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Thursday, April 1, 2021

X-amining X-Factor #126

"The Beast Within"
September 1996

In a Nutshell
X-Factor helps free Beast from Dark Beast's imprisonment

Writer: Howard Mackie
Layouts: Herb Trimpe
Pencils: Stefano Raffaele
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Enhancement: Malibu
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Plot
Forge splits X-Factor into three groups, leaving Polaris & Shard to watch the captive Random & Havok, while sending out Mystique & Wild Child along with Sabretooth & himself to search for the real Beast. Forge & Sabretooth end up finding Beast chained to a wall while outside, Random tries to apologize to Polaris, and warns her about the effectiveness of Dark Beast's brainwashing. Inside, Forge frees Beast, but Sabretooth attacks him, saying there's something off. Just then, Mystique & Wild Child arrive, and Wild Child agrees with Sabretooth. Outside, Havok tells Polaris he's broken Dark Beast's control, and urges her to keep him restrained until Professor X can permanently fix his mind. This convinces Polaris he is telling the truth, and she removes his restraints. A protesting Random maxes out his powers to break free of his own restraints, at which point Havok blasts him. Inside, Sabretooth & Wild Child discover the real Beast trapped behind a wall, and he attacks Dark Beast, knocking him out. But when X-Factor emerges with the captive Dark Beast & Fatale, they discover Havok has escaped. Forge orders Fatale to teleport Polaris to the nearest hospital; when she looks to Dark Beast, he tells her to do as Forge says; they can bide there time as prisoners, as they are now exactly where he wants to be. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Regular Beast is freed from Dark Beast's captivity this issue (for real this time), with Dark Beast's appropriation of his "oh my stars & garters!" catch-phrase the piece which finally puts him over the edge and rallies his strength to fight back. He then promptly runs off to rejoin the X-Men (he'll next pop up in Fantastic Four #416). 


Random is blasted by Havok as Havok makes his escape, reducing Random to a pile of goo. While he's not dead - he'll return in issue #144 and make sporadic appearances over the years after that - this marks the end of his initial ascendance and semi-recurring status in the series. 


In the wake of the ongoing government interference with X-Factor, capped off by the foisting onto the team of Sabretooth, Forge has been having doubts about continuing with the group, but ultimately decides that for now, he can do more good staying on the inside (this will all come to a head shortly when he takes the team "underground" in response to the government's actions). 


This is labeled as part of "Onslaught: Impact 2", though it mostly just inherits that from the fact that it carries on directly from the previous issue. 

Creator Central
Poor Herb Trimpe, a Silver Age stalwart known for his long & iconic run on Incredible Hulk who at this time was adjusting his style into something more Liefeld-esque in an effort to get work while the "Image House Style" was ascendant, does the layouts for this issue. Good for him to get the paycheck, at least. 

A Work in Progress
Mystique references having worked with Wild Child in the past. He also suggests that he comes from a happy, well-adjusted home, though a later issue will show that not to be the case. 


Not surprisingly, Sabretooth & Fatale have encountered each other in the past as well. Somewhat surprisingly, given how popular Sabretooth was considered to be, I don't believe there's any particular story that details this encounter(s). 


Mystique is able to giver herself wings in order to fly, a further illustration of her stretching out her powers, though Forge attributes this specifically to her morphing (in part) to Angel (with her getting around her inhibitor thanks to the fact that his original form - the one she's technically mimicking - having not been programmed into it). 


Even while acknowledging that he's not a good guy, Random says that Dark Beast is practically like a father to him, and is responsible for helping him stay in a cohesive physical form. 


Austin's Analysis
What does this have to do with "Onslaught"? Nearly nothing. Instead, it's the issue where (amongst other, slightly more X-Factor-relevant things) Regular Beast escapes from Dark Beast once and for all. That this is happening here and not in X-Men is fine, I suppose: Dark Beast is the closest thing this series has had to a recurring antagonist (aside from "vague government forces aligned against mutants") since returning from "Age of Apocalypse" (with frequent baddies Fatale & Random serving his interests), so this is as good a place as any to wrap up that plotline (though it does beg the question of what the point of having Beast escape on his own in X-Men (vol. 2) #54 only to get recaptured by Dark Beast was). And, like everything else plot-wise in this issue, the actual wrap-up is...fine.

It would have been nice for Beast to get a little more come-uppance given what Dark Beast put him through, but the "stars and garters" business is cute and in-character (in that it's easy to see Beast, trying to put his more jocular self forward, using that as the excuse to express the rage he's likely feeling from all the other indignities suffered); it's not great but better than can be expected from Mackie. Distinctly less great is Mackie having Polaris get duped by Havok, after making a point of having Polaris be smarter than him last issue, just to switch up the dynamic where now Havok is the looming threat while Dark Beast becomes a captive. All in all, from wrapping up this phase of the Dark Beast plot to releasing Regular Beast to getting Evil Havok out in the wild, this does the job it intends to do, but does so in the blandest, most rote way possible. Unfortunately, for anyone checking out the series for the first time due to the "Onslaught" tie-in, that is also a pretty fair representation of the series at this point. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Spider-Man, Green Goblin & Punisher fight Sentinels in the first batch of assorted "Onslaught" tie-in issues. Next week, Cable #35 and X-Force #58!

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4 comments:

  1. Herb Trimpe and Al Milgrom on art? Did we hop a time warp back to 1976 or something??

    Actually, I kind of like the idea of getting older, established and fundamentally capable artists, who might otherwise not have been getting work at this time due to not being "flashy" enough, and having them do layouts for the less experienced but more "exciting" artists. It could've made some of the dreck in the 90s a lot more palatable!

    I know I picked this issue up at the time. It was my first X-FACTOR installment, I think, since their "Phalanx Covenant" issue, and the only reason I grabbed it was to see Beast escape from Dark Beast -- and therefore, this also would've been my first look at Sabretooth since his "death" in his self-titled one-shot monthe earlier.

    I must not have been impressed, because I remember absolutely nothing about the issue, other than that I was disappointed to flip open that Jeff Matsuda cover and find a fill-in artist inside. (It fascinates me how often you'd see fill-in artists on crossover issues, which should've been showcases for the regular artist as a way to show readers, like me, who were only buying for the crossover, what the regular art would look like as an enticement to stick around!)


    "In the wake of the ongoing government interference with X-Factor, capped off by the foisting onto the team of Sabretooth, has been having doubts about continuing with the group..."

    I think this was supposed to say "Forge has been having doubts"...?

    (Also, you appear to have used one screenshot two times about halfway down the page.)

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    1. I kind of like the idea of getting older, established and fundamentally capable artists, who might otherwise not have been getting work at this time due to not being "flashy" enough, and having them do layouts for the less experienced but more "exciting" artists.

      I like the idea, but I'd want the results to be a little better than what we get here.

      It fascinates me how often you'd see fill-in artists on crossover issues, which should've been showcases for the regular artist as a way to show readers, like me, who were only buying for the crossover, what the regular art would look like as an enticement to stick around!

      Yeah, this practice makes no sense to me, either. I mean, credit where it's due, while Joe Mad's tenure on UNCANNY is littered with fill-ins, they at least made sure he was around for the big event tie-in issues.

      I think this was supposed to say "Forge has been having doubts"...?

      (Also, you appear to have used one screenshot two times about halfway down the page.)


      Yes, and thanks (I'll take this opportunity to once again gnash my teeth at how onerous Blogger's latest update has made uploading pictures into posts...).

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  2. I've heard a lot of adjectives used to describe Mackie's writing over the years. Memorable is not one of them.

    I'm guessing the Impact label was used just so people interested in the fallout from #125 would buy into this. It's certainly not something Marvel would do today as their crossover labels will be dropped partway through a story if it doesn't tie into the greater crossover (the recent The Union miniseries springs to mind).

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    1. Actually, I do have to give Mackie some credit for his initial 15 or so issues on Ghost Rider that were decent as well as his Gambit and Rogue mini-series which were fairly entertaining. Maybe team books just aren't his thing. There are a few writers who can't handle team dynamics no matter how good they are. Jeff Lemeire springs to mind.

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