if he did that as a favor to incoming writer Howard Mackie, or if Mackie decided to continue Moore's plotline upon taking over the series.

It's also technically Steve Eptings first issue as the regular artist, though he officially came aboard with Factor X.

A Work in Progress
The workings of Mystique’s nanite inhibitor get laid out in detail.

Mystique’s mysterious assailant from X-Men Prime is referenced.

Mystique’s past with both Val Cooper & Forge is also referenced.

At one point, Havok says it seems like the world broke into pieces and was put back together, but that he no longer fits, which is a winking description of what happened in "Legion Quest" and "Age of Apocalypse".

Young Love
It’s implied that Wild Child has a thing for Val Cooper (something that will come into play in the future and which Mystique immediately picks up on).

Human/Mutant Relations
Forge says that human/mutant relations are at a crossroads, necessitating the need to keep the out-of-control Alex out of the spotlight (it’s also cited as the rationale for changing headquarters).

Austin's Analysis
With the series' return from "Age of Apocalypse" happening mostly in media res, this is the first issue of the series since AoA to really take a step back and grapple with the changes depicted in those first two issues, and help smooth over the transition from the pre-AoA setup to the new one (in that regard, X-Factor has been kind of the opposite of Uncanny X-Men, which returned with a pair of table-setting quiet issues then did an action-focused one this month). So here we finally get an update on Strong Guy's status, resolving the series' reality-ending "Legion Quest" cliffhanger, acknowledgement of Wolfsbane's absence (setting up her move to Excalibur), and an opportunity for Havok to react to his new/old status quo of being unable to control his powers (and do something other than act as a functional MacGuffin). It also spends a fair amount of time integrating Mystique (and, to a lesser extent, Wild Child) into the team, making clear that despite her continued presence in the series for roughly the last six (non-AoA) months, she is now officially part of the book's regular cast and, curiously (considering this is John Francis Moore's last issue), setting up the book's next big story arc. The series post-AoA status quo was jarring, and while that was likely an intentional choice, its nevertheless appreciated to finally have an issue like this, to let the characters - and readers - take stock of those changes and catch their breaths.

Next Issue
Tomorrow. X-Man #7. Next week, Wolverine '95!

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1 comment:

  1. Too bad JFM left after this issue. Unlike the last 2 issues, I felt like things just "clicked" here, and it set up quite a bit for potential for his future issues.

    Sadly, we never get to see any of that, as what follows next is Mackie's run, which is rather horrible. At least part of it has some good Epting art, but I always wondered how different things would have been for this title had JFM stayed.


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