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Thursday, July 15, 2021

X-amining X-Factor #127

"Darker Destiny"
October 1996

In a Nutshell
X-Factor is interrogated while Mystique tracks down the attackers of a young mutant. 

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

In Washington DC, young Trevor Chase, a friend of Raven Darkholme, is chased & severely beaten by members of the Friends of Humanity. Later, X-Factor is brought to a secret government facility to be interrogated, though Mystique, having learned of the attack on Trevor, escapes. Bastion questions the rest of X-Factor individually; each is asked about Shard, but everyone denies knowing anything about her. Meanwhile, Mystique visits Trevor in the hospital, disguised as a doctor, then gets the files on Trevor's case from the police while disguised as an assistant. She proceeds to run down the members of the Friends of Humanity, and scares them into confessing who ordered them to attack Trevor. As Forge is being interrogated, Val comes to get him, telling him Mystique is loose. He tracks her implant to Trevor's hospital bed, where she agrees to quietly return with him to X-Factor, but as she leaves, she sees Graydon Creed on TV, and promises that she's coming for him. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Trevor Chase appears for the first time in this issue; a young boy with reality warping powers, he is targeted by the Friends of Humanity due to his friendship with Mystique (in her guise as Raven Darkholme); he will make a few more appearances over the next half dozen issues, where it's revealed that he is the grandson of Mystique's lover Destiny (which is why she is looking out for him), and gets embroiled in the conflict between Mystique and Sabretooth.  

Graydon Creed's indirect attack on Trevor this issue prompts Mystique to begin planning his assassination; while he will be killed a few issues from now, the assassin's identity isn't revealed, and is left a mystery until 2001's X-Men Forever miniseries, when it is revealed to be a future version of Mystique (from that story's present day) who travels through time and kills Creed, thereby fulfilling her pledge made in this issue. 

While Mystique is hunting Friends of Humanity, the rest of X-Factor is interrogated by Bastion. Each interview culminates in the subject being asked about Shard; everyone, including Sabretooth, plays dumb. 

A Work in Progress
When X-Factor is brought in to be interrogated by Bastion, they are in restraints per some government regulation. 

It's noted (by the officer investigating the attack on Trevor) that the Friends of Humanity always seem to get off scot free, even when they're captured red-handed, a reference to the fact that they're run by a presidential candidate with connections to the government-backed Operation: Zero Tolerance. 

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Some pretty bad 90s effects on this cover, with the drawn image of Mystique superimposed over a photo of a flag. 

Human/Mutant Relations
The issue opens with a young mutant child being chased down by three members of the Friends of Humanity and severely beaten. 

Later, the nurse attending to Trevor says she is the only one on the floor willing to look after him due to his being a mutant (but still doesn't seem too fond of mutants herself). 

Bullpen Bulletins
The Bullpen Bulletins pages in this issue highlight the upcoming Rise of Apocalypse miniseries. 

Austin's Analysis
It is, I am sure, pure coincidence, but this issue actually pairs nicely with Excalibur #102, in that both serve the purpose of establishing the post-"Onslaught" notion that things are getting even worse for mutants in the wake of the crossover and the rise of Bastion. Here, we have X-Factor - the government's officially sanctioned team of mutants - being led in shackles to be interrogated, while a presidential candidate is directing attacks towards young mutants (presumably, just to piss off his mom). The stuff with Trevor reads especially "Very Special Episode" heavy, even if Trevor does eventually appear again. But Mystique's righteous fury is fun to read nevertheless, and serves as a reminder that there's more to the character than the "scheming minx" she's been portrayed as since being forced onto the team. 

The interrogation scenes, meanwhile, have an air of the David/Quesada "X-aminations" story to them, though they aren't nearly as effective or entertaining. Bastion's interest in Shard isn't the most interesting thing in the world (because very little about Shard is very interesting), but X-Factor's repeated denials of knowing anything about her makes for a good gag, and Mackie does a decent enough job of making each character's reactions to their interrogations sound authentic to the character. Even Matsuda's art, which doesn't seem as suited to this kind of quieter material, is better here, the juxtaposition between his manic energy and the more mundane plot creating something nicely balanced. All in all, while this isn't on the same level as similar efforts in issue #87, or, say, New Mutants #45, it's still one of the better Mackie-penned issues of the series yet. 

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  1. ""

    I'm trying to decide whether Matsuda intended the flag to be there, or whether editorial added it. I lean toward the latter. It reminds me of the cover to X-MEN #20, where the logo was stretched out to fill the void of blank white space which had been (presumably) intentionally left open by Andy Kubert.

    1. Oops, I was supposed to be quoting your comment about the cover there, though I'm sure that was obvious via context.

  2. Maybe I'm jumping ahead a couple of issues but I thought it was clear at the time that Mystique had assassinated Creed? And the explanation sounds awful - but then it would have come not long after the revelation of who the fifth Green Goblin was and it's hard to bottom that for reveals.

    1. No, Who Killed Graydon Creed was supposed to be the next great X-Mystery in the spirit of the X-Traitor. Mystique is very surprised in issue 130 when someone kills him that isn't her.

  3. I'm not going to lie, I actually liked the cover for this issue. It was the irony of Mystique, of all people, being juxtaposed over the American flag.

    While I'm sure it will come up with your coverage of X-Factor #130, I remember an insert in Marvel comics (dated Feb. 1997, I believe) where it promised that the assassin of Graydon Creed would be revealed in X-Factor #150. That didn't happen, for obvious reasons. What's really interesting, is that Brian Cronin did a Legends Revealed where Mackie stated that there had never been a firm plan for X-Factor #150.

    Also interesting was that the same insert advertised a new title that was listed as "X-_______". Since Harras and Mackie were discussing how to save X-Factor sales almost a year in advance I'm wondering if that was always going to be Mutant X or if marketing was hoping for something else that never materialized?

    1. Maybe we will get an X-Factor 150 as part of the X-Men Legends comic which has been a complete blast so far.

    2. I've been really digging Legends so far. I know it won't go on forever but I'm glad we have it now.

      Since the assassin was ultimately revealed in X-Men Forever (Vol. 1) I don't think it is likely that they will revisit it again. Also, since it would entail Howard Mackie writing it, I'm okay with them leaving it.

  4. It’s funny seeing the creature forms that Raven assumes here shortly after reading about her difficulty in stretching her body mass enough to mimic Nick Fury in Ms. Marvel.


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