XF 82 cvr

September 1992 – “Sittin’ by the Dock of the Bay”

Okay, I will admit to not being a big fan of the X-Factor series back in the early 90’s.  As with most kids, I was pulled in by the flashy pencils of Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, and Rob Liefeld.  I didn’t care for Larry Stroman (who started off the new X-Factor team) and wasn’t mature enough to appreciate Peter David’s wit that was in every single issue.  X-Factor seemed to be more of a satire of X-teams and the idea of heroes running around in spandex (heck, Guido decides to call himself “Strong Guy” because he hates nicknames).  So other than X-Cutioner’s Song, I didn’t pick up any of these issues until years later.

And man was I missing out.  As much as I love Claremont and Scott Lobdell and the other writers who worked on the flagship x-titles, this really is a great series…at least at first.  Peter David inserts just the right amount of humor to avoid the silliness of Excalibur and yet avoids the total seriousness of Uncanny.  He also seems to use the title to occasionally take jabs at the silly names given for super heroes or villains.  Seriously:  Strong Guy?  For me, he was ALWAYS Strong Guy.  I didn’t realize that until X-Factor #71 or 72 (can’t remember which and I don’t want to dig up the issue) he was just Guido Carosella.  In fact, I assumed Guido WAS his nickname (look…I was 15, okay).  For him to then take up the mantle Strong Guy as a way of getting back at Havok who insisted he have a nickname was simply ingenious.

So I didn’t pick up this particular issue until I was an adult.  It didn’t have anything to do with any of the major stories I was following so as a child myself, I really couldn’t care less.  However, it did tie into some of the other little plot points later on and brought us back to the New Brotherhood of Evil Mutants introduced in X-Force #6.  I’m kind of sorry it took me so long to read this issue.

Quicksilver gives the Blob the ol' run-around.
Quicksilver gives the Blob the ol’ run-around.

SYNOPSIS

So first off, you need to understand that there is a boatload of “muties” docked in New York’s harbor:  fugitives from Genosha who are seeking asylum in America.  As typical about our government, immigrants are not allowed, so military soldiers are guarding them.  We see one drunk citizen stumbling around, harassing the soldiers.  He stumbles off the docks but while underwater, something grabs him.  He dies in a flash of light off panel.  His killer is Sauron, last seen dead and dropped off in the Morlock tunnels by Cable.  Draining the lifeforce of the drunk gave him enough strength to call in reinforcements.

At X-Factor’s HQ, Havok barges in on Valerie Cooper.  We get a little scene of their constant power struggle (Havok’s the leader, Val is the government liason and supposed to have no real input in the running of the group which of course never really works out like that).  In the middle of their argument, the phone rings, alerting them to a new mission.  As Havok is heading out, they greet a returning Polaris, her jaw wired shut after her jaw was broken a few issues earlier.

Back on the mutates’ ship, they are arguing with someone who appears to be a government official trying to negotiate for asylum on their behalf.  Of course there’s debate about whether or not America is truly even a welcome country for them.  Suddenly, screams and gunfire erupt up top and the mutants rush up to see what is going on.  One of the mutates up top, Prodigal, greets them.  Apparently Sauron’s backup has arrived and the Brotherhood of Mutants (Blop, Pyro, and Phantasia, lead by Toad – yes, that’s right, I said Toad) are easily kicking the tar out of the soldiers.

Toad takes the moment to introduce himself to the mutates.  Of course some are a little apprehensive about joining a group with “evil” in their name.  Others don’t care as they only see someone who came to their aid when the government wouldn’t.  Before the discussion can continue, Quicksilver shows up, interrupting Toad’s little speech.  Quicksilver easily dances around Toad and Blob but then Phantasia joins in and drops him so that Toad can kick Quicksilver off the ship (literally).

Unfortunately, Havok is a better leader than Toad.  Quicksilver was simply the point-man, meant to draw out Toad’s reserves.  The rest of X-Factor joins in.  Havok takes out Phantasia.  Strong Guy literally bounces off of Blob.  Sauron engages Wolfsbane.  Pryo turns on Havok and Multiple Man takes on Toad.  Throughout all of this, the mutates on the ship remain neutral, unsure who is really on their side.  Above, Sauron reveals to Wolfsbane that he had already killed Cannonball (or so he thought – turns out Cannonball is semi-immortal and made a full recovery).  This, of course, turns out to be the wrong move as Wolfsbane grows enraged at the thought of her friend dead and she immediately goes after Sauron’s jugular.  Sauron tosses her free to fall into the water below.  Meanwhile, Havok, who is overwhelmed by Pryo’s flames, fires a blast of energy into the sky for Polaris to control and redirect it into Phantasia, Blob, and Pyro.  Strong Guy then rips up the dock under Blob, dumping him into the water.  With his troops defeated, Toad is then taken down by a single punch from Quicksilver.

Havok then confronts the leader of the refugee mutants who says they are running from the Genoshan government.  Havok agrees to return to Genosha to set things straight.

This is why you don't piss of Wolfsbane
This is why you don’t piss of Wolfsbane

REVIEW

To me, this issue is almost like two very different comic books.  You have artwork that is, at best, mediocre (and that’s being generous).  Rurik Tyler isn’t the worst artist I’ve seen, but he’s definitely not the best.  His characters are all in silly poses and have odd shapes to them.  I cringe a little bit every time I read this issue.  The cover is misleading because it’s drawn by Quesada and drawn well.  But as soon as you open the book, your hopes fall apart.  Like I said, though, not the worst artist out there, but his style is vaguely reminiscent of Jon Bogdanove (suppress shudder here).

On the other hand, Peter David is at top of his form here.  Some of the little things really make up this issue, such as Madrox’s tormenting of Val Cooper.  One of the great little scenes is when the two Madrox dupes each have on a shirt:  one has Ren and the other has Stimpy (any of you 90’s kids should remember them).  But when the dupes join with each other, the shirt becomes a single Ren and Stimpy.  An intelligent and witty Toad is also written well, up to and including his defeat at the hands of Quicksilver when he realizes that he’s been outmatched.  I especially love how David writes Quicksilver:  bored and sarcastic.

I’ve also noticed that David often tends to insert current/hot topics into his stories, often with political undertones.  In this one, he actually somewhat tackles the topic of immigration.  Sure, it may not be traditional immigration, but we still have a group of foreigners wanting to come to America to make a better life for themselves because they’ve heard out great the country is.  Of course the reality rarely lives up to expectations and now they find that the borders to America aren’t quite as open as they were lead to believe.  Whatever your opinion on this topic, it’s in the book.

Overall, don’t be fooled by the poor art.  It’s a good read and the dialogue between characters is the best.

In general, I’m also going to start throwing the artist and writer into the tags.  I’ll update all my older posts as well.

Yep...Toad's just as useless as ever.
Yep…Toad’s just as useless as ever.

FAVORITE QUOTES

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Shrew:  “Strong Guy.  That’s a dumb name.”

Strong Guy:  “My real name’s Guido.”

Shew:  “That’s even dumber.  What’s your last name?”

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Lucas (one of the mutates):  “America’s supposed to be this great melting pot.”

Jo Beth (another mutate):  “But you’re only allowed into the pot if you’re the right kind of ingredient.”

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Prodigal:  “And now, Toad, if you’d be so kind as to tell me why in the world we should be interested in allying ourselves with a group that has the word ‘evil’ in its name.  We are desperate, yes.  Homeless, fatigued, perhaps even frustrated.  But hardly evil.”

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