X-Factor #85 (Dec. 1992) — Snikts and Bones — This issue continues X-Factor’s part (Part 6) of the multi-part crossover known as X-Cutioner’s Song. Since last issue, Apocalypse has fought and escaped the X-Men, Cannonball has accepted an offer of alliance, and Val Cooper has discovered that Stryfe may be the person who shot Professor X, not Cable. Unfortunately, nobody told Wolverine and Bishop that, so when they run into Cable at Department K in Canada, things get a little…intense. That’s where we come in. Wolvie and Bishop go after Cable right away, and of course, he fights back. A brawl like that is enough to make some people’s mouths water, but we don’t get to see much of it before the scene shifts. I guess that’s Peter David’s way of keeping us wanting more.
Anyway, we now see Cannonball, Havok, and Storm in Dust Bowl, Arkansas. I’m not sure if that’s the name of the town or just a description of the area. Either way, they’re asking (politely!) if the Mutant Liberation Front has a base nearby. Apparently, the answer is yes, because the guys they were talking to pull out high-tech guns. That’s the signal for Archangel, Polaris, and Iceman to show up and start kicking ass. When the bad guys try to retreat, they run into Rogue, Gambit, Psylocke, Boom Boom, and Quicksilver. Storm realizes that they are just fighting the cannon fodder, and Havok uses his plasma blasts to expose an underground base. It’s interesting to note that Havok seems to be taking charge of things in this scene (and later on). Storm usually doesn’t defer to anyone (remember when she and Cyclops fought over who would lead the X-Men?), but here she seems to be taking a secondary role to Havok. Maybe David wrote it that way because this IS X-Factor, not X-Men. He may be trying to keep focus on his regular characters, which makes sense. In a crossover with a zillion guest stars, it would be easy for the regular characters to get lost in the crowd, but David is making sure they get their time in the spotlight.
We now go to Switzerland, to one of Cable’s safehouses. Of course, we know Cable isn’t there since he’s currently in Canada getting his ass handed to him by Wolvie and Bishop. But there’s someone nosing around the safehouse…Apocalypse. From his monologue, we learn that Apocalypse is just as confused about what’s going on as we are. (Well, maybe not THAT confused.) He recognizes that Cable’s weaponry and technology has been derived from him, but he isn’t sure how Cable could have managed that. After sifting through several possibilities, Apocalypse seems to have an epiphany of sorts. He also gives us a cryptic clue as to the Big Revelation which will come out of this whole crossover. Looking back and knowing what we do now, it seems obvious, but at the time, it was still pretty confusing. Then again, Peter David is always good at being cryptic.
Back in Canada, the main event is still going strong. Cable seems to get the upper hand momentarily, and then he finds the armory; a “virtual cornucopia of mayhem” as he calls it. Then Bishop jumps back into the fight, and Cable learns (the hard way) about Bishop’s energy-absorbing powers. I like how the fight goes back and forth; we know they’re pretty evenly matched, and I’m sure there are Wolvie fans and Cable fans who could argue at length about who would win, but David keeps things on an even keel, not letting either side look too good or too bad.
Back in Arkansas, the real MLF members are starting to come out of the woodwork. Dragoness takes on Cannonball (and kinda slaps him around), but she is quickly pulped by Rogue, Polaris, and Storm. Tempo uses her time-slowing ability on Quicksilver, but before her cohorts can kill him, they are all taken down by Psylocke and Gambit. Quicksilver isn’t particularily grateful, saying that he could have handled it on his own. It’s nice to see that Quicksilver is arrogant and annoying with everyone, not just his regular teammates. I’m glad David is keeping his characters consistent.
Elsewhere, we see Cycops in darkness, lashing out with his eyebeams at the people he can hear closing in on him. It turns out they were children (as well as the love of his life, Jean Grey), and he feels guilty about hurting them, but before he can berate himself too much, he is zapped by Stryfe. Stryfe then gives a maudlin speech about Cyclops injuring the people he loves. Obviously, this is more scene-setting for the Big Revelation.
Back in Arkansas, Archangel is being crushed by Forearm but manages to get free. He doesn’t see Kamikaze sneaking up behind him (or does he?), and Kamikaze ends up being decapitated by Archangel’s razor-sharp wings. Warren seems genuinely shocked when he realizes what happened, but I wonder if his “control problems” with the wings aren’t just a way of him manifesting his subconscious desires. Boom Boom adds a little gallows humor, but (as usual) Archangel isn’t in a laughing mood.
Up in Canada, the fight continues, but Cable soon figures out a novel way to stop it…tell the truth. He tells Wolverine that he had nothing to do with shooting Professor X, and he says if Wolvie doesn’t believe him, he’ll allow himself to be killed right there. Apparently, the little guy does believe him, because he doesn’t kill Cable (although he does get one last shot in). I guess Wolverine’s famous intuition is working here, because he realizes that Cable may be telling the truth. Bishop is not so easily convinced and tries to blow Cable away but is stopped by Wolverine. (Wow…Wolverine as the voice of reason…you can’t say Peter David isn’t a master of the unexpected.) I’m sure everyone would have loved a knock-down, drag-out fight between these heavy hitters, but I like the way David ended this one. A fight between good guys is hard to resolve because you can’t have one win at the expense of the other. This was a perfectly logical way to end the fight without making either side a “loser”. It also shows that David understands Wolverine’s depth of character, since Wolvie is the one who stops the fight.
In a hospital in New York City, we see one of Multiple Man’s dupes talking to Prodigal, the leader of the X-Patriots. Prodigal knows the dupe is there to keep an eye on them and confronts the dupe about it. Before he can answer, he is chloroformed by Lukas, another X-Patriot. It seems as though the X-Patriots are getting tired of hanging around the hospital. It’s nice to see that David is still moving the regular storyline ahead, even in the middle of all the crossover madness.
Back in Dust Bowl, Arkansas (I love that name!), Gambit is taken down by Wildside, but before Gambit gets wasted, Quicksilver saves his life. I guess Quicksilver is a team-player after all. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have eyes in the back of his head, becuase Reaper manages to sneak up and slice the back of Quicksilver’s leg. I’m not sure if it’s his Achilles tendon or just the calf muscle, but it takes him out of the fight. Reaper then raises his scythe and prepares to kill Quicksilver and Gambit…and on that dramatic note, the story ends.
This issue was pretty good. David managed to advance his regular storyline, while concentrating on the crossover story. He showed that he understands how to handle characters besides his own (especially Wolverine and Cable) and give them depth. Jae Lee’s art is still too scratchy for my taste, but a lot of people seem to like it. My only real complaint about this issue is that we didn’t get to see Strong Guy or Wolfsbane. After all, they are part of X-Factor. I understand it’s difficult when your stories are dictated by what the other writers have done (before and after), but maybe David could have stuck Wolfsbane and Strong Guy in someplace. Oh well, maybe they’ll be in the next issue…which I’ll be reviewing soon!