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Wednesday, June 26, 2024

X-amining X-Factor #134

May 1997

In a Nutshell

Writer: Howard Mackie
Penciler: Eric Battle
Inker: Art Thibert, Sam Parsons & Hackshack Studios
Letterer: Richard Starkings/Comicraft
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Separations: GCW
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Anxious to get at Forge's hidden files, General Bowser downloads data off a CD-ROM confiscated from Forge. Instead, he infects the government's computer systems with a virus that gives Forge access to their files. Now properly positioned to continue their work free from government oversight, X-Factor sets out on their next mission, locating Mystique's young friend, Trevor Chase. Meanwhile, Guido awakens from his coma, and demands to see someone from X-Factor. Later, Bowser returns home to find X-Factor waiting for him, looking for Trevor. Back at the hospital, a federal agent almost tells Guido about X-Factor's apparent demise, but then Guido gets sedated in order to prevent any further damage to his heart. Back at Bowser's house, Trevor calls to X-Factors from upstairs. Mystique rushes to his side, and he tries to warn her just as two monstrous creatures crash through the walls. X-Factor manages to fight them off, but they escape with Bowser. Unbeknownst to X-Factor, the monsters were created by Trevor, and he seems to have set his sights on them next. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Strong Guy awakens from his coma in X-Factor #134, setting the stage for a brief mini-return to the series for the character. 

A Work in Progress
Mystique is reunited with Trevor Chase, the young boy who was targeted by Graydon Creed in issue #127, thereby setting in motion the events which led to Creed's assassination. It's not made terribly clear in the issue, but the creatures which attack X-Factor and run off with Bowser are manifestations of Trevor's reality warping abilities. 

Artistic Achievements
There's not a ton I like about this issue art-wise, but this full page team shot is a pretty good snapshot of the book's whole vibe at the moment. 

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Bowser believes a CD-ROM he got from Falls Edge contains all of Forge's secrets; instead, it gives Forge access to all the government's files; no word on whether or not it also included Microsoft Encarta

Austin's Analysis

X-Factor #134 has got a couple things working against it. First and foremost is the art. I am as much a Joe Mad fan as the next guy, and can appreciate hyper-stylized, kinetic artwork. Realism and clean lines don't always have to be the goal of comic book art. But the art through this issue is just chaotic. It's frankly exhausting. There's a couple effective pages — the group shot of X-Factor from Bowser's perspective, Strong Guy accosting his doctor — but for the most part, everything just feels like characters bouncing all over the page with little rhyme or reason, a colorful assault on the senses. If Jeff Matsuda is just a poor man's Joe Madureira, well, Eric Battle is a poor man's Jeff Matsuda. 

The other problem is the plot. After making a big show of faking their deaths and going underground, the first thing X-Factor does is...reveal themselves to the guy they were trying to avoid by faking their deaths. All in the service of finding Trevor Chase, a characters we've been given little reason to care about yet. We know Mystique cares about him (but not why, exactly); beyond that, he's a cipher. Which makes X-Factor deciding their first act after becoming a rogue underground team is to rescue him puzzling, at best.

The subplot pages with Strong Guy are one of the bright spots of X-Factor #134. He bring a long-missing lighter energy back to the book (for a few pages, at least), an energy Mackie seems to be trying (but failing) to replicate by having the previously-dour Wild Child bounce all over making cracks about everyone. Strong Guy's presence is also a subtle way to underscore the changes in the book. When he wakes up and starts asking for people like Alex (evil) and Madrox (presumed dead), we're reminded of just how much the book has changed just since Strong Guy went into his coma. That, more than anything else, sells the series' recent transformation. If only that relatively deft touch had been applied in other places. 

Next Issue
Wolverine battles a mime in Wolverine #113!

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  1. "If Jeff Matsuda is just a poor man's Joe Madureira, well, Eric Battle is a poor man's Jeff Matsuda."

    So he is a bad clone of a bad clone.

    Unlike X-man, which one could argue is just blandly inoffensive, this is just bad.

    Has Trevor ever appeared outside of this title?

  2. A couple of unfortunate typos jumped out at me but the strangest word ballon has to be “Pulse is 140 over 80.” No-Prize explanation: Guido has two hearts to handle all that mass.

    1. … Which although meant as a joke is actually a hypothesis that kinda/sorta addresses the speaker’s previous word balloon. Ha! (I just checked it again — first image in the post after the cover.)

    2. Oddly, a Brian Azzarello comic at DC made that same mistake, which also somehow got through the editors. In this case, yeah, maybe Guido needs two hearts to sustain his girth (the first heart is suffering tachycardia, that’s cause for concern). The DC error, though, featured Batman giving himself a self-diagnosis. Which, I guess if you want to explain it away, shows that Bruce Wayne is nowhere near qualified to give himself an examination.

    3. I’d love it if the errors just cascaded. “Pulse is 140 over 80. BP holding steady at 99.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature spiking to 215 kilograms.”


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