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Thursday, December 3, 2020

X-amining X-Factor #123

"It Begins...Again!"
June 1996

In a Nutshell
Sabretooth helps X-Factor defeat the Hound

Writer: Howard Mackie
Penciler: Jeff Matsuda
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Enhancements: Malibu
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Plot
Sabretooth lunges at X-Factor, seemingly to attack them, but instead, he strikes the Hound that was threatening them from behind. He tells Val Cooper this is why he was sent to this facility, to take out the Hound that had previously targeted Mystique. He & Wild Child distract the Hound while Polaris drops enough rubble on him to incapacitate him. The threat seemingly nullified, Forge proceeds to search the base's computer for information. Meanwhile, government operatives break into Fall's Edge, hoping to hack into Forge's computers, but the holographic Shard emerges and chases them off. Back at the mysterious base, the Hound emerges from the rubble. Polaris taps deep into her power and is able to briefly take control of the Hound and interrogate him, but he knows very little about his own origins. Just then, more government agents enter the facility, ordering X-Factor to stand down. At Graydon Creed's campaign headquarters, Creed receives a visitor who gives him a large sum of money, but also tells him Mystique will be kept alive in order to keep him in check. Base at the base, the Hound is taken into custody, and X-Factor - along with Sabretooth - is told to leave, with little explanation. When Val returns the next day with Senator Kelly, the base is gone, with nothing but a government farm in place. Later, she returns to Fall's Edge, and is confronted by Sabretooth, who tells her he's pleased with his current arrangement, but she should watch out, as she may be the next one to be fixed with a restraining collar. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue introduces the Hound, a cyborg-esque mutant-turned-mutant hunter of mysterious origins. He will eventually be revealed to be the product of Humanity's Last Stand in his next (and final) appearance in the 1996 Uncanny X-Men annual. Clearly meant to be tapping into the larger "hound" mythology in the X-Men universe (more on that below), this character clearly never really takes off.  


It is revealed here that it is the Hound who attacked Mystique in X-Men: Prime, answering that lingering question. 


It is also suggested that the Hound was sent to kill Mystique as a favor to Graydon Creed, who wanted his mutant terrorist mother eliminated ahead of his presidential run, though the forces in control of the Hound have decided to keep her alive as a possible check on Creed. 


When Forge looks for info on the found, he discovers that Rory Campbell has some connections to the Hound's creators. This ultimately doesn't pan out (Rory isn't involved with Humanity's Last Stand), but is clearly an attempt to play on the whole "Rory is destined to become Ahab...or is he?" subplot over in Excalibur by connecting this Hound to the hounds used by Ahab in the future.  


Shard returns this issue after her "death" at the hands of the Adversary, popping up at Fall's Edge in the middle of an attempted plundering of Forge's files. 


Chronology Corner 
Senator Kelly appears here with Val Cooper before his appearance in Uncanny X-Men #333. 

Austin's Analysis
Mackie's little "introduce Sabretooth to the team" two-parter concludes here, but moreso than bringing Sabretooth into the mix (for the characters, if not for the readers, who were already aware of the Sabretooth machinations to some extent), this story is a textbook example of the "pile mysteries on mysteries" narrative approach of the time. Here, a mystery from X-Men: Prime is ostensibly solved, the question of who attacked Mystique at the dam in that issue. But that answer (the Hound) just leads to more questions (who or what is the Hound and who created him/it?). The motivations behind the attack (Graydon Creed wanting to get rid of his politically-problematic mother) are similarly confirmed, but also, just lead to more questions: what's the relationship between Creed & whomever created the Hound, and what is their relationship to the government forces that sent Sabretooth in to take out the Hound? The whole thing ends with the setting of the story being literally covered up by mysterious government forces and the title characters just as in the dark as the readers, which makes the whole pretty much the 90s in a nutshell. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Nate and Holocaust rematch in X-Man #16. Next week, X-Men (vol. 2) #53 and X-Force #55. 

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4 comments:

  1. Heh, the farm attendant saying they're with the Department of Agriculture. We do remember from WOLVERINE #48-50 that the Pest Control Section of the DoA was the cover for the Weapon X program.

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  2. Two months away from Onslaught. I do not envy you this path you have chosen to walk...

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  3. The Hound looks like an Onslaught symbiote on that cover. The metallic armor, color scheme, claws... Not as purple in the book.

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  4. I never read X-FACTOR, but just in general terms, I will reiterate that the "mysteries on top of mysteries" thing is what kept me enraptured with the X-comics and the Spider-Man comics around this time (Spidey may have actually been doing it even more than the X-Men, with all the ridiculous Clone Saga twists).

    Intellectually, I know it's not a great way to plot stories (unless you have satisfying resolutions for everything worked out in advance), but on sort of a visceral level, I love it.

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