Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Eric Battle (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Comicraft (lettering), Glynis Oliver & GCW (colors)
Summary: On the eve of Election Day, X-Factor arrives in Atlanta to protect Graydon Creed from Mystique. Mystique uses her shapeshifting powers to get close enough to point a gun at Creed. Polaris stops her, and Mystique is placed in custody. As Val Cooper rides away with her, Mystique claims that she was actually trying to stop the assassination. The gun she was using was actually a forcefield generator that was going to protect Creed. Meanwhile, X-Factor apprehends Pyro, as Creed addresses his supporters. Suddenly, a blast of energy reduces Creed to literal ashes. X-Factor regroups in their van, where a message appears on the monitors. It claims that Creed was the first and Mystique is next.
Continuity Notes: Val Cooper apparently refers to Creed as “Senator”, which is a mistake. It’s possible that Creed’s running mate, who is a senator, was supposed to be in the scene, but the artist left him out.
Mystique is now able to impersonate Val Cooper, after spending months hacking into Forge’s programming and working on her inhibitor transplant. She also claims that she knows about the secret government conspiracy that’s manipulating X-Factor.
Review: And now we’ve come to the end of the latest “What was the point?” storyline, the assassination of Graydon Creed. The death of the character is spoiled in the actual title of the issue, so I’m assuming the creators themselves weren’t even that interested in building suspense over his fate. And killing him off in such a cartoonish way doesn’t exactly add to the drama. I half-expected to see Daffy Duck’s bill on top of the pile of ashes. It seems like the creators were waiting for a decent story to emerge from the subplot, but as the real life Election Day approached, they realized it had to come to some sort of a conclusion (judging by the dates in the Bullpen Bulletin, this issue already shipped over a week after the 1996 election). Aside from serving no discernable purpose for months, outside of indirectly leading to Iceman’s departure, the storyline ends with yet another vague mystery. “Who killed Graydon Creed?” was another mystery that stuck around in the background for a few months before disappearing (I recall reading online that the X-Men Forever mini eventually revealed that Mystique did kill him after all, but I don’t even want to think about the mechanics of that). I guess turning Graydon Creed into a martyr for anti-mutant forces was supposed to lead into Bastion’s rise in “Operation: Zero Tolerance”, but I don’t recall much of a connection between the two storylines.
The actual mechanics of this specific issue feel as poorly thought-out as the rest of the storyline. An inordinate amount of time is spent on selling the idea that Mystique is impersonating Val Cooper, but it doesn’t have any real impact on the story. Mystique impersonates Val for a few pages, and then morphs into a variety of different people before getting close to Creed. The plot twist that Mystique suddenly wants to save Creed’s life makes no sense, given that she’s been talking about killing him for the past two issues. Also, Mystique is now suddenly in on the numerous conspiracies surrounding X-Factor, even though nothing in the previous issues indicated this. And, really, the last thing this title needs is more shadowy government conspiracy stories. To make matters worse, the eye-searing artwork often fails to tell the story, and it looks like it was drawn with markers instead of a pencil. This is the conclusion to a storyline that began over a year earlier, and it’s handled by a subpar fill-in? This turned out to be my next to last issue of X-Factor, and I don’t think anyone could blame me for bailing.