The Peter David Factor:

Part 1

Hi, everyone. I’m going to be doing an issue by issue review of Peter David’s first run on X-Factor. Thanks to for allowing me to do this (and let’s hope they don’t end up regretting it). I love Peter David’s writing, mainly for the way he can mix humor with more serious subject matter without crossing the line, either into silliness or excessive sentimentality. Now, I should warn you, I’m not going to go crazy with deconstruction, or semiotics, or analyzing the minutiae of every panel. I’m just going to look at each issue as I read it, and give my opinions on the writing. Since this column is about Peter David, I won’t be getting into the artwork of the various issues. I realize that some (or all) of you might disagree with my conclusions, but I hope you’ll keep an open mind, and maybe through this series you’ll come to appreciate Mr. David’s unique style.

Just for the record, the issues in question are X-Factor Vol. 1 #70 (Sept. 1991) through #89 (Apr. 1993). The great thing about these issues is that, starting with #71, a whole new team of heroes is introduced, and the book goes in a new direction. This eliminates the need to know a lot of convoluted history (and let’s face it, if there’s one word that describes the X-teams’ history, that word would be “convoluted”). That being said, issue #70 does feature various members of the X-Men and involves a certain amount of background, but since it was the first issue of Peter David’s run and serves to illustrate his way of handling characters, I will review it now. I’ll try not to dwell too much on trivial X-Men details.

X-Factor #70 (Sept. 1991), titled “Ends and Odds,” is an epilogue to something called “The Muir Island Saga.” Without going into too much detail, the X-Men had gone through a lot of changes in the previous couple of years and had, for all intents and purposes, ceased to exist as a cohesive unit. “The Muir Island Saga” was basically a way of reuniting the scattered X-Men, teaming them up with X-Factor (which at the time consisted of the five original X-Men), and bringing back their founder and motivating force, Professor Xavier, from his long exile in space. This, of course, coincided with the reorganization of all the X-books. New Mutants was cancelled and replaced by X-Force, X-Factor was revamped, and the original five rejoined the X-Men just in time for the launch of the new X-Men comic in October 1991 to go along with the already flourishing Uncanny X-Men. Of course, much of this was probably motivated by financial considerations, with Marvel trying to duplicate the success of Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man #1 from the previous year. (In fact, X-Men #1 ended up surpassing the sales records set by Spider-Man #1.)

Anyway, X-Factor #70 wraps up the Muir Island storyline and nicely sets the stage for the revamped X-Factor team and the new X-Men book, so let’s take a look at this particular issue.

This issue opens with Professor X psychically searching the mind of his son David (aka Legion), whose mind was fried during a fight with the Shadow King on Muir Island. Peter David lets us see the concern for Professor X from his former students Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm, and his old friend Moira MacTaggert. He also shows a bit of the old Cyclops/Wolverine rivalry; in fact, after reading this issue, I get the feeling that Wolverine may have sensed the changes coming and the reformation of the X-Men. Since Wolverine had served as team leader in the past, perhaps he resented the fact that Cyclops would be an automatic choice as leader by the Professor.

The scene shifts to Archangel surveying the damage to the island and Forge, Beast and Colossus picking through the rubble below. David has Beast quoting Yeats’s Second Coming, which also foreshadows the reintegration of the X-Men. David then immediately shifts gears into humor; when Colossus asks Forge if he has some wondrous invention to help them clean up the mess, Forge hands him a broom and dustpan!

There is another quick vignette of Professor X in his son’s mind, and then we see Nick Fury, Valerie Cooper and Mystique approaching Rogue. They explain to Rogue why Mystique faked her death (don’t ask), and Mystique and Rogue have a heart to heart. It is a somewhat touching moment but seems a trifle overdone to me; Mystique and Rogue never seemed like the type to cry their eyes out.

We then see a quick scene of Wolverine’s “sidekick” Jubilee freaking out, and the inference is that Wolvie has told her that their partnership is over. This may be another indication that Wolverine knew things were about to change.

The next scene we see is a light-hearted moment between Lorna Dane (Polaris) and Lila Cheney’s former bodyguard Guido. The two are then approached by Val Cooper about forming a new government sponsored mutant team. This scene sets up the next issue nicely by showing us Lorna, Val, and Guido together, and alluding to Jamie Madrox and Alex Summers (Havok).

The original X-Men join Professor X inside Legion’s mind and tell him what he already subconsciously knows; that his son’s mind is gone and cannot be brought back. David lets us feel the Professor’s anguish about his son and the fact that the Professor is crippled again. The Professor also seems somewhat resentful that he must once again take up leadership of the X-Men. Nevertheless he does so, neatly ending the issue and referencing the upcoming revamp of the X-titles. David manages to slip in a meta-reference of sorts on the last page; when Professor X wonders what to do with 14 X-Men, Beast says “Bag ‘em”, an obvious reference to the polybagged X-Men #1.

All in all, this story ties up some loose ends and paves the way for the coming issues. It also shows us that Peter David’s style fits well here and that he’s comfortable with the characters. Next time we’ll examine X-Factor #71, the first issue featuring the new team of heroes.

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