Credits: John Francis Moore (writer), Jeff Matsuda (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Glynis Oliver (colorist)
A Lear jet crash lands in Tokyo. The door blasts open and Havok emerges. Seven hours later, Forge and Polaris are joined by Mystique and Wild Child in Japan. They’re attacked by Dragon’s Claw, a group of cyborg ninjas who work for the crimelord Tatsu’o. After subduing them, one of the ninjas reveals that they were hired to detain X-Factor as a favor for one of Tatsu’o’s associates. Meanwhile, Fatale lands in Tokyo as a disoriented Havok runs into Scarlett McKenzie at a train station. He remembers that she brought him here from Canada. She explains that she was trying to take him to Genosha, but he awoke early and knocked out the controls. Still confused, Havok runs away. Fatale meets with Tatsu’o and thanks him for distracting X-Factor until she arrived. As X-Factor continues to search for Havok, he stumbles into a nightclub where Yukio is hanging out. X-Factor tracks Havok down and tries to give him a containment suit to inhibit his powers, but he refuses. When Wild Child tries to subdue him, Havok blasts him. Fatale suddenly appears from behind and stabs Havok in the back. Meanwhile in America, Random receives a mysterious phone call. He drops the phone and grabs his housemate Vera, absorbing her into his body as he turns into a pile of goo.
Scarlett McKenzie first appeared in the Havok & Wolverine miniseries, where she was also killed off. That series was a fully painted, older readers title published by the Epic line in 1988 that was essentially ignored by the other titles. There’s no explanation for her resurrection here, or for why she wanted to take Havok to Genosha. She’s also given the cryptic line “the man’s not going to like it when I tell him the competition’s arrived” when Fatale appears.
The new X-Factor team makes a strange debut. Wild Child’s presence is later explained when Polaris says that he was in Department H when Havok was kidnapped (Havok was taken there after he accidentally destroyed the Wyoming Dam in X-Men Prime). What’s not made clear is the fact that Wild Child was an Alpha Flight member, and Department H is their base (at least, I think that’s right). Forge tells Mystique that she has to join X-Factor or go to prison. Wolfsbane’s absence isn’t explained.
The Statement of Ownership lists average sales for the year at 299,700 with the most recent issue selling 220,000 copies.
Yeah, this is as much of a mess as I remembered. The AoA storyline did a lot to revive interest in some of the spinoff books that were treading water, but the effect it had on X-Factor after the event concluded was disastrous. Not only is the cliffhanger with Guido ignored, but Wolfsbane has also disappeared in-between issues with no explanation. Mystique has been added to the team, a major development that’s briefly covered in a two-sentence explanation. Wild Child, a character in the running for the title of “Most Obscure Mutant in the Marvel Universe”, is now hanging out with the team with another weak explanation. Bringing Wild Child into the Age of Apocalypse wasn’t a bad idea, since that world is supposed to be different from ours and his established backstory had no bearing on the actual storyline. He might as well have been a new character (I thought he was until the letters page revealed otherwise). Now he’s being clumsily inserted into X-Factor, even though he doesn’t appear to have any role in the actual story. He’s there solely because the AoA event raised his profile, and Marvel apparently wanted to create some connections with the AoA and the mainstream reality. Scarlett McKenzie, another obscure character brought back for the AoA, is also revived for the same purpose. It’s awkward, arbitrary, and just poorly handled in general. There’s not even one issue dedicated to setting up these changes, just a few rushed pages in X-Men Prime that showed Mystique getting captured and Havok’s powers erupting.
I guess opening this issue in media res is supposed to evoke the mysterious “what’s going on here?” feeling the AoA titles had, but instead is just seems like sloppy writing. The AoA titles were introducing us to a new world, while this issue is only supposed to pick up on what happened to X-Factor two or three weeks after their last issue. All of this confusion comes across as a way to just gratuitously screw with the audience. Having the team coincidentally run into some of the more obscure X-characters living in Japan, like Yukio (who serves no plot purpose in this particular issue) and Dragon’s Claw (lame villains from the end of the original X-Factor’s run) also feels shoddy.
Jeff Matsuda shows up as the fill-in artist, a year or so before he becomes the regular penciler. This is early in his career, when he was still trying to combine manga with a Rob Liefeld look. It’s not pretty. There are tons of thin, scratchy lines everywhere, awkward poses, exaggerated expressions, and strange-looking faces throughout the issue. Starting towards the end of the issue, the art looks particularly rushed and chaotic, which doesn’t help the muddled story. Even though Steve Epting soon returns as artist, I’m really not looking forward to the rest of this run.