Credits: Louise Simonson (plot/script), Whilce Portacio (plot/art), Homage Studios (art assist), Michael Heisler (letters), Glynis Oliver (colors)
Summary: Iceman’s girlfriend Opal is kidnapped by Cyberpunks serving her grandfather, Tatsu’o. After speaking to her adopted parents, Iceman learns that Opal has been hidden from her grandfather her entire life. Meanwhile, Opal learns she is expected to sire a child with one of Tatsu’o’s Cyberpunks. Iceman travels to Japan with Marvel Girl, and with Mariko’s help, attends a sumo match Tatsuo is observing. When Iceman impetuously reveals himself, Tatsu’o’s Cyberpunks attack Mariko’s ninja guard. Two of the Cyberpunks are killed, but none of Mariko’s men survive. Tatsu’o teleports away with Opal, as Iceman vows to rescue her.
- Opal discovered she was adopted in X-Factor #59. Her adopted mother is actually her birth mother’s distant cousin. Opal meets her birth mother, Shizu’ko, at Tatuso’s compound.
- Hiro, the only noble member of the Cyberpunks, debuts here. He’ll go on to have a pretty forgettable death scene during the early Scott Lobdell issues of Uncanny X-Men.
- Jean Grey meets Mariko Yashida for the first time. Simonson doesn’t play the scene for any drama, she merely has both women mentally acknowledge why Wolverine could be attracted to the other. Years later, Chris Claremont will have a drastically different take on Mariko’s opinion of Jean in X-Men Forever.
- Ship is undergoing minor malfunctions. This is an ongoing subplot that will be resolved in a few issues, after Louise Simonson is gone. I believe the official explanation didn’t match her original plan, which saw its conclusion in X-Factor Forever.
- Finally, this issue establishes that Opal’s birthday is close to Christmas. This is bound to come up again one day, so try to keep that straight, Marvel.
Review: I was a sporadic reader of X-Factor during my early years of collecting, but rarely felt it was required reading within the X-canon. (Actually, in those days, Uncanny X-Men really was the only X-book I felt obligated to buy, unless a crossover was going on.) While both X-Factor and New Mutants spent years overshadowed by the main title, New Mutants had clearly jumped ahead of X-Factor in popularity in 1990 following the debut of Cable and the assorted Liefeld insanity. After seeing the boost New Mutants received with a heavily stylized artist and an “edgy” ‘90s cyborg protagonist, I imagine editor Bob Harras wanted to duplicate some of that success in X-Factor. Hence, the debut of Whilce Portacio as the new regular artist, and somehow, co-plotter. And cyborgs. Lots of cyborgs. Any lapsed readers brought back by “X-Tinction Agenda” had to at least give this issue a try, right?
It’s hard to judge this issue in retrospect, because I’m not sure how tired all of these Japanese family/honor/cyborg ninja clichés were in early ‘90s. I do remember reading Opal’s first appearances when she debuted, and even as a kid I liked the idea of a superhero falling for this kind of frumpy, average girl in glasses. Revealing that she’s actually the secret granddaughter of a Yakuza crimelord doesn’t add an awful lot to her character, (frankly, it’s beyond ridiculous) and it’s hard not to view this portrayal of Japan as rather simplistic. There’s a ninja vs. cyborg fight set at a sumo wrestling match at the issue’s climax. All it’s missing is Mothra.
I will say that this is fairly subdued by Whilce Portacio’s standards. None of his females have that weird, anorexic body type he sometimes reverts to, and most of the faces look fine. He’s also got a flair for page layouts, which I’m sure impressed many of the readers bored by traditional six-panel grids in 1990. Louise Simonson is also able to add some humanity to the story, giving Opal fairly plausible responses to the situation she’s faced with. And someone actually remembered Mariko, a character that was oddly languishing in obscurity at the time, even though Wolverine had been headlining two books for years.