Wednesday, November 12, 2008

X-FACTOR #122 – May 1996

The Faces of Truth
Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Jeff Matsuda (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Glynis Oliver (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)

Summary: Mystique, disguised as Forge, receives a call from Val Cooper that the government has a lead on the man who attacked her at the Belle Fourche Dam months earlier. She gives Val Cooper a new landing site and prepares to ambush her there. Later, after a training session, Polaris and Wild Child discover Val Cooper and a team of government agents gagged and tied up. Forge says goodbye to Naze and then travels with X-Factor to find Mystique. They track her to a government installation near Canada, where the bodies of dead scientists cover the floor. Mystique stalks the grounds and is ambushed by Sabretooth. She knows that he’s not the person who attacked her earlier, but the two still fight. X-Factor stops the fight, as Val Cooper tries to determine what’s going on. Sabretooth claims that X-Factor was never supposed to find the facility, and that he now has to kill them too.

Production Note: Rather than nineteen pages, this issue has a whopping twenty.

Continuity Note: Mystique was attacked by a shadowy figure in X-Men Prime. He was originally supposed to be Onslaught, but Marvel changed his identity after they finally decided who Onslaught should be. Sabretooth and Wild Child already know each other, which may or may not be a reference to back issues of Alpha Flight.

Creative Differences: The opening scene has some awkwardly added word balloons that describe Mystique’s power and the five-second inhibitor that prevents her from imitating a teammate for long. Naze has a few re-lettered balloons during the scene that has him explaining to Forge why he didn’t tell him he was alive. The explanation doesn’t go deeper than “the time wasn’t right”.

Review: This is Jeff Matsuda’s debut as monthly artist, a move that drives the quality of this title down even further. I remember intensely disliking his work on this series as a teen, but looking back on his first issue now, it looks more inconsistent than truly terrible. The opening few pages have some nice manga-style cartooning and a Mystique splash page that’s pretty cool. As the issue progress, however, the art looks sloppier and more rushed on each page. By the end of the issue, the anatomy and faces are just ugly to look at. Why exactly Marvel hired an extremely cartoony artist to take over a book that was supposed to become darker and nastier with each issue is beyond me. The story is virtually nonexistent, as it mainly consists of vague clues and a gratuitous fight scene between Mystique and Sabretooth. I seem to recall this era of the book being filled with shadowy conspiracies and mysteries that never seemed to pay off. This might be the start of it, as we’re given no motive for any of Sabretooth’s actions, just the hint that the government has put him up to some nasty work. What this has to do with Mystique’s assailant is also unclear. The dialogue is dull as usual, and the narrative captions that try to sound dark and gritty are also a chore to read. This is a run I’m really not looking forward to reviewing.


wwk5d said...

Easily the worst monthly the X-offices produced at the time, and still some of the worst ever. Matusda makes the book even worse; at least before, you had Epting doing some great work with the art. But now? Ugh, ugh, ugh.

I wonder why they originally decided to have Onslaught attack Mystique?

Matt said...

I really liked Matsuda at the time, and his coming on board actually made me consider reading X-Factor regularly -- I was not a big fan of Steve Epting's "realistic" style (oh, how times [and tastes] change!). But my lack of interest in the characters kept me from doing so. It sounds like I wasn't missing much.

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