The True Path
Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Steve Epting (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)
Forge relives the death of his squad in Vietnam through a magical "dream time", with the members of X-Factor taking the place of the soldiers. Naze tells Forge that he has to embrace his heritage and return home in order to build strength. A vision of Roma tells Forge that she'll distract Adversary while he prepares. Meanwhile, Val Cooper protests Sabretooth's inclusion into the team to a shadowy government figure. He shows off Sabretooth's new restraining collar and tells her that he will join X-Factor next week, after he completes a small mission for him. In the Rocky Mountains, Naze gives Forge a replica of his power-nullifier gun and the knife Storm once used against him (after being tricked by Adversary). Naze and Forge summon magic forces, and Forge soon reclaims his role as shaman. Adversary enters with Roma's unconscious body. Forge slashes him with the knife, which now has mystic properties. Adversary revives Polaris, Wild Child, and Mystique and taunts him into performing the spirit spell again. Forge mystically revives his teammates and then uses the nullifier gun to attack Adversary. Adversary disappears, which confirms Forge's belief in magic and technology.
Shard wasn't revived with the rest of X-Factor, because she's a hologram of course. However, the last did say in a narrative caption that she was real in every way that counts, and that she even had a soul.
Forge's cybernetic hand and leg are back, after being destroyed by the Adversary in the last issue, without explanation.
And here's another nineteen-page comic. The missing three pages are made up with an atrocious pinup by Jeff Matsuda and a two-page letter column. Was almost every X-book running into deadline problems, or was something else going on? Was this happening on any other Marvel titles at the time, or just the X-books?
There are quite a few re-lettered word balloons and captions throughout the issue, but it's hard to tell why. The shadowy government agent's explanation of how Sabretooth's restraining collar works has been entirely re-lettered.
The first time I ever bought a comic but put off reading it for days was during this Adversary storyline. I knew that I was buying most of the X-books out of completism at this time, but there had never been a title that I honestly felt no desire to read until I got around to it days later. I guess this isn't egregiously terrible, in the sense that it doesn't have too many major plot holes or flagrant mischaracterizations, but the entire storyline was so exceedingly dull I could barely justify the energy required to even read it. The story's just bland and predictable, without any lasting consequences for any of the characters or anything interesting happening along the way. Forge just picks the most obvious resolution to his conflict (Apparently, technology and magic go together like peanut butter and chocolate. It took Forge three issues to think of this?), and the Adversary disappears. And by "disappears", I don't mean he evaporates, melts, or vanishes in a flash of light. He just disappears between panels on the final page. In one panel he's bragging that he can't be beaten, and in the next Forge is meditating as X-Factor wakes up. A lame, dull ending to a lame, dull storyline. The idea that Forge's nullifier gun, which goes back to his first appearance, could just defeat the Adversary in two panels is especially cheap. The last issue showed that all of the other weapons he created were futile against him, so why is this one special? It didn't occur to Forge to rebuild his device that takes away superpowers? The only redeeming feature of this sleepy issue is Epting's art, which features very nice page layouts and strong renditions of the entire cast. The Matsuda pinup makes me afraid that his run has come to an end, though.