Friday, December 11, 2009

X-Factor #87

TITLE: X-Factor #87


COVER DATE: February 1993


23 pages


X-Factor has always held a special place in my collection. Set aside the fact that this title was the first major title launch that I remember buying off the shelf, or the fact that this was also the first speculation buying I remember partaking in, and there was still one thing that made this title something special.

Although now that I think about it, it was two things...Peter David and c-list characters.

Peter David was a writer that I had started reading on The Incredible Hulk the year before he started writing X-Factor. With his work on these two titles, he has earned a guaranteed first issue buy of anything new he starts. Peter David's writing pretty much introduced me to the concept of character. He took such care when advancing the story and made it much more than just moving the plot along at the expense of everything else. The characters in his stories interacted with the Marvel Universe as a whole, but always in a way that made you see something new or think about something differently.

Like I said in the previous post, he was a writer ahead of his time, and his stories still hold up to multiple rereads without missing a beat.

The second thing I liked about this title was the use of the c-list characters. And "c-list" is probably being overly generous in some cases. Strong Guy? Multiple Man? Really?

But it was with these second-stringers that you could let loose with some unorthodox stories, without upsetting the cash cow X-Men franchise that was the early 90's. One of the best of those stories was the issue we're reviewing today. So without any further hyperbolic ado, let's just get on with it.

  • Writer: Peter David
  • Penciler: Joe Quesada
  • Inker: Al Milgrom
  • Colorist: Marie Javins
  • Letterer: Richard Starkings & Steve Dutro
  • Assistant Editor: Kelly Corvese
  • Editor: Bob Harras
  • Editor in Chief: Tom DeFalco
The story opens up with a peek inside of Rahne's dreams as she is cavorting around a cartoon world with Feral, drawn in the style of Ren & Stimpy. It turns out that she's been having a lot of these types of dreams, imagining herself in the place of whatever character is on the television when she falls asleep.

Is it just me, or did Joe Quesada model the cartoon version of Stimpy after himself?

Thanks to Guido cluing Rahne into how psychiatrists "really" work, she has her guard up when he starts asking her some questions. He answers her skepticism with a textbook diagnosis that hits her like a ton of bricks.

She has a combination of a lack of self-esteem and a need for approval from whatever authority figure is before her. Forced to confront her issues head-on, she admits that she's been carrying a small torch for Havok, as he is the team leader and local authority figure.

The doctor has one more insight that cuts to the core of her problem, and it all boils down to Reverend Craig, the man who raised her. All of her personality searching and need of approval boils down to the fact that she was denied love and respect from the reverend when she was growing up.

Angry at first, Rahne "wolfs" up. True to form, however, she realizes that the doctor (and local authority figure) is right.

Up next on the shrink's couch is Quicksilver. With Pietro being the somewhat arrogant and standoffish character that he is, he doesn't give the doctor much respect or time.

The doctor calls him on it, and Pietro goes on to explain that his mood and temperament is more a reaction of interacting with a world that moves at a snail's pace compared to him. Frustrating is the kindest way of putting it, so it should come as no surprise that Pietro has little patience for others.

True to form, Quicksilver has the last word, while finishing both the doctor's Rubik's Cube and jigsaw puzzle before he leaves.

After Quicksilver, you'd think the rest of X-Factor would be a pleasant experience, but Polaris is up next and she's not feeling very forthcoming today. After 10 minutes of silence, the doctor manages to get a rise out of her by complimenting her. She instantly gets defensive and assumes he only brought up her high I.Q. in order to make her shortcomings more pronounced. While never having mentioned her looks, she wrongly assumes that's what he is talking about.

With all of the recent issues she has had with being controlled, she's disappointed in herself that she has let the doctor get inside her head, so to speak. Realizing that he now has her attention, he lays it all out for her...she has body image issues and she tends to push against others instinctively. Kind of ironic for someone who controls the very powers of magnetism and can both attract and repel whatever she chooses.

Not ready to confront the truth, she chooses to rebuff the doctor's offer of kindness and leaves his office.

Strong Guy has the next appointment, and he has no problem spilling his guts to the doctor. Like he told Rahne, he knows how psychiatrists do what they do from experience. The doctor asks him about his previous experience and it turns out the Guido saw a lot of guidance counselors when he was a kid.

He then goes on to explain the secret origin story of Strong Guy. Back when he was a kid, he was really smart. He used jokes and wise-cracks to divert people from his nerdiness, but it only worked a little. Eventually he was caught between a bully and the girl he adored, and he ended up getting beat upon by him and his friends.

That's when his mutant power emerged, with his body enlarging to the disproportionate size that it holds to this day. It turns out the change has left Guido in constant pain, but not wanting to be pitied he covers up his pain with jokes and wisecracks.

So Guido did have a lot of experience in a psychiatrist's office, as he came prepared with his own self-diagnosis. The doctor plays the role of the reader here as well, when he says that he had "no idea" about any of his origin. I'm not sure if that was ever explained in any of his other appearances, but it was definitely the first time I remember hearing about it.

That session was an easy one, let's see if the Multiple Man keeps the streak going. It's a quick session with Jaime, as a little word association game soon brings to the surface Jaime's one fear...being alone.

That's one of the reasons that Jaime plays the role of practical joker, so that he can get a reaction out of people. The attention he gets, either good or bad, makes him feel less alone. Another ironic diagnosis, considering the basis of his mutant power.

Havok's the last team member to sit down with the doctor, but he has a hard time actually sitting and relaxing. The doctor calls him out on it, and we find out that Alex is overcompensating as team leader, trying to live up to the legend that is his brother, Cyclops. He's so busy trying to stay two steps ahead of everything else, that he doesn't even know if his team respects him or his abilities.

Once again, the doctor cuts to the core and wonders why he just doesn't ask them himself. Still not confident in his place as team leader, he's afraid of what they would tell him if he asked.

As the doctor wraps up his long day, looking over his notes, he is surprised by the reappearance of Polaris. She has come to tell him that she is neither repressed nor overly repulsive towards other people.

To prove her point, she debuts her daringly sexy new costume. Not something that someone repressed would do, right doc?

Realizing that she has completely missed the point of their previous talk, he gives her what she wants to hear with a compliment to her looks. Satisfied, she leaves his office feeling triumphant.

Finally it's time for the doctor to report to Valerie Cooper, who is the team's government liaison. She's eager to find out just what it is that is keeping X-Factor from acting like a true team.

In a bit of reverse psychology, he asks her to give her impression of each team member. She goes on to misread every team member at the most basic level. I think we now see who is the problem that is keeping the team from becoming a cohesive fighting unit.

She storms out of his office, muttering under her breath about his request that she take "awareness training". So distracted by what he has told her, she doesn't seem to notice the many tentacled creature sneaking up behind her. She's gone in the blink of an eye, as the doctor emerges from his office and we finally get to see who he was...Doc Samson.


This issue is still just as entertaining now, as it was back when it was first released. In fact, do yourself a favor and don't read my review. Go out and read the issue instead. It's such a cleverly and well crafted character study, that my review just doesn't do it justice.

The issue has a great sense of humor to it, finely balancing the heavier moments that occur with some of the more emotionally revealing sessions. This story was a great primer to bring everyone up to speed who was sticking around after The Extinction Agenda crossover concluded. It was a shame then, that Peter David would be gone from the title a few months later.

Joe Quesada's pencils are relatively strong here, having to pull double duty to keep the reader's eye entertained with little to no action. Some of his characters look a little stiff, but you can definitely tell that he was an up-and-coming star who would be a major impact in the coming years.

I still think he draws one of the best looking Quicksilvers that I can remember. Not that drawing the definitive Quicksilver is one's ticket to the big time, but that says something when you can make him look cool.

I'm glad that Peter David was able to come back to this title and these characters recently, as he was able to bring something new to the premise while still retaining the old feel. He really made me care for Multiple Man as a character in his initial run, so it was cool to see that he was really able to make him the center piece years later.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel Comics

Related links for your surfing pleasure...
  • Peter David's official website
  • Not Blog X took a look at this issue too
  • The last time Random Longbox looked at X-Factor...kinda


  1. Great article for a great issue. Peter David was given a challenging task when he assumed X-Factor.

    Think about it it: X-Factor was created as a sort of excuse to have the original X-Men back. Not much to work with, and *then* you take off the original X-Men! :-) But he was able to extract an insanely good run of it, kudos for him!

  2. Up until Peter David took over this title, it was like the red-headed, mutant step-child. It was never really comfortable with it's second-string status, until it started to revel in it.

    Thankfully, we had Peter David to help us along.

    This run was so good, that it was the only title to make me think about getting a super-hero tattoo. For some reason, I thought it would be cool to get a Multiple Man tattoo. I never did, but what the hell was I thinking?

    Was the book that good?

    Yeah, it was.

  3. it was. I'll bet if you asked anyone their favorite issue of the run, maybe of anything from Marvel whole year, period, this would pop up a lot. Yet not one hostage or death...just analysis. And terrific comedic timing, inherent in the interplay of lines and art.

  4. This particular issue and run by Peter David ended up giving this title a long leash, particularly when it wasn't so good later on in the decade.

    I stuck with it to the end, but it was never as good as this issue was again.