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Thursday, March 19, 2020

X-amining X-Factor #116

"Home Comings"
November 1995

In a Nutshell
Wild Child faces his past in Aurora & Alpha Flight!

Writer: Howard Mackie
Penciler: Steve Epting
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Separations: Malibu's Hues
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Plot
At Department H headquarters in Canada, Northstar & Puck discover Aurora, their former Alpha Flight teammate & Northstar's sister, is missing. Northstar suspects she's gone after her former lover, Wild Child. Later, Wild Child is dirt biking outside of X-Factor's Falls Edge base when he's attacked by Aurora, who is angry at him for leaving her. Meanwhile, Val & Mystique are meeting with Forge, but they are interrupted by a hologram of Bishop's sister, Shard, whose projector Forge is repairing as a favor. Just then, they are alerted to the Wild Child/Aurora fight, and join Havok & Polaris outside, along with the newly-arrived Puck & Northstar. Elsewhere, Dark Beast monitors Random's progress as he drives towards Falls Edge, on a mission to carry out Dark Beast's plan against Havok. At Fall's Edge, Wild Child explains to a furious Aurora how, once his mutation evolved further and made him more unattractive, he didn't think he was good enough for her. Aurora declares that if she can't have him, no one can, and tries to kill him. Meanwhile, Random arrives at Fall's Edge, torn between his feelings for Polaris and his desire for Dark Beast to make him whole again. Elsewhere, Mystique tries to distract Aurora by shifting into Wild Child's former, handsome, form, but Wild Child objects to this tactic & exposes the ruse, saying simply that he and Aurora need to move on with their lives. Aurora then passes out, having overextended her powers. Puck & Northstar gather her up and Northstar warns Wild Child to stay away from his sister.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue lays out the circumstances which led to Wild Child coming to X-Factor, establishing that he was in a relationship with Aurora but that when his mutation led him to physically devolve in appearance (thereby explaining the change in his appearance here relative to his latter Alpha Flight appearances), he felt he was no longer worthy of her, jumping at the chance to help out X-Factor when they came calling for help prior to issue #112 in order to put some distance between (while not bothering to, you know, say goodbye or explain why he was leaving).


Alpha Flight the series was cancelled with issue #130 (circa issue #100 of this series), with the group disbanding in that issue, but some of its members remained at Department H in an advisory capacity, which is why Northstar & Puck are around to go after Aurora in this issue (and all this Aurora/Wild Child relationship stuff is being established here, and happened off-panel between the end of that series and this issue).

The Shard era of this book begins this issue, as the holographic recreation of Bishop’s sister, introduced in his inaugural miniseries, returns, thanks to Forge trying to repair the emitter on Bishop’s behalf. Somewhat inexplicably, the sentient holographic representation of the one of the X-Men’s sister from the future will become a regular fixture in this book more or less until it’s cancellation.


A response to a letter in this issue clarifies that Dark Beast didn't create the Morlocks, he simply performed experiments on the existing Morlocks who had already gathered in the tunnels when he arrived in this universe, and those experimentation, for whatever reason, earned him the sobriquet "First One". All of which is A. a pretty hamfisted & dubious but appreciated means of retconning the retcon that Dark Beast "created" the Morlocks and B. An odd thing to have established in the letter column of a second-tier (at best) title.

A Work in Progress
Wild Child notes that Aurora’s power usually isn’t kinetic in nature (which could very well be the script trying to cover for the art by acknowledging the discrepancy).


Val Cooper is wearing a kind of superhero jumpsuit, complete with random 90s pouches, this issue.


We get the closest thing to a team shot of the current roster for the first time post-AoA this issue.


Random notes his 90s tough guy appearance isn’t his true form.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
The letter column masthead is now featuring a 90s-riffic CGI look.


Austin's Analysis
Amongst the various somewhat-jarring shifts this series has taken since its return from "Age of Apocalypse", the sudden appearance of Wild Child in the book was one of the more seemingly-random. Even by Alpha Flight standards, the character is second or third-string at best, and his in-universe presence was waved away as a desire to help find Havok (a character with whom, like the rest of the cast, he'd never really shared much on-panel time with in his limited history), a desire which happened off-panel and was revealed via exposition. This issue, then, attempts to flesh some of that out and at least provide an explanation for why Wild Child was willing to abandon Alpha Flight/Aurora to help X-Factor in the first place, and while he has since hung around with the group.

While everything reveled here at least provides an explanation for why the character is here (and sets him up in the misanthropic "my powers are a curse!" role), it still doesn't really establish where he fits within the context of the series (especially since Havok - for now, at least - is already back to cursing his powers and their impact on his life). It also doesn't help that, all other problematic elements of it aside, the whole "I'm too ugly to love you!" notion isn't really helped by the art (which is otherwise far and away the series' strength at this point), which struggles to sell the notion that Wild Child is anything other than a dude with long hair and the occasional awkward grimace (comics in general often have a hard time depicting "ugly" in anything less than the most-exaggerated way possible). All in all, the focus on Wild Child is both necessary & appreciated, even if it is more focused on why Wild Child came to the series prior to this issue, rather than suggesting any reason why he's there now - and for the foreseeable future - aside from the general out-of-universe notion that "hey, people seemed to like the Sabretooth/Wild Child pairing in "Age of Apocalypse", let's bring the "real" Wild Child into an X-book!".

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Dark Beast battles Nate Grey in X-Man #9. Next week, X-Men (vol. 2) #46 and X-Force #48!

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4 comments:

  1. ooOoOOo, what would Romulus have to say about WCs esteem issues?

    having barely read/remembered this series - I'm somehow starting to think it would make the best adaptation from this era - if they kept it campy. it's got soap opera bones. did the book ever grasp that though?

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  2. I know barely anything about Wild Child (except for his John Byrne’s Alpha Flight appearances, AoA event and the X-Factor issues), which is why I have a few questions:
    1) Wasn’t he always ugly? I distinctively recall John Byrne introducing him as ugly, back when he was a member of the Beta or Omega Flight.
    2) Wasn’t he evil? I though he was among the traitors who attacked and caused the death of Vindicator in the John Byrne’s era.

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    Replies
    1. He was always ugly until late in Alpha Flight's run when he took a swim and was reintroduced as the mystery character Weapon Omega.
      I believe that Byrne wrote that Omega Flight were under some sort of mental influence causing their betrayal.

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  3. Shard never made sense to me. Even back then, when I ate up everything the X-books were serving, I didn't get her. Forge is brilliant, but how does he create a hologram with Shard's memories and personality? It's stupid.

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