Waiting for the Trade: X-Factor

Waiting for the Trade

X-Factor: Scar Tissue

By Peter David, art by
Valentine DeLandro and Emanuela Lupacchino

Collects X-Factor
213-219

 

Why I Bought This: It
guest stars the Black Cat who is perhaps my favorite Marvel character. It is also
written by Peter David, who is one of the all-time great Spider-man writers and
who wrote Felicia particularly well back in the day.

 

The Plot: The
main arc is about an assassination attempt on J. Jonah Jameson. He hires both
Black Cat and X-Factor for protection. There are also a few single issue
character studies on some of the regular cast.

 

(spoilers below)

Chapter 1 – Some dude is gambling in Vegas and when he takes
off his sunglasses people see death and freak out. Madrox later approaches this
dude, whom we learn is Darwin
(of X-Men First Class fame). Darwin
apparently had to fight (Asgardian death goddess) Hela in a prior trade and thus
evolved beyond death but now feels without a place in the world so he quits the
team to go find himself. We then get a lot of personal drama with the team
whose members are Siryn, Strong Guy, Pip the Troll, Longshot, Shatterstar,
Rictor, Wolfsbane, Layla Miller, and some other chick whose real name is Monet.
The big personal drama is Rictor learns he is not the father of Wolfsbane’s
pregnancy. She lied because she’s catholic and wanted to save his soul from
being gay. They part as friends and he goes back to Shatterstar.

Chapter 2 – Darwin
is wandering around the desert when he comes across a chick being chased by a
dragon. Darwin
kills the dragon. He takes her to the nearest town which ends up being a ghost
town out of the Wild West. All the residents are trapped in the town by a
sheriff, who then blows a hole in Darwin
when they meet. Even when his head gets blown off Darwin keeps coming. When sheriff dude sees Darwin’s eyes he stops
fighting and explains this town is in a kind of timeless limbo waiting for the
apocalypse. The sheriff throws down some foreshadowing about an impending Hell
on Earth deal and gives Darwin
three magic six-shooters. He calls for the High Noon shootout before he will
let Darwin
leave. Sheriff dude reveals he is Wolfsbane’s son and shoots Darwin dead. The town the fades back into
Limbo. Darwin
wakes up in the desert thinking it was a dream but he has one of the magic guns
with him.

Chapter 3 – Some chick from Ethiopia hires Madrox and Layla to
investigate her father’s death as she believes he was murdered by her
stepmother. The police believe her father was killed by a vampire as part of
that X-men vs. vampires crossover I never bothered to read as his body had fang
marks and was drained of blood. Layla and Madrox investigate and ultimately discover
the chick that hired them is an African vampire, which has different rules than
the traditional European vampire. This vampire projects out of her body when
she sleeps and her conscious mind has no idea what its doing. The vampire tries
to kill the stepmom and Madrox and Layla stop her when Layla performs an
exorcism, which she says should cure their client for good. Madrox then
proposes to Layla and she turns him down.

Chapter 4 – J. Jonah Jameson hires X-Factor to investigate
the murder of some military dude who once saved Jonah’s life. Spidey happens to
be spying on JJJ and warns X-factor about working with him but they just make
snarky comments so he leaves. Also some blond chick asks some black chick if
she remembers her. She doesn’t so blonde chick sets her on fire and the black
chick regenerates into a spandex costume and recovers her memories.

Chapter 5 – Apparently Felicia (the Black Cat) works for
Jonah now as a salaried employee so she wonders why he’s hired X-Factor when
she is a licensed PI. Jonah explains she works for the Mayor’s Office and this
is a personal investigation. Meanwhile three chicks (two of whom we saw last
issue) are listening in on Jonah and are planning to kill him. Most of X-Factor
is chasing down leads. Meanwhile there is a protest in New York about mutants and Muslims. This
irks Monet since she is both. Monet and Guido are watching over the protest
while Siryn is riding with Jonah in his car. Jonah gives a nice speech on equal
rights in an attempt to disband the protesters. Felicia is on nearby rooftop
watching as well when the black chick from last chapter wants to use the same
roof to set up a sniper rifle. They fight and the black chick has super
strength which gives her the victory. Meanwhile the blonde chick is in the
crowd of protesters. Siryn recognizes her from a lead Longshot found earlier
and goes on the attack but the police think she is attacking the mayor and nightstick
her. Blonde chick then blows a hole in Guido’s chest with her finger-gun
superpower.

Chapter 6 – Felicia recovers and takes on the black chick
before she can fire her gun. Finger gun chick is firing on Jonah but misses.
She attempts to attack Monet but Monet is apparently telekinetic and redirects the
bullet into the blonde chick’s skull. Monet wants to get Guido to the hospital
but blonde chick heals. She goes to fire on them but Siryn is able to make the
save. Felicia tries to taser black chick but it has no effect and she throws
Felicia off the roof. Jonah calls in a pair of mandroids but the third chick
fires off an EMP knocking the mandroids from the sky. Guido is going into
cardiac arrest and Monet flies him to the hospital. He tells her he loves her
as he passes out. Felicia tagged the chick she fought with a tracer and begins
to track them as the villains cut and run. EMP chick powers make her aware of
the tracer as soon as black chick gets in the car and the villains decide they
can use it to set a trap. At the hospital Guido dies but then he miraculously
recovers.

 

Chapter 7 – Felicia falls into the villains’ ambush and is
captured. Monet grabs Jonah in a fury and asks for the rest of the story. Apparently
JJJ funded dead military dude’s attempt to revive the super soldier program and
these three chicks are the result. At the hospital Layla tearfully leaves
Guido’s bed implying she did something bad to resurrect him. Monet,
Shatterstar, Wolfsbane and Longshot follow a lead on the villains. The super
soldiers have captured a scientist from the program and intend to kill both him
and Felicia and make it look like murder-suicide crime of passion as we get
their back-story: they went psycho on some missions, general dude wanted to
kill them but scientist dude argued for mind wiping them and giving them a
normal life instead. At this point the four X-factor members arrive for the big
fight. Finger-gun shoots Wolfsbane but she proves immune because her apparently
child has an Asgardian protection spell cast on it. Monet uses telepathy to put
Fingergun into a coma. Longshot and Black Cat learn their powers cancel out
which gives the other two a chance to escape. 

 

Critical Thoughts:
Not much here to be honest. Truthfully I don’t think I’ve ever read an issue of
Peter David’s X-factor before this. Like when he took over 20 years ago and
made the book about Havok, Polaris & Strong Guy as government agents I was
like I don’t care about any of these characters and that hasn’t changed through
any of the eras since then. Reading this I don’t feel like I’m missing much.
This whole cast is a group of uninteresting people with uninteresting powers.
They’re third stringers for a reason. The only subplot in this that I would be
remotely interested in the conclusion to is David seems to be on the verge of
answering the question of whether Shatterstar is Longshot and Dazzler’s son,
which has lingered for two decades.

As for the Felicia story I bought this trade to read it’s
hurt by lame villains. These chicks are so-non descript they don’t even seem to
have codenames. David writes Felicia herself as fairly capable if under-powered
in this fight. And I liked the little bit with her and Longshot’s powers
cancelling out. But I felt like there was more potential here. Felicia to my
knowledge has never been in an X-men story before (she’s had a pair on
mini-series with Wolverine and met Gambit once since they are both thieves but
that’s it) and so there could be some intriguing possibilities if they were
actually teaming up and investigating together but instead they are more or
less working parallel to each other.

I will say David still writes Jonah better than any other Spider-man
writer ever. Jonah’s equal rights speech is a great tool for showing why Jonah
is a respected leader despite his over the top Spider-man ranting. I know some
don’t like politics in their comics but I’ll point out Jonah has been shown to
be for civil rights since the Silver Age in stories with both Randi and Robbie
Robertson including a famous incident where he kicks a political candidate out
of his office when he learns the man is racist. I buy everything Jonah does
here and why he does it. I buy he would fund a super soldier program as a favor
to a man who saved his life; and in the past Jonah has been shown to admire
Captain America. I buy Jonah would work with X-factor because unlike Spider-man
they are not masked vigilantes. They are licensed private investigators working
within law—none of them wear masks and more than half the team uses their real
name instead of a codename. I’m not sure he would work with Felicia but that
seems to be happening in Spidey’s book and not here so that’s out of David’s
hands; but even so I like he won’t use government money to pay Felicia for a
personal investigation. So on that front the big highlight is seeing David
write Jonah again because as always he does it very well.

 

Grade D+ : Those
first three chapters are filled with things I don’t care about and frankly are not
particularly interesting; while even the chapters I care about are mostly
underwhelming.

Waiting for the Trade – Avengers

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Avengers First to Last
by Peter David and Dwayne McDuffie; art by Michael Avon Oeming.
Collects The Last Avengers Story 1-2 and Classic Avengers 1-12.
Why I Bought This: This was another Free Comic Book Day purchase, which means it was the day after the Avengers movie. So besides being double discounted it was exactly what I was in the mood for including stories of the earliest days of the team. Peter David’s name didn’t hurt either.
The Plot: This is actually two very different stories. The Classic Avengers stuff by McDuffie is a series of short stories (about 5-10 pages each) that take place in the cracks of the original 1963 issues. The Last Avengers story by David is a possible/alternate/dystopian future tale that imagines how the Avengers come to an end.
Chapter 0 – An allegedly humorous story on how a young Stan Lee convinced the Avengers to come together to increase comic book sales.
Chapter 1 – The Avengers hold their first meeting.
Chapter 2 – After Hulk quits the Avengers, Banner wakes up covered in blood afraid that Hulk killed an innocent woman.
Chapter 3 – Giant Man and Iron Man test their new powers/armor in training while discussing how they can contribute to a team that includes Thor and faces powerhouses like Hulk and Namor.
Chapter 4 – Captain America reestablishes his identity with the government after being thawed out.
Chapter 5 – Cap and Thor meet for the first time during World War II.
Chapter 6 – Wasp in her civilian identity gets carjacked by a troubled young woman.
Chapter 7 – The Masters of Evil try to survive in another dimension that Thor banished them to.
Chapter 8 – Rick Jones tries to Cap’s advice on combat to dating. He meets a girl and gets in a fight with her ex.
Chapter 9 – Wonder Man has doubts about kidnapping Wasp for Baron Zemo.
Chapter 10 – Cap and Rick find themselves in 17th century France due to Immortus.
Chapter 11 – Cap and Spidey meet for the first time (and battle Electro).
Chapter 12 – Some of the Mole Man’s Moloids gets left behind in NYC and try to make a life for themselves. One of them falls for a heavy-set woman.
Chapter 12.5 – Another Moloid is exposed to Pym’s shrink gas and takes over an ant colony. Also a gorgeous pin-up/cover gallery by Art Adams.
Chapter 13 – In the future the Kang, Ultron and Grim Reaper unite. They nuke Avengers Mansion killing the current team of non-characters. The Pyms, as always taking responsibility for Ultron, form a new team that includes Cannonball, Human Torch, Hercules’ daughter, Black Knight’s son and She Hulk’s daughter. Hawkeye (now blind) and Mockingbird decline to join. We also learn how most of the real Avengers died over the years.
Chapter 14 – Spidey declines to join Pym, while Vision ponders joining having become detached from humanity over the years, and Wiccan leaves his studies with Dr. Strange to join. We see the final battle and Ultron pulls in many of his prior incarnations so the heroes are outnumbered. Cannonball dies and many of the others are wounded when Hawkeye and Mockingbird arrive to turn the tide. We learn Grim Reaper is Wiccan’s brother Speed instead of the original and get a flashback on Scarlet Witch’s death. Kang kills Pym which pisses off Ultron, who wanted that honor for himself. Ultron then attacks Kang giving Wasp the opportunity to kill Kang and avenge Hank. Vision returns to take down Ultron at the cost of his own life. After the battle Hawkeye hints that Captain America is still alive and that’s why he changed his mind about helping.
Critical Thoughts: I liked most of the short stories; I hated the Peter David future stuff, which is quite disappointing.
I’ll hit the short stores first. Chapter 1 has Hulk making fun of Ant Man’s powers, which is hysterical. Chapter 3 is also quite a good look at the insecurities of some of the lesser powered members and manages to foreshadow both Tony’s alcoholism and Pym’s nervous breakdowns without being heavy-handed. I liked Chapter 5 quite a lot. It is told from a young soldier’s perspective and while a bit violent the art and story were both good. The Moloids in New York is also surprisingly charming. Cap and Spidey is also funny and features my two favorite Marvel A-listers even though I’ve seen at least two other stories in the last five years claiming to be the first meeting of Cap and Spidey—although the most recent (a Spidey annual from about two years ago) could occur simultaneously with this one. Really all of the short stories are pretty good. None are actively bad, with maybe Chapters 4 and 8 being the only ones that are forgettable. Chapter 4 also clearly contradicts established Cap history by having him get a government check for his years on ice to reestablish his life and security clearances reactivated. Cap’s back pay was giving to him in a lump sum in the Mark Gruenwald in the 80s: it’s how he started his hotline and became a key plot point in the Cap No More story that I consider the greatest Cap story ever told so that’s a fairly glaring miss in my view. Also Cap didn’t get his government clearance back right away, as Stan Lee had Cap actively seeking that during the Cap’s Kooky Quartet Phase of the Avengers and then when he got reinstated it became the focus of his solo tales in Strange Tales.  
The Last Avengers story fails in every conceivable way. It comes across as a poorly done Kingdom Come rip-off with a few nods to Busiek’s Ultron run. But really its biggest failing is not being an Avengers story. The Pyms are the least interesting of the founders of the team and they are the only ones here. The children of the Avengers we meet in this have no real personality and then they are wounded and dead almost as soon as we meet them, so who cares? And then we get Cannonball and the Human Torch, who aren’t even Avengers, coming off the bench. WTF? Seriously, even if you want to go with the no Cap/Thor/Iron Man route, you can’t find any of the 150 or so heroes who have been Avengers to fill the aging heroes’ role in this story? You need the only member of the FF who was never an Avenger and a New Mutant? Nothing against Cannonball and Torch as characters but if I’m reading about the end of Avengers then I want to see the Avengers. (Or to paraphrase Malcolm from Jurassic Park: “Eventually you do intend to have Avengers in your Avengers story”). And why the hell aren’t we using the real Grim Reaper for the villains? How hard is it to unite the Avengers three main foes for the final battle? This thing just fails and fails again.
About the only positive thing I can say for it is Hawkeye and Mockingbird (my second all-time favorite comic book couple) end up together and more or less happy in the end. The Vision stuff, despite being clichéd, is also written fairly well on a personal level. Wiccan training to be sorcerer supreme seemed appropriate as he’s shown pretty strong power levels in his Young Avengers appearances and his presence at the death Vision and Ultron reinforces the whole family theme that drives those characters. The death of the West Coast Avengers also comes across as pretty horrific if that’s the vibe David was trying to create.
Grade: The Classic stuff gets a B+, with a few of the stories being clear A’s. The Last stuff would be lucky to get a D (and that first chapter of it is a definite E, as the little I liked is all in the second chapter). I guess the averages to somewhere in the C’s. I’ll call it a C- because I can’t in good conscience give a positive grade to trade that has that future story no matter how much I enjoyed Hulk making fun of Ant Man.