Issue(s): X-Factor #78
The story starts off with Dr. Tucker, the doctor that developed the mutant gene test, receiving a warning that his clinic is going to be attacked by someone whose voice he recognizes.
We then cut away to a funny scene with Val Cooper introducing a new Danger Room to X-Factor, only to get locked out of the room thanks to faulty workmanship (it'll later turn out that Strong Guy rigged the doorknob because he doesn't like practicing).
The art in this issue is split between Larry Stroman and Brandon Peterson, and it seems to be a page by page split as opposed to Peterson assisting on the Stroman pages. But Stroman's art continues to look a little wonky in places. Knowing now that the story was re-worked to remove references to abortion (see Michael's comment below), i wonder if Brandon Peterson was brought in to re-do scenes, but it seems like the changes were something that could have been handled in the script alone.
Mr. Sinister shows up to retrieve the Nasty Boys Hairbag and Slag, who the Mutant Liberation Front rescued from prison last issue. We don't see Slag, but it seems that Hairbag doesn't want to go back to Sinister.
Meanwhile, Havok contacts the X-Men about the re-emergence of Mr. Sinister.
Note the official opinion on X-Force, which i'm pretty sure is new information. The last i saw, Storm and Cyclops were debating the merits of Cable in Uncanny X-Men #273. I wonder when it turned into the team being "a corruption of everything". And if so, you'd think going after them would be a priority. To be clear, i don't think it's an out of character decision, but it is noteworthy that we're seeing this development in X-Factor as opposed to either the X-Men or X-Force.
X-Factor is called upon to defend Dr. Tucker's clinic from an attack by the MLF. That's a problem for Wolfsbane and Quicksilver. Wolfsbane does not approve of what Tucker is doing. Quicksilver also asks to not participate, not yet saying why. Note that her disapproval is framed specifically as a mutant rights issue. Michael notes in the comments that the script (at least?) for this issue was altered to remove references to abortion; as you can see from the scans below, Dr. Tucker's process is now about somehow removing the mutant gene. I have to admit that this always went over my head; having read last issue where the story was clearly about abortion, it's hard to un-know that for this issue.
The MLF, meanwhile, are noting that Tempo seems to be slow-peddling on this mission.
They still manage to get to Tucker before X-Factor arrive.
But X-Factor arrive soon enough. We seem to switch to the Peterson art somewhere around here.
While the rest of X-Factor (minus Quicksilver) face MLF, Wolfsbane tracks the dying Tucker. As he dies, he requests that she transfer his data on mutant testing to disc so that it can be given to the government. Wolfsbane instead deletes the data. Polaris saw it happening, but didn't stop her (and Peter David frames her dialogue in explicit pro-choice language).
The MLF manage to escape. Reaper loses a leg in the process.
I love the "no offense, Stryfe" line in the scan above. But the key point is that Tempo (who spent the fight with X-Factor getting battered around by Polaris thanks to her metal helmet) is the woman that warned Dr. Tucker in the beginning and ensured that X-Factor would get involved, because Tucker was her father (or older brother or ex-lover or some other close relation). And Stryfe is aware of this, and is understanding about it. By leaps and bounds this is the most characterization we've had for either Tempo or Stryfe since they've first appeared. Not that i expect it to stick. But between this and Peter David bothering to address the current status of X-Force among the other teams, it makes me wish that David had a larger role in determining the direction of the X-books in general.
As i've said before, Larry Stroman's stylized art can be really great in the right circumstances, but it doesn't work well for action, and when he's seemingly facing deadline pressures (in addition to needing help this issue, he's off next issue and then only has two more issues before he's gone from the series), it ends up just getting messy. And that's a problem in a book with a large cast. And worse, it contributes to the wrong kind of mood when Peter David is already mixing in a lot of humor and characters with names like Hairbag with serious topics. The humor should be there to provide relief to the seriousness, but when the art is chaotic, it tips the balance in the wrong direction and the book can sometimes feel too "zany". But that's a minor fault in a book with great characterization and smart storylines.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Last issue happened "yesterday".
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showCyclops, Dr. Tucker, Forearm, Hairbag, Havok, Madrox the Multiple Man, Mr. Sinister, Polaris, Professor X, Quicksilver, Reaper, Strobe, Strong Guy, Stryfe, Tempo, Valerie Cooper, Vicky Wang, Wildside, Wolfsbane, Zero
This issue was rewritten to eliminate all references to the possibility of using the tests to abort mutants. Instead, it was stated that the doctor could develop genetic engineering to eliminate the mutant gene and turn the babies into humans. According to PAD, it was a result of the backlash over Northstar coming out:
Posted by: Michael | February 18, 2016 8:42 PM
Well, i mean, it's not her second cousin twice removed. But you're right that the comic doesn't explicitly say that it's her father.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 18, 2016 8:53 PM
I would disagree. I don't recall anything in the comic suggesting Tempo was related to Tucker. I always saw it as a part of Peter David's morally-ambiguous story, that Tempo was bothered personally by the implications of what the MLF were doing in a parallel to the way Rhane, Lorna and Pietro had differing viewpoints about the exact same thing. And Sinister understands that. He's not a raving lunatic who demands complete obedience to his every whim. And neither are (some) of his henchmen.
Posted by: ChrisW | February 18, 2016 9:29 PM
ChrisW, even beyond Stryfe's intimation, which would be a pretty weird line for PAD to put in from a storytelling perspective if it didn't mean something, the opening scene where Tempo is giving the warning makes it pretty clear that the two seem to know each other without actually hitting us over the head with it. I've added a scan of that scene at the top of the page.
Michael, regarding why i think "father" as opposed to some other relationship, the fact that he calls her "young lady" makes that the most likely option to me. It's establishing an age distinction that makes, say, brother, or ex-lover, less likely. And if we accept Stryfe's intimation at the end, it should be someone close enough for the relationship to have real emotional impact, so, like, not an old college professor.
But on both points, PAD doesn't explicitly say, so it can be open to interpretation.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 19, 2016 9:10 AM
Oh for the days when Wolfsbane's intermediate human-wolf form was actually depicted as, you know, an intermediate human-wolf form, rather than this Bride-of-Frankenstein-meets-The-Wolfman appearance.
Posted by: Oliver_C | February 19, 2016 10:12 AM
WTF is Val Cooper wearing?
Posted by: JC | February 19, 2016 11:26 AM
When did Wolfsbane become a Catholic? In New Mutants, her religious background was always Presbyterian.
Posted by: Stevie G | February 19, 2016 1:29 PM
Oh, you're right. Thanks Stevie G. Removed that.
JC, X-Factor does make fun of Val's outfit in this issue, for what it's worth.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 19, 2016 1:40 PM
Tempo's name is subsequently revealed to be Heather Tucker, so it seems very likely that she is closely related to Doctor Tucker.
I think that this is one of those stories where attempting to have mutants serve as an allegory for real-life minorities falls apart. In the Marvel universe, some mutations are amazing, giving people almost god-like abilities. But other mutations are, well, a real curse, resulting in uncontrollable powers or horrific deformities. What if removing the mutant gene meant that you would no longer have to worry about death rays shooting uncontrollably out of your eyes (Cyclops), or that touching another person would cause their life energy to be sucked out(Rogue), or that you would no longer be morbidly obese (Blob), or have bones protruding uncontrollably our of your body (Marrow), and so on? Hell, even with someone like Magneto, his powers are a blessing *and* a curse: he controls a fundamental force of nature, but his powers cause him to exhibit extreme mental instability. Honestly, in some cases, mutants who felt that they were more cursed than blessed would be relieved to have their mutant gene removed.
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 19, 2016 1:51 PM
Fnord, the scan you added does weigh rather heavily on the side that they actually know each other personally, and I assume the retcon that Tempo was related to Dr. Tucker wasn't actually a retcon and was intended from the beginning with this story. That's fair. I may not agree, but it's a rational viewpoint which, admittedly, has more evidence to support it than my own reading.
That said, (1) I'm skeptical that they're father/daughter, because he'd probably recognize his daughter's voice and (2) when I read the series, I assumed that she was a patient at the clinic. If I recall, Tempo was introduced as having a badly-written southern accent, so her voice would have stood out to him, even if he couldn't place it. She went to the clinic for reasons that wouldn't pass the standards of Marvel editors, never mind the Comics Code, and at the very least, is ambivalent about it afterwards to the point where she'll sabotage her own team's mission to kill Dr. Tucker.
Maybe I'm just reading too much into things, but Peter David is just that good a writer.
Posted by: ChrisW | February 19, 2016 11:35 PM
Based on this story alone, I would assume Dr. Tucker is Tempo's dad. Having had a mutant daughter himself would explain why he's so personally invested in the research, right down to facing the MLF and making that "if your parents had known they were getting a vomitous freak" comment, even though they might kill him for it. It would also make Tempo's story more tragic: she's trying to save her dad, even though he thinks his own daughter is a freak.
Posted by: Tuomas | February 20, 2016 6:31 AM
That makes perfect sense, I won't deny that. At this point, the only things I'm really disagreeing on are that the two main black characters are obviously related, even though there's nothing in the story to show that. Just because they're black?
And also, parents generally know more about their kids than their kids realize, so I have a hard time thinking Tempo could fool Dr. Tucker with her voice. Not saying you're wrong. Established Marvel continuity apparently says you're right. It's just that I never read it that way, and only the scan fnord added really puts any weight on that interpretation (to me, your mileage may vary.)
Peter David was such a perfect fit for the mutant titles, and Bob Harras' mutant titles were so wrong for Peter David. At least we got a handful of issues out of him. Fine, Tempo is Dr. Tucker's daughter. I can see reasons that doesn't work, but I know when I'm outvoted. Niece, second cousin? Those might work. But I still prefer my own reading, which is fully-consistent with the comic as we see it. A very morally-ambiguous story which works very well no matter what your perspective on the subject matter. One of my favorite experiences in all of fiction, regardless of medium or genre. I love stories where every reader has their own viewpoint which is entirely sustainable based on the information provided in the story itself.
At his best, Peter David was very good at those stories. There was also the [blanking on her name, Crazy 8?] story over in "Hulk" about capital punishment. Excellent story which raised as many moral questions on all sides of the issue as possible, didn't take any particular side, and didn't provide a satisfying ending for anyone who wanted their particular viewpoint justified. It's not supposed to be satisfying, it's supposed to be a good story, and it was.
If nothing else, this story is what happens when you let Peter David write Rob Liefeld characters. The horror, the horror...
Posted by: ChrisW | February 21, 2016 3:41 AM
the only things I'm really disagreeing on are that the two main black characters are obviously related, even though there's nothing in the story to show that. Just because they're black?
There is nothing in the story that explicitly confirms that they are a father and daughter, but since Stryfe's "personal involvement" comment confirms Tempo did know Dr. Tucker personally, and given that the story is about human parents not wanting to have mutant children, and that Tucker clearly has a strong personal opinion on the matter, it would be the most obvious conclusion. If she was just a patient at the clinic, would she defy Stryfe to warn Dr. Tucker?
I agree that him not recognizing her is a bit strange, but maybe she altered her voice while talking on the phone? Comics don't have sound, so we can't tell... And when the MLF faces Tucker, she doesn't talk to him and her face is hidden by her mask. It's a bit dodgy, but hey, this is superhero comics, where even a domino mask is enough to hide your identity from friends and loved ones.
Posted by: Tuomas | February 21, 2016 5:24 AM
He does recognize her voice enough to know that he recognizes her voice, so to speak. I assume they were estranged and haven't spoken since she manifested mutant abilities at adolescence.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 21, 2016 10:52 AM
You're both right, it's the most obvious conclusion, and again, I know when I'm outvoted. Wouldn't surprise me if Peter David wrote the story for the most obvious conclusion, it's just that I like the way it was so nuanced to allow for different conclusions. It's a rare skill. Tempo's "personal involvement" could be because she went to the clinic (before or after she started working for Stryfe, doesn't really matter except for future stories.) Stryfe knew about it and that's why he mentions it.
Dr. Tucker recognizes her voice because it sticks out. I'm not good with faces or people who change looks regularly, but a voice, that I can remember. Getting a random call about an incoming threat would be jarring, but I suspect Dr. Tucker would recognize his daughter's voice on the phone, as opposed to nieces or whoever that he may rarely see.
I've lost the argument and am not remotely trying to convince anybody that I'm right. I won't even claim that I am right. I'm just using this as an excuse to enthuse about the story. We're talking about Rob Liefeld characters and can basically count their appearances on one hand, but suddenly there are nuances that make Madelyne Pryor or Hank Pym look two-dimensional and unbelievable. This is what good writing is, people.
Posted by: ChrisW | February 22, 2016 1:16 AM
Maybe it's just that good writing is in such short supply during this era.
Posted by: ChrisW | February 22, 2016 1:49 AM
To be fair I think Tempo's characterization here sticks (for the most part) for the rest of her appearances as the more (reletively) "reasonable" member of the team. And yes, I got the feeling she was Dr Tucker's long-lost daughter or ex-wife too (women in comics ARE drawn looking young-ish, regardless of actual age, and men marrying younger women is a common occurance).
There is an X-over coming up in the books, with Cable and X-Force playing a big role so Peter David might have been trying to get some slight set-up for tge confrontation.
Speaking of which,though, Stryfe's temperment here doesn't make sense. He alwzys came off as one of those "Don't you DARE disobey my orders" type of supervillians.
Michael was the backlash against the plotline simply due to dealing with abortion in general (which is still a "controversial" subject) or because it was starting to have a "designer babies" vibe? Tying it in with the Northstar storyline suggest the former, since that's the only way those two storylines could be related.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | February 25, 2016 11:13 AM
As far as I know, the backlash was against dealing with abortion in general.
Posted by: Michael | February 25, 2016 7:57 PM
Comments are now closed.
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