Friday, February 21, 2014

X-FACTOR #70 - September 1991


Ends and Odds
Credits:  Peter David (writer), Kirk Jarvinen (penciler), Joe Rubinstein (inker), Glynis Oliver and Steve Buccellato (colors), Michael Heisler (letters)


Summary:  Xavier, still recuperating from his battle with the Shadow King, attempts to salvage what is left of Legion’s mind.  Eventually, Marvel Girl convinces him that he’s seeing his own subconscious doubts reflected at him, and that Legion is gone.  As the other members of X-Factor join her in the Astral Plane, Xavier relents and accepts that he must now guide the X-Men once again.  Meanwhile, Wolverine gives Jubilee news she doesn’t want to hear, Mystique and Rogue reunite, and Val Cooper proposes Polaris join the new incarnation of Freedom Force.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Mystique reveals that Val Cooper actually shot herself and grazed her temple earlier in Uncanny X-Men #266.  It was Val’s body that was placed in the ambulance during the news report Rogue saw, as Nick Fury had already stepped in and placed Mystique undercover as Val.
  • The implication this issue is that Jubilee has been thrown out of the X-Men.  That seemed to be the idea, as she didn’t appear again until X-Men #4 in early 1992, but I don’t know of any story that officially explained her absence during this period.
  • A shattered photo of Xavier on page nine places broken glass around his left eye, making him resemble Cable.  I’m guessing this was a red herring thrown out as a joke, since I don’t recall any fan speculation that Cable and Xavier were the same person.


Approved By The Comics Code Authority:  Polaris’ costume is pretty racy by the standards of the day, and there’s an extended sequence dedicated to Guido tricking her into thrusting her hips in front of him.


I Love the '90s:  Mystique jokes that she’s having a “Kodak Moment” with Rogue.


Review:  Peter David makes his debut as writer, bridging the gap between the original X-Factor and the first of many mutations we’ll see over the years.  Kirk Jarvinen is the fill-in artist, and even though he’s given mostly conversation scenes to draw during the issue, he still makes an impressive standing.  (I loved his interpretation of Archangel as a kid.)  Jarvinen’s fairly subdued and not particularly cartoony at this stage, but he is very skilled at drawing facial expressions and laying out “quiet” pages that don’t feature any action.  I’m surprised he didn’t do more work for the X-office during this period; the various books always needed a fill-in, and he’s clearly superior to almost every guest penciler to ever show up in Excalibur


The story begins with Xavier searching Legion’s mind, desperate for any clue that his personality remains.  By the second page, Xavier’s already given Legion more thought than he will in a few years after Legion dies in the aftermath of the “Age of Apocalypse.”  The books by that point were too scattered to even acknowledge the loss, but thankfully the franchise isn’t quite off the rails in 1991.  The visual clues that add up during the issue, paid off at the end when Jean Grey explains that Xavier’s only seen his own subconscious reflected back at him, are obvious in retrospect but not so obvious they ruin the reveal.  Xavier’s realization that Legion is gone is emotional without going off into any histrionics, which is a welcome break.  “Quiet resolve” seems to fit Xavier’s character better, anyway.

Quick scenes with the gathered mutants appear throughout the issue.  Most of the cutaways are used for jokes, but David restrains himself and gives Mystique and Rogue a nice moment.  There's an idea repeated throughout the issue of the "center" that cannot hold, i. e. the X-Men without Xavier.  There seems to be an automatic assumption that everyone just wants to reunite and live with daddy Xavier again, but there's not much of an effort to actually dramatize why anyone feels that way. If the post-Claremont issues did a better job of showing what Xavier means to the united X-teams, this could be forgivable, but the stories just expected you to accept that all of these adults were perfectly okay going backwards in their lives.  David does convey that the various characters, even if they are joking around a bit, do care about Xavier.  I just don't see anything that justifies the major shift in status quo the crossover brought us.

As a reader at the time, I did enjoy seeing one era of the books end and another begin, all happening in real time.  This was rare enough during this period to genuinely feel special, as if you were reading the next “Second Genesis.”  The problems I have with the transition to the "merged teams" era were only visible in retrospect.  Reading a superhero comic with genuinely funny dialogue was also kind of a novelty for me at the time.  And Peter David haters should note that there are no Star Trek references or puns in the entire issue.  (Well, I might have to check again for puns, but I’m positive Star Trek isn’t referenced at all.)  

1 comment:

Austin 'Teebore' Gorton said...

As a reader at the time, I did enjoy seeing one era of the books end and another begin, all happening in real time. ... The problems I have with the transition to the "merged teams" era were only visible in retrospect.

Right there with you on both counts. This felt very momentous to me as a kid, the end of one era and the beginning of another, and the relative backslide of the characters to a classic status quo without a good in-story examination of it that occurred as part of that transition didn't become apparent to me until I re-read this stuff when I was older.

The implication this issue is that Jubilee has been thrown out of the X-Men. That seemed to be the idea, as she didn’t appear again until X-Men #4 in early 1992, but I don’t know of any story that officially explained her absence during this period

Nor do I. That always bugged me, even as a kid.

The only thing I can think of is that Claremont intended to write her out and explain where she went in a later issue, then obviously never got around to it so she just got brought back once he left, but I'm not sure if that would fit with the timing of everything.