Friday, January 06, 2006

The Comic You Should Be Talking About for 1-5-06: X-Factor 2

Okay, I admit I'm cheating a bit with this one, since (a) this comic didn't come out this week, (b) I didn't buy it this week, and (c) I haven't even read it yet. Actually, that's cheating more than a bit. But, as someone once said, it's my party, and you'll cry if I want you to. And I don't want you to.

X-Factor has been an unexpected success; issues 1 and 2 have sold out despite a delay on both. Even with the tie-in to a big event like Decimation, this is quite a success for a second-tier X-Book. The reason I haven't yet bought issue 2 is that I was traveling back from Christmas in Houston last Thursday, and the shops in New York were sold out by Friday. Reprints are on the way for both issues, which will only drive up the numbers.

Given the spectacular failure of most of last year's X-launches (Nightcrawler, Rogue, and Gambit all got axed at 12, District X managed to eke out a bit longer, and Jubilee was made from an ongoing into a 6-issue mini by the second issue), this is a surprising but welcome turn of events for the creative team. Peter David, of course, has a substantial fan base to bring onto the book, and Ryan Sook is well-regarded in indy circles, and gained some heavy mainstream cred from the Seven Soliders: Zatanna series. But there's more going on than that. I think that a good deal of X-Factor's success can be attributed to the characters who make up its cast.

Jamie Madrox, Wolfsbane, Strong Guy, Siryn, Rictor, M, and Layla Miller. Individually, none of them can carry a series, but combining them is actually quite a canny use of the Marvel stable. It puts together a demographic and emotional picture that's rife with potential.

None of these characters could be said to have a large fanbase. They're at best B- and C-listers. But the thing about fans of lower-tier characters, and especially lower-tier X-characters, is that they are a highly devoted lot. If you print it, they will come. And the X-Factor cast, by either accident or (I think more likely) design, brings in a wide range of fans from the X-World.

Consider: Jamie Madrox first appeared in the '70s, had a handful of appearances in that decade and the one that came after, was tied to the New Mutants and the original X-Factor before coming into his own in Peter David's earlier tenure on that title's 1991 revamp, and developed enough of a fanbase to escape death at the hands of the Legacy Virus, before returning in last year's Madrox mini. Wolfsbane is a charter New Mutant (a very well-remembered and loved portion of X-history), and picked up more fans in the '90s as a member of the aforementioned David X-Factor and the highly-thought-of Warren Ellis run on Excalibur. Strong Guy was a popular member of David's X-Factor and a New Mutants hanger-on. Siryn dates back almost as far as Jamie, is tied to a character from the All-New, All-Different X-Men era, and was well-used throughout Jeph Loeb's tenure on X-Force. Rictor is a popular New Mutant and X-Forcer, and one half of a gay icon duo with Shatterstar (and the gay readership's influence on the X-Books is not to be underestimated). M brings in the young '90s readership (myself included) through her membership in Generation X.

The characters also carry some heavy weight in their relationships. Rictor and Wolfsbane, and Jamie and Siryn, have long and tumultuous romantic histories. Jamie, Wolfsbane, and Strong Guy have been a well-loved comic team since David's previous X-Factor run, and were the core of the above-mentioned Madrox series, to which this one serves as a sequel.

I will admit that Layla Miller is the odd-girl out. She's a cipher, and in her only appearance to date was little more than a plot device. (The "House of M" Flash parody that's been slowly progressing over at Newgrounds hit the nail straight on the head when it called her Layla McGuffin.) But sometimes the characters with the least development are the ones with the most potential, and there's certainly a high interest in her background and true nature, which David has promised to reveal.

So, you take that degree of potential, and then you combine it with the execution of the first issue. There are plenty of reviews out there on it, most of them glowing, so I'll simply say that it's a textbook example of how to introduce a new series with a story that's completely self-contained, but still serves as a launching point for a number of stories, and is packed to the brim with entertainment. I can't attest to the second issue, but the buzz is positive. X-Factor is, in short, a comic that would have to try really, really hard to fail. And given the talent involved, no one's going to be trying very hard in that respect anytime soon.

And that's something you should be talking about. Thoughts?


Lyman said...

I stopped reading X books a couple of years ago. I saw that Strong Guy was coming back and was almost tempted to pick this book up. But then I looked at the insane amount of X books and decided not to try it. I mean, is it going to be a good book or just part of a franchise that might get the axe at any minute?

naladahc said...

I haven't read any X Marvel books since the early 90s and I went out of my way to get this for some reason.

And even I totally loved it!!!

Woody! said...

Yeah, too many X books. But this is definitely worth picking up. It's not just a rehash of what PAD did in the 90s. It takes the title in a new direction that's actually entertaining. Lyman, you should pick up the Madrox mini-series to see if this is up your alley. Strong Guy guest stars.