In a Nutshell
X-Factor battles the Adversary, and loses.
Writer: Howard Mackie
Guest Penciler: Mark D. Bright
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras
With the Adversary's attack imminent, Forge hands out new weapons to X-Factor, designed to counter the Adversary's magical abilities, despite Roma insisting that technology cannot defeat the Adversary. Watching from afar, the Adversary decides to hide himself within Mystique. Meanwhile, Val Cooper receives a demonstration of the new shock collar designed to help control Sabretooth, and is shocked to learn that once the device is calibrated, Sabretooth is going to join X-Factor. Back at Falls Edge, Naze suddenly appears before Forge, but he realizes it is just a shapeshifted Mystique. She proceeds to taunt Forge - transforming into one of his old army peers and Storm - before the Adversary steps out of her body. X-Factor attacks him, but the Adversary is unaffected by their weapons. He captures Roma, and reduces X-Factor to ashes, save for Forge, whose cybernetic hand and leg he destroys before departing with the captive Roma. Just then, the real Naze appears, and offers the defeated Forge the chance to destroy the Adversary, but only by reclaiming his birthright.
Firsts and Other Notables
Sabretooth's new shock/control collar debuts this issue, and it's revealed that the government intends to place him in X-Factor (something which was probably obvious to readers reading all this in, you know, X-Factor, but is still worth noting). Like Mystique's inhibitor, it's intended to limit his ability to inflict harm on anyone except whomever his controllers have designated as a target.
Shard (that is, a holographic representation of Bishop's sister from the future) is effectively a member of the team as of this issue, as she interacts with the group and helps defend Falls Edge from the Adversary.
Teased last issue, it's confirmed here that Naze survived his (most recent) encounter with the Adversary, and is thus now on hand to help Forge reclaim his magical abilities.
Val is shown to be answering to someone named "Ellison", whom we've never seen before and doesn't, I think, appear again. She'll get a different "higher up" adversary in General Browser, who debuts next issue and does have a recurring role in the book.
A Work in Progress
A dialogue bubble gets mis-attributed from Mystique to Polaris.
Mackie finally remembers (or was told) that Mystique was around the last time Forge fought the Adversary.
Adversary suggests that he was responsible for subconsciously leading Forge to reject his indigenous/magical nature.
Milgrom’s inks are particularly heavy this issue; this panel, for example, looks like it could have come from Secret Wars II.
After several months of build-up, the Adversary finally attacks X-Factor this issue, and after all that build-up, that this issue is also the penultimate one of the story is jarring. Basically, this issue, after months of build-up, drawn by a guest artist, represents the bulk of the Adversary's actual attack on Forge & X-Factor. The previous installments were all teases and set ups, next issue is the conclusion. It's one of the more significant reasons this second go 'round with the Adversary pales in comparison to the original: where the X-Men's battle with the Adversary in "Fall of the Mutants" came similarly after months of build-up, it also featured some meaty chapters in the middle of the story, with successes & failures & shifting fortunes occurring before the story settled in for its climax. Here, the Adversary's return is built up over several issues, made all the more ominous by Roma's repeated assertions that Forge's reliance on technology will fail. As readers of dramatic fiction, we instinctively know she's right, and sure enough the Adversary waltzes onstage and quickly wipes out the team, but whereas in most stories, that would simply mark the beginning of the conflict, here, that's it in terms of the actual fight. By next issue, the story moves on to the inevitable beat of Forge altering his approach and trying again which, we're told here, will all take place - success or failure - within the confines of the next issue. It's ultimately a story that feels like its ending just when its getting started, and the blame for that largely lays at this issue's feet.
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