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X-Factor #16 (1987, May)

January 4, 2016

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). I went to see Star Wars last night. It was really good. I’ll have some thoughts about it in tomorrow’s Pull list post. Today, by Simonson, David Mazzucchelli, Rubinstein, Scotese and Rosen, “Playing With Fire.”

Playing With Fire

Oh no, this is going to be a Rusty issue, isn’t it? Ugh.

We start in the training room, as Skids tackles Rusty. In the process, he accidentally tears her huge pearl necklace. This gives Skids a flashback to her dad ripping the necklace off her, after her mom gave it to her. Skids gets pissed at Rusty, until Jean tells her to start picking the pearls up. She can’t contract her force field enough, and she runs off crying, with Rusty following her. Scott comes in, and they talk a bit about Skids. Scott says Rusty can get through to her, the same way Jean got through to Scott. Jean jokes about hoping it works out better. Hahaha! Nope! The future of Rusty and Skids involves brainwashing and Rusty being blown up in orbit. Happiness is not in their future.

Skids wants to go back to her home in the sewers. We go back to the flashback, with her dad back-handing her mom, and her mom’s head smacking a table on the way down. Rusty talks about wanting to kiss her, and then his power flares up, and her flashback continues with her father punching her. So now they’re both angsting about how they can never get close to someone. Self-pity!

Sudden Masque attack! The kids run away.

Later on, Rusty’s reading an obituary of Angel, and notices an article about the woman he burned. So it’s time for another freak-out. The article further notes that X-Factor is paying her medical costs. When Rusty talks to Hodge, Hodge says they might not be able to continue covering the costs much longer. Rusty feels horrible, and wants to help her, so he goes to ask Masque to make her beautiful again. The four kids – Rusty, Skids, Artie and Boom-Boom – sneak into her hospital through the conveniently large ventilation systems. With Boom-Boom wearing her sunglasses. Of course. She never took them off in those days. They head into her hotel room. She recognizes Rusty, and he apologizes for what happened, and so does she, saying it wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t been forcing herself on him. Since it happened, she’s apparently embraced Christianity, and wants to preach the word of god.

In order to help get her out of the building Boom-Boom blows a big hole in the wall. Because “thinking things through” has never been Boom-Boom’s strong point. She blew a big hole in the wall of a hospital. That’s not just impulsive, that’s compulsive. Anyway, they get the woman to Masque, who fixes her face, and Rusty tells the others to get her back to the hospital while he settles things with Skids. Obviously, the deal was for him to stay with Masque and be his plaything. The woman decides the cost of her repairs are too great, and Skids tells him to let Rusty go, but he refuses. And Skids’ force field stops her from doing any real harm to Masque.

So the flashback continues, with her father continuing to try to beat her, and her force field activating and saving her. But then she could turn it off to pick up the pearls. Which raises the question of how she has the necklace if she couldn’t pick it up back then. Regardless, she’s finally able to turn her force field so she can choke Masque, who also gets set on fire by Rusty. Masque has no choice but to fix Rusty. And the woman who was burned decides to stay in the tunnels to preach the word of god. Which . . . OK, good luck with that, crazy lady. So, now Boom-Boom takes Artie away so those two crazy kids can be left alone, so they can talk and kiss and go 5 goddamn minutes without feeling sorry for themselves. Though we don’t actually see them kiss, but it’s pretty clear that’s where it’s going.

This issue is . . . I don’t know. It’s OK, I guess. It’s nice to get some follow-up on the woman Rusty burned. There actually had been letters asking about that. Her turning to religion was an OK idea. Her deciding to spread religion to the Morlocks was . . . interesting? But the problem is the issue is about Rusty and Skids, and neither of them are actually particularly interesting characters. They’re both very flat, very bland. Rusty can be irritating with his self-pity, and this issue also brings a ton of self-pity for Skids. We also learn she had an abusive father. One who seemed to be pretty heavily religious, actually, which could’ve made for a really interesting contrast between Skids’ father and the woman in this issue. But it’s not really explored.

Also not really explored, any reactions about Angel dying. Scott and Jean get a scene, and Angel doesn’t come up at all. And the kids don’t seem all that interested in Angel being dead. The issue ends up feeling like filler. It actually almost comes across as an inventory issue – one of those comics that would be made and then stuck in a drawer in case another issue ran late. This isn’t an inventory issue, but it has that feel to it, of a story that could’ve been done at really any time, and was put here because they needed a little more time for the next issue. The issue does further the relationship between Rusty and Skids, and allows Skids to lower her force field, so there are developments, sorta. The art doesn’t help, either. It’s not bad art. But it’s also not particularly strong. Mazzucchelli, of course, is probably best-known for his work with Frank Miller, as line artist for Daredevil: Born Again and Batman: Year One. I haven’t read Batman, but his work on Born Again was fantastic. He did a great job bringing Miller’s script to life. His style worked great for that book. Here? He draws what he’s told to draw, and it’s fine, but it’s just kinda boring.

This issue, as a whole, is just really boring.

There’s also a scene in Thor #379 of Thor returning Iceman to X-Factor HQ. And, as I’ve mentioned before, the issue also has some of the most epic dialogue ever.

And! Mephisto vs. #2, Mephisto vs. X-Factor, by Al Milgrom, John Buscema, Bob Wiacek, George Roussos and Rick Parker. Mephisto had previously captured Sue Storm. Mr. Fantastic gets the idea of calling X-Factor for help. So then we see them training, because it’s what you do when you bring any X-team into a story. I find it funny that that’s such a thing. Just any time you need the X-Men, show them training first. Anyway, Reed visits them, explains that Mephisto’s captured his wife, and that he thinks Mephisto hinted that X-Factor could do something. A hobo shows up to tell X-Factor about something he saw by the docks, which sounds like it might be Sue. X-Factor rushes off, but Mephisto – who was disguised as the hobo – stops Reed from following.

They find Sue about to be killed by an angry mob, and then step in to stop it. They follow her into a warehouse, and Mephisto pops in. He expresses an identification with mutants, saying they’re both outcasts. He even tries to convince them that he’s not evil, and only punishes those who are. He offers to help them in various ways, most notably by offering to merge Jean and Maddie. Which is . . . odd. He also offers to make Beast handsome, and to restore Angel’s wings. (This story takes place before his apparent suicide. Which a footnote actually calls an “apparent suicide.” Man, way to spoil the twist.) And he also finally offers to make mankind no longer hate mutants. And all it’ll cost is one of their souls.

The others are tempted, but Iceman refuses. So Mephisto melts him. Scott tries to blast him, but hits Maddie and the baby, instead. He turns Beast into a monster. Some minions attack Angel. He flies into the sky and tries to flee, but is hurt badly enough that he falls to the ground. It actually sets up a pretty nice story coming up in Marvel Fanfare. Jean’s the last one left, and Mephisto convinces her to give him her soul to save the others.

It’s not a great comic. It’s all about Mephisto being manipulative. And there’s some fun elements, but overall . . . meh. Don’t really care. There’s nothing memorable about it. At all. Skip it.

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  1. Marvel Fanfare #40 (1988, October) | xmenxpert

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