Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Bryan Hitch (penciler), Paul Neary (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Glynis Oliver (colorist)
While on their way to X-Factor’s headquarters, the Adversary locates Roma and Naze. Naze tries to fight back against Adversary, but he’s not powerful enough. Adversary tells Roma that she’s responsible for mystically hiding Forge, and that he will learn his location. Adversary’s power pushes Naze off of a cliff, forcing Roma to teleport in desperation to X-Factor’s headquarters. Adversary tries to follow her, but Roma manages to push him back at the last second. Meanwhile, Random fights Havok at a nearby processing plant. After Havok unleashes his powers, he accidentally buries Random and himself under a pile of debris. Random reduces his body to a teenage form and escapes, as Fatale teleports in and abducts Havok. Fatale sends a forged goodbye letter to Polaris to cover his absence.
The pages covering the Roma/Adversary story are clearly not drawn by Hitch, but there’s no credit for the alternate artist.
This is the first appearance of “Teen Random”, one of the more absurd ideas to come from this run. The implication here is that this is Random’s true form and that the tough bounty hunter persona was a façade. After they capture Havok, Fatale tells him that “this was the reason” Dark Beast set him up in X-Factor in the first place. After Fatale tells Random that he’s scored points with Dark Beast, she then says, “But I’m warning you, stay away from Mandrake…he’s mine!” I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.
And X-Factor continues to sink further down the well. As I mentioned above, the abominable “Teen Random” debuts here. Aside from introducing a horrible redesign of the character, this story establishes that Random was always supposed to get close to X-Factor because Dark Beast wanted Havok all along. This makes no sense for several reasons. Random never really joined the team, didn’t use his past experiences with the team to actually reach Havok, and was recently shown to be Dark Beast’s second choice in abducting Havok. Plus, according to recent issues, it was the explosion of Havok’s powers in X-Men Prime that brought him to the Dark Beast’s attention. So what was Random doing in the two-plus years of stories before that issue?
The story is divided between two lengthy fight scenes, which presumably would inject a lot of energy into a book that’s been plodding along for a while now, but even the action sequences feel dull. One reason is Mackie’s script, which fills every panel with generic dialogue and tedious narrative captions. Instead of just letting Hitch’s art sell the fight, Mackie feels the need to have the characters repeatedly reiterate their own powers and history with one another during most of the action. The Adversary fight just consists of a generically evil bad guy menacing two other characters without a personality for about ten pages. Most of the artwork is fine, but the colors (in my copy at least) are so faded and dull you don’t even want to look at the pages for long. Since Glynis Oliver usually delivered excellent color work that was ahead of its time, I'm assuming that something went wrong with the separations or printing of this issue. It’s hard to believe that this comic was published within a week of this month’s Uncanny X-Men, which featured brilliant, intricate coloring on each page. This book is fading fast, and if memory serves, it’s only going to get worse.