Issue(s): X-Factor #87
The device for this issue is a series of interviews with a mystery person. I think based on the cover we're supposed to suspect that it's Professor X (although it becomes pretty clear during the first interview that that's not the case). But it's really Doc Samson, the psychiatrist that Peter David has been using in his Hulk run. It's a great use of Samson. Prior to David, Samson was often used more as a generic scientist (if not just generic superhero) than the psychiatrist he was introduced as. David has really focused on the psychological aspects of the Hulk in that run, but seeing Samson used totally outside the context of the Hulk really solidifies his psychiatrist side, and opens up a lot of possibilities for the character.
I'm with Rahne in thinking that this was a really good insight from Samson.
Of course we'll learn in the next arc that Wolfsbane's feelings for Havok are more warped than either realizes here. I don't think it reflects badly on Samson to not have detected that after just one session, but it's interesting that Peter David didn't drop any hints here. Kind of makes me wonder if the upcoming reveal was planned by him (the next arc is taken over by Scott Lobdell mid story).
The next interview is with Quicksilver, and it's always been the most memorable moment for me. Quicksilver describes what it's like to be super fast in a world of regular people.
It not only explains his normal abrasive behavior, but could even be used to explain his bouts of madness (on occasions when we're not blaming Maximus). Who wouldn't go crazy in a world where everyone else moves at a snail's pace?
Polaris' bit is one of the weaker ones, relatively speaking. Scott Lobdell actually has a better insight coming up for her in the next arc, when she's confronted with the truth about Rahne's "love" of Havok. The session here is mostly about her self-esteem, specifically around her looks and weight.
This culminates in her debuting a new costume.
I don't know if the costume is deliberately terrible, although i suspect not. It is terrible, though. And i don't know why Peter David chose to go this route with Polaris (and to be clear, this is something he started before this issue). I could see it as an explanation for someone that was already wearing a Psylocke-esque costume as a way to justify it (it wouldn't work for Psylocke specifically, though). Alternatively, this might have been an interesting way to go for a character that wasn't already comic book "perfect", showing her conquering her self-esteem issues by wearing something risque. But of course there were are no female superheroes at the time that weren't comic book perfect. As for doing this with Polaris, i get that it's adding a layer to her character, and what she's dealing with is something that a lot of people, especially women, go through, and it seems especially relevant in 1990s comics when every woman is drawn to rival the woman in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. But on the other hand it's a very stereotypical problem to give to a woman, and the "solution" here really just feeds into the larger problem. I'd like to think that Peter David would have done more with this if he'd stayed on the book longer.
For Strong Guy we learn about the moment when his mutant powers manifested, and we learn that if he doesn't release the kinetic energy his body absorbs, his body gets warped. He didn't know that when his powers first manifested, which is why he's as deformed as he currently is. And he's also in constant agony because of that.
I wasn't sure whether or not to believe Strong Guy, since he is a joker. But this year's X-Factor annual will confirm what we learn here.
I think Peter David could have taken this a little further. One criticism of David's run is that the Strong Guy appearing here is very different from the Guido that appears as Lila Cheney's bodyguard in his first appearances. And i think we can find an explanation in this. In the beginning, he dealt with his constant pain by being gruff and curt. But at some point he realized that using humor to deal with the problem works better. I don't know if that was David's intention, but it would have been great to see it spelled out.
As for Madrox, he says that the thing he hates most is being alone.
Which, as noted in the script, makes perfect sense for a character that grew up in isolation.
And Havok feels like he's constantly being judged, and especially of living up to his brother Cyclops' example.
In the end, we get Val Cooper's assessment of the team, which is totally off.
Samson then tells Cooper that the group is "normal", but that she needs awareness training. After he leaves, she's attacked by worms.
With this issue, i almost feel like Peter David is revealing his secret blueprints to us, showing us the character bible that he uses to inform his writing on the series. And it's really great to see what insights he has on these characters. He took a group of random weirdos, some that were basically cyphers prior to this and some that were damaged, and he turned them into a group of really interesting characters. And now he'll be leaving the book in two issues! Grah!
Quesada coming on board could have been a nice move for the book. Larry Stroman and Jae Lee are interesting artists but they are pretty abstract which gives them a niche appeal. I'm sure that Jae Lee being the artist during the X-Cutioner's Song issues didn't convince too many of the larger audience of x-fans to stick with this book after the crossover. It looks here like Quesada is trying to stay consistent with Stroman's style, especially in terms of the layouting. But the art is still more accessible. Quesada might have been what the book needed to help it achieve the success of the other x-titles. But that would require getting readers to take another look at the book, and the way to do that in the 90s was to have another crossover. And we do have Fatal Attractions coming up. But Peter David was apparently sick of having his stories interrupted by crossovers, so he'll be leaving before the next one.
Peter David's daughter Shana is given what i think is a writing credit for this issue, i assume for a Rahne & Simpy (Feral) parody of Ren & Stimpy at the front of this issue (just as David's wife had the idea for Rahne's World parody in X-Factor #80).
I'm hedging because the credits are goofy, with everyone being listed as some kind of doctor. Joe Quesada is "Doctor of Gynecology", etc.. (Ha... ha?) And Shana David is listed as an "associate" under Peter David's "General Practice.
Quality Rating: A
Chronological Placement Considerations: Despite the ending, Val Cooper will be back at her regular job for next issue. The next arc has dependencies with Uncanny X-Men #299 so this should take place prior to that.
Inbound References (4): showDoc Samson, Havok, Madrox the Multiple Man, Polaris, Quicksilver, Strong Guy, Valerie Cooper, Wolfsbane
Two top creators at the peak of their powers. I never cared about any of these characters before this issue but I did afterwards.No wonder it is the only essential X-Factor issue.
Posted by: Mizark | September 20, 2016 6:18 PM
According to Peter David, the idea regarding Rahne's attraction to Alex was his:
Posted by: Michael | September 20, 2016 7:47 PM
God, this new costume for Lorna is awful. 90s at its worst... And yes, it's strange that they introduced that costume as an answer to Lorna's psychological issues.
BTW. a question: has Lorna had any kind of consistent personality across the years?
Posted by: Piotr W | September 20, 2016 10:25 PM
Fnord, regarding Lorna, I wonder if we are looking at this from a different, more backwards angle. For instance, I always assumed that editorial (or maybe Joe Quesada) already commissioned the uniform (this WAS an era where female super-hero outfits were becoming sick and sexified after all. And of course, variant costumes gets the marketimg staff all a'salivating.) and Peter David was just trying his best to write a justification for it beyond "I want Mr. Fantastic to notice my hot bod."
As for Piotr's question....well...er..."mental instability" is a personality trait, isn't it?
Posted by: Jon Dubya | September 21, 2016 1:40 AM
I'm not a fan of the idea that Strong Guy is constantly in pain. First off, that trick has been used at least twice already, with Puck and Geordi LaForge. Secondly, once the fact of the pain has been revealed, there's really nowhere the character can go with it. They can either constantly gripe about it, which becomes annoying, or keep quiet, in which case, what's the point?
I do agree that no one writes Quicksilver as well as PAD.
Posted by: Andrew | September 21, 2016 11:42 AM
The Quicksilver insight is brilliant, but I'm less of a fan of the rest of PAD's interpretations. Lorna's history until now has consisted of her being manipulated or mind controlled by one villain after another: Mesmero, Eric the Red, Sinister/Malice, and the Shadow King. I'd think her psychological issues should relate to all that: nitably, she's not just a flunky even when she's being controlled, but rather Mesmero and Sinister set her up as a leader of mutants. Does that suggest she fears her own potential, as a leader as well as as a mutant, and only lets it be brought out when someone without scruples gives her orders? That could be an interesting setup for a government agent.
As for Havok, the rivalry with his brother seems largely forced on the character. It's come up a few times before, but the more interesting comparison to his brother is in how opposite they are. Scott can never make a private life work because he finds his mission and meaning in the X-Men: ge's always drawn back. Alex, by contrast, wants a normal life of the kind Scott won't settle for--Alex and Lorna in New Mexico were leading the most normal lives of any mutant. When Alex gets drawn back to the X-Men, he finds not a purpose but a moral meltdown: the X-Men threatening to kill him, dying themselves, his brother's wife's life has been ruined and he falls in love with her, she turns into the Goblin Queen. In the Australian era, Alex turns into the X-Men's most Byronic hero. But here, he's boring.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | September 21, 2016 11:30 PM
Lorna, Wanda, Sue, Jean, Carol, Janet, Nova - the list goes on and on. I cannot help but sense various writers using these females characters as metaphors for victimisation. Just depressing.
Why can't we get one who matches Val's assessment? Or do they all have to be Beauvoirian *Sigh*
Posted by: Grom | September 21, 2016 11:46 PM
I agree that this approach to Lorna does seem to come out of nowhere (and the costume is horrible.) I thought she was more honest in #71, nervous about seeing Alex again and what possibility there was that they could pick up their relationship after both of them were messed with for so long. She seems to have gotten over Malice pretty quickly, but really?
But the other "changes" to characters make sense. Rhane is maturing and, although I don't like the idea that she was bonded to Alex, PAD was setting up a storyline to address that. Alex never used to be this uptight because he was never the one in charge. He could always let Scott handle things, but now it's all on him. And Guido was always like this once you get to know him, it's just we only saw him before in his capacity as bouncer/bodyguard where being gruff was his job.
Posted by: ChrisW | September 22, 2016 4:05 PM
In hindsight it's funny that back in the 1990s Havok felt like he was living in the Cyclops' shadow, that he had to measure up to Scott, the responsible pillar of strength. Much more recently, though, Alex has been the one that pretty much everyone has regarded as a dependable, level-headed leader. He's the guy who eventually headed up his own Avengers team and who saved the world from Kang the Conqueror. Cyclops, on the other hand, has gone completely off the rails, now everyone thinks of him as a murderous terrorist.
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 22, 2016 4:59 PM
That is funny. To the extent I know what Scott or Alex are doing anymore, it sounds like Scott is ruined as a character, while Alex has become, as you say, a dependable, level-headed leader. Back in "X-Men" #221-222, Wolverine was complaining that maybe Alex wasn't like his big brother. Then Alex got more character development over the next 50+ issues than he'd ever had before, then he started leading X-Factor.
I prefer Alex (with Lorna) as the two who ran away from the mutant madness as soon as possible, and stayed away as long as they could. I like that Alex spent years (or whatever time scale we're using) trying and often failing to get used to the idea, but eventually lived up to the example Scott set. But he made it, proving that he could follow Scott's footsteps and eventually succeed. I don't really get emotional or nostalgic about characters I stopped reading twenty years ago, but Alex gets a 'thumbs up' from me on that. As long as he ends up with Lorna, this makes perfect sense for the character.
Just my opinion, but that's why I don't like what this issue did to Lorna. Of all the problems that she could have been diagnosed with, it was her weight and self-image? How about that she's going to be brainwashed and turned evil? How about that the villain (whoever it is) is going to weaponize her against the heroes? How about that no matter how much time and effort she put into a civilian life, it would be taken away? She doesn't even have a family anymore.
Posted by: ChrisW | September 23, 2016 1:49 AM
This will never happen, but if Marvel hired me to write a comic and didn't let me use O Dazzler My Dazzler, my next choice would be to write The Ballad of Alex and Lorna, where they get messed up by whoever, and various other superhero stuff goes on in the meantime, but it always ends with Alex and Lorna together again. At this point, I would think Scott and Jean would be totally creeped out by the notion of being together, and the Superman/Lois/Clark love triangle is the only superhero comic-book couple that I have more respect for. If Alex and Lorna's stories don't end with a heartwarming kiss before they live happily ever after, then what's the point?
Posted by: ChrisW | September 23, 2016 2:19 AM
Sounds good ChrisW. I would read it.
Posted by: Grom | September 23, 2016 3:05 AM
Just so you know, it's probably a good thing Marvel doesn't hire me, because I would totally follow in Claremont's footsteps and make you wait a couple hundred issues before Alex and Lorna finally kiss and live happily ever after. They really are one of my favorite couples in comics, but I wouldn't make it easy for them. Like I said above, Lorna's opening monologue in #71 was great and it was totally believable that this was where she was at this point in her life. Introduce Alex, and they've got a great soap opera going on.
Posted by: ChrisW | September 23, 2016 4:27 AM
m not a fan of the idea that Strong Guy is constantly in pain. First off, that trick has been used at least twice already, with Puck and Geordi LaForge. Secondly, once the fact of the pain has been revealed, there's really nowhere the character can go with it. They can either constantly gripe about it, which becomes annoying, or keep quiet, in which case, what's the point?
PAD seems to be going for a third option here: Guido doesn't complain or stay silent, but instead pursues a life of glib hedonism to distract himself from the pain. YMMV on how well that works, of course.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | September 23, 2016 4:10 PM
That was the impression that I got, he was just talking to distract himself from the pain. I know little about Puck and nothing about LaForge [not a Star Trek fan] so I didn't see it as a rip-off. As far as the character descriptions provided, I would put the quality in order of Pietro, Alex, Val, Jamie, Rhane, Guido, Lorna. Rhane gets points for being so well done, Guido gets points for telling us more about himself than we'd ever learned before. I assume we're all unanimous on Pietro's scene being the standout for dissecting a character down to the basics and explaining everything we've ever seen or will ever see. We can argue about Alex, Jamie or the others, but that's because they are good characters and open to such interpretations.
Posted by: ChrisW | September 24, 2016 12:11 AM
I did like the last-page reveal in one of PAD's recent "X-Factor" where Jamie is bitching about the problems of leading this team, and someone off-panel says 'maybe we can help' and Jamie asks what they know about leading X-Factor, and then we see Alex and Lorna. That was an awesome cliff-hanger that made me determined to find a comic store so I could get the next issue.
Posted by: ChrisW | September 24, 2016 12:15 AM
I take it you mean X-Factor #230? That issue was cover-dated January 2012, Chris, and it was fairly different. Jamie was not even in there at the time, yet Alex left the team not too long after, in #245, and to the best of my knowledge never again appeared in either X-Factor nor in New X-Factor. Yeah, time passes.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 24, 2016 6:01 AM
I don't have the issue to check, so I'm just saying what I remember. I remember it being Jamie, but he was doing stuff with Siryn at the time, so he may not have been there. Hell, was it Siryn? Classic X-titles are imprinted on my eyeballs and I'll be remembering them in the grave, but more recent versions aren't as memorable. Good last-page reveal of Alex and Lorna, can we agree on that?
Posted by: ChrisW | September 25, 2016 1:12 AM
Oh, sure. It was a very good run of X-Factor, as a matter of fact.
Posted by: Luis Olavo de Moura Dantas | September 25, 2016 1:37 AM
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