RSS Feed
Jan 24

X-Factor #1-5

Posted on Sunday, January 24, 2021 by Paul in reviews, x-axis

X-FACTOR vol 4 #1-5
by Leah Williams, David Baldeon & Israel Silva

The thing about bringing back X-Factor is that the X-Factor name has been attached to a whole bunch of unrelated concepts over the years. It’s been the original X-Men’s reunion; it’s been the US government mutant team; it’s been a detective agency; it’s been a corporate team. There’s not much common thread beyond some recurring characters.

For the Krakoan era, we’ve only really got Polaris as an established team member. And we’re calling back to the well-received detective run, by making the new X-Factor Investigations into the people who investigate missing persons on Krakoa.

Krakoa needs a missing persons squad so that it can decide whether it’s safe to resurrect someone. X-Factor’s job isn’t exactly to rescue anyone, but to prove that they’re dead – which is happy news, since then they can be rebooted. And so X-Factor winds up foregrounding the strange attitude to death that pervades the Krakoan era, where people would obviously prefer not to die, for the same reason they’d prefer not to break their arm… but it’s not that big a deal if they do. And that results in an interesting tension with the darkness of some of the material.

X-Factor is a dense book. There’s a lot going on with the characters, a lot of details to come back to later. Six or seven panel pages are common, which is pretty heavy these days. But it remains very clear, thanks both to Leah Williams’ clear handle on the characters, and David Baldeon’s impressive juggling of packed pages. The cartooning side of his art really helps to get the personalities across. His design work on the Boneyard is impressive too – it feels organic and distinctive without resorting to just covering a monument in vines.

The roster is… a bit weird. Polaris seems to be torn between making a contribution and not putting herself front and centre. Daken appears to be here simply because it’s something to do, though he appears to be genuinely on side with everything that’s happening. It’s Daken, though – do we really trust that he doesn’t have an ulterior motive? Rachel seems to have drifted into this as well. And Eye-Boy and Prodigy are on board more because they have well-suited powers for it. Northstar is the one who signed on because he was passionate about the job; but he was passionate specifically about Aurora, and now the two of them have drifted into the wider orbit as well.

The Krakoan era rather lends itself to these unusual cast lists, though, since it seems to generate a lot of teams where people have been chosen for their suitable powers and the team dynamic works back from there. After all, the mutant-centric nature of Krakoan society necessarily puts powers front and centre.

I have reservations about the book’s use of Northstar’s husband Kyle, who seems anomalous on Krakoa. The ground rules of Krakoa in every other book are No Humanz Allowed. There’s no apparent reason for Kyle to be the only exception. Of course, I get why you don’t want to break up the couple. But you can avoid that by having Northstar commute to work through the gates, or by having a small human minority population. (Which feels like it could be interesting.) Is Northstar the only mutant who’s married to a human? Nobody else had a dependent relative they wouldn’t leave behind? Really? It doesn’t make sense, and it really does call for an explanation.

The initial issue with Aurora is very much about introducing the cast and establishing the premise, as well as setting up a subplot that we’ll come back to. After that, the book veers off for an arc with the Mojoverse, which is a bold move at such an early stage. I think it works – it’s true to the official premise of the book, but also makes clear that we’re not just going to get a world-tour police procedural.

More to the point, it successfully retools the Mojoverse, which was starting to look very dated. When Mojo was first created, in the Longshot miniseries, the media-mogul angle of the character was more incidental. He did make films, but the Mojoverse wasn’t quite so media-centric. That came to the fore under Chris Claremont, who started using Mojo to parody Marvel itself (owned at the time by New World Pictures). And from there, Mojo drifted into a cable TV parody.

But it’s 2021 and it’s way past time to have a Mojoverse for the social media age, which is what we get here. The Mojoverse audience has always been off panel and invisible, which made the place feel a bit abstract – but we did know that Mojo was obsessed with ratings and was presumably giving them what he believed they wanted. Their preferences haven’t really changed in the streaming era, but they feel more complicit in the madness of what they’re watching, and it’s an improvement. It broadens the satire while bringing it up to date.

The book successfully walks a tricky line in terms of some of it’s horrific implications. A story in which Sofia Mantega deliberately gets herself killed in the Mojoverse makes sense in the logic of the X-books, where she would stand to get her powers back upon resurrection. But the fact that she’s been letting the Mojoverse public vote on how she died, and dressing up in her old ballerina costume for the purpose, is grim. The book doesn’t shy away from that, but balances it out with humour and absurdism – it never feels like it’s trying too hard, or that it’s mired in bleakness.

I could live without the “X of Swords” tie-in issue, which only really contributes to the bigger picture by including the failed resurrection of Rockslide. That’s something that seems to be continuing in X-Factor going forward. It tries to do something with Lorna’s character as well, playing up the way she’s torn between playing her destined role and wanting to fade into the background – but it’s really a diversion.

Still, this is a strong debut arc from a book that’s quickly found its niche.

Bring on the comments

  1. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I’ve really enjoyed this book.

    Two things.

    Shogo is human and he gets to live on Krakoa. I dropped Excalibur so I’m not sure if that point has been raised there.

    And Daken in this book bears very little resemblance to his previous appearances. At worst they treat him like he used to be a jerk, not the murderous rapey psychopath he was. Do we think there is a storyline reasoning for the change, or is it just an attempt to soft reboot the character?

    Also he seems to be injecting Krakoan steroids because he’s built like a brick shit house now.

  2. Chris V says:

    I think, with, it’s that Krakoa is a place for second chances. They are giving these former villains a chance to make up for their past.
    Some seem to be rising to the challenge.
    Others (like Sinister, Shaw, or Sabretooth) have failed to even attempt change.

    Krakoa offers a middle-ground for many mutants. A chance to embrace mutant superiority, but also to use Krakoa to offer help to humans and to absolutely avoid randomly murdering innocent humans in the name of hatred or their cause.

    I don’t think Daken has fully changed (he seemed to be written in a creepy scene in the first issue, unless I misremember the scene), but he’s a character who seems like maybe change is possible.


    The rules for humans on Krakoa is that they are allowed if a citizen of Krakoa will vouch for them and the entity Krakoa will allow them to pass through the gates.
    So, it’s possible to have a human living on Krakoa, but they must pass the two qualifications.
    Apparently no one else on Krakoa has felt enough reason to petition the Quiet Council to allow a human to live on the island, except Northstar with his husband and Jubilee with her baby.
    Everyone else probably feels they can just visit their friends or relatives by commuting through the gates.
    Most humans would probably feel out of place and unwanted on the island, since most citizens do espouse mutant supremacist ideology.

  3. Chris V says:

    First sentence: ,with *Daken,

    The name disappeared for some reason.

  4. Si says:

    I do wonder about those kids you see a fair bit of. Like the ones Exodus was preaching to in one comic. They look pre-teen. Are they living there without their human families? Under what circumstances? Were some from loving families, but Cyclops turned up and did the old bureaucratic trick of implying there’s no choice for the young mutant but to move to Krakoa without their family? Are there human parents out there somewhere, sitting in their child’s empty bedroom weeping? Were they even told it’s possible to petition the nonhuman entity for residency? Do they have the means of doing that? Northstar and Jubilee are a big deal in mutant society, but where would some nameless nine year old in a crowd scene sit in regards to presenting a case to the government? Could they talk with the giant vampire they live on even if they knew how? Australia has a nasty recent history with what’s known as The Stolen Generation, which is pretty much just this scenario (minus the fantastical elements obviously), so it’s a quite poignant thing for me.

    I feel the whole relationship with the human world is being deliberately overlooked, along with a lot of other really important world-building questions, because it’s not the story they’re here to tell. Which is unfortunate.

  5. Chris V says:

    Well, what happened in the US, Canada, and Australia isn’t exactly the same situation…
    It would be if Indigenous communities were giving birth to Anglo-Saxon children and then having the children taken away from the parents.

    Maybe they were homeless children?
    That could be interesting. If they were born looking different, so their parents didn’t want them, and they ended up on the streets.
    They could also be the children of mutants living on Krakoa. Certainly there must be minor mutant characters who have had children over the years, instead of just the prominent mutant characters.
    It could certainly make Krakoa look to serve more of a purpose, rather than just preaching mutant supremacy.

  6. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    @Uncanny X-Ben ‘Daken in this book bears very little resemblance to his previous appearances’

    Depends on which appearances you focus on. Some writers (like Marjorie Liu in X-23 or even Charles Soule in the very weird Wolverines book) presented him as a sociopath who was perfectly capable of working with other characters – as long as they weren’t Logan. It’s not such a far leap from that portrayal to the way he acts in X-Factor.

    Obviously, he was a raging asshole hellbent on destruction and not above casual murder as recently as Sina Grace’s Iceman… but, well, that was only one side of him. Surely. He’s a complex individual. At least let’s pretend he is.

    Seriously though, he was mostly okay-ish with people who weren’t Logan and he seemed to mostly be over his obsession with him when Logan Prime was dead. It’s not exactly character growth and I’m not even sure the writers involved meant it as development, but there has been some progression, incidental or otherwise.

  7. Si says:

    The Stolen Generation(s) were often children of an Aboriginal mother and a white father, noticeably different in appearance to their fully Aboriginal peers and family. This was the reason they were taken. I don’t know enough about similar problems in other countries to comment on them, I think Australia might have had a scale and duration greater than elsewhere.

    Removals were also usually more violent than how one would hope children are taken to Krakoa, but it’s still a useful analogy.

    And yes, there could be various reasons why the children are on Krakoa of course. Many far more humanitarian than families being torn apart. The idea of children being forced out by their human family and finding a new, wonderful home Ugly Duckling-style is of course another rich vein to explore. Second- or even third-generation mutants would be vital to the idea of mutant culture in a way fashion designers and chefs aren’t.

    But we haven’t been told why they’re there, that’s the problem.

  8. Chris V says:

    Oh, I apologize. I probably shouldn’t have spoken out of turn about Australia. I have read some books, but have never been to the country.
    I am Canadian and lived for many years in the United States. I expected the situation was the same as in the US/Canada with the residential schools and Indigenous children.

  9. Thom H. says:

    I love this book, especially for the weird (and largely queer) cast. Lots of good material packed into every issue, as mentioned, which pushes my ’80s X-Men nostalgia button.

    As for Kyle, I get the feeling that anyone who marries Northstar would also tend to follow his lead in terms of major decisions. I haven’t read Kyle in many stories, but he must have the patience of a saint. So when they have to decide who’s going to commute to and from Krakoa, I can definitely see him making that sacrifice for the couple.

    Daken’s ulterior motive — or at least one of them — seems to be about getting close to Aurora (and/or Kyle, maybe?). Actually, he’s been pretty up front about that desire. The twist might be that he wants to be found attractive for his own merits instead of having to manipulate her into liking him. At least that’s how he’s acting so far.

  10. Suzene says:

    re: The crop of new mutant kids –

    That’s a tricky question, isn’t it? The writers keep wanting to bring in new generations of students (despite how little play most of the existing ones get), and that’s easy enough with the school set-up. Less so with Krakoa.

    I recall when Decimation hit, there was mention that most of the murdered students had to be buried on school grounds, since their families wouldn’t even claim the bodies. And after, during Divided We Stand, even some kids who had families to go back to wound up staying with the X-Men because it was safer.

    I’d guess there’s a mix of those two factors at play – parents happy for a place to dump/shelter their mutant kids, plus it still being kind of a boarding school situation with the kids being able to visit their families at will due to the gates.

    I wonder if there’s an opposite situation too, kids who live full-time with loving families who do weekend jaunts to Krakoa. And if one of those kids gets murdered by the FOH while living at home, do they get put in the resurrection queue?

  11. SanityOrMadness says:

    Si: I feel the whole relationship with the human world is being deliberately overlooked, along with a lot of other really important world-building questions, because it’s not the story they’re here to tell. Which is unfortunate.

    Yeah – there’s been absolutely zero attempt to sell Krakoa as a functional society beyond a few outright cult-like trappings. (And the opening of VA’s New Mutants retool implies it’s a completely DISfunctional society, with Moonstar & co’s letter saying kids are ignored and prone to self-harm)

    Even crowd scenes, as someone mentioned recently, tend to be filled almost entirely with known characters. There’s not even an attempt to sell this place as being populated with background extras.

  12. ASV says:

    It doesn’t make sense, and it really does call for an explanation.

    The hallmark of this era.

  13. Nu-D says:

    The common thread to all the iterations of X-Factor (save the 4-issue mini which I have not read and isn’t mentioned above) is the idea of a formally organized team with a specific mission and client. The original team had the “mutant hunter” angle. Then came the first government sponsored team. After that was the PI organization, and then the corporate team. Finally, this group. All of them fell away from their original remit over time. But every X-Factor team begins with the idea of a formally chartered organization.

  14. Nu-D says:

    Totally off-topic:

    Why do some of the lover comment threads on the blog pick up what look like bot comments at the end?

    For example, at the end of the 1980 entry of the Incomplete Wolverine series, there’s the following:

    Foggy Mountain Breakdown – This Week’s Links – Avada Classic Shop says:
    January 23, 2021 at 3:07 AM
    […] Astonish, continuing Paul O’Brien’s definitive history of the ol’ canucklehead, Wolverine has made it to the 80s, and the X-Men are about to hit… The Big […]

    What is that? A by-product of some other blog linking back to this one?

  15. Nu-D says:

    “Longer comment threads,” not “lover comment threads.” Though the latter is amusing.

  16. Uncanny X-Ben says:


    I totally agree.

    It’s very bizarre that this supposed mutant Utopia never shows or explains anything about it.

    Chris V:

    I’m not saying I expect Daken to be running around like a crazy axe murderer. But this book seems to be treating him as “possibly reformed bad boy” and not “manipulative murderer without conscience bent on murdering his father.”

    Remember when Wolverine drowned him to death in a puddle? Is he just cool with that now?

  17. Chris V says:

    Gambit is living on an island with Sinister a member of the ruling council.
    Would you ever have believed that would happen?

    Certain individuals are definitely being written out of character.
    It’s just something you have to accept at this point.
    There may or may not be a reason.
    I once thought it was part of Hickman’s meta-plot, but with the way some characters act believable (or at times believable) while other characters always act oddly, I’ve given up thinking there is an actual reason.

  18. Tim says:

    Chris V, Uncanny X-Ben et al

    I completely agree about the characterization, and the looming question of whether this strange behaviour is plot point, or bad writing.

    I dropped the X-titles after realizing I spent an ungodly sum on HoX/PoX (relatively speaking, at least), for a couple of lines to set up a new status quo. Seeing how poorly that status quo has been explored certainly reinforces that decision for me.

    Quick Note: if you’re loving the current line, then good for you! Not out to ruin anyone else’s experience, this personal opinion. And, admittedly, it does seem like some writers are doing good work within a lousy framework.

    For me, though, after this long, whether Hickman intends for this to be a plot point or not, it qualifies as bad writing. To take just a single, reasonably iconic character, look at Nightcrawler.

    Has he given up the Catholic faith that’s been a cornerstone of his identity, for a mutant Scientology? Even to flirt with it is a massive character change, but I still have idea whether to take this as a twist on the character, or Hickman ignoring characters to tell his Big Story ™.

    I don’t want to carp on it, but it really does bug me that characterization has become so vague.

  19. ASV says:

    Has he given up the Catholic faith that’s been a cornerstone of his identity, for a mutant Scientology?

    Not even just that, but to invent a mutant Scientology. It would be one thing for Krakoa itself to be like, hey, here’s what’s what for mutants. But for a devout Catholic to just decide that mutant culture needs a religion and he’s going to come up with it – unless that religion just turns out to be Catholicism, which would be funny – is nuts.

  20. ASV says:

    Whoops – missed a close bold tag after “invent” it appears.

  21. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    When you can’t tell if stuff happening in a story is the intentionally weird or just bad writing, something has gone wrong somewhere.

    There’s a fine line between mysterious and opaque.

    There is certainly clear foreshadowing that all is not right on Krakoa and resurrection is an idea doomed to go bad.

    But why so many characters are acting bizarrely, not do much.

    Who’s everyone voting for to stand around the background of the new X-Men team?

    I’m torn between Banshee and Marrow.

  22. Chris V says:

    It’s not even that Nightcrawler has given up his religious faith. It’s the fact that this hasn’t been explored in-depth and isn’t shown as a major crisis for Kurt that is taking a heavy emotional toll.
    Everything is just accepted in these books because a writer puts it on the page.

    “Nightcrawler is no longer Catholic. He will now create a new mutant religion.”
    That is the amount of depth and characterization given to Kurt.

    Si Spurrier is writing the series about Nightcrawler creating a mutant religion, and he is a very good writer.
    There is some hope we’ll see a strong character study.
    I somehow think that Hickman might not want that and will tell Spurrier to write the series with Kurt not bothered by leaving Catholicism behind and that he is completely happy creating a new religion.

  23. Thom H. says:

    “Who’s everyone voting for to stand around the background of the new X-Men team?”

    Magma or Dazzler. Can I vote more than once?

  24. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Sadly there’s a limited list of options.

    Boom Boom
    String Guy

    I had forgotten Boom-Boom was a choice, now I’m stuck between her and Marrow.

  25. SanityOrMadness says:

    Eh, definitely Tempo for the sheer WTFness of it. Forge & Polaris would mess with other books, the others are either well-explored or would not exactly fit with Hickman.

    (And I wouldn’t exactly bet against “the poll’s been so popular, they’re ALL going to be X-Men” for a shell game where that’s just the lineup.)

  26. Chris V says:

    Most of those are horrible choices.
    I don’t understand why characters already on other teams are eligible. Especially when there are hundreds of mutants who are doing nothing.
    So, Cyclops and Jean are the only two characters who are guaranteed for the team?

    Banshee is a good choice.

  27. Si says:

    Oh man, imagine if they had the poll open for all mutant characters, and they followed through. The X-Men could be Glow Worm, Maggott, Tarbaby, Sonny Bean, and Tattoo! And that woman, Jean Whatsername. Grey.

  28. Based on previous polls conducted by Marvel, the decision has probably already been made.

  29. Thom H. says:

    “Sadly there’s a limited list of options.”

    That’s dumb. Also, if they pull Polaris out of this book, I will be sad. I voted for Banshee out of solidarity.

  30. Karl_H says:

    There also doesn’t seem to be any verification of “one vote per person” so the whole vote is fairly pointless.

  31. Luis Dantas says:

    The poll is probably meant to gauge reader interest as opposed to majority vote results.

    I don’t know if I will vote, but if I did it would probably be for Banshee. He is a character who deserves more spotlight than he had. Most of the choices seem to be dark horses of sorts.

  32. Luis Dantas says:

    A storyline about the development of a mutant-oriented religion might turn out to be a fascinating thing at some future point in time, but I fear that such a time is not on the horizon yet.

    For one thing, it is a no-win situation for Marvel. The topic is just too divisive. And if developed in an interesting way, it would run quite against the grain of the Hickman setup.

    Then again, it is not even clear what it means to be a Catholic (and therefore a believer that there will be a single time of universal resurrection) for someone in Kurt’s position. He himself has been sort-of ressurrected in a way that IIRC implies that he no longer has a soul. He has met the Beyonder, who killed and ressurrected the original New Mutants. And he is now aware of the Five.

    Exploring the implications might be very interesting, but I doubt Marvel will allow such a story to be published any time soon.

Leave a Reply