Writing: Howard Mackie
Art: Stefano Raffaele
What Went Down: Forge starts of this issue repaying Mystique and Sabretooth for saving him by painfully reactivating their inhibitors with technology around him. They regroup with the rest of X-Factor to find that Havok and Random have been captured. Polaris and Shard are left to guard the prisoners while the rest break up to look for Beast.
Mystique and Wild Child trade banter while overcoming some traps within the building, while Creed fights off some metal tendrils with Forge. Forge deactivates them, and they continue on while Forge contemplates the series of strange orders Washington has been giving him, the most recent of which has been to work with Sabretooth. Creed discovers the Beast hooked to manacles that shock him with every step taken on the floor. Above, Fatale ambushes the two agents, but she is ambushed by Wild Child and knocked out.
Outside, Polaris lectures Random for lying to her. Random explains that Dark Beast was helping him control his powers and keeping him from becoming just a pile of goo. In fact Dark Beast created the Random identity. He also admits Dark Beast has been messing with Havok’s head.
Once freed, Beast is eager to rejoin the X-Men to fight Onslaught. Sabretooth notices that this Beast is actually Dark Beast. Forge threatens to put Creed down, even though he acknowledges that Creed’s collar should be stopping him, and Wild Child confirms that it’s the Dark Beast. Meanwhile Alex tricks Lorna into setting him free. Random breaks out of his restraints in an attempt to save her from Havok. Havok blasts Random, turning him to a puddle that oozes into the sewer. Shard leaves Polaris to guard Havok while she goes after Random. This gives Havok the perfect opportunity to knock out Polaris and admit his treachery.
Back inside, Forge is still pointing a gun, convinced Sabretooth is attacking the real Beast. Creed knocks down a wall, revealing the real Beast restrained in a different room. Dark Beast still tries to convince Forge that he is the good one, but the original Hank McCoy attacks him and knocks him out.
Shard returns to find Polaris unconscious and dying. She gives CPR and tells Forge they need to get to the hospital. Forge orders Fatale to teleport them all, and Dark Beast tells them to do it so that they can bid their time as prisoners, exactly where he wanted to be.
How It Was: I’ve already written about how bizarre it is that the Beast/Dark Beast plot resolution appeared in, of all places, X-Factor. So let’s forget about the randomness and ineptitude that lead to that decision and instead focus on the pay off. After months of being held captive and chained up in a small room—after having dozens…potentially hundreds of people from his life, as well as innocent bystanders, murdered—Beast finally gets his payback on the cruel, sadistic version of himself. So he kicks the villain once…and then the fight and issue are both over. What??!! It’s one thing to shunt the focus of the majority of this story to X-Factor, and Sabretooth and Mystique in particular, but to offer absolutely no satisfaction in the triumph of our hero who has been put through the ringer the last few months is the worst. The absolute worst! The only reason X-Men readers were picking up X-Factorwas to see how Beast was rescued, and the abrupt and anticlimactic end robs the story of any sense of closure or gratification. In fact Dark McCoy is gleeful to be captured, in regards to another conspiracy theory with no payoff.
Aside from the lousy Beast thread, nobody else comes out looking too great in this issue. The plot decisions just seem antithetical to telling an interesting story. The villains without restraints…that’s pretty cool, but it gets undone by the first page this issue. Random’s betrayal…apparently he’s been working with Dark Beast since the beginning, retroactively tainting all his previous appearances. Oh, and the tough bounty hunter is actually a teenager, which is a little weird and disappointing.
If not for the Beast letdown, the worst offense would be the obvious ruse Havok uses on Polaris to get free, making her look all kinds of awful. All she had to do was be patient and wait for the authorities to pick up the bad guys, but she frees Havok because…? Similarly Forge refuses to believe both Sabretooth and Wild Child about Dark Beast, even though they have no reason to lie, and Creed’s inhibitor is letting him hurt the Beast. Everything is just too predictable…it’s no fun if the audience expects what is going to happen. It’s fun to have the villains pulling the strings, but not if the heroes are so obviously dumb that there’s no challenge or sense of tension.