Issue(s): X-Factor #88, X-Factor #89, X-Factor #90, X-Factor #91
So yeah, these are Peter David's last two issues with Scott Lobdell taking over mid story. Lobdell makes a certain superficial kind of sense as a replacement for David, since he also has a humorous side, but he seems to just be filling in. He'll plot the next few issues, but they are scripted by J.M. DeMatteis who will then become the full writer.
I said in the last entry that Joe Quesada becoming the regular artist might have helped stabilize this book if David has stayed on, but considering the back-ups, extra help, and last minute replacements as noted above, he might not have been capable of a regular schedule.
Peter David left for what he calls a "variety of -- well -- factors", but i've always understood it to be because of the need for him to drop his storylines in order to accommodate crossovers, like Fatal Attractions, which is coming next issue. I'm normally somewhat sympathetic to the need for crossovers, since it's a way to get eyeballs on a series, but if it was a deal breaker for David i am kind of surprised they didn't just let him opt out. The sales on this book are nothing to sneeze at. And David was apparently well liked at Marvel. In this year's June Bullpen Bulletins, Marvel publishes the results of a survey of 200 Marvel staffers. Peter David was voted the Favorite Regular Writer, his Future Imperfect was voted Favorite Limited Series, and Future Imperfect #1 and X-Factor #87 tied for Favorite Single Issue. Seems like you ought to give a guy like that a little leeway.
On the other hand, Peter David's plans for Wolfsbane were on the icky side (see the link above), so from that perspective now was a good time for him to exit.
This story starts with the X-Patriots staging a protest at a hospital, trying to get treatment for Taylor, who was beaten by an anti-mutant crowd in an earlier issue. The New York mayor has called in a mutant named Random to stop the protest. But X-Factor has been brought in by the Federal government.
The chronology of the X-Patriot storyline feels like the thing that was most disrupted by the last crossover, X-Cutioner's Song, and maybe this specifically is what caused Peter David to hate crossovers. I've already noted how the gap between issues #83-84 of this series seems wrong (but necessary for the crossover). The X-Patriot subplot then got short shrift during the crossover, and in issue #86 it's said that they've left the hospital where Taylor was being kept but there was no time to do anything about it. Issue #87 has a guest artist and is a (very good) one off story with no references to subplots, and i almost considered treating it like an out-of-sequence fill-in. That's not actually possible as you can see from the scan above: Polaris' costume and Val Cooper's change in attitude both stem from last issue and of course there's also the explicit footnote regarding Quicksilver. But it does seem like X-Factor lost the trail of the X-Patriots and didn't make it a priority until now.
Random approaches the X-Patriots first, and it seems that in addition to the big honking gun on his arm he has the ability to counteract the powers of others.
Exactly how that counteraction works is, i guess, random, as we see when Strong Guy shows up.
Random says, "I'm the kinda guy who goes with the flow... When needs be, I'm all things to all people. I'm Random.".
Havok solves the problem by writing Random a check for an amount higher than what the mayor is paying him. Seems bad for Random's business in the long run, but he accepts and withdraws. Random will have a lot more appearances in this series and elsewhere, but i'm not sure if he'll be used the way Peter David intended. Random seems like a parody character here, with his random abilities and the big gun (which reminds me of Bushwacker specifically but could be meant as a parody of the Cable/Bishop type characters).
Havok then says he's taking the X-Patriots back to Genosha to show them that it's not the way it was when they fled. Val Cooper, who previously vetoed that idea, is now in agreement.
On the plane ride there, we see Wolfsbane making a pass at Madrox, which makes him uncomfortable. The rest realize that something is wrong with her, and hope to find answers in Genosha, where she was made into a mutate. Moira MacTaggert is also in Genosha.
Things initially seem ok in Genosha, aside from an anti-mutant leader visiting from a neighboring country. Prodigal is convinced that the mutates need someone like him to lead them, because they need help adjusting to a society where they are no longer slaves. To emphasize that point, we see what happens when a mutate drops something.
As for Rahne, here is the scene that Peter David mentioned in the link above, where it's clear from the art that she is supposed to be in heat and all the dogs are attracted to her, but the script has been changed to ignore that.
But Rahne's "canine body" is still a factor in her "accentuated proclivities", and even beyond that, it's said that Rahne's attraction to Havok was due to having been bonded with him while they were in Genosha together.
Learning this, Wolfsbane transforms into full werewolf mode and breaks out.
At the end of issue #88 we see the current Genoshan Genegineer, Sasha Ryan, meeting with a mysterious somebody.
This plot is not continued into the post-David issues. Peter David will pick this up years later, where we'll learn that he is Josef Huber, aka the Isolationist.
Polaris tries to calm Wolfsbane down. We learn that one positive aspect of Polaris' new costume is that it's metal, allowing Polaris to affect it with her powers.
When Wolfsbane nonetheless manages to scratch Polaris, she reigns herself in. Lobdell then takes the opportunity to make a great use of Polaris' history to show how she can sympathize with Wolfsbane.
Really nice continuity-informed characterization. As i said in the last entry, i was a little surprised and disappointed that Peter David didn't pick up on this for Polaris' session with Doc Samson. But it actually works better coming up here, as something that Polaris can use to reach Wolfsbane. Whatever other problems Polaris may have, she's together enough about her history of being mentally manipulated that she's able to help Wolfsbane with her similar situation.
Wolfsbane is talked down, but Havok is pretty pissed about the situation, and he begins tearing up Genosha. A mutate named Piecemeal (no relation to Peter David's NWO monster) fights back.
To jump back a bit, the back-up story in issue #88-89 shows Quicksilver on leave. He and Crystal take a vacation together to try to rekindle their relationship. Things start off going very well.
But someone is determined to make it not work.
When Quicksilver goes into town for some groceries, he's approached by someone named Torq who claims to be a reporter for a tabloid. He shows Quicksilver some pictures of Crystal with the Black Knight and claims that he has more explicit ones.
Quicksilver breaks his nose and makes threats and then leaves. When he gets back to Crystal, he doesn't tell her what happened, but he starts acting coldly towards her, and any chance of reconciliation seems lost. We then see Torq meeting with someone happy to have "stimulated the homicidal impulses of the son of Magneto".
In issue #90, we see Quicksilver contacting Val Cooper after the back-ups from #88-89. Despite the fact that X-Factor are battling the Genoshans, Val tells Quicksilver not to come and help. When Madrox tries to say otherwise, she gets weird.
But whatever is going on with Val isn't revealed yet.
X-Factor is convinced to stand down, and the Genoshans show them that the mutates in Genosha are dying from a "flu". It's a parallel with AIDS, of course, but i wasn't sure if it was also an early sign of the Legacy Virus. Austin in the comments confirms that it is. Genoshan scientists are working to keep the mutates alive. This research has taken precedence over anything else, including reversing the bonding/brainwashing that Wolfsbane is suffering from. However, it's said to be untreatable. Moira MacTaggert leaves Genosha to confirm with Professor X (they are meeting in France, per the events of the Uncanny X-Men series).
This settles the conflict, although a related problem arises when one of the mutates, who wants to die free from the wires and tubes of his lab bed, tries to flee. X-Factor head to the sewers to protect him from the Genoshan magistrates.
The team are wearing suits to protect them from the sickness, but to save the mutate, Madrox has to create a duplicate of himself.
The mutate is brought back to the Genoshan hospital and is allowed to die with dignity, but the fear is that the "main" Madrox is infected by whatever his dupe was exposed to.
While the rest of X-Factor are dealing with that, Val returns to the US to manipulate Quicksilver.
Things veer off in a different direction after David leaves, with the dying mutate plot feeling especially tacked on. But in other regards Lobdell does a decent job maintaining the tone of the book, especially in the mix of humor and characterization. I don't always love Lobdell's sense of humor but i thought it fit for these characters. I also like that Lobdell is doing things that tie the book in to the larger X-universe continuity - Moira going to France to meet Xavier, the connection between Quicksilver and Magneto, and (possibly) the Legacy Virus.
This isn't quite the end of Peter David's X-Factor. Well, of course he will return to these characters much later. But even in an immediate sense, we still have this year's X-Factor annual, which is written by him and takes place after these issues. In a set up for one of the stories there, we meet one more Chalker scientist, this one Dick Chalker, who turns himself into Carnivore and then gets hit by a truck.
The narration promises that there's a point to all this, which we'll see in the annual.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 448,558. Single issue closest to filing date = 324,100.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Moira MacTaggert appears here before her appearances in Uncanny X-Men #299-300; i've pushed this arc back in publication time to accommodate that. This arc is referenced in Avengers #360-361 and therefore takes place before it.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (8): show
it will eventually be made clear that the mutates are dying from the Legacy Virus, and that Madrox is infected by it when he tries to save the one that escaped. His infection with the virus will be a running plotline from this point forward, culminating in issue #100. As you say, it does help to effectively tie X-FACTOR more closely in with the rest of the X-books, as the Legacy Virus becomes a bigger and bigger deal throughout the line (really, only X-FORCE and, I guess, WOLVERINE won't deal with it).
Posted by: Austin Gorton | September 27, 2016 3:05 PM
I always thought it was oh-so-convenient that a whole bunch of unnamed Genoshan mutates were dropping dead left & right from the Legacy Virus, but hardly any mutants elsewhere on Earth were seen being affected. That was one of the major stumbling blocks with the idea of having a virulent epidemic sweep through the mutant community, because we the readers knew that no one really significant like Cyclops or Storm or Rogue was actually going to die from it. Indeed, all of the fatalities were either unnamed background characters like the Genoshans, semi-obscure supporting characters, or C-grade villains who no one would miss.
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 27, 2016 4:11 PM
The trouble with stuff like the Legacy Virus or House of M is that everyone knows it's not going to affect popular characters like Wolverine (or if it does it's temporary). Madrox, or really any of the X-Factor cast, are all just B-list enough that editorial could demand one of them take the hit to further the X-books' group storyline.
The virus eventually gets resolved by Scott Lobdell in a fill-in run years after its introduction. It seemed to mostly be used to clean house on unused X-villains like Infectia.
Posted by: Red Comet | September 27, 2016 6:30 PM
Random seems to be partially inspired by the T-1000 from the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day; the idea seems to be partly that he can morph to counter any threat and that his body is semi-liquid. That first panel seems to be him turning his arm into that huge gun, for example. When Alex pays him off, he starts turning the gun back into a hand.
This also explains the "goes with the flow" and "all things to all people' lines. He's an adaptive shapeshifter of some kind.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | September 27, 2016 6:55 PM
Also, this "Piecemeal" is something like the *third* one Marvel's introduced in a few years. There was the one from the "Kings of Pain" crossover between the X-Annuals and the New Warriors, the PAD one from his Hulk series, and now this guy.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | September 27, 2016 6:58 PM
Please satisfy my curiosity: what's going on with Val?
BTW. The scene with the female mutate dropping the glass was touching. The X-books should've explored the Genoshan mutates more...
Posted by: Piotr W | September 27, 2016 7:01 PM
PAD said that one of the reasons he left was because the editors insisted on throwing in more Random. Random had a brief spurt of popularity after his introduction- according to Joe Quesada a Random limited series was even discussed. But he quickly became forgotten about.
Posted by: Michael | September 27, 2016 7:47 PM
PAD might have intended this issue to take place after Hulk 403, since it's mentioned that Crystal and Dane went out for dinner in that issue. Of course, that's not definitive since Crystal and Dane could have gone out for dinner on more than one occasion.
Posted by: Michael | September 27, 2016 7:49 PM
I've always assumed that Val was indeed replaced by an evil duplicate, just as Guido said. To be honest, I'm not sure I want to know if it was anything else.
Posted by: ChrisW | September 27, 2016 7:49 PM
Hee. Anyone noticed that Lorna (thankfully) acquired some leggings between issues so her costume would look less "Fredrick's of Hollywood"? And speaking of Lorna's outfit:
We learn that one positive aspect of Polaris' new costume is that it's metal, allowing Polaris to affect it with her powers
Of course anyone familiar with the Chainmail Bikini trope will know it's not quite a "positive" aspect after all.
Did those picture of Crystal and Black Knight actually happen in an issue of Avengers? From the few issues of Avengers I was reading at the time, their flirtation semmed a bit more low-key than the pictures would imply (especially with Sersi in the way. She never struck me as the type who'd sit by quietly while someone else is dancing with man.)
Too bad Fnord doesn't capture a particularly powerful scan of an emotionally distraught Wolfsbane just starts cussimg out Moira throwing all kinds of devastating accusations at her, and Moira just says she has to go like a sensible adult. Great moment! Not only does it make Rahne's outburst look immature (if sympathetic), but it silently conveys Moira's maturity, understanding (she resist the urge to scold Rahne for her remarks, even for some of the "low blows"), dedication (a girl's tantrum can't distract her from the importance of her work), and iron will (there are many parents who wouldn't have such resolve at their children calling them "bad mothers/fathers.") My estimation of Moira went up
Posted by: Jon Dubya | September 27, 2016 11:03 PM
Random definitely seemed to be a parody character of Cable and Lobo types (who was basically a parody character, too). I remember thinking that he should of been a once or twice off character, but winds up appearing way to often when David leaves.
Posted by: Wanyas the Self-Proclaimed | September 28, 2016 2:46 PM
@Wanyas: Funny you should mention Lobo, since Roger Slifer & Keith Giffen created him as a parody of ultra-violent anti-heroes such as Wolverine. But a lot of people didn't get the joke, and Lobo eventually became wildly popular with many of the same readers who were fans of Wolverine. So that would make Random, well, a parody of a parody, but once again many readers failed to see that PAD was ridiculing the giant guns & muscles crowd. Instead they took Random exactly at face value, becoming fans of the character because he was violent & amoral & transformed his arm into a giant gun.
I'm not sure what exactly this says about comic book fans, that various writers have repeatedly mocked & parodied the violent anti-hero figure throughout the years, only for the satire to often go completely over the audience's heads.
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 28, 2016 4:10 PM
If I may ask: why do you guys think that Random was meant as a parody? There's nothing explicitly funny or over-the-top in the scans Fnord posted...
Posted by: Piotr W | September 29, 2016 1:11 AM
I'd guess it was because his powers were effectively limitless. The novelty of him being beaten by the hero offering him more money helps. PAD was just going along with the crowd.
Posted by: ChrisW | September 29, 2016 1:46 AM
@Michael, regarding the pictures of Crystal and Dane, i thought it might even have been scenes from the Avengers' dinner party in Avengers #357 (allowing for some coloring discrepancies).
Posted by: fnord12 | September 29, 2016 11:07 AM
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