Monday, December 29, 2008

X-FACTOR #125 – August 1996

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

Summary: The Dark Beast unveils a brainwashed Havok to Onslaught, hoping to impress him with a powerful follower. Meanwhile, X-Factor is attacked by their training Sentinel, which has suddenly gone back online. Forge sends Mystique to retrieve Sabretooth, and the duo are soon greeted by the teleporting Fatale. Fatale teleports the Sentinel away, forcing X-Factor to leave the missing Sabretooth and Mystique behind as they track the Sentinel. The team soon arrives at the former headquarters of the Brand Corporation. They’re attacked by Havok, who follows orders and tries to kill X-Factor. During the fight, Fatale exposes Random to the team as the Dark Beast’s plant. Random remains loyal to Polaris and tries to save her from Havok. He takes a direct blast from Havok, forcing his body to revert to its true teenage form. Nearby, Forge discovers an army of Sentinels underground and is attacked by Post. Post soon declares that the fight is boring him, and orders the Sentinels to attack New York City.

Continuity Note: This is the first appearance of the brainwashed Havok. As the months progress, Marvel will try to sell him as an actual villain and not just a programmed one, but it doesn’t catch on.

Review: The Onslaught crossover reaches X-Factor, and doesn’t manage to impact the title’s quality either way. Since most of the storylines seem to have been going around in circles for a year at this point, dragging the book into the latest crossover isn’t much of a distraction. The Dark Beast had been a behind-the-scenes villain in the title for a few months, so using him as the connection to Onslaught makes sense. There are a few ongoing threads that are resolved here, as Havok returns and Random is exposed as the Dark Beast’s pawn, but the delivery is so bland it’s hard to care. As usual, the dialogue is dull and the characters don’t exhibit much personality. Making the team’s former leader a brainwashed villain and actually sticking with the idea had potential, but I don’t recall it ever working out. This issue’s introduction of brainwashed Havok is just as flat and boring as the rest of the story. Polaris gets dialogue like, “I don’t want to live in a world in which there is no hope that I can have you back”, and Havok gets gems like, “Then…I shall kill you!” The actual pacing of the story is fine, as it moves quickly without feeling too rushed, but the scripting makes it a chore to read. Matsuda’s art, as usual, is all over the place. His redesign of Havok isn’t perfect (what are those things on his shoulders supposed to be?), but it’s a tolerable combination of his previous looks and it suits Matsuda’s style. The rest of the artwork looks rushed, as figures twist and deform without reason, making it even harder to care about what’s going on.

Free Fall
Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Stefano Raffaele (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Glynis Oliver & Kevin Somers and Malibu (colors)

Summary: Fatale teleports Mystique and Sabretooth into the sewers, where they meet the Dark Beast. He neutralizes their inhibitor collars and offers them an opportunity to work for Onslaught. Forge arrives through a teleportation portal, and Dark Beast asks them to kill him. Instead, the pair turns against Dark Beast and attacks him. Mystique morphs a suit of spiky armor to defend herself, but is quickly knocked unconscious by the Dark Beast. Sabretooth fights him to the ground, but Dark Beast teleports away before he can be harmed. Forge, Mystique, and Sabretooth look at the Dark Beast’s monitors and learn the X-Man Beast is being held captive.

Continuity Note: Mystique’s shapeshifting powers begin to change with this issue. Previously, she was only able to change her physical appearance, and not adopt new powers or go beyond a humanoid form. Now, she can create claws, change her eyes to adopt feline vision, and turn her bones into a spiky armor. There’s no explanation for the change outside of “I’m full of surprises”.

Approved By The Comics Code Authority: To disguise the fact that Raffaele has drawn Mystique wearing a thong, her entire buttocks are colored white to match her costume.

Review: This is really a continuation of the main story, but I guess Matsuda’s inability to draw the entire issue forced it into becoming a backup. That is a preferable alternative to having the two artists interrupt one another, even though Raffaele’s art is even worse than Matsuda’s. Matsuda’s art during this period at least has a cartoonish charm that occasionally works. Raffaele’s work just looks like an awkward Jim Lee knockoff. The story’s main purpose is to have some other characters discover that the Beast is being held captive, which seems like something that should’ve happened in one of the X-Men’s titles since it really has nothing to do with X-Factor. Mystique and Sabretooth also lose their inhibitor restraints, which is presumably a big deal, but I don’t recall if this went anywhere. Suddenly giving Mystique new powers with no explanation is just annoying, and I think they were just dropped after X-Factor’s cancellation anyway. Just like the main story, it’s pretty dreary.

2 comments:

Chris said...

If I remember correctly, Mike Carey and Mark Brooks revived the "spiky bones" look for Mystique in last year's X-Men Annual # 1.

wwk5d said...

I think it was around this time that I stopped being a completist...my subscription to all X-titles ended a few months after the Onslaught storyline, and I stopped subscribing quite a few titles during this era, and X-factor was one that I stopped. I just gave up on the title. Crap writing and sloppy, bad art. How far this title fell in quality over the last few years is pretty miserable.

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