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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

X-amining X-Factor #129

"Playing with Fire"
December 1996

In a Nutshell
Mystique escapes as X-Factor deals with the returned Madrox. 

Writer: Howard Mackie
Art: Jeff Matsuda & Art Thibert
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's KF
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Separations: American Color
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Val Cooper arrives at Fall's Edge, looking for the mutant X-Factor was sent out to capture; Forge and Polaris are furious they were sent after their old teammate Madrox. Val is stunned to learn Madrox is alive, but says if she doesn't produce him soon, the troops waiting outside will storm the building. But Madrox is being held at a safehouse by Wild Child & Shard. Mystique offers to pose as Madrox, and though Sabretooth is with the troops and can sense the ruse, he lets her pass. Once she's away, Mystique slips her restraints and escapes. While Forge & Polaris arrive at the safe house, Mystique meets up with Pyro, telling him the plan remains the same, they're just accelerating it. Meanwhile, Madrox explains how the Madrox who died of the Legacy Virus was just a dupe, but his death made the real Madrox amnesiac. Eventually, he was confronted by Havok, who wanted him to join his Brotherhood, but Madrox declined. He asks after Guido, and Polaris tells him if he can help her find Havok, she'll take him to Strong Guy. Just then, Forge learns of Mystique's escape, and though the team tracks her to where she met Pyro, the pair is gone, but they realize she intends to assassinate Graydon Creed. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Following his return last issue, this issue features Madrox filling in his former teammates on the circumstances of his "return" from the dead and what he's been up to since. Basically, it turns out the Madrox who died in issue #100 was actually a dupe and not the "prime" Madrox (aka the easiest way to retcon a death involving a character called "Multiple Man"), but that the death of that dupe affected the prime Madrox's memory  which is why he's been absent for so long. Eventually, the now-evil Havok found him, and that's why he was on the run last issue. 

Hot on the heels of his last "knocking on death's door" appearance in Uncanny X-Men #338, Pyro meets up with Mystique in this issue, obliquely confirming it was she he was ranting about in Uncanny (I believe their meeting place is meant to be the same church Pyro was at in that issue), as they continue their plans to assassinate Graydon Creed. 

A Work in Progress
Forge & Polaris briefly react to Val having arrested Professor X in X-Men (vol. 2) #57.

Val also recalls the time she briefly saw Jamie, in issue #111

When Mystique passes herself off as Madrox in order to placate the government troops outside Fall's Edge, Sabretooth is able to tell that it's her, but let's the ruse continue anyway, which is a decent use of the character (in that he's not on anyone's side so he'll eff around with both sides as he sees fit). 

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Val tells Polaris not to use her powers on Val, describing in them detail, as though someone who might be encountering the character for the first time and wasn't familiar with her abilities might be listening and/or reading her dialogue somehow...

Austin's Analysis
Once again, narrative momentum gives Howard Mackie a lift. The return of Madrox in the previous issue allows this one to almost entirely focus on the ramifications of that - how he survived, what he's been doing since - while also continuing to tease the big Mystique/Graydon Creed showdown, smartly using the former to move Mystique into place for the latter. While the return of Madrox lessens the impact of the still-puttering-along Legacy Virus plotline by robbing the virus of one of its most high profile victims, this series has changed so considerably since his last full appearance that the relief at seeing a relatively familiar face from a more fondly-remembered era of the book's history overrides most of that concern. The quieter, less action-heavy story also seems to help Jeff Matsuda: his backgrounds remain all too often blank swathes of color, but he's much better at injecting talky scenes with energy than he is at depicting action scenes with narrative clarity, so a more talky issue like this actually plays to his strengths. All in all, as much fun as it is to have Madrox back, his return is most appreciated for the way it helps continue the book's little post-"Onslaught" rise to respectability.  

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Cable shrinks into the Microverse in Cable #38. Next week, Generation X #22!

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  1. Never read this issue, but that picture of Forge on the cover is pretty well seared into my memory, as it was the image attached to his character write-up in TSR's MARVEL SUPER HEROES ADVENTURE GAME (their attempt to relaunch the Marvel RPG license in 1998, which I found superior to the original MARVEL SUPER HEROES ROLEPLAYING GAME, but which was unable to gain much traction in the marketplace and was cancelled in 2000).

    1. I know I've read #130-132 but I don't believe I read this issue either. We're pretty much at a point in X-Factor where there's not much more to say than the review has.


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