With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artists: Valentine De Landro (Vo. 8), Bing Cansino (Vol. 9)
Issues: X-Factor (2005) #46-50, 200-203
I really wish I had read Volume 8 when I last read X-Factor, as it’s the climax and finale to a very long story arc. It involves time travel and had everyone in specific situations that made it a tricky point to jump back into.
Still, this is one of my favorite comics we’re talking about, and it didn’t take long to get re-acclimated to my favorite super-powered team.
Volume 8 leads to a satisfying conclusion with a fun villain reveal and even more drama for our time-displaced lovers Jamie and Layla, while Volume 9 kicks off a new art style and story direction for X-Factor that breathes in some refreshing changes while thankfully keeping the same great writer and themes.
The team was in the midst of a multi-pronged attack when a grown-up Layla Miller appears and drags Jamie Madrox eighty years into the future, at the peak of the Summers’ Rebellion. There they meet a much older, half-cyborg Scott Summers, his sassy daughter Ruby, and a not-yet-a-villain Trevor Fitzroy.
The best part is an amazingly senile Dr. Doom. Every single scene with the wheelchair-bound Doom is pure gold as everyone pretends to be super afraid of him, while he continues to be narcissistic, and even admits to having only brief moments of lucidity. A conversation between him and Scott (whom he occasionally refers to as Mr. Clops) is one of the most fun little dialogue sessions I’ve read in comics.
Meanwhile Monet has been possessed by the mysterious villain Cortex. He’s trying to do the Terminator thing and kill someone before they can affect the future, while Darwin and Siryn try to stop them.
Then there’s Rictor, Longshot, and Guido (Strong Guy), who just saved Shatterstar from another Cortex-possession. Shatterstar responded by giving Rictor a big passionate kiss last volume, which sets Guido into a hilariously awkward fit.
Thanks to Shatterstar’s sword-teleporting powers they can show up in the nick of time to fight Cortex, and the team realizes the startling fact that Cortex is one of Madrox’s dupes that they sent into the future during Messiah Complex and never heard from again.
Whew! As I said, lots of moving parts. X-Factor really nails that serialized story-telling style, though it also makes it pretty damn hard to jump into one of these Volumes without reading them all in a row. The end pays off pretty well, as a bunch of future-sentinels get sent into the past for our team to battle, while Cortex is sent to the future where Jamie and future-company have to defeat him.
After issue #50 X-Factor resumes its classic numbering starting at #200. If I may rant for a moment, I hate when Marvel does this. Yes it’s cool that many of your series go well into the hundreds, but just do a single special anniversary issue to mark the occasion and then go back to normal. I’m of the opinion that series should start at #1 much more often to make them more accessible. Especially when it comes to major creative and/or roster changes.
Anyway, Volume 9 brings in a new artist and slightly new creative direction for X-Factor. Since Siryn still hates Jamie for impregnating her and reabsorbing what turned out to be just another dupe, he moves out to start his own investigation agency in New York, while she runs off to her family’s estate in Ireland. The rest of the team follows Jamie.
Since just about every other super hero team lives in New York, that means more interaction with other teams. Sure enough the very first story arc is a surprisingly fun crossover with the Fantastic Four.
Everything FF involves parallel dimensions and world-ending plots. “The Invisible Woman has Vanished” has the former, though the plot comes down to an evil Reed Richards trying to displace our real one. The Richards kids come to X-Factor asking for help, and it eventually leads the team to Latveria and a confrontation with Victor Von Doom. Layla is there too which further complicates things, even as the rest of the team wants Jamie to reconcile with Siryn.
The new art style by Bing Cansino is wildly different but still pretty great. Characters look a bit bolder and more mature but the writing stays tight and focused on the characters. I also like that Darwin looks more blended racially, rather than a weird pasty bald dude. The action gets a step up in quality as well, with Strong Guy and Shatterstar versus The Thing as a notable highlight.
X-Factor continues to please, even as one era ends and another begins. The roster stays relatively unchanged, though ever since Rahne left for X-Force we’ve had three dudes join in a row (Darwin, Longshot, and Shatterstar) so the gender ratio has been a bit out of whack. It’s also grown into a pretty big team, though so far Peter David has been giving everyone their due. The women especially all have the biggest story arcs going on: Siryin’s crisis of conscious, Monet’s father is kidnapped, and Lyla is working with Dr. Doom. Next up, yet another X-Men crossover event – Second Coming!