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Friday, February 23, 2024

We are Closed: The End of X-Factor

Peter David’s impressive run on X-Factor has drawn to a close with issue #262 this week. X-Factor was a perfect example of a “beta” comic- it didn’t have the iconic status of team titles like X-Men and the Avengers, which gave it so much more freedom to do different things. Roaming from Hell to Days of Future Past to Mojoworld, what started out as a ragtag group of B-listers has grown into one of Marvel’s best-loved titles. So, with that in mind, here are my top moments from X-Factor. Spoilers ahead- tread carefully, traveller.

 

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Jamie and Layla

In a shining example of how to do a will-they-won’t-they storyline without getting repetitive, Jamie and Layla’s relationship got off to an unorthodox start when a practically omniscient 12-year-old Layla matter-of-factly announced to an adult Jamie that they would one day get married. Understandably unnerved by this, Jamie pursued relationships with Theresa “Siryn” Cassidy and Monet St Croix, until Layla went to the future and came back all grown up. Despite the pair making out on a trip to the future, Jamie continued to date Theresa, and Layla had a brief fling with Shatterstar, but the two eventually got together for good when Jamie proposed over midnight ice cream.

 

Rictor and Shatterstar
The relationship that made countless yaoi fangirls’ ovaries explode.  Rather than resorting to the lazy cliche of the butch one and the camp one, Rictor and Shatterstar are manly men (Shatterstar’s love of musicals notwithstanding) who just so happen to be in love. Their relationship had some rough patches -most memorably, Rahne misleading Rictor into thinking he was the father of her baby, in an attempt to straighten him out so he wouldn’t go to Hell- but the couple endured every setback and came out stronger.

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Monet, just… Monet

X-Factor is notable for its complex and unique female characters, but there is nobody like Monet. Nobody. Starting with her power set -strength, flight and, just to shake things up a little, telepathy- she just defies categorisation. Aloof, intelligent, arrogant and just a little bit aggressive, she has a lot to offer a team, and she sure as hell isn’t humble about it. She has the odd moment that proves she does have a heart under those magnificent boobs -like the time she agreed to let Baron Mordo feed off her to save her father and Guido- but rather than the cold hard facade dropping, as you’d expect, it just intensifies. It’s not an act, it’s who she is, and she makes no apologies for it.

 

X-Factor Doesn’t Have Time for Your Shit

Over the course of its eight year run, there have been a lot of crazy, world-changing events: Scarlet Witch’s decimation of the mutant race, Civil War with the Superhuman Registration Act, the mutant retreat to the island of Utopia, and the wacky misunderstanding that was AvX. X-Factor served as the last bastion of sanity in a world of weirdness: providing purpose and guidance for depowered mutants like Rictor, taking an anti-registration stance in Civil War (despite self-elected mutant leader Cyclops declaring the mutants neutral) rejecting Cyke’s offer to move to Utopia, and staying far, far away from the whole Avengers Vs. X-Men thing. They didn’t blindly follow Xavier’s Dream, but they didn’t roll over and let the government dicate their actions either; they were just regular(ish) people trying to run a business.

 

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The End of X-Factor

The wrap-up arc was the best I’ve read, and let’s face it, over the past few years there have been a lot. Rahne’s ending deserves special mention, allowing her a way to regain the connection to God that she felt her animal nature (and questionable moral choices) had denied her, as well as the space to come to terms with the death of her son, but without feeling like a rushed “happy ending”. Jamie and Layla are expecting a baby (hopefully just the one, for Layla’s sake) and the connection between Longshot and Shatterstar has finally been revealed, and can best be explained as both wibbly-wobbly and timey-wimey. Perhaps most excitingly, however, is the promise of an all-new X-Factor, with Lorna “Polaris” Dane heading up the new team.

 

This doesn’t even come close to summarising everything that made X-Factor so great; I had to cut out entire paragraphs devoted to one-issue wonder Ruby Summers (who should have her own miniseries), Theresa’s ascent into godesshood (“A deus ex machina from my own personal deus”), and even Peter David’s life updates on the recap page (as hilarious and quotable as the comic itself) among many, many other things I want to squee about. If you’re a fan, share your best moments in the comments. If you have not read X-Factor, you should start, right now. If you work at Marvel, I beg, beseech and implore you, don’t let these wonderful characters slip back into obscurity.

Laura Maier
Laura Maier
At the time of character creation, Laura Maier made the mistake of putting all her points in charm. While this was probably an unwise decision, it's served her well so far. Her power animal is the platypus.

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