Credits: Louise Simonson (plot/script), Whilce Portacio (plot/pencils), Art Thibert (inks), Michael Heisler (letters), Glynis Oliver & Steve Buccellato (colors)
Summary: Hiro reaches out to Opal, explaining the details of her parents' secret love affair. She still refuses to marry Hiro, however, leading Tatsu’o to declare that he’ll choose her mate. Iceman soon arrives with Mariko and her ninja guard. They’re met by Tatsu’o’s daughter, Shizu’ko, who reveals that she’s poisoned Tatsu’o’s tea in order to spare Opal. Shizu’ko and the ninjas rescue Opal, while Hiro duels with Iceman. Iceman agrees to fight without his powers after Hiro questions his honor, but Opal shouts that Hiro’s powers are built into his body, making him as superhuman as a mutant. Hiro realizes she’s right and stops the duel. Iceman escapes with Opal, as Tatsu’o’s compound burns.
- Hiro reveals that Opal’s father died while serving in her grandfather’s criminal empire. Later, one of the Cyberpunks speculates that Tatsu’o favors Hiro because he looks like his deceased son.
- The term “Cyberpunk” actually doesn’t appear in this issue, even though it was the established name of Tatsu’o’s guard last issue. This issue, they’re called “Cyber-Warriors” by Shizu’ko, and even “Cyber-Force” (!) by one of the members.
Review: I can’t imagine Louise Simonson wanted this to be her final storyline, but after five years, this issue marks her departure. Rob Liefeld, with Fabian Nicieza as scripter, has already replaced her on New Mutants, and beginning next issue, Chris Claremont will script X-Factor over Jim Lee’s plots. This marks one of the few times in X-Factor’s run that it will share a writer (or writers) with Uncanny X-Men. Considering that Simonson has spent the last five issues on this title either participating in a crossover or co-plotting a story with the new artist, I couldn’t blame her if she left out of simple frustration. Anyone curious to see where Simonson would’ve taken X-Factor without editorial interference might be interested in the X-Factor Forever miniseries, which features her intended conclusions for the ongoing subplots, and surprisingly strong artwork by Dan Panosian.
While the previous issue wasn’t quite Image Insane, we’ve reached that point now. The story does have a decent start, as some time is spent humanizing Hiro and filling in the details of the past of Opal’s parents, but within a few pages the random violence and explosions begin. To give you some idea of how rushed and chaotic the ending of this story is, the main villain dies off-panel after his daughter poisons his tea. Now, getting demure Shizu’ko to the point that she’s willing to betray her father and even murder him isn’t a bad direction to take the story in, but when the details are skimped over in the course of two panels, something’s clearly wrong. Portacio seems much more interested in drawing cyborg ninjas fighting each other, which means all of those pesky character subplots get pushed aside. Iceman choosing to fight Hiro without his powers is also derisorily stupid, but I guess it kind of works in an old school superheroic soap opera kind of way. Opal and Iceman’s scenes aren’t so bad, actually, but the rest of the issue just feels rushed and disjointed. And Portacio is back to those ugly faces again, unfortunately.