X-Factor (1st series) #71

Issue Date: 
October 1991
Story Title: 
Cutting the Mustard

Peter David (writer), Larry Stroman (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Michael Heisler (letterer), Bob Harras (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

While new X-Factor members, Lorna Dane, Guido and Jamie Madrox get to know each other over breakfast, their government liaison Valerie Cooper travels to Genosha to recruit Havok as their leader. Havok is not interested, feeling he is doing important work in Genosha. Val challenges him by putting herself into danger to see if Havok’s instincts still work. Finally, Professor X and Cyclops manage to convince Alex that X-Factor is important. Alex agrees and Wolfsbane tags along. In the meantime, the other X-Factor members were joined by the estranged Avenger Quicksilver, who is asking for their help as a mysterious individual apparently operating out of Washington has manipulated his powers into slowly killing him. Later at night, someone rings at Jamie’s door. When he answers the door, somebody shoots him.

Full Summary: 

Breakfast time at the lush new X-Factor headquarters in Washington D.C. Do they have any Grey Poupon? Guido (formerly Lila Cheney’s bodyguard) asks the other two people at the table. Of course they do, Guido, is it? Lorna Dane aka Polaris replies. Guido it is, she is told. Of course, they do, Guido-it-is, she continues. After all, here at X-Factor they have it all: Armory, vehicles and, of course, Grey Poupon. With that, she magnetically levitates it towards him. So tell him, Miz Dane, is it? Guido asks. Dane it is. Lorna. She one of the types that babbles when she’s nervous, Dane-it-is-Lorna? Is it that obvious? she asks, smiling and then explains that the guy they are approaching to head up this operation… they have a .

Stupid mayo jar! the third person at the table, Jamie Madrox aka Multiple Man mutters as he tries in vain to open said jar. If Alex comes here, Lorna continues, it’ll be the first time in ages where there’s nothing to keep them apart, Lorna continues. She want he should hose the two of them down? Guido suggests. That is not the problem, she replies wistfully. Although he might have to. Then again, maybe he won’t. She sighs. So much has happened to them. They’ve been mucked up in mind and body so many times. How does she know there is any relationship to go back to?

Jamie hits the lid of the (still unopened) jar. As a result of that he creates a duplicate of themselves. Now they try to open it together.

Look, Dane-it-is-Lorna, Guido suggests, if the guy is dumb enough to let her go, it just clears the way for them. Them? Lorna asks embarrassed. They don’t really know each other… A 90’s guy like him says what he feels, Guido replies.

Can he open this stupid thing? Lorna asks, handing him the mayo jar.

He’s what they call “sensitive”… course, some blork got a problem with that, then he’ll defenestrate him. He tries to open the lid and finds it doesn’t work. “Oh for crying out loud!” Lorna exclaims and levitates the jar magnetically. What’s a “blork?” Jamie asks. He can’t really get into it with ladies present, Guido replies while Lorna finds that even her magnetic powers can’t open the jar.

Annoyed, she gives up and grabs a newspaper to start looking for a place to rent. Pointedly, she tells Jamie not all of them were fortunate enough to have some friends touring Europe who want them to house-sit their condo. Is it his fault he has rich friends? Jamie asks innocently. Yes, Lorna replies curtly and ostentatively begins studying the newspaper. But her thoughts are with Alex, hoping that he will take the job and at the same time afraid of it.

Genosha, off the coast of Africa:

Alex Summers, aka Havok, is not interested, he informs Dr. Valerie Cooper and returns to the work crew. Val insists how important this is. Havok replies she doesn’t realize the importance of what they are doing here. On the site of what used to be Genosha’s citadel, they are working to build a Mutate residence hall. A place where mutates can live together, develop a feeling of community. Sounds like a ghetto, Val points out. Is she crazy? he protests. This is a modern facility with all the amenities, not a rundown… Val corrects him. She didn’t’ say “tenement”. She said “ghetto”. Where people, historically unwanted, have been lumped together. Where’s the equal rights in that? What is she implying? he asks angrily. That the X-Men when they were first brought together were being ghettoized? She didn’t imply it, he inferred it, Val points out. In other words: he said it. She didn’t.

She tries a more friendly tack. She believes what he is doing here is well intentioned. Swimming pool, health club, food facilities, more than the mutates ever dreamed of!

Neither of them notices that a steel girder above them has come loose and is falling toward them. Look out! Alex cries and begins building up power to blow apart the beam but, that moment, a wolflike creature rushes in and pushes him out of the danger zone; not Val though, who is still standing there. Cripes! Havok swears and again aims, and this time evaporates the girder. Angrily, he asks the mussed Val, who didn’t move, if she has lost her mind. She wanted to see if when he acted by instinct instead of thinking he could make the right choice, she replies.

Washington DC.

Former Avenger Quicksilver has teleported there with the Inhuman dog Lockjaw. Well done, he commends the dog. This is indeed the nation’s capital. It’s perfectly evident. The air fairly reeks of sanctimoniousness.

Outside a skyscraper, protesters are demanding Roxxon be shut down. Pietro asks for directions to X-Factor’s headquarters. Never head of them, a bystander replies. Suddenly, a panicked man runs out of the Roxxon building, shouting there is a bomb threat. It’s going off in two minutes! “Never heard of them,” Quicksilver sighs. Now that sounds promising, he remarks wryly. He’s looking for X-Factor, he asks another bystander. Who cares? the man shouts. Run! They want running? He will show them running!

At super-speed, he searches the building, sighing, the things he does to get simple directions! He finds the bomb and brings it outside. It’s about to blow! someone shouts. Before he can finish the sentence, Quicksilver has dismantled it. Now that he has their attention… he is seeking X-Factor. He understands they are on Embassy Row. A mile west that way, he is told. He and Lockjaw teleport away with that information.

In Genosha, in a luxuriously furnished room, Havok and Wolfsbane (in transitional form, but as close to human as possible) are waiting. Alex thanks her for her effort, but she didn’t have to rescue him. Rahne Sinclair apologizes. But she saw him in danger and couldn’t control herself.

Drying her hair, Val Cooper joins them, pointing out Rahne controlled herself just fine when it came to her. Alex again points out her foolish behavior. What was she trying to prove, standing there? Instead of the shower, she’s just taken she would have needed an undertaker! Val repeats that, when Alex saw the girder falling, he acted on instinct. That’s when he is at his best. When he thinks too much he gets screwed up and she believes he’s thinking too much now about joining X-Factor and screwing up what is his first best destiny. He is denying his instinct.

Denying what? he asks. The chance to lead some government-formed intervention group, the chance to have more lives depending on him? The chance to do some good, she replies, to de-ghettoize mutants instead of building new ones!

There’s a knock at the door. As Alex walks to the door to answer it, he insists his mind is made up. That moment, his elder brother Cyclops and Professor X come through the door. Rahne hugs the Professor and Scott suggests to Alex they talk. So Alex follows the two of them. Left with Rahne, Val asks if she can offer her anything. A drink? A sandwich? Kibbles and Bits?

On the streets of Genosha, Xavier explains that X-Factor is an excellent opportunity. With the break-up of Freedom Force, the government is in the position of having their first publicized association with mutants blowing up in their faces. Mutants have been very high-profile of late, thanks to the Genoshan incursion. A positive face on mutant / government relations benefits all.

They want window dressing, Alex scoffs. Nice, polite, cuddly mutants to take heat in difficult situations. “Government muties.” He’d be a smiling front man, an Uncle A-Tom-ic. Not interested!

It wouldn’t be that way, Scott tries to convince him. The president is very much behind this project and, considering his voter approval rate, that’s powerful support. Is this what the great dream has come to? Alex scoffs. Playing politics?

Xavier points out the stakes are high. They know what a future of unchecked mutant suspicion could hold. How would Alex feel if miserable fates befell their brethren? A fate he could have staved off, had he not been so self-absorbed? Great, Alex sighs, if he passes this up, then mutantkind goes down the chute and it’s his fault. If it’s so important, they should do this. He can’t be everywhere, Xavier replies. They need someone heading this they can trust. X-Factor’d be a government strike force like Delta Force. They’d come and go as needed, draw a healthy paycheck and, of course, there would be Lorna… Alex repeats her name questioningly.

At the X-Factor townhouse, Lorna’s name is also spoken, whispered actually, by Quicksilver who is standing at the door. He looks like death warmed over! she exclaims. A moment later, he sinks into her arms. She calls out for Guido to come help. Guido carries him to the couch. Lorna wonders aloud that last she heard Quicksilver was with the west coast branch of the Avengers. What’s he doing here? Not too well, from the look of him, Guido quips. He thinks he’s coming around though.

Pietro thanks them for their concern. Then, seeing Madrox trying to speak with Lockjaw, he asks him what he is doing. Asking Lockjaw what was wrong with Quicksilver, comes the reply, but Lockjaw wasn’t answering. He knows it’s hard for him to speak, but… Speak? Quicksilver begins to laugh. He’s been talking to Ben Grimm, hasn’t he? He’s played cards with him, yeah, and he told him Lockjaw was a deformed Inhuman, not a dog. Lorna hands Pietro the mayo jar, suggesting he try to open this while explaining.

Pietro asks Madrox to think. If Lockjaw is a deformed Inhuman, then why have the Inhumans always talked to him like a dog? Wouldn’t that be somewhat patronizing? He is a dog, he explains. It was a joke! Gorgon and Karnak utilized Lockjaw’s antenna as a high-powered transmitter as a prank on their old friend Ben Grimm. And Grimm, thinking he’d found a soul mate, apparently swallowed it. He still hasn’t caught on? For heaven’s sake, don’t be the one to tell him!

He is told not to be so smug. He’d have been fooled if someone had pulled that stun on him! Unusually hesitant, Pietro replies he’d never be that gullible. Lorna asks why he is here and observes that he looks older than before, more tired. Quicksilver agrees and his impulse extinguishing of a bomb threat has only aggravated the situation. The situation being that his power is killing him!

In the meantime, Alex and Rahne who has decided to come along as she and Alex are a team, are on a private jet en route to Washington. When Rahne mentions the word “team,” Val uses this as a segue to show them pictures of theirs:

Guido: former body guard for an off world rocker named Lila Cheney. Built like a tank. Lorna Dane aka Polaris… recently reacquired her mastery of magnetism. She and Alex … have met. Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man. Creates replicates of himself. His own best friend. Any questions?

An observation, Alex points out. Val seems to be enjoying herself tremendously. Oh she is, Val gushes. She has a brother who is an FBI agent and she is so tired of him telling her about these exciting cases he gets. Like for instance this girl they found. She was wrapped in plastic! But that stuff will be tame compared with what X-Factor gets involved with!

Back in the townhouse, Pietro continues that someone has done something to him. He doesn’t know who. But they’ve turned his powers against him. It started last week. Every time he uses his velocity, his metabolism speeds up, accelerating his aging. He’s learned that some evil individual is behind it, and he’s based somewhere here in the Washington area.

How does he know? Madrox asks. Because of the postcard he found in the mail. “Dear Mr Silver: Ha ha. I have turned your power against you. You’ll never find me. Sincerely: An evil individual” And it’s got a DC postmark. What would make someone do something terrible like this? Lorna wonders. They ask him, he blames society, Guido remarks.

Madrox recalls Pietro was with the West Coast Avengers. Why not bring them in on this? He had resolved to part company with them, Pietro replies. They do not appreciate his talents. The computers indicated that X-Factor was forming in the DC area and…

Actually… Val, Alex and Rahne enter, it has already formed. A moment later, Lorna hugs Alex. Rahne reacts with a “hmpf” while Val asks what Quicksilver is doing here. An evil individual has turned his powers against him, he again explains. Why? Val asks. They ask him, he blames society, Alex states. That seems to be the consensus, Quicksilver agrees, and adds he can’t open the mayo jar either. He doesn’t think anyone can. Alex intends to solve the problem by using his plasma blast. To no avail. Val takes matters in hand, raps it a couple of times and then it opens. Now tell them about this evil individual…

Later in the condo he’s house sitting, Madrox laughs at his prank. The little unbreakable jar he whipped up on Muir Island, complete with unremovable lid, except when his little remote control device allows it to be opened. Quicksilver thinks Inhumans can pull practical jokes? He doesn’t know jokes until he’s crossed swords with Jamie Madrox!

When there’s a knock at the door, Jamie wonders who it could be at this time, as nobody but X-Factor knows he’s there. Probably just a salesman, still…

Madrox opens the door a bit and, a moment later, a gun is fired at him several times. Lethally injured, he falls back out of the window and lands on the pavement…

Characters Involved: 

Guido, Havok, Multiple Man, Polaris, Quicksilver, Wolfsbane (all X-Factor)

Dr. Valerie Cooper (X-Factor’s government liaison)

Cyclops, Professor X (both X-Men)

In flashback:

Thing (member of the Fantastic Four)

Gorgon, Karnak (both members of the Inhuman Royal Family)


Story Notes: 

While Peter David already wrote last issue which acted as an epilogue to the Muir Island saga, this is the issue where his new team debuts.

Interestingly enough, there was also another proposal for X-Factor by Erik Larsen. His team would have included: Havok, Polaris (without magnetic powers and the super-strength she displayed before), Pyro, a cyborg Crimson Commando and a new Morlock girl Horridus. The changes for Super-Patroit had already been made in the back stories of the “King of Pain” crossover annuals. When his proposal fell through, Larsen used his designs for Crimon Commando (now called Superpatriot) and Horridus in his creator-owned Image title Freak Force.

Grey Poupon is a brand of mustard which had become very well known due to the series of commercials airing at the time of this issue’s publication. Most involved two obviously wealthy and refined British gentleman, one of which would politely ask if the second had any Grey Poupon, to which the second gentleman would invariably reply “But of course.”

Polaris and Havok were a long time couple. However, Polaris was possessed by the Maurader Malice for the longest time and Havok was seemingly killed with the X-Men. Polaris was eventually freed of Malice afterward was kidnapped and robbed of her magnetic powers by Zaladane, then manipulated by Legion and the Shadow King while he was brainwashed to serve the Genosahn government…

Havok and Wolfsbane opted to stay in Genosha at the end of “the X-tinction Agenda.”

This story takes place before X-Men (2nd series) # 1.

Roxxon Energy Corporation is the name of a fictional massive petroleum corporation which is often kind of shady.

Interestingly, Roxxon has a skyscraper in Washington DC, despite the fact of the Heights Building Act of 1894, which limited the height of any structure in the nation’s capital to 12 stories.

The bad future Xavier and Cyclops talk about probably refers to the “Days of Future Past” storyline.

Uncle A-tom-ic is a pun based on “Uncle Tom,” referring to the character from Harriet Beecher-Stowe’s anti-slavery novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The term is also used as an insult, namely as a black man considered to be subservient to or to curry favor with whites.

In “The Thing” #3, writer John Byrne revealed that Lockjaw was a horribly mutated Inhuman. Peter David retcons that here as the other Inhumans had always treated Lockjaw as a dog, not a sentient being. While this solution also had problems, David offered that those who’d dislike the Byrne story would simply accept the “practical joke” idea and other readers could infer that that Pietro was lying to Madrox.

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