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Thursday, April 23, 2020

X-amining X-Factor #117

"Adversaries...Old and New"
December 1995

In a Nutshell
Dark Beast lures out Havok

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

Plot
In India, Haven struggles with the imminent birth of her child. She is confronted by Roma, and begs her help. But Roma tells her there is nothing she can do to stop the rebirth of the Adversary. Meanwhile, X-Factor is awoken by an attacking Sentinel, which turns out to be a test of their teamwork abilities overseen by Forge & Val Cooper. It ends when Havok uses his power to destroy the robot. They are watched by Random, transmitting what he sees back to Dark Beast & Fatale, but refuses to move in on Havok as ordered while the rest of the team is around. During the fight with the Sentinel, Wild Child gets knocked into Forge's lab, where he encounters the holographic Shard and is immediately smitten. Later, Mystique pulls Forge out of the team debrief and confronts him about his mood lately. He admits he's worried about the return of the Adversary, but insists he's dead, just like his mentor, Naze. However, a very much alive Naze wearily drives through the desert, knowing he must fight on. Back at Falls Edge, Havok receives a letter from someone claiming to be Scarlet, wanting to meet him at a nearby abandoned coal plant. He goes off alone, knowing full well the letter isn't from Scarlet, and finds Random waiting for him, ready to attack. Meanwhile, Roma meets Naze in the desert and notifies him that Haven has died, and the Adversary has returned!

Firsts and Other Notables
The Adversary - the villain of the Uncanny X-Men chapters of "Fall of the Mutants", whom the X-Men technically died to defeat (Omniversal guardian and daughter of Merlin Roma brought them back shortly thereafter) - returns, off-panel, this issue, further setting up a storyline in which Forge will team-up with Naze and Roma to once battle the ancestral foe of his American Indian people.

He returns via Haven, the central villain of the story which ran through issues #96-100 in which she attempted to bring about a prophesied cataclysm to the betterment of the survivors. In X-Factor Annual #9, its revealed that Haven is not a mutant; rather, the sentient fetus she carries inside her is. This story reveals that her child is, in fact, the Adversary, using her as a means to be reborn following his "death" in "Fall of the Mutants". This is the final appearance of Haven to date, as she dies giving birth to her child/the Adversary, off-panel (this information is conveyed via Roma to Naze).


Roma, another key player in "Fall of the Mutants" (and later in Excalibur), returns this issue, making her first appearance since Excalibur #65. She'll stick around for the duration of this "Adversary Redux" storyline.

The series' (and the X-books as a whole) efforts to tap into the popularity of "Age of Apocalypse" by reminding readers about it in as many ways as possible continues in a few ways here. The "prelate rising" comment on the cover (and the larger "make Havok more angsty" plotline - which shortly leads to a complete heel-turn for the character) is meant to cast the prime Havok in the light of his AoA counterpart, while Dark Beast from the "Age of Apocalypse" itself continues to hang around as an antagonist. Meanwhile, Sabretooth's past relationship with Mystique is recalled here, setting up his stint with the team, set to begin soon, thereby recreating, after a fashion, the Sabretooth/Wild Child pairing (a setup one of the letter writers in this issue's letter column calls out, lamenting the imminent arrival of Sabretooth).


Wild Child runs into the Shard hologram this issue, their first meeting, the beginning of one of the X-books oddest romantic subplots.


A Work in Progress
Both Forge & Dark Beast are impressed by Havok's power level (in a series of mirrored panels, which I guess makes Fatale Dark Beast's Val Cooper?).


When Forge mentions his fear that the Adversary is back, Mystique starts to say "but you killed him" before Forge cuts her off, sarcasically complimenting her on reading his personal data files. Except, Mystique was there when he killed the Adversary. She got super pissed with him afterwards because he had to seemingly kill the X-Men (including Rogue) to do so. It was a whole thing with them for awhile.


Havok rightly spots the note from "Scarlet" as a fake, insisting the real one is dead, and Fatale turns out to be the author of this one (though what Havok's insistence means for the Scarlet who appeared in issues #112-113 is unclear).


Fatale, working at Dark Beast's side, notes that if she had known he wanted Havok so badly, she'd have just teleported him to Dark Beast when she had him as a captive in issue #113, thereby lampshading the plot hole without really doing anything to plug it. 


Random is very worried about making sure the rest of X-Factor - especially Polaris - won’t come to Havok’s aid when Random attacks.


Austin's Analysis
This is, in a lot of ways, a quintessential Howard Mackie comic: a few ongoing plotlines get advanced (Dark Beast's efforts to "control" Havok, the whole Forge/Naze/Adversary stuff), there's a token action scene to meet the conventions of the genre, everyone more or less sounds the same in terms of dialogue. It's not bad, but not particularly notable, either. "Workmanlike" is a good word for it (of course, the biggest problem with Mackie is that "workmanlike" is his ceiling, as we'll see). Both of the ongoing plotlines advanced here won't necessarily end up in great places, and while Haven was hardly a character many fans were clamoring for more from, she was a driving force in the series for a good chunk of issues and played a role in the death of one this iteration of the team's founding members, so having her whole deal get absorbed into an entirely different story before getting killed off-panel is something of an ignoble end for the character, regardless. But, future implications aside, this issue does what it needs to do, even as it's largely unremarkable in doing so.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, X-Man meets Professor X in X-Man #10. Next week, X-Men (vol. 2) #47 and X-Force #49!

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2 comments:

  1. For the longest time I figured my first post here would be to do with something Onslaught related (dont judge me, but i kinda love it) but im breaking my duck just to say how much I love Epting's work on this book. I was 12 when this came out and a complete Kubert/Joe Mad mark, but Epting had an 'edge' to his work which suited this book and made it feel different to the 2 main X-books.

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  2. As one of the many young readers at this time who was obsessed with the AOA, the only thing that I can recall about this issue in hindsight is how disappointed I was by the inside after the "prelate" tease on the cover. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this.

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