Comic book review: ‘End of X-Factor’
With the six-part “End of X-Factor” storyline now under way, Peter David is bringing his terrific 100-plus issue run on the comic to a close on his terms.
David first wrote “X-Factor” regularly in the early ’90s, switching the team from its roster of the original five X-Men to a collection of characters from the B-list (Havok and Quicksilver), C-list (Polaris and Wolfsbane) and Z-list (Multiple Man and Strong Guy). Those Z-listers were the ones I connected with the most, which isn’t surprising given David’s gift for mixing the absurd with serious, compelling storytelling.
More than a decade later, it was Multiple Man, aka Jamie Madrox, to whom David returned in a limited series that paved the way for a relaunched “X-Factor” in 2006. I had the pleasure of seeing David read his script live at Mid-Ohio Con in Columbus prior to the issue’s release, and it confirmed what I already suspected: I’d be buying this series and it would be awesome.
David took the offbeat teaming of Madrox, Strong Guy and Wolfsbane and mixed in Madrox’s old flame Siryn, the nearly forgotten M from Generation X and Rictor, a former New Mutant who’d lost his powers. He positioned them as a detective agency specializing in mutant-related cases, keeping them in the world of the X-Men while carving out their own specific niche.
Also in the mix was Layla Miller, the kid whose role in the game-changing “House of M” series I didn’t get while it was going on and didn’t care about after it was over. What could have been a lame attempt to milk some interest from a popular event resulted, in David’s hands, in the most intriguing character of the series.
As a 12-year-old who “knew stuff,” Layla pushed the right buttons to manipulate the team toward something. While Layla’s knowledge was eventually explained, and she aged a decade in the course of a year or two (in sci-fi, it works; on “Days of Our Lives,” it’s just weird), the fun wasn’t in how she did what she did but how she interacted with the characters and struggled beneath the surface despite seeming so in control.
David continued to expand the cast, bringing in a couple of my other favorite X-castoffs, Longshot and Shatterstar. Apparently he’s going to explain their connection in the final arc. He’s milked that mystery to the point where it’s gone from forgotten trivia to burning question, but again the fun is in the characterization.
Shatterstar drew extra attention to the series for his gay relationship with Rictor, something that, frankly, I could have done without. But it had been hinted at years earlier and David handled it as part of the story, not a headline-grabbing political agenda. It’s part of who these guys are. And if I only read about characters who thought, believed and acted exactly like me, well, I would have given up on “X-Factor,” and all comics, a long time ago.
David won even more of my respect with the way he portrayed Wolfsbane’s reaction as both a conservative Christian and Rictor’s ex. He didn’t write her as a bigot or have her renounce her long-held beliefs; she was surprised by and struggled with Rictor’s relationship, while still loving him as a friend and fellow human being (well, mutant).
I’ve written often here about the new stuff Marvel and DC are doing. While doing that, I sometimes forgot what a great book Peter David and company have in “X-Factor.” Each issue has been, at worst, fun and entertaining. At best, it’s been a creative, humorous, suspenseful, emotional dose of familiar characters in unfamiliar situations.
Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic “Support Group.”