After his encounter with Madelyne Pryor in issue #25, X-Man’s powers are fading. He heads to Muir Island to ask Moira MacTaggert for help. She reveals that his powers still exist, but she suspects he’s subconsciously suppressing them. This small amount of information is wrapped around several pages of X-Man asking Peter Parker for advice, X-Man spying on Excalibur, and X-Man getting chased by Moira MacTaggert, who's wearing a cybernetic helmet and wielding a Liefeld-gun. So, more time is killed, X-Man is as bratty and unlikable as ever, and we get another storyline revolving around his powers. Making matters worse, the new Brotherhood, not content to drag just X-Factor into the dirt, shows up to recruit X-Man. Normally, I would say Pascual Ferry’s art is enough to alleviate the weak story, but this is far from his best work. His fill-in on Uncanny almost a year earlier was much better than this, so I’m assuming this was a rush job.
The issue opens with X-Man tagging along with the Brotherhood as they free Aurora from the Canadian government. Havok’s actions here kind of remind me of Cable’s portrayal in his early appearances. Havok shouldn’t have been chosen as the character to lead the new Brotherhood, but using them as a borderline terrorist group that’s honestly working to help oppressed mutants is a decent idea. However, as we learn later, the team was also after the cargo of toxic gas that was being transported along with Aurora. (Apparently, later issues of X-Factor will reveal that Havok was faking all along, which doesn’t sit well with this issue. X-Man telepathically probes Havok and learns that he believes in his cause and isn’t being brainwashed or possessed. Marvel really tried to sell the idea of Havok as a villain for a while there, which is probably why we’re seeing a telepath outright tell us that this is really Havok.) After X-Man grows suspicious of the Brotherhood, Havok proves his openness by unveiling the member he’s kept hidden, the Dark Beast. Really, this storyline is just a variation on the “Dark Beast sends goon to recruit X-Man” stories from the early issues of the book, but the addition of the Brotherhood actually makes things slightly more interesting.
Dance with the Devil
X-Man spends the entire issue with the Brotherhood, debating whether or not to join them. Kavanagh does use past continuity pretty effectively, remembering that X-Man knows most of these characters from the AoA and is well aware of their “darker” sides. There’s also an acknowledgment that Havok is technically X-Man’s uncle, which is a connection I don’t think anyone made before. Ultimately, X-Man decides that Havok and Dark Beast are too dangerous to be trusted with the toxic gas (now called “Coldsnap”) and goes behind their back to destroy it. This arc continues the series’ tradition of utter aimlessness, but at least X-Man is paired with characters that aren’t totally random selections. Going back to his time in Sinister’s pens in the AoA, X-Man does have a connection with Havok, Aurora, and Dark Beast. Meanwhile, the never-ending Hellfire Club subplot continues. Apparently, Selene is recruiting Fitzroy and Tessa to join her against Sebastian Shaw and Madelyne Pryor. Did a point ever emerge out of this?
X-Man was never the sharpest knife in the drawer. His solution for disposing of the gas is to lock himself in a room with it before releasing it. That’s clever. To be fair, the story at least acknowledges how dumb this is when X-Man has a mental conversation with himself during a near-death experience (it’s hinted that he’s suicidal). Not surprisingly, he finds the inner strength to turn his powers back on and uses a telekinetic blast to escape. He emerges in Washington Square Park, where he collapses in front of a group of strange women. They’re probably not supposed to look like prostitutes, but that isn’t stopping Roger Cruz. A few pages earlier, a Jane Doe emerged from the morgue and a few animated corpses followed her in a cutaway scene. These might be the ladies in Washington Square Park, but you never know with this book. Also, one of the Abominaton’s followers has invaded X-Man’s home, looking for revenge. I am shocked that the Hellfire Club subplot isn’t advanced, or even briefly acknowledged, this issue. You’d almost get the impression that the creative team didn’t know where to go with the idea, so it was allowed to stay in the background and only occasionally emerged to kill a few pages every couple of issues. But, surely, X-Man was held to higher standards than that…