Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Tom Raney (penciler), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Gina Going (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters)
Summary: Havok floats in a black void until he encounters the recently deceased body of another timeline’s Havok. Possessing his body, Havok emerges in a new reality. In this world, he leads the Six with his wife, Marvel Woman. After defeating a Sentinel attack, Havok and the Six stop a rogue Nick Fury and SHIELD from unleashing the Legacy Virus.
“That’s Crazy Because They’re Different”: In this reality, Havok was a founding member of the X-Men. He now leads the Six, formerly the government-sponsored superhero team X-Factor, which consists of Marvel Woman (Madelyne Pryor), the Fallen (Archangel), the Brute (the Beast), Ice-Man (Iceman), and Bloodstorm (Storm). Elektra is nanny to Havok and Madelyne’s son, Scotty. In this world, Madelyne Pryor rescued her son in “Inferno” by striking a deal with N’astirh (she occasionally manifests the Goblin Queen persona), Archangel developed the ability to breathe fire from Apocalypse, the Beast grew green and amphibious (and less intelligent) after experimenting on himself, Iceman’s powers never recovered from Loki’s manipulations, and Storm remained a vampire after her encounter with Dracula.
Continuity Notes: The Six wonder why Sentinels are attacking them since human/mutant relations are “on an upswing.” Fury was discharged by the government for his extreme anti-mutant views. Cyclops died as a child during his family’s plane crash, leading Havok to name his son in his brother’s honor. Little Scotty instinctively knows that “our” Havok is not his father. Jean Grey also served in the X-Men as “Ariel” before her death. The Six split from the X-Men after Xavier left Magneto in charge of the school.
Better Than X-Factor?: By X-Factor I mean Howard Mackie’s run specifically, since comparing it to something like Peter David’s stint would be an apples and oranges kind of thing. And, yes, this is better than a good 90% of Mackie’s X-Factor issues. The dialogue is still extremely wooden in places, and while some of the characters are mocked within the story for their “extraneous exposition,” Madelyne lets out this gem without comment: “Ororo, the gale force winds you are summoning up and directing toward this one don’t seem to be having any more effect than either Havok’s or my powers.” Seriously, how does something like that get published?
Anyway, nitpicking aside, most of the dialogue is at least passable, and the situation Mackie has dumped Havok into has a lot of potential. He knows nothing of this world, his wife has a secret deal with demons, most of his teammates resemble monsters, and his son knows he’s an imposter. The premise of an alternate reality that’s allowed Havok to develop out of brother’s shadow is pretty novel, and it’s telling that these X-Men have lost so many of the battles they won in our reality under Havok.
Some of the status quo changes, like Storm’s vampirism, make sense while others seem too arbitrary. (Why would Havok replacing Cyclops on the X-Men lead Beast to develop a different formula? Or Apocalypse to mutate Archangel in a different way?) It’s hard to see the logic behind these choices. Later on, this book will become notorious for Mackie’s capricious reality warps, so this stuff is fairly mild. If you think Elektra the nanny and Nick Fury the bigot are too ridiculous, there’s much worse coming.
At any rate, aside from those complaints, I’m still willing to give the new reality a chance at this point. Considering the hasty development of this book, it’s actually impressive that a new reality has been fleshed out so quickly, and over the course of thirty story pages (and six character bios in the back) Mackie gives the readers a lot of info to digest. Unfortunately, Tom Raney’s art is looking a bit rushed. He has a tendency to occasionally produce faces that are oddly distorted, and there’s a higher ratio of those present in this issue. When he’s on his game though, like in the opening sequence, it’s hard to find any faults. One of the problems with X-Factor in the later years was the consistently below-par art, a situation that seems to be rectified now.