Monday, December 22, 2014 • Evening Edition • "Putting the yellow back into journalism."

Your Top Creative Runs part 35

Written by rdrsfn82 on Wednesday, February 02 2011 and posted in Features
A book from my list, a book that ruined a book from my list, and a book I didn't know existed by a writer I really, really like.
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62. 134 points - 90's X-Factor (PAD) - 2 first place votes
#70 - #90 and annuals #6 - #8
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I voted for this book, and the fact it is not higher than the current X-Factor shows you people have very short memories.

So the story of this run starts in the early 90's with the older X-Factor members leaving to join the main X-Men team again, and the book was suddenly left without anywhere to go. Rather than cancel the book, since X-Men related books were everywhere and popular, Marvel decided to give the book to Peter David and let him take it in a totally different direction. The new direction involved the team working for the Pentagon and becoming a government sanctioned superhero team. As such they were given a government liaison in the form of Valerie Cooper, a character that had been around for years working with various government sponsored hero teams and sometimes being a friend and sometimes a foe of the various X-Men teams. The leader of the team was Havok, who for my money is the third best field leader any X-Men team has ever had behind Storm and Cyclops. The rest of the team was filled in with Strong Guy, Wolfsbane, Polaris, Multiple Man, and eventually my personal favorite Quicksilver.

During his run on the book, David took these characters, many of whom had simply been used to fill in backgrounds, and gave them personalities and histories and relationships that actually mattered. For example, though he'd been around since 1975, Jamie Madrox was a pretty minor character. During his time on the X-Factor team, Madrox is fleshed out and given a lot of new insights into his character and powers. For instance, one of his dupes is killed soon after he joins the team and it's the first time he finds out he can't reabsorb a dead dupe. David also plays up the idea that each dupe contains a different aspect of Madrox's personality, an idea that hadn't been used before in relation to the character.

All of this came to a head in one of the last issues of this run, issue #87, which is the cover we used. This issue pretty much sums up all the character development, done over the course of the series, and mixes in a bit of humor while at the same time revealing various big things about the characters and their pasts. In that issue, following a big battle Val and the government decide that the team needs to see a psychiatrist. The issue shows the meetings from over the shoulder of the unseen doctor as he interviews each member of the team one at a time.

The first to be interviewed is Wolfsbane. When asked to describe her life, she talks of dreams involving her being in various TV shows. The doctor points out she has no sense of self, and that she latches on to the various authority figures in her life because of her abandonment issues from her childhood. Her response to this is that she gets uncharacteristically quiet and simply says "wow" over and over.

Next up was Quicksilver, the newest member of the team and the only one to not wear a uniform. In one of the best descriptions of the character ever, he explains why he hates everyone and thinks he's better than everyone by using the analogy of standing in line to use an ATM while someone that doesn't know how to use the machine is in front of you. Take that frustration, and multiply it over every waking moment of your day, as the way people walk, talk, act, and everything else is just like that. Waiting for people to figure things out and understand what's going on, when moving at super speed is why he's such a jerk, and points out that the doctor would feel the same way if he had to deal with that crap all the time. During this conversation, Quicksilver also solves a Rubix Cube and a jigsaw puzzle. He's the only character who is fully aware of who he is, why he is the way he is, and the only one that the doctor is unable to help or point anything out to in any way. It's one of my personal favorite scenes in any comic ever.

Polaris just sits there silently refusing to respond as the doctor offers her the chance to leave, but eventually lashes out in anger as her insecurities and fears caused her to do many times over the course of the series.

Strong Guy actually reveals his origin during his story, explaining the day his powers first manifested. As a skinny kid who was very smart and always got great grades, Guido tried to fit in by making jokes and goofing off, but was still bullied. One day, as he's getting beat up, his powers manifest and he smacks the bully back. He then runs out into the parking lot and gets hit by a bus. Not knowing that if he doesn't release the absorbed kinetic energy that it will warp his body permanently (and eventually cause a heart attack as it did when he fought the Blob in #107 and the two kept absorbing and redirecting the energy, though that was after David left the book). As a result, he grew to the size he currently is and never returned to his normal self. Also as a result of his body being twisted into such an unnatural shape, he is in constant pain, though he's never told anyone else about that because he didn't want to upset his friends of have them feel sorry for him.

Madrox reveals his greatest fear is being alone, and that the reason he's so desperate for attention is because he grew up alone on an deserted farm after his parents died, with only his dupes for company.

Havok discusses his insecurities and the way he always feels like he's trying to live up to the ideals of his brother, while constantly worrying that he's not as good as Scott. He feels like he's constantly being judged.

The capper of the issue is after Havok leaves the room, when Val comes back in and talks about the characters showing she doesn't understand them at all. She says that Pietro is a jerk for no reason, Lorna is open and happy all the time, Havok is a confident leader, Strong Guy is just a goof with no depth, Madrox is happy to be alone, and Rahne is well adjusted. It's then revealed that the doctor was Len Samson from David's amazing Hulk run.

After leaving the book, J.M. DeMatteis took over as writer. During his run he told some great stories, like the death of Multiple Man (in issue #100, my personal favorite issue involving this group of characters) and the fight between The Blob and Strong Guy, that continued the momentum that David had started. David would go on to leave Marvel and write the Aquaman run we saw a little bit ago, though he'd later return for a run on X-Factor we'll see later on. While this wasn't as good as his Hulk book, it did a great job of taking some fairly minor characters and turning them into one of the most close knit groups in comics. I really hope Havok and Polaris come back from space some day to see how the current team has been doing.


61. 135 points - West Coast Avengers (Byrne) - 2 first place votes
#42 - #57 and annual #4
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Ugh. Two people thought that Byrne ruining the West Coast Avengers was the best comic ever. People have no taste.

After leaving DC in a huff over the Superman stuff detailed earlier on this list, John Byrne returned to Marvel and went on to do some really good books, but he also did this travesty of a run. Byrne said he wanted to do the book, but only if he could do the story he wanted to do about the Vision. That story involved the Vision being broken down and rebuilt in an all white body without the brainwaves of Wonder Man, causing him to become a soulless robot with no emotions. It also saw the kids between Vision and the Scarlet Witch to be revealed as parts of the soul of Mephisto, which drove Wanda insane. Then Wonder Man said that the original Vision was just a copy of him and not his own man, which everyone just accepts and moved on. There are no words for how much I hate that story.

The run also saw the original Human Torch return to life, the debut of the Great Lakes Avengers, and the addition of U.S. Agent to the team (IMO, the only good thing to come from this run). Plus, this run and the end of his Superman run was the start of the time that Byrne morphed into the cranky old guy that liked to bitch about everything everyone else does that we see today, I guess that can be fun sometimes and might be a good thing.


60. 135 points - Star Wars Legacy (Ostrander) - 4 first place votes
#1 - #50 and Star Wars Legacy: War #1 - present
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So apparently John Ostrander has written a ton of Star Wars comics. I had no idea. This is the first of a few times he'll show up over the next few days, and I love the other books he's going to show up for so maybe I should try his Star Wars books. Another fun fact I learned doing this was that Ostrander actually majored in theology and was going to become a Catholic priest before giving up on that and becoming a comic writer. I'm glad he made the choices he did, because he's great.

So back in the year 2000, Ostrander started working on various Star Wars projects, before becoming the regular writer on Star Wars: Republic with issue #32 in 2002. His run on that book would include most of the issue from that point through #83 in 2005, as well as various miniseries and whatnot. In 2006, he'd start work on the series Star Wars Legacy.

Legacy was set about 125 years after the events of Return of the Jedi and focus on a character by the name of Cade Skywalker, who is a descendant of Luke. Cade has quit working for the Jedi Order and is going around doing his own thing, hanging out with a pirate/smuggler named Rav and dropping the Skywalker name. The series takes place in an era with a massive civil war going on and the Sith trying to rise to power again.

The book is set about 100 years or so further away from the movies than any of the previous Expanded Universe stories had been set. Initially fans thought this was a bad idea and were kind of upset, but the quality of the book upon it's release led to many of those same fans changing their tune and it's become one of the more popular Star Wars stories, as evidenced by it's spot on this list. After a 50 issue run, the series has been followed up by a miniseries called War, that focuses on a big war for the galaxy against a formerly presumed dead Sith Lord named Darth Krayt who died earlier in the series.

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