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Thursday, January 28, 2021

X-amining X-Factor #124

"Future Memories"
July 1996

In a Nutshell
X-Factor acclimates to having Sabretooth in their midst as mysteries mount around them. 

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

X-Factor, including new member Sabretooth, engages in a virtual reality training session, one which is being recorded and will be sent to their superiors. Val is hoping it will show them what Sabretooth is really like, prompting his removal, but Forge fears they already do. During the sessions, Shard suddenly reappears, much to Wild Child's delight. During the break in action, Polaris tries to talk to Forge, but he demurs, prompting Polaris to fly off alone as she wonders if she can believe in what the team is becoming. Shard proceeds to tell Forge about the government agents who broke into the base recently. Meanwhile, Random returns to Dark Beast's lair, where Fatale is waiting with orders for Random to return to X-Factor. She teleports him to just outside Fall's Edge, where he runs into Polaris, who quickly tells him about Havok's departure and her decision to remain with the team despite her reservations about its recent changes. Meanwhile, Val receives a call from her superior, and when she asks about the break-in, he in turn asks about Shard, prompting Val to pass  her off as a trick played by Mystique. Elsewhere, Sabretooth is enjoying the unrest his presence has caused, while Shard worries that her future is already starting to come true, as she knows there is already a hound amongst X-Factor. 
Firsts and Other Notables
Shard makes her return following X-Factor's battle with the Adversary known to everyone this issue.

She also tells Forge about the government agents she chased out of Fall's Edge last issue, prompting Forge & Val to ponder why the government is seemingly targeting its own mutant team, all of which is setup for the series' eventual status quo change when X-Factor goes "underground". 

Similarly, there's more allusions to Hounds/the Hound program here, as Shard worries there is already a hound amongst X-Factor (Sabretooth, I guess?), with the word given particular emphasis. 

The X-Men have the Danger Room; this issue marks the debut of X-Factor's "Hazard Chamber", a Virtual Reality spin on the Danger Room (I honestly don't remember if it ever even appears again, but I suspect it does not). 

A Work in Progress
Havok makes a brief, wordless return as he's spotted floating in a tank in Dark Beast's lab, while Fatale sends Random off to make trouble with X-Factor. She also reminds him to bulk up so as not to appear before them in his "kiddie" form. 

Polaris tries to discuss her concerns over the changing state of the team with Forge, but he rebuffs her. Eventually, she confides in Random, but ultimately decides to stick it out. 

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
The Hazard Chamber's VR technology continues the 90s odd fascination with virtual reality tech, while Wild Child asks Forge to make some changes to it via CD-ROM. 

Austin's Analysis
With both "Onslaught" and an "evenly divisible by 25" issue just around the corner, there's little to this issue beyond some more Macke-ian wheel spinning/water treading (pick your preferred metaphor). The efforts to address Sabretooth's arrival and the impact of that on the team are certainly appreciated, but the bulk of the issue is really just about teasing the various mysteries: what's going on with Shard, what is Dark Beast's plan for Havok, why is the government targeting X-Factor, what's the deal with all the "hound" references? But rather than advance any of those mysteries, however minutely, all Mackie really does is just remind readers these mysteries are out there, waiting for answers (that won't be coming in this issue, at least). Along the way, he tries to give Matsuda some action beats to draw via the "hazard chamber" session, but for the most part, this is a talky issue, which doesn't really play to whatever minor strengths Matsuda has at this point. Certainly some plot stalling is understandable at this point, but it would nice if Mackie & Matsuda could do it in a little more entertaining fashion. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, X-Man #17. Next week, X-Men (vol. 2) #54 and X-Force #56!

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1 comment:

  1. Before I knew better I assumed Mackie was hampered by the constant crossovers and couldn't commit to a real story. After Onslaught, though, it became apparent that Mackie had no idea what to do with the book.

    As for this particular issue, I know I read it but I have no recollection of it. Even this review didn't spark any "Oh, that's right!" moments.

    I will add, I enjoyed Mackie on Ghost Rider. I just don't think he was a good fit for this title. Especially as the needs of the x-line overrode any individual voices.


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