Wednesday, June 30, 2010

X-FACTOR #138-#139, October-November 1997

Fear Walks amongst Us

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Mel Rubi (penciler), Rob Hunter, Steve Moncuse, & Allen Martinez, Hack Shack Studios (inkers), Comicraft (letters), Glynis Oliver (colors)

Summary: Sabretooth kills a mutant fortune teller the Hound program sent him to recruit. Stone, a fellow Hound, warns Sabretooth to obey orders, but Sabretooth ignores him. Later, he’s confronted by Omega Red. Omega Red wants to bargain Sabretooth for the Carbonadium Synthesizer, but Sabretooth fights him off. Soon, Sabretooth visits Stone and warns him that he now works alone. Meanwhile, Mystique disguises herself as the missing wife of Senator Brickman. She’s “rescued” and brought into the Brickman home.

Continuity Notes: Omega Red claims he’s made a deal with Elana Ivanova to trade Sabretooth for the Carbonadium Synthesizer. This is continued in the Maverick series. Mystique previously impersonated Mallory Brickman in Uncanny X-Men #359. I believe this is the first indication that Mrs. Brickman has actually been missing during all of this time. During a brief subplot scene, Dark Beast asks Havok why he trusts him. Havok mentally declares that he’s just using Dark Beast so that he can get close enough to him to stop his genetic experiments.

Review: So, apparently, the government’s Hound program, which appears to be run by rabid anti-mutant zealots, recruits mutants for unclear purposes. Sabretooth declares that he’ll “show them who’s really in charge of this operation” by killing the mutants he’s supposed to recruit. The response of his fellow Hound is essentially, “Aw, gee, cut that out.” Why is Sabretooth going along with the illusion that he’s a part of their team in the first place? If these mutants are so important to the Hound program, why aren’t they stopping him from killing them? Why doesn’t the Hound program keep Sabretooth on a leash, and use something like the collar he wore while in X-Factor? What did the Hound program get out of placing Sabretooth in X-Factor for so long, and why did they think he’d be a good recruit in the first place?

Ignoring this nonsense, there is at least an effort to retcon Havok’s move to villainy. Now, we’re supposed to believe that Havok was only bringing Dark Beast close to him in order to stop his experiments. I don’t believe for a second this was the plan all along, since they teamed up a year ago by this point and this is the first indication Havok has problems working with Dark Beast. Aside from that, Havok’s heel turn was supposed be confirmed when he nearly killed the love of his life with a plasma blast, shortly before he tried to kill everyone on that commercial airliner. At any rate, it does look like one of the many mistakes of this era is being corrected.

The Enemy Within

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Duncan Rouleau (penciler), Art Thibert, Whitney McFarland, & Hack Shack Studios (inkers), Comicraft (letters), Glynis Oliver (colors)

Summary: Federal agent Vargas investigates the return of Mallory Brickman. Mystique, as Brickman, claims that Sabretooth kept her prisoner for months. When Vargas asks too many questions, Mystique uses her influence to have him stationed in the Arctic Circle. The doctor who removes her inhibitor implant also dies in a mysterious car crash. Elsewhere, Val Cooper and Major Atkinson investigate the disappearance of Sabretooth and Mystique, as X-Factor recovers at the Brotherhood’s base, and Havok and Ever probe the Dark Beast’s experiments.

Continuity Notes: Mystique is sending federal agents after Sabertooth as punishment for…something he’s done to Trevor Chase (apparently Trevor is missing, but it was Sabretooth’s superiors in the Hound program that wanted him; Sabretooth shouldn’t have him). X-Factor is still recuperating after Sabretooth’s attack. Polaris collapses when she tries to use her powers. Ever, the character that only appeared once before with the Brotherhood, returns. He claims that he’s “escaped the yoke of McCoy’s mind control.” Ever originally showed up in group shots of Gene Nation, even though he never actually appeared with them in a story. Mackie might be trying to reconcile his two allegiances, since Gene Nation had ties to Dark Beast.

Review: Perhaps someone made a conscious decision to make X-Factor more coherent, since this is the second issue in a row that focuses mainly on one character and downplays the ongoing conspiracies. The book still doesn’t make a lot of sense, though. Apparently, Mystique is a good enough mimic to fool Mallory Brickman’s husband, but her precocious eight-year-old daughter is just clever enough to ask the right questions and make Mystique uncomfortable. Seeing Mystique lie her way out of trouble and work around the investigation adds some intrigue, but the execution is a bit off. We’re also supposed to believe that Mystique has casually killed the doctor that removed the government’s inhibitor chip (she claims now that Sabretooth implanted it as a tracking device) to cover her tracks. Is this the same Mystique that appeared to be going straight again a few issues ago? Are we supposed to buy into a budding romance between Forge and Mystique if she’s still killing people? Duncan Rouleau debuts as penciler. He’s much more subdued here than in the Juggernaut one-shot, but he’s still doing over-the-top cartooning. While some of his figures work as an odd Marc Silvestri/Jeff Matsuda blend, much of this is just too distorted for my tastes.


Jeff said...

That Mystique cover is really ugly. I never read X-Factor during this period, thankfully. The core titles were at least good with Kelly and Seagle on them at this time.

Anonymous said...

I think Uncanny #359 was released in summer 1998 and X-Factor#138 in summer 1997. So the 'Mystique-as-Mallory Brickman' Uncanny appearance was just a follow-up to the ruse she started here. I'm pretty sure we had never heard of the Brickman identity before these X-Factor issues.

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