Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Mark D. Bright (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)
Forge ignores Roma’s warnings that the Adversary can’t be defeated with technology and equips X-Factor with advanced weapons. While the team prepares for battle, Adversary secretly possesses Mystique. He tries to use Mystique’s shapeshifting powers to distract Forge, but she is overcome with pain and forces the Adversary out of her body. Adversary easily destroys X-Factor’s weapons and takes Roma captive. He apparently kills the team, leaving Forge alive. He destroys Forge’s cybernetic limbs and boasts that he was the one responsible for Forge using a “spirit spell” in Vietnam, which lead Forge on a path to reject magic. Adversary disappears, leaving Forge alone. Naze suddenly enters, offering Forge a chance to finally defeat the Adversary. Meanwhile, Val Cooper watches as Sabretooth is equipped with a restraining collar. She learns that he’s being forced to join X-Factor against her wishes.
The “spirit spell” Adversary mentions is a reference to Forge’s Vietnam experience. He took the souls of his fellow troops and used the energy to channel a demon against their enemy. He performed a similar spell with the X-Men’s souls against the Adversary during the “Fall of the Mutants” arc in Uncanny X-Men.
There are several re-lettered word balloons, all of which are poorly done. It doesn’t seem as if any of them are actually undermining Mackie’s story, since most of them just read like added lines of dialogue. For example, Comicraft’s lettering for Naze on the last page ends with “The choice is yours, Maker.” The added balloon after that reads, “Do you dare take back your birthright?”. It seems like someone wanted to punch up the script, rather than actually change any plot elements.
I guess this is supposed to be the dark middle act of the Adversary storyline, since X-Factor is apparently killed and Forge is left with Naze to fight back. It’s all extremely dull, as Mackie tries to pull off a sequel to “Fall of the Mutants” but without any of the interesting character dynamics or any real commitment to actually change the status quo. You might scoff at the new setup that had the X-Men living as “ghosts” in Australia after the original storyline was over, but at least the book truly was different after the story ended. There really was a sense at the time that anything could happen, and that the “Fall of the Mutants” actually mattered. Here, Adversary is brought back as just a generic bad guy to fight the team for a couple of issues. X-Factor’s death scene couldn’t be less convincing, since it just consists of an average-sized panel depicting the team turning into dust. Further undermining the death stunt is the fact that several pages of the issue are dedicated to setting up Sabretooth as a new team member. Well, if X-Factor is really dead, why is so much of the issue spent on introducing a new member? I guess the truly naive could believe that he’s the first member of a new team, but it just seems as if the subplot was introduced without thinking about how it reflects on the main plot.
The more I think about it, the more I have to wonder why Mackie revived the Adversary in the first place. It really seems as if he just liked the original storyline and wanted to use the character again. Aside from one mildly interesting idea, the possibility that Adversary manipulated Forge into using magic in Vietnam as a way to drive him away from it forever, he really has nothing new to say about any of the story elements. The Adversary, who’s supposed to be the “Great Trickster”, doesn’t really do any tricking outside of possessing Mystique for three pages and trying to distract Forge with the possibility of sex. Forge is going through the same character arc Claremont originally put him through in the ‘80s -- Forge is devoted to technology but his father-figure has to pull him back to his tribe’s mystical roots. Forge learned a lesson the last time, overcame his fears to use magic again, and defeated the Adversary. Apparently, Forge learned nothing from the experience, because he’s going through the exact same arc ten years later. The entire storyline is just boring, and it’s a shame that one of the best X-titles has descended into this.