X-Factor #139

Background

The mutant terrorist known as Mystique has recently been forced to work with the government-sponsored X-Factor or face a lengthy prison sentence. To ensure her compliance, current team leader Forge implanted a tracking device under her skin as well as a second device that restricts her shape-shifting powers.

During her tenure with X-Factor, Mystique became involved in finding the kidnapped Trevor Chase, the grandson of a close friend.

In addition, teammate Sabretooth was revealed to be an agent of another government agency determined to destroy X-Factor. He gravely injured most of the team, including Forge whom she had become romantically involved with. Mystique sets out to make Sabretooth pay for his actions.

Story 'The Enemy Within'

At a secure government location outside of Washington D.C., agents from the FBI are questioning the wife of Senator Ralph Brickman about her recent abduction by Sabretooth. Agent Vargas, in charge of the investigation, voices his concerns about the validity of her claim as it does not follow the data they have on Sabretooth. He asks Mallory Brickman to repeat her story one more time.

She states that Sabretooth kidnapped her on the night of a recent campaign fund-raiser for her husband, but breaks down before she can provide any additional information. Ralph puts a stops to the questioning as it has obviously upset his wife and warns Vargas to find Sabretooth or face some serious consequences.

While Ralph "discusses" the situation with Vargas, the Brickman's adopted daughter Gloria follows her mother who has gone into the bathroom to freshen up. Gloria tells her mother that she seems different .. like she's someone else. She finally asks, ".. who are you really?" Mallory takes a long look at herself in the mirror. The reflection reveals that she is actually Mystique in disguise. Mystique, while still in character, tells Gloria the "truth" since she trusts children more than adults.

She admits that she wants to help Trevor Chase, another one of Sabretooth's victims. She hopes that by her coming forward they'll be able to find Sabretooth and then Trevor.

She then admits to being "drawn to power and influence" and provides Gloria vague descriptions of her former activities. These include her work in the Soviet Union, newspaper reporter (for the Daily Bugle), Hydra agent (panel illustration only), and other "odd jobs" that keeps her close to the superhero and supervillain community. She concludes by saying that she is "whoever is staring back at me in the mirror". Gloria is even more confused by these cryptic answers.

Washington DC: Valerie Cooper sits in her office and contemplates her future. Until recently, she was the liaison between the US government and X-Factor. While she sits in silence, her ex-husband Major Edmund Atkinson stops by to discuss any fallout from their defense of X-Factor against other government agents.

Val admits that nothing has been said. As if it never happened. She then continues by confessing to him that she plans to determine who killed Graydon Creed. She thinks it begins with Sabretooth and may lead to some some complications. Edmund offers his services of his group Task Force-12 if the need arises.

New York: Beneath the sewers, Havok checks on Forge, who was injured rescuing him and the rest of X-Factor (issue #137). Forge asks him why he's currently pretending to be an evil mutant, associating with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Havok puts up a front, trying to convince him that he [Forge] my not know him as well as he thinks. He states that he was tired of being lied to by the government. He considers the X-Men to be ineffective and after the Onslaught incident, decided to go his own way.

Forge pushes Havok, asking why he would work with the Dark Beast. Havok tells him to trust him; he knows what he's doing. At this point Polaris appears and punches him. When Alex tries to apologize for the misery he's caused her, she attacks him but stops when she realizes what she's doing and collapses.

Havok makes his way toward the telepathic creature known as Ever who has succeeded in gaining access to the Dark Beast's laboratories. They soon discover thousands of containment pods that house the Dark Beast's victims since he arrived on this Earth.

Understandably, Havok wants to free them immediately. Ever stops him stating that doing so will kill them instantly; they are too dependent upon the machines to live. He reminds Havok why they are doing this. They were able to free themselves from the McCoy's brainwashing and owe it to his other victims to find a way to save them. Their plan is to earn McCoy's complete trust hoping that he may reveal his master plan and a way to free these people.

At the Brickman estate, Ralph reminds Mallory (Mystique) manipulates Ralph into finding someone other than Agent Vargas to find Sabretooth. Once this is done she leaves for an appointment with Dr. Robert Casey. This appointment involves the removal of a strange lump at the base of her skull. She lies to the surgeon and tells him that Sabretooth had that implanted that device to keep track of her (all true, except that it was the US government). She convinces the surgeon to not tell her husband the gory details to spare him any additional worries.

The next day during Mallory's "welcome home" party, Ralph introduces his wife to the new lead in the Sabretooth case: Valerie Cooper. Val explains to them that both Sabretooth and Mystique are links in her investigation into Graydon Creed's apparent assassination. Hopefully their joint effort can prove beneficial to all parties.

When Mystique excuses herself she becomes a bit paranoid and thinks that Vargas may have seen her shape-shift. She convinces Ralph that he's a pedophile out for Gloria.

Three days later Vargas is reassigned to an listening post in the Arctic Circle. Dr. Casey mysteriously dies in an automobile accident.

General Comments

There's a lot of backstory that was poorly explained in the issue. Additional research was needed to determine when many of these events occurred and their relevance. It occurs to me that this title may have been the forerunner of the near footnote-less state of comics. For all the information they provided, the ones that were present could have been omitted. Regardless this story was a bit difficult to follow.

The scenes that depict Mystique manipulating people were enjoyable although I wish they had delved into her history a bit more. Vague and cryptic descriptions can add a certain cool factor to the story, but when you add boring to the mix, it loses its potential.

The depiction of Havok as a pseudo villain to free others from captivity of the Dark Beast is a good idea, but it stops short of interesting. This elaborate ruse comes across as simply another plot thread that will be drawn out longer than necessary. There is no urgency based on the premise that Havok has to gain the trust of the evil Beast, which as we know will take a while.

Rouleau's artwork does not help the story. Many panels are oddly-rendered with Japanese elements that give many of the characters exaggerated features or sharp edges. I would think this is due to the three (or more) inkers, but then again what do they have to work with?

Overall Rating

1.5 webs. Only those with an in-depth knowledge of the X-Universe will be able to get any significance out of this issue. As for the Spider-Man appearance? One panel. This story is more suited for a hard core X-Men fan, not a casual fan.

Footnote

Graydon Creed was assassinated in X-Factor 130

The Dark Best is an escapee from the Age of Apocalypse universe. This occurred when Legion, mutant son of Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller, went back in time to kill Magneto. His actions led to the death of Charles Xavier instead, creating this alternate world. When this was undone, and the alternate universe was about to end, he leaped through the stolen M'Kraan crystal (nexus of all realities) and return to Earth 616. He was sent back 20 years in the past and has since proven to be responsible for the creation of the Morlocks