Sometimes, in a title, change is needed. It can be as simple as our hero moving from one side of the city to another, or changing jobs, or even taking a break from being a super-hero. Other times, it’s drastic. The death of a loved one, a costume change (for better or worse), marriage, or the birth of a child. In team books, I think the most drastic of all changes is a complete roster change. Justice League has done it, as did the X-Men, and even the Avengers. Sometimes it worked, other times, not so much. Here, with X-Factor, we’ve been enjoying the original X-Men in their own series for the past 70 issues. We’ve seen lots of things take place: The arrival of Apocalypse, Angel changing from his normal self to the winged horsemen known as Death, a whole mess of stuff with Beast, and so much more. Now, it’s time for those five to fold back into the X-Men, but X-Factor is still needed. Who will join the ranks of this all new, and all different team? Who will lead them, and what is the deal with that damn mayo jar? Let’s find out, shall we, as we dive into this classic from the ’90’s! Let’s read X-Factor #71!
It starts simply enough. Guido, Polaris, and Jamie Madrox, otherwise known as the Multiple Man, are seated at a table, seemingly enjoying each other’s company. While Guido eats, they talk about who they are, why they’re there, and the like. Normal chit-chat. The unopenable mayo jar makes it’s comic debut as we move forward to Genosha, where Alex Summers is leading construction of a new Residence Hall for mutants. Val Cooper, representing the United States Government, is there to convince Alex that it’s time to move on and focus on the big picture. But wait! It wouldn’t be a Marvel Comic without some sweet drama thrown in! A steel girder falls from an amazing height, screaming it’s way down to Val and Alex. As he tries to push Val out of the way, Wolfsbane, an feral mutant lunges in, pushing Alex Summers down a dirt hill. With nothing but instinct left, Alex Summers uses the powers he’s better known for as Havok, and blasts the girder to splinters. As the smoke clears, Val Coopers stands, bruised and cut, but proving her point. Alex thinks better from instinct, which is just what she needs in a leader for this team.
With a comic like this, you have to take the time to introduce your team. It has to be done piece by piece, page by page, but balanced out enough so that it doesn’t drag and your audience doesn’t get bored. Also, in an issue like this, unless it’s action-oriented as to why the team forms, there’s not going to be much butt-kicking. Peter David does all of this well, and then some. Having been in the industry for quite some time now, he’s a master storyteller. David gives each character a chance to breathe, and lets us know their personality. Though we’re not given a huge amount of backstory, we do get glimpses into the lives of those that will be X-Factor. We’re hinted toward some history between Polaris and Havok, that Rhane (Wolfsbane) already knows the Professor and Cyclops, and that something rather nasty has happened to Quicksilver, hence his appearance at X-Factor HQ. It’s a slow issue, but not in a bad way. We need this intro for the characters. We need to see how they interact, and we need to see just how they handle that darn jar of Mayo. Peter David writes what will be the start of some awesome stories, and redefines the team as a whole. Out with the old and in with the new may be a little harsh, but in a sense, it’s right. The original team of X-Men now fold back into their ranks so a new guard of mutants can step forward to continue the work they started. Once again, Peter David’s writing here is fantastic.
Larry Stroman’s work reminds me of a mix between Joe Quesada and Walt Simonson. He definitely has a flare that is all his own, but I can’t help but see a major influence there. Simonson did quite a bit of work on X-Factor previously, so it would only be natural to have fans enjoy a style they’re comfortable with. I think there it ends though, as Stroman makes the work his own. His sense of motion from panel to panel is exemplary, and really gives the story a sense of life. It’s those little panels that pull that off, while the other, larger panels and pages are saved for the grand moments. Close-ups work wonderfully here, and when there is action, Stroman shows us that he can easily handle that as well. His work almost has a sense of jaggedness to it, while in other parts, we’re treated with smooth, rounded lines. It’s awesome to see an artist work like that, and along with Peter David’s writing, Stroman’s artwork helped very much to push this new team onto a new set of readers.
I can remember my brother Joe bringing this book home from the grocery store, back when they still had the twirly racks for comics. Neither he nor I had ever read an X-Factor comic at this point, so seeing this really got us excited. It was all new! All different! A new beginning, a new team, THEY’RE FIRST ADVENTURE?! Holy Smokes! Hurry up and read it so I can! He liked it, and it ended up becoming a staple issue in his collection. For me, it became a memory, not so much of the issue, but of that time, sitting at the kitchen table, Magic cards on one side, this comic in his hands, just waiting for him to finish reading it so I could begin to devour it next. I remember I wasn’t impressed so much with the story, at that time, as he was, but I just remember that taking place. It was good times when we were kids, and I think it’s very cool that a comic can trigger something like that.
If you haven’t picked this up already, or read it in the past, just know that it’s not as full of Bam Boom Pows as other issues are. Think of it more as a starting point for what eventually becomes something awesome. X-Factor was already cool at this time, but with the originals leaving, you’ve got to start over, right? Here, they do, and they do it well. Also, if you stick around, not only will you get shoved right into the next arc of the story, but you’ll get to see just what happens to that damn jar of mayo. It’s worth it.
Parental Concern: None. Comics Code holds a pretty tight leash, but Guido and the rest of the team just blame it all on society. Go Figure.