X-Factor

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X-Factor is an American comic book series published by Marvel Comics. Since its February 1986 inception, the book has been cancelled and relaunched several times, each relaunch featuring a different superhero team semi-related to the team featured in the book's previous run. All of the teams featured in X-Factor are spin-offs of the popular X-Men franchise.

The first X-Factor, launched in an eponymous series in 1986, features a team consisting of the five original X-Men, but the series also features several young “wards” of the team. In 1991, the founding members were incorporated back into the X-Men. However, X-Factor continued, focusing on a second X-Factor team, a U.S. government-sponsored team incorporating many secondary characters from the X-Men mythos. It was cancelled in 1998.

In 2006, a new X-Factor series was launched, following the mutant detective agency X-Factor Investigations.

X-Factor (1986-1991)

Previous history and formation of the team

Each member of the original X-Factor debuted in X-Men #1 (1963) as the original X-Men, teenaged students of the telepathic Professor X. They included:

  • Angel, a millionaire heir, who flew by means of two feathery wings extending from his back.
  • Beast, who possessed ape-like strength and agility. Beast’s brutish appearance disguised a brilliant scientific mind.
  • Cyclops, who emitted powerful "optic blasts" from his eyes and who was the leader of both the X-Men and X-Factor
  • wikipedia:Jean Grey:Jean Grey, a.k.a. Marvel Girl, Cyclops’ long-time love who possessed telepathic and telekinetic powers.
  • Iceman, who could generate ice and cover his body in a layer of ice for protection.

The founding of X-Factor hinged upon the reunion of the original X-Men, an event complicated by the extensive histories of the characters following the initiation of a new team of X-Men in 1975.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Angel, Beast, and Iceman wandered through various superhero teams. By 1985, all three were members of the Defenders, whose monthly series was shortly cancelled which freed the trio.

The returns of Cyclops and Jean Grey were more difficult. In the late 1970s, Grey had bonded with a cosmic entity called The Phoenix and Jean Grey/Phoenix died in the seminal Dark Phoenix Saga. Future Marvel writer Kurt Busiek suggested a solution to this problem, which became one of the most notorious examples of retconning in comic book history: Jean Grey had never actually been the Phoenix. Instead, the Phoenix entity copied Grey's identity and form, keeping her safe in a cocoon-like structure beneath Jamaica Bay. Busiek related the idea to Roger Stern, who related it to John Byrne. Byrne wrote and illustrated Fantastic Four #286 (1985), in which Jean was discovered and the truth revealed.

In order to reunite the rest of the original X-Men, Cyclops walked out on his new wife Madelyne Pryor, an Alaskan pilot who bore a strange resemblance to Grey, and their son Nathan. Cyclops' uncharacteristic behavior and the resurrection of Grey were highly controversial with fans. Since being so 'out of character', it was later retconned in the 'Inferno' cross-over that Mr. Sinister was manipulating Cyclops to walk out on his wife so she could become the Goblyn Queen. Even though Jean Grey learned this secret, Cyclops did not, and his actions still haunt him to this day.

The original X-Factor

The original X-Men disassociated with the current team because Professor X had placed their old nemesis Magneto as its leader. The five set up a business advertised as mutant-hunters for hire, headquartered in the TriBeCa neighborhood of downtown New York City, posing as "normal" (non-superpowered) humans to their clients. The mutants X-Factor captured were secretly trained to control their powers and reintegrated into society. Through their "mutant-hunting" they recruited a group of young wards:

  • Artie, a pink-skinned, mute child who could project hologram-like images of his thoughts
  • Boom Boom, who created "plasma bombs"
  • Rusty Collins, who could create and control fire
  • Leech, a green-skinned young boy, who dampened the mutant powers of those around him
  • Rictor, who produced powerful shockwaves
  • Skids, who projected a protective force field around her body

The team would also go into action in costume, posing as mutant outlaws known as the "X-Terminators." Eventually, the team decided that the "mutant-hunter" ruse did more harm than good by inflaming hatred. Not only was the concept rejected, but it was blamed on X-Factor's original business manager, Cameron Hodge, who was revealed as a mutant-hating mastermind.

Bob Layton and Jackson Guice wrote and illustrated, respectively, the first few issues of X-Factor. They soon turned over creative duties to married collaborators Louise Simonson (writer) and Walt Simonson (artist). Louise Simonson introduced in X-Factor #6 (1986) Apocalypse, who would go on and become X-Factor's arch-nemesis. The Simonsons placed the series in line with the darker tone of most X-Books. In X-Factor #10, The Marauders, a group of savage mutant mercenaries, severely injured Angel's wings and they were later amputated. Despondent, Angel attempted suicide by detonating his airliner mid-flight, but Apocalypse rescued him from the wreckage and transformed him into Death, one of his Four Horsemen. Death was a fearsome creature that possessed metal wings and blue skin. Angel escaped Apocalypse's control, but the physical changes to his body remained. He became known as Archangel and became a much darker character. Angel's replacement on X-Factor, Caliban, also later turned to Apocalypse for more power.

In the 1989 crossover Inferno, Madelyne Pryor was revealed to be a clone of Jean Grey created by the nefarious mutant geneticist Mister Sinister. Demons had used Madelyne's pain at Scott's rejection of her to manipulate her into becoming the Goblyn Queen. Madelyne planned to sacrifice Nathan to open an interdimensional portal and to hurt Cyclops and Sinister as much as possible. X-Factor teamed up with the X-Men to rescue Nathan, bridging the gap between the two teams. Madelyne suffered a mental breakdown upon discovering she was a clone and killed herself.

During Inferno, X-Factor's teenage wards, along with a young paraplegic mutant named Taki Matsuya, starred in the X-Terminators miniseries and shortly after folded into the X-Men's junior team, the New Mutants.

In the last major storyline of the first X-Factor, published in early 1991, Apocalypse kidnapped Nathan Summers, sensing that he would grow up to be a powerful mutant and possible threat. X-Factor rescued Nathan from Apocalypse's lunar base, but found him infected with a "techno-organic" virus that could not be treated in the present time. A clan of rebels from the future, known as the Askani, sent a representative to the present time to bring Nathan 2,000 years into the future to be treated. Fully grown, he would return to the 20th Century as the anti-hero Cable.

Shortly after this, X-Factor, X-Men and several minor characters teamed-up to fight the telepathic Shadow King in another crossover event, The Muir Island Saga. Afterwards, the original members of X-Factor rejoined the X-Men and several minor characters from various X-Men-related series became founding members of the all-new X-Factor.

The era of the original X-Factor had lasting effects on the X-Men mythos. It introduced Apocalypse and the Archangel version of Angel and explained the connection between Apocalypse, Cable, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Pryor, and Sinister. All of these elements continued in future X-Men series.

X-Factor (1991-1998)

Rather than end the series, Marvel hired writer Peter David and illustrator Larry Stroman to recreate X-Factor with new members, all of whom were already allies of the X-Men. The new X-Factor worked for the Pentagon making them the only salaried mutant team. Their relationship with their benefactors was often strained and complicated. The new X-Factor, debuting in issue #71, included:

  • Valerie Cooper, a United States government agent with history as both ally and adversary of the X-Men, who became X-Factor's government liaison, carrying over from her duties as liaison to a prior government-sponsored team of mutants, Freedom Force.
  • Havok, a former X-Man and brother of Cyclops who could generate powerful "plasma blasts." Havok served as X-Factor's leader.
  • Multiple Man, who could create duplicates of himself on physical impact.
  • Polaris, Havok's longtime lover and also a former X-Man who could control magnetism.
  • Quicksilver, a long-running Avengers character and former foe of the X-Men, who possessed super speed and a difficult temperament.
  • Strong Guy, a wise-cracking character who could rechannel kinetic energy aimed at him, transforming it into muscular mass.
  • Wolfsbane, a Scottish former New Mutant who could transform into a wolf-like creature. She also loved Havok, but this was artificial and against her will.

Although X-Factor was not as flashy or wildly popular as other X-Books, David was applauded for his use of humor and cultural references and his ability to flesh out characters that had previously only been background characters.

David left in 1993. The series continued under writer J. M. DeMatteis and artist Jan Duursema, but struggled to distinguish itself among other of X-books. Shortly before David's tenure on the book ended, Forge, a former government weapons contractor whose mutant powers were his brilliant engineering skills, was added to the group, first replacing Cooper as their liaison after she had been compromised by one of Magneto's Acolytes, and later as an active member. Cooper later became an active member as well, her marksmanship and athletic skills compensating for her lack of superhuman powers.

By 1995, Multiple Man had apparently died of the Legacy Virus, a deadly illness that attacked mutant genes, which was later revealed to have killed only one of his duplicates. Strong Guy was put into suspended animation after suffering a heart attack caused by the stress his extra mass put on his body. Wolfsbane, who had been cured of her fake love for Alex, transferred to the European mutant team Excalibur. Havok left to infiltrate a mutant terrorist ring.

Writer John Francis Moore and illustrator Jeff Matsuda introduced a new X-Factor line up, consisting of Forge as the team's new leader, Polaris, Cooper and several new recruits:

  • Mystique, a shapeshifting mutant criminal and master of espionage. Mystique was forced to join X-Factor following her capture by federal agents.
  • Sabretooth, a homicidal mutant criminal who possessed talons, heightened senses and the ability to heal rapidly. Like Mystique, Sabretooth was a captive member that Forge used special technology to control.
  • Shard, a holographic computer program that took on the personality of the X-Man Bishop's deceased sister of the same name. Bishop was a time-traveler from a distant future, where he and Shard were members the X-Men descendants the XSE. The holographic Shard was brought to the 20th century with Bishop.
  • Wild Child, former member of Alpha Flight, who possessed heightened senses, fangs and claws.

Afterwards, writer Howard Mackie injected more political and espionage elements into the series, a trend that culminated in the team's secession from government sponsorship. Multiple Man and Strong Guy appeared again at the same time. Despite Forge managing to fix Strong Guy's problems, he did not rejoin the team. The popularity of X-Factor continued to dwindle and Mystique and Sabretooth, two popular X-Men villains, failed to draw in more readers. Wild Child mutated out of control, Mystique hunted down Sabretooth (who had kidnapped young Tyler Trevor Chase) and Forge wanted nothing to do with X-Factor.

In 1997, Marvel attempted yet another revival. After various stories focusing on individual characters, a new team was gathered consisting of Havok, Multiple Man, Polaris, Shard and several other members of the X.S.E.; Archer, Fixx and Greystone; brought to the 20th Century. But this version of the team was disbanded the issue they debuted. In that issue, #149 (1998), Greystone built a time machine meant to take him and his compatriots back to the future. However, the device exploded, killing Greystone and apparently Havok. Afterwards, X-Factor disbanded.

In fact, the time machine transported Havok to a parallel world, populated by twisted versions of Marvel characters. He explored this strange world in the series Mutant X, which lasted from 1998 until 2001. Although Marvel planned to revive X-Factor after Mutant X ended, this never happened.

As of stories published in 2007, Multiple Man, Strong Guy, and Wolfsbane have formed a new X-Factor (see below), Havok and Polaris are members of the Starjammers, Mystique has joined the Marauders, Sabretooth and Shard have died, and Archer and Fixx were never seen again.

The X-Factor issues #71-75 were collected in a paperback called X-Factor Visionaries. Recently, Marvel released Essential X-Factor Volume 1, which chronicles the resurrection of Jean Grey in Avengers and Fantastic Four, and contains issues 1-16 and Annual #1 of the first X-Factor series.

X-Factor limited series (2002)

A four-issue X-Factor limited series was launched in 2002. This series focused on the government's new Mutant Civil Rights Task Force, humans who investigated anti-mutant hate crimes and inadvertently discovered an anti-mutant conspiracy within their own ranks. This series focused heavily on the "mutants as a metaphor for minorities" aspects of the X-Men concept.

X-Factor (2005 - Present)

X-Factor Investigations is a detective agency run by Jamie Madrox, formerly known as the costumed superhero Multiple Man. The agency was originally named XXX Investigations, but team members thought that it sounded too much like Madrox was investigating pornography. The new name is taken from the government-sponsored mutant supergroup former team the three founders had previously served on.

The initial staff consisted of Madrox's best friend and special enforcer, Guido Carosella (Strong Guy) and former teammate Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane). Following the House of M, Madrox newfound wealth from winning a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?-style game show allowed him to recruit several of his former colleagues of the Paris branch of the now defunct X-Corporation. New members include M, a powerless Rictor, Siryn, and Layla Miller, who has inserted herself into the group to keep them from discovering the truth behind the mutant Decimation.

The members of the team, as constituted in early 2007: Guido, Jamie, Layla, Monet, Rahne, Rictor, and Siryn. An eighth member was acquired temporarily a little later in 2007, when Monet rescued (or abducted, depending on your viewpoint) a French orphan girl named Nicole (with the reluctant help of Siryn and the clandestine help of a mysterious hooded personage of great power) and took her back to America. Nicole was supposedly the orphaned daughter of ex-mutants lynched by a mob. Monet felt personally responsible for Nicole because she had tried, but failed, to prevent the pogrom. Nicole, in an attempt to kill Layla, is later revealed as a robot and hit by a train. Nicole's cover story was a total fabrication. She had been manufactured as a tool to destroy X-Factor.

Peter David has put a noir spin on the mutant series and has dealt with the former Multiple Man, Jamie Madrox as the central character. The new series spins directly out of House of M and opens with a suicide attempt by Rictor, who has lost his powers in the Decimation that has caused 90 percent of all mutants to lose their powers. The series deals with the attempt by the group to unravel the truth behind the decimation and its aftermath, getting involved with the events of Marvel's crossover Civil War, fighting with Singularity Investigations, and dealing with Madrox's powers and the consequences of it.

The team also attempted to protect Professor Xavier when the Hulk attacked him and the New X-Men.

In the first half of 2008, Jamie and Layla travel to a hideous future in which mutants are persecuted and imprisoned. Jamie manages to escape, and to return to the early 21st century, but Layla is still trapped in that undesirable future. Rahne believes she knows that Layla will return and will marry Jamie when she grows up. However, she fears (because of a glimpse she has had of the future) that she (Rahne), while in her wolf shape, will murder both Jamie and Layla. To prevent this, she quits the team. Rictor also quits. The team is down to only four members: Jamie, Guido, Monet, and Syrin. They are attacked by a villain with a plan to kill all Mutants.

Ultimate Marvel Universe X-Factor

In Ultimate War, X-Factor is a US operated prison camp for mutants in Cuba, which appears to have been named after Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay.

Bibliography

  • X-Factor, vol. 1, #1-149, also a one-issue (January 1986 - September 1998; Marvel Comics)
    • Essential X-Factor vol. 1 TPB, reprints X-Factor vol. 1 #1-16
    • Essential X-Factor vol. 2 TPB, reprints X-Factor vol. 1 #17-35
    • X-Factor: Visionaries Peter David vol. 1 TPB, reprints X-Factor vol. 1 #71-75
    • X-Factor: Visionaries Peter David vol. 2 TPB, reprints X-Factor vol. 1 #76-78 & Incredible Hulk #390-392
    • X-Factor: Visionaries Peter David vol. 3 TPB, reprints X-Factor vol. 1 #79-83, Annual #7
    • X-Factor: Visionaries Peter David vol. 4 TPB, reprints X-Factor vol. 1 #84-89, Annual #8
    • X-Men: The Origin of Generation X TPB reprints X-Factor vol. 1 #106
  • The X-terminators #1-4 (October 1988 - January 1989; Marvel Comics)
  • Madrox #1-5 (September 2004 - January 2005; Marvel Comics)
    • Madrox: Multiple Choice TPB & X-Factor: Madrox Multiple Choice Hardcover, reprints Madrox #1-5
  • X-Factor, vol. 3, #1-current (December 2005 - ongoing; Marvel Comics)
    • X-Factor: The Longest Night Hardcover & TPB, reprints X-Factor vol. 3 #1-6
    • X-Factor: Life & Death Matters Hardcover & TPB, reprints X-Factor vol. 3 #7-12
    • X-Factor: Many Lives of Madrox Hardover & TPB, reprints X-Factor vol. 3 #13-17
    • X-Factor: Heart of Ice Hardcover & TPB, reprints X-Factor vol. 3 #18-24

References

Other media

The X-Factor appeared in the X-Men animated series episode "Cold Comfort." Its lineup consisted of Lorna Dane (not yet Polaris), the modern-day Forge, Havok, Multiple Man, Quicksilver, Strong Guy, and Wolfsbane. Iceman broke into their facility to find his girlfriend Lorna Dane and ran afoul of the X-Men. When it came to a battle against the X-Factor, Forge said it was to boost his team's confidence.

External links