Written by: Peter David Pencils by: Pablo Raimondi, Ryan Sook, Dennis Calero, Ariel Olivetti, Renato Arlem, & Roy Allen Martinez Inks by: Drew Hennessy, Wade Von Grawbadger, Dennis Calero, Ariel Olivetti, Renato Arlem, & Roy Allen Martinez Colors by: Brian Reber & Jose Villarrubia Collects: Madrox #1-5 & X-Factor #1-12 (Trade Paperback)
X-Factor: The Complete Collection Volume 1
When I first saw the solicitation for this book a few weeks ago, I got excited. I’d heard from various avenues about Peter David’s second volume of X-Factor (or first, as Marvel messed around with the issue numbering as the series went on) was pretty darn good. Whatever freaking volume it’s now considered to be, David wrapped up his run on the title last year, and this seemed like a pretty good opportunity to jump in.
One of the great aspects about the book is the simple concept. Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man, decides to start a mutant detective agency out of Mutant Town, with the help of fellow mutants Guido, M, Rictor, Siryn, Wolfsbane and a new character named Layla Miller, the girl who “knows stuff.” I’m attaching links to all these characters because prior to reading the book, I had never heard of any of them. That’s part of the appeal, though, because it punctuates the idea of a rag-tag group of very different characters coming together to try and help people out… even though they’re pretty unqualified.
The basic principle of a group of varying personalities trying to live with one another is solid in itself, but since everyone in said group is a mutant, and the series occurs immediately after House of M, everything gets an extra punch of the tried and true Marvel formula of “mutants trying to live in an ever changing, angry world.” Additionally, Madrox had previously sent out duplicates of himself all over the world to gain knowledge and expertise, and they come back home to poppa so he can reabsorb them and benefit from their experiences. It’s like how pagans use to eat peoples brains for the same purpose, but less sticky.
Another big draw for me was the idea of X-Factor Investigations, the team’s official business name in the book, would be solving crimes and mysteries and the like. I like a good mystery. While X-Factor does help out some mutants in need, the arcs don’t really play out like a detective story, but more of a ground level tale with some detective elements. It was a little disappointing, but the way David allows you inside Madrox’s head (he’s far and away the start of the show) to get some noir-inspired narration makes up for it. In that vein, the narrative relies on the metaphor surrounding Madrox’s multiplicity, and his difficulty to constantly adapt to it.
I mentioned the obscurity or lack of recognition the mutants that make up X-Factor have (for me) for good reason. I enjoyed being thrown into a pre-existing world to get to know established characters. David writes a tale that is easily accessible for new readers, but still hints at the characters’ well defined past. Each page is that much more interesting when any given panel can offer insight into a character you’re just getting to know. It also made the series’ willingness to play ball with Marvel’s House of M and Civil War events bearable. I normally hate how crossover events by Marvel and DC infect various series that would almost always be better off alone, but X-Factor seems uniquely set up to deal with Marvel’s modern continuity. X-Factor’s niche is to solve people’s problems, and crossovers are nothing –for a variety of reasons- if not one big problem.
Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man
Usually one of the best ways to disrupt the immersion or narrative flow of a comic is to break up the art teams, and this occurs a lot throughout X-Factor. The art is never bad by any means, but there is a disparity in the quality. The visuals were definitely at their best in #1-4 of X-Factor with Ryan Sook, Wade Von Grawbadger, Dennis Calero, and Jose Villarubia in charge. There was a sense of dark, dank clarity that worked hand in hand with the story. The aesthetic low points come from the work of Brian Reber and Renato Arlem. Reber’s colors lacked detail in my opinion, and Arlem seemed far too hesitant to ink over some of his own pencils at times, and I say that as someone who tends to like the depth that leftover pencil marks can offer. Their contributions didn’t do much for me, but I struggle to say any particular issue was less than visually average.
The collection begins with Madrox #1-5, before going full bore into the X-Factor issues, but it’s really one in the same. The Madrox mini-series just works as the unofficial beginning to this incarnation of X-Factor. It’s a quality book that currently shows me a lot of potential, and clearly had enough potential to give a dedicated fan base and over 100 issues. The volume collects 17 issues, representing a terrific value.