The last week saw the final issue of Peter David’s X-Factor, the third volume for the title. Running for over 110 issues (hard to count with renumberings and one-shots), David took a small contingent of oft used mutants and told whatever story he wanted. Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man, Layla Miller, Shatterstar, Longshot, Rictor, and Wolfsbane are just a few of the constantly rotating cast David drew from over his run. While none are household names, thanks to the amazing stories told here, they quickly became fan favorites.
There’s been a toy box analogy with characters and creative runs in comics for years, specifically at Marvel. Writers are given access to the toy chest, free to do whatever they want, but must put all the toys back for the next writer to come and play. This was never more evident than with Brian M. Bendis’s Avengers. Editorial control of more popular characters like Spider-Man or Batman can be a hindrance. With X-Factor, David was able to buck most of these industry standards telling whatever story he wanted, eventually. During the first 50 issues, the entire Marvel brand was still experimenting with forced title wide crossovers. Meaning, everyone need a Civil War, or Secret Invasion story. This was doubly so for X-Factor as they not only had Marvel event stories to tie into, but X-Men centric stories like Messiah Complex and Divided We Stand as well. Through all this, David was able to continue telling the stories he wanted, while still meeting these forced tie-ins. Eventually, editorial clued into the forced tie-in being a detractor, and let X-Factor go. The next big mutant event, Schism, came with nary a banner in site on the book.
While the book as always been an ensemble, the main characters are easily Jamie Madrox and Layla Miller. The former, with the power to duplicate whenever struck, had been around for sometime. Layla, or Butterfly, was a newer creation coming out of the House of M event. She started as a young girl, eventually, due to some time travel, grew into an adult while always being a vital member of the team. Layla Miller “knows stuff.” That’s the description she’s given (repeated ad nauseum in typical comic book fashion). Basically, the future is known to her, allowing her to be in the right place at the right time to help or hinder events. You could imagine the infinite story possibilities with a character like that, if used properly (spoiler: she was).
SPOILERS: During it’s long run, there many stories worth highlighting (Jamie and Layla’s trip to the future, issue #50, Jamie’s death), but there’s one in particular I want to discuss; the birth of Jamie’s and Theresa’s (Siryn’s) baby. After a night of drunken debauchery, Jamie awakens to find that he and one of his dupes slept with Theresa and Monet (M), though unsure of which one, he or his dupe, slept with. It’s revealed that Theresa is pregnant, and the two decided to get married and make a life together. When the baby, Sean (named after her deceased father X-Man Banshee), is born, this happy moment is turned into a horrifying one. It was the dupe who slept with Theresa. Jamie’s dupes cannot have children. As he held the child for the first time, the baby was unwillingly absorbed back into him like any of his other duplicates. A jaw dropping scene, and the one that sticks out the most from the entire run. END SPOILERS.
The only weak point of David’s run is the inconsistent art. One of the first books from Marvel to consistently double ship, it required many artists. Sadly, this led to a few issues being downright ugly. This was never a beautiful book, though there were some shining moments. Overall, this is definitely worth reading and I hope they collect it in an omnibus or two. Want grounded character stories with a bit of superheroics dashed in? Read X-Factor.
Have a favorite arc from David’s run? Surprised this had nothing to do with Simon Cowell? Comment below, on Facebook, or Twitter! You can now see my Saturday Morning Cartoon posts at The Two-Headed Nerd!
The ending left me a little wanting.