No, you read that correctly. After 50 issues of “X-Factor” (which is kind of incredible if you think about it), editorial decided to revert to legacy numbering. As such, we go straight from #50 to #200. That being said, we also get something of a return to normalcy for this series. Sure there’s another crossover to contend with, but its clear that “X-Factor” has become its own thing and is being allowed to stand on its own. Even when the team is crossing over with Marvel’s First Family or fighting Doctor Strange villains. Let’s get started, shall we?
“X-Factor” ‘The Invisible Woman Has Vanished’ #200-203
Written by Peter David
Illustrated by Bing Cansino, Marco Santucci, and Valentine de Landro
Inked by Marco Santucci, Patrick Piazzalunga, and Pat Davidson
Colored by Jeromy Cox
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
‘The Invisible Woman Has Vanished’ is objectively a good title. It’s got irony (well not really irony as Valeria Richards explains to us) and it evokes a good Agatha Christie mystery. In a comic about superpowered investigators, that’s just about the best title you can have for a story. But does the arc deliver? Well, it’s a Fantastic Four and mutant team-up story. So if you like your stories told in the marvelous Marvel method, then hell yeah it delivers.
“X-Factor” already had a large ensemble, but now we’re crossing over with the Fantastic Four, which means a staggeringly large, unwieldy cast. That also means new team dynamics. The ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing sort of joins the team, and unsurprisingly is great. Aunt Petunia’s favorite blue-eyed nephew gets off to a rocky start (not sorry) with Guido and Shatterstar, and before too long, Thing, ‘Star, and Monet are a powerhouse trio, threatening each other and loving each others threats. It’s great.
Much like the Arcade story, this is a more traditional superhero story. It sets the protagonists against the antagonists, and that’s an opportunity for good character work. Only this is much better than the Arcade story in a couple of ways. The first is that Peter David really gets the Fantastic Four. It’s a different storytelling idiom, and he really captures the wonder and excitement of gee-whiz adventure around every corner. When you slam that together with our usual sarcastic detective crew, you get two very different flavors that are surprisingly tasty together. Chocolate covered pretzels. Sweet and salty.
But the other big difference is in the art. Some really excellent art in this one. Where previous arcs have been hit or miss, Bing Cansino rocks it. He hits the tech, the costumes, the change of scenery, the weirdo powers, without breaking stride. His character models are more exciting too. Madrox has a much more distinctive haircut, Monet’s costume makes a lot more sense, and Cansino draws a helluva good Ben Grimm. Some of the color work looks a little dissonant, like maybe Cansino was drawing for a digital colorist for the first time, but the illustrations themselves stand with some of the best superhero work from this era.
As for the story itself, it’s mostly character work. There’s alternate universes involved. Doctor Doom gets to play a big role. In fact, due to some complex time travel crap, he’s partnered up with Layla Miller, and the two of them really seem to get along. Doom even paints Layla. Positioning her as a supervillain (or at least a friend to supervillains) is a great new role for the now-adult Layla. All in all, this is a really fun time.
As far as the rest of the team is concerned, Monet and Guido go off on a sidequest that involves Doctor Strange villain Baron Mordo of all people. And Theresa copes with her father’s death and takes his name as her new codename: Banshee. Makes more sense for a lady than a dude anyway. Oh, and it happens mostly off panel, but she also totally boinks Deadpool? This arc is crazy!Continued below
X-Factor, Second Coming #204-206
Written by Peter David
Illustrated by Valentine de Landro
Inked by Pat Davidson
Colored by Jeromy Cox
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Alas, the fun times must come to an end because we are embroiled in another crossover. Fortunately, even though the tone is dire, this event is a rip-roaring read. I’m of course talking about ‘Second Coming.’ After letting Cable escape with the baby at the end of ‘Messiah Complex,’ they have returned, just in time for all the robotic forces of human hatred to muster and try to destroy mutants once and for all. It’s not a complicated story, but it’s one of the best besieged last stands in modern comic book storytelling. I’m a fan.
This story barely ties into the main one. That would be happening on the other coast. The X-Men are on the Golden Gate Bridge, battling an evil sentinel army. X-Factor on the other hand are scattered to the winds, running from the minions of evil robo-man Bastion. He’s controlling Dr. Trask, who in turn gives the orders to a mutant hunting death squad. Even compared to the fun romp in the last arc, this one is slight. There are a bunch of battles that eventually come together into one big battle, which happens, and is great.
Guido is in love with Monet, and he is trying to rescue her from Baron Mordo, who wants to feed on her life force like this is some kind of 90s comic. Siryn, now called Banshee, is attacked at the airport, but is rescued by the team-up we never knew we wanted: Layla and Shatterstar. A lot of comics try to create believable characters, but sometimes its more fun to follow someone who wouldn’t know normal if it tattooed an M on their eye. Jubilee is kind of like that. So is Boom Boom. But Layla and Shatterstar casually driving at 150 miles per hour on the highway is fabulous.
We also get some good wig-work from Rictor, who is gathering intel. Darwin does a cool death fake-out (and is also) in love with Monet. Longshot has that cool telemetry power, and can conjure visions from innatimate objects. And um, Madrox is there, sort of doing his regular thing.
If it sounds like I’m just sort of listing events, well, that’s because that’s what this story felt like. You get the feeling that David and company wanted to write about Mordo but were asked to participate in ‘Second Coming,’ and replaced their actual story plans with a dumb action movie. It’s like one of the more perfunctory Fast and the Furious movies (like 6), the ones that cram a lot of fun character work in with mind-blowing stunts. It works for those movies, and it works here.
The big change at the end of the story is that Terry and Jamie are holding hands. Last time she saw him, he killed their kid and she broke his finger, so that’s a big development. It’s also a big deal because Jamie wants to try again with Terry, which means he and Layla (who has been in Latveria for a bit over a year) are not an item right now. I like the drama getting dragged out in a logical way (it’s why I love Jane the Virgin) but I do hope we have a romantic reckoning with Jamie and Layla. There are conversations that need to happen.
For now we get two bonkers exciting arcs back to back. You can really feel comic books evolving since this series has started. There’s a tighter vision from on high, and the early signs of corporate synergy. These issues came out in 2010 so Iron Man was already a hit movie and The Avengers is in production. It’s hard to assess an era that you are still in, but “X-Factor” shows that this was the turning point for a lot of comic book storytelling. And from where I’m standing, that seems like a really good thing. Can’t wait to see the magical shenanigans we get up to next!