Saturday, January 16, 2016

Superhero Media: X-Factor [Investigations]

To clarify before we begin this first installment of Superhero Media to actually be about a superhero comic, I need to clarify that it is X-Factor Vol. 3 that I am writing about, also known as X-Factor Investigations or "that one where Multiple Man has a detective agency". Full disclosure, I typically don't care for X-men and had to be browbeaten into giving X-Factor a go. Seriously, the character list of Multiple Man, Strong Guy, M, Rictor, Siryn and Wolfsbane is hardly "A-list" superhero material, but that actually works in the comic's favour. Much as it can be a cliche, Multiple Man needs to pull together a disparate group of losers and outcasts in order to protect and occasionally save the New York ghetto of "Mutant-town". The lack of trustworthy police and an oppressed minority populous would seem to speak to the American Civil Rights movement, but actually harkens to pre-war Germany and the victimisation of Jews. 

What X-Factor does best is something it does unintentionally. X-Factor takes place, as one would expect, in the 616 Universe, which means that major events, such as "House of M", "Civil War" and "Secret Invasion" come crashing into the narrative every now and then. This proves problematic as the intense, character-driven narrative of X-Factor (which, like a lot of X-Men. boarders on soap opera at times) is clearly the best part of the comic. Having to stall the Layla Miller or Rictor/Shatterstar story to deal with Skrulls or some X-Men BS that Madrox admits to not caring about really hurts the comic and leaves me wishing it was an indy line or more like Exiles. Unlike far too many Marvel and DC comics, X-Factor tells a story about how people change over time, some for better, some for worse. I can see why there is a huge cult following for this comic, even though I don't rate it too highly myself. 

If Fox actually go ahead with their proposed X-men television series, I think X-Factor or something like it would be a good place to start. The characters are minor in the grand scheme of things, but still have unique and fun powers as well as conflicting personalities. The story follows a reasonable arch (excepting the crossover issues) with a distinct hero's journey (for Layla, not James, another mark in its favour) and a satisfying conclusion. Such a move would help build the world that Fox seem to want, in an attempt to emulate the MCU and ride the Marvel tide of popularity high. Just look at the presence of Colossus and an X-Men name check in the Deadpool trailers for an example of this trend. If you can read X-Factor, I'd recommend it, as, to me, it's the best X-Men comic out there. 

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