Retro-Review: X-Factor #90-105 By JM DeMatteis, Jan Duursema, Joe Quesada & Other Marvel Comics Creators

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X-Factor #90-105 (May ‘93 – March ‘94)

Written by Scott Lobdell (#90-95), JM DeMatteis (#92-105), Joe Quesada (#92), and Todd Dezago (#103-105)

Pencilled by Joe Quesada (#90, 92), Buzz (#90), Jan Duursema (#91,97,99-104), Terry Shoemaker (#93), Paul Ryan (#94), Greg Luzniak (#95-96, 98), and Bryan Hitch (#105)

Inked by Al Milgrom (#90-104), Cliff Van Meter (#92), and Andy Lanning (#105)

Spoilers (from twenty-two to twenty-one years ago)

Peter David left the title rather abruptly, stranding our heroes in Genosha, with Rahne dealing with some personal issues, and the rest of the team trying to help the X-Patriots return to their homeland (although, once again, one of them is Scottish).

As we could expect during the 90s, when someone is needed to suddenly write a mutant book, the job was given to Scott Lobdell (because maybe Fabian Nicieza, the other go-to guy was busy?).  Lobdell quickly moves just to plotting the book, with scripting being handled by JM DeMatteis, before he took over the title completely.

Lobdell’s plotting reminds me a lot of his X-Men from the same time.  He keeps pausing the action so that the team can talk and recover from their recent travails, but doesn’t do it with the same skill that other writers did.  These issues end up feeling very wordy.  It’s also strange how much of the X-Men we see in a couple of issues, as they mourn Illyana’s death from the Legacy Virus.

I can see why DeMatteis would be chosen to become the new solo writer on this title; his work with Keith Giffen on Justice League could be seen as a model for David’s run on this title, although without Giffen’s plotting, DeMatteis made the book more serious, and 90s grim, while still full of wise-cracks.  It’s a weird fit, and it didn’t last too long before Todd Dezago came onboard as the co-plotter and scripter.

In 1994, I was heading off to university, and culling my pull-file by a great deal to reflect the fact that I had a lot less money than I’d had in high school.  Of course, that also coincided with a generally awful era in mainstream comics.  I realized that I was buying comics out of apathy or loyalty to characters who were being handled badly.  It was not all that hard to give up on a lot of these book, and seeing DeMatteis leave the title, and that the next issue was going to be yet another shiny-covered cross-over, I was done.  (It’s worth noting that I’d decided to keep reading the X-Men titles, but the Phalanx Covenant, the cross-over in question, killed all interest in that, and I dropped them too for a number of years).

Let’s look at some of the things that happened in this run:

  • Havok gets angry with the way in which mutates are still being treated in Genosha, and goes a little nuts, trashing a garden.
  • We find out that some of the Genoshan mutates are getting sick with a new virus (perhaps the Legacy Virus?), and are being kept in quarantine.  One of them manages to escape into the sewers though, and the team decides to go looking for him, hoping to find him before the Magistrates do.
  • Rahne says some pretty awful things to Moira MacTaggert, who is on her way to visit with Professor X, to see if he knows how to help the mutates.
  • The team bounces around the sewers for a while, and Polaris finds a way of tracking all the X-Factor members, Magistrates, and the mutate that are in the sewer.  For some reason, none of the Magistrates use this technology, preferring to wade through sewage aimlessly, I guess.
  • Multiple Man finds the dying mutate, and has to give him mouth-to-mouth to keep him alive, although that means creating a dupe outside of his handy isolation suit (which X-Factor handily chose to pack on their goodwill trip to Genosha, seeing as the suits are generously branded with X’s, and therefore weren’t borrowed from the Genoshans).
  • Val Cooper, who is not actually Val Cooper, tells Quicksilver to not join the team in Genosha, but he shows up at the airport anyway and gets drunk.  I don’t know why he came, or why he flew there (commercially?).
  • Returning from Genosha, having apparently completely forgotten about the X-Patriots, who are never mentioned again, the team gets called in to participate in Fatal Attractions, the X-Crossover of 1993 that came complete with hologram cards built into the covers of the comics!  So exciting.
  • The Acolytes, Magneto’s followers, attack an Army base, and the team, bolstered by Random, goes to stop them.  During the fight, Madrox kills Mellencamp, a particularly stupid-looking member of the team (and that’s saying a lot).
  • X-Factor discovers that the government has been building Sentinels again, and they all get angry at Val Cooper about this.  She leaves her job, and is replaced by the new mutant liaison, Forge.
  • Quicksilver is given a new uniform, that looks ridiculous with a plethora of 90s pouches, straps, and other stuff hanging off it.  He strips it down to something resembling Guido’s suit, but then abruptly leaves the team off-panel not to be seen in this book again until Peter David comes back in the 00s.  It’s weird.
  • Lorna is also given a new uniform, because the one Quesada designed was awful.  This one is the basic X-Men uniform, with only a few tweaks.  I don’t know why it doesn’t look like the rest of the team’s.
  • Guido is given the chance to work for intergalactic rock star Lila Cheney again, but turns it down because he believes in his work at X-Factor.  He’s naked through this whole scene, in case it sounds a little serious.
  • Rahne’s obsessive need to be around and please Alex gets steadily worse for a while, as she starts reacting to his emotions, but at a heightened level.  Plans to take her to Muir Island for treatment are scuttled when she takes off and comes back to DC, and no one seems to think it’s important to change that.
  • Jamie falls into depression after the events in Genosha and his killing of the Acolyte.  A couple of his dupes begin acting independent of him, although no one on the team really notices this.
  • Alex spends more and more time arguing with Forge about just about everything.  He’s always angry during this run, and doesn’t pay much attention to what the rest of his team needs.
  • Lorna is attacked by Random, at the government’s behest.  It seems that he is supposed to kill her, or at the least, test her, but he lets her win.  Later, she is attacked again by government stooges, but is rescued by Haven, a new character.
  • Haven, we find out, is a New Age-type, who has a prophecy that man and mutant will live peacefully together after the Earth goes through a series of cataclysms.  Her philosophy is controversial for reasons that don’t make sense at first.  One of Jamie’s dupes believes in her, while the others don’t.  Lorna becomes interested in her teachings, and Professor X asks her to look into things.
  • The government plans to have X-Factor arrest Haven because they see her as a terrorist who is planning on accelerating the timeline of tragedy that will bring about the age of peace.  Havok and Forge attempt to arrest her at a talk she’s giving, and Lorna springs to her defense.  Haven leaves, and later recruits Valerie Cooper to her side.
  • Random gets attacked at his own home by government agents.  He comes to X-Factor for help.
  • The team hire Random to help them arrest Haven, and they go off to her base, where they have a run-in with her brother, a mutant named Monsoon.
  • Haven cures Rahne of her condition, making it possible for her to revert to her human form without becoming a Genoshan mutate, and freeing her of her connection to Alex.  She immediately pledges herself to Haven’s cause.
  • In the 100th issue, which had a shiny embossed cover, Haven’s brother frees the team and works with them to try to stop her.  Haven is a hard character to reconcile, because on the one hand, she’s a religious fanatic, but she has high-tech soldiers helping her for no clear reason.
  • Haven also tries to cure Jamie of his Legacy Virus, but the cure kills him instead.  There’s a very weird moment where everyone needs Havok to give permission for Haven to try to help their friend, and he has to think about it.
  • After Jamie dies, we get a couple of issues wherein the team tries to process his lost.  It rings a little false, because his character was increasingly not involved in this book over the last year’s worth of issues.  Professor X and Storm come to visit the team, and Forge makes their entire brownstone headquarters a gigantic hologram room, just because.
  • Random is paid to tell the team who hired him to come after Polaris a few issues ago.  This leads the two of them into a fight with Avalanche and The (Crimson) Commando, both of whom have been redone to look like generic horrible 90s villains.  It turns out that some government guy was testing Polaris as part of some kind of Magneto Protocol.  When confronted with his wrongdoing, the guy kills himself.
  • His boss apologizes to Forge, but then we discover that she is possessed by Malice, the Marauder that once possessed Polaris for a while.
  • Havok is upset about Jamie’s death so he leaves the team (and, by extension, Lorna), and heads off to Hawai’i for a vacation.
  • Random is offered a spot on the team but he turns it down.
  • He does give Guido and Rahne a lift to Guido’s aunt’s and uncle’s house in upstate New York.  Guido is a celebrity there, and everyone loves him, except, it seems, for the girl he liked as a teenager, who decided that she was pretty and didn’t need to be nice to him anymore.
  • We learn that Guido’s Bronx accent, which only gets stronger once Dezago starts scripting the book, has a mysterious provenance, as none of the people who raised him have one.  Were there editors in the 90s?
  • There is a nice moment between Guido’s young cousin and Rahne.
  • Lorna follows Alex to Hawai’i, and they have a nice night together, after which Malice shows up and possesses Alex, wanting to use his powers to kill Lorna.
  • They fight, and then Mr. Sinister and the Nasty Boys show up to try to help Lorna.  Valerie Cooper brings Guido and Rahne to help, and after a lot of fighting, Malice is destroyed.
  • It looks like one of Jamie’s dupes shows up at the Brownstone, but the art makes it all kind of questionable.  Obviously Jamie is not dead now, but I don’t remember when or how he ever came back.

Not able to keep to anything resembling a monthly schedule, Joe Quesada only drew some of issue 90, and then not any of issue 91, although the credits in the comic say he did. He returns for issue 92, and then is gone from the book forever.

I think Greg Luzniak was intended to be Quesada’s replacement, but like him, he rarely was able to draw even two issues in a row.  I have no idea what ever happened to Luzniak, but he’s a good example of the kind of artist Marvel depended on after the Image founders decamped.  He gives everyone flowing hair, and loves to add gigantic fins or something to both Random and Havok’s boots.

It’s funny that even Jan Duursema succumbs to the 90s style in her issues, when she becomes the more-or-less regular penciller, without it being announced, making them look less skilled than almost all of her other work.  I was very surprised to see that Bryan Hitch showed up to draw issue 105, and while his work is instantly recognizable, it also looks like the 90s in terms of its layout and costuming.

The line-up of the core team stays mostly consistent throughout these issues, with a few exceptions:

  • Valerie Cooper leaves and is replaced as government liaison by Forge, although she never really leaves.
  • Quicksilver leaves abruptly.  I wonder if this is because of the X-Men/Avengers cross-over that started around this time that focused on Exodus and Genosha.
  • Random started hanging out a lot, but needed to be paid each time he worked with the team.  He turned down offers to join the team, but at the same time, DeMatteis put a lot of effort into building the character, and made it clear that he had plans for the character.
  • Multiple Man is killed off in the 100th issue, but by issue 105, they are already suggesting that he is not really dead.

This run is really not very good.  There are a few moments here and there that work, and it’s nice that someone finally got around to resolving the whole plotline about Wolfsbahne having been turned into a Geonshan mutate, that never worked for me.  Killing off Multiple Man felt like a bit of an act of desperation, like it had become necessary to take what had been the lighthearted fun X-Book and make it as grim as just about every other book Marvel was producing at that time.

When I dropped this book, I didn’t look back or miss it at all, but about two years later, I was back reading it again, after Howard Mackie and Jeff Matsuda took over, and changed the cast and look of things.  That’s for next time though.

 

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