5 Easy Steps to Make X-Factor a Good Comic Book Again

Back in 2004, very quietly Peter David wrote a mini series called Madrox, that was about Jamie Madrox, a B-level X-Men character who had the power to create duplicates of himself. Madrox has always been a reluctant hero, working with the X-Men from time to time, and then a tenure in X-Factor in the 1990s. He’s always been a bit of a under-developed character, with the only interesting time to him being that run on X-Factor, also written by Peter David, where he was shown to be sarcastic and a bit of a prankster. 

This Madrox mini-series literally blew my mind it was so good. A new spin on the character, Peter David established two concepts. First he used his power of being able to create duplicates to feed the idea that he sent duplicates out into the world to learn things and then re-absorbed them and their knowledge. This was a fantastically clever device as it allowed Madrox to have skills and knowledge he didn’t previously have and it was always surprising to see how his knowledge would help him. Secondly, David established a noir tone to the book, making Madrox a private investigator. This was also a fantastic approach, as it allowed a different kind of story to be told, combined with his powers and the various mutant type things that could happen, the book was a fantastic read.

When 2006 rolled around and they launched X-Factor, we were ecstatic. The same concepts were being applied, with Madrox running X-Factor Investigations, adding Strong Guy, Rictor, Siryn, and M to the cast and keeping the noir feel to the book. Additionally, David added the aspect that Madrox’s powers were getting wonky, with each duplicate having a different aspect of Madrox’s personality, so he never knew what he would get when he created a duplicate. It was this level of surprise and unexpectedness that made Madrox hesitate before using his power, which is a great device. The book launched and for the first 6 or 7 issues, it looked like it was exactly what we wanted… and then things went off the rails.

And so here we are, three years later and I believe I’m the last one at iFanboy still reading X-Factor (because of my silly allegiance to the X books). And that makes me sad. I liked that there was a different X book that everyone liked, and it seemed like X-Factor was on its way to be a great book. So what happened? Well, a lot of crap, that’s for sure. Crossovers, rambling storylines, and most recently a plot twist so absurd, people have been screaming over it (The plot twist being ** SPOILER WARNING ** that Madrox has gotten Siryn pregnant, and they’ve been hyping the pregnancy for the past year. Siryn finally has the baby, and not even 4 pages later, Madrox absorbed the baby like he would a duplicate. Turns out the baby was just a duplicate. This left even my head scratching).

I sat down and wondered what it would take to save this book, and I think I’ve figured it out. Because you know, who is more qualified to tell Peter David how to write a comic book than some hack of a comic book… whatever I am. That said, here are my 5 Easy Steps to Get X-Factor Back on Track:

1) Ditch the Supporting Cast
It was cool to see Strong Guy back, and Siryn is a nice foil for Madrox, but the cast of this book has just dragged it down. Rictor has been a whining baby since losing his powers after House of M. Monet has had some nice moments, but I don’t think she’s necessary. Layla Miller, the cast off from House of M, was the best supporting character but she’s lost in the future now. The recent addition of Longshot got my X-Fanboy blood pumping, but I don’t think he’s necessary. Cut them all and just focus on Madrox, like you did with the mini-series. Maybe keep Strong Guy as muscle, but use him sparingly. Same for Siryn. But keep the supporting cast to a minimum.

2) Go Back to Noir
If you look at X-Factor today, it’s no longer a noir book. It’ s just another X book. The color and tone of the book is bright again, the stories are bland and normal. Give the book back its darker tone. Get an artist who can pull that off. What happened to Pablo Raimondi? He was great on the original Madrox mini series and the early issues of X-Factor after Ryan Sook left. If you can’t get Raimondi, why not get Dennis Calero who’s killing on X-Men Noir? The darker tone and feel of the book is what made it stand out from the others. Same goes for the stories. Bring back the Private Investigations and make it less about mutant rights and things like that. Which leads to the next point…

3) Stop Playing in the Marvel Universe
I know, I know. I’ve heard it all before from Marvel’s PR people and editors. X-Factor didn’t have to be in the crossovers, that they wanted to be blah blah blah. Well guess what? By participating in all the various cross overs since 2006, you’ve hurt the book. Every Civil War, Secret Invasion, Messiah Complex and whatever other cross over that happened has taken the readers out of the world of Madrox and put them in the bigger world of Marvel and it didn’t make X-Factor a better book. That should be the mission, to make X-Factor the best book it can be. Take the route that Brubaker took with Captain America. Focus on a story and see it through. Maybe the crossovers help sales, but that’s a short term solution. A good book that is consistently focused and quality will deliver long term sales, trust me. Right now X-Factor is being written like an old X-book. Stop that. It’s the 21st century, do something new.

4) Bring it Back to NY… or Chicago? Or Maybe Even LA?
When a book becomes unique with a noir tone, the setting is almost as important as the characters and the story. When they were in New York City, it made sense. The buildings and alleys and other dark places worked like a charm. If for whatever reason you want to take them out of New York, that’s fine. I get that. But take Madrox to a city that has a noirish charm and can provide a sense of danger and intrigue. Right now they’re in Detroit (I think) and it’s awfully sunny there. Move them to Chicago and keep the book happening at night. Or if it occurs during the day, make it rain. Or mix it up and go to Los Angeles and try to tap into that historic LA Confidential noir vibe. But get Madrox in a city that has character, that can be a character and play to that.

5) Make it About Madrox
This is somewhat similar to my first point, but I think it deserves to be broken out. I read X-Factor for Madrox. For the paradigm set by the mini-series. I want to see him use his powers in clever ways. I liked the fact that the duplicated were unpredictable and you didn’t know what could happen. We’ve completely abandoned the mystery and surprise factor of the knowledge Madrox has built up over the years, bring that back. Get that stupid M tattoo off his face while you’re at it. This comic should focus and be around Madrox and what is happening to him. Sure he can interact with the other characters, but the spotlight should be on him, with the stories being narrated by him and revolving on his point of view. Going back to point #3, keeping that focus on Madrox and his adventures is what got me to this title in the first place, so keep it there. You don’t need some adversary or long running story arc about a conspiracy against Madrox. Just do the old fashioned private investigating case stories, on a case by case basis.

And that’s my five point plan on how to save X-Factor. What do I know? I’m not a writer and lord knows I don’t make comics. But I know what I like and I’ve read a lot of comics. X-Factor is a comic that I want to like and I want to be good. I don’t think it’s beyond redemption. Just wipe the slate clean. Take a month off and then hit the reset button. You can do it, it’s comics! You can do anything!

So what do you think? Is X-Factor worth saving? Are there any more things that should be done to get you to read this book again?



  1. With regards to point 3.  I think that Peter David has historically been hosed by cross-overs more than any other writer.  It seems that every time he starts gearing up for something cool, or is in the midst of something cool, he has to put his story on hold to shoe-horn his characters into some sort of event cross-over.

  2. X-Factor is completely worth saving, but I think that ditching the supporting cast is a bad move. Sure some of the characters are frustrating at times but it’s Madrox dealing with those characters that makes it interesting. I think that the problem with interweaving it with the Marvel continutity is that Peter David plays so well in his own world but hasn’t been shown to deal so well with outside influences and while I understand that the hope behind putting the banner of some crossover on the top of the cover might bump sales a little here and there that just making the book consistently good would give it good numbers without the need for an artificial bump every now and again. I think that the book worked great for the first trade worth of material and then the train kept getting knocked from the tracks and that getting back on point would make the title great again. It proves that point every time it gets back to the heart of the series and people start loving it again … but then two or three months later it gets distracted again.

  3. On point 3 – A few years ago, I was buying a lot of Marvel books.  Books like Alias, Runaways, Maddrox, Livewires, etc.  Books that took place in the Marvel Universe, but didn’t really tie into anything and didn’t rely strongly on prior continuity.  It seemed like every other book they were publishing then was like that.  Loosely connected, but mostly just focusing on telling a good story in their own book.  I miss those days.  Now it seems like everything is mired in continuity.  I know some people love that, but it’s just not what I’m interested in.

  4. I read the first trade of this a while back and very much enjoyed it, but didn’t have the desire then to track down and get the others.  Flash forward to Messiah Complex (which I enjoyed, screw anyone that didn’t) and that "forced" me to read X-Factor.  Granted it was not really centered around the X-Factor team at all during the crossover, but it really did get me interested in following the book after the event was over.  Well…after the event I heard nothing but bad to mediocre things about X-Factor!  So I didn’t pick it up.  Then I heard good things about the last issue, but that it was also not a good jumping on point!  I can’t win with this book!!!! 

    P.S.  I heard somewhere that Peter David does want to return to the noir feel for the book.  Thats good news right?

  5. I don’t think it’s fair to say that David has always been hosed by crossovers.  If you go back to the 90’s, his issues within "X-Cutioner’s Song" and the X-Factor issue in "Fatal Attractions" were very good, and he was able to keep doing his own thing to a certain degree.  During X-Cutioner’s Song he had a subplot about a mutant extremist group that X-Factor was holding in custody, which he still stuck with despite all the other chaos going on.  It also allowed him to have Rahne interact with her old New Mutants comrades in X-Force, which was nice.  And in "Fatal Attractions" he used that issue to play on Quicksilver’s role as Magneto’s son as well as make a change to the group’s relationship with Val. 

    What he needs to do, then, when "forced" into or "opting" into a crossover is make sure that the part his book plays stays true to the notion of the book and to its characters.  I don’t know if he’s lost some clout or if Quesada is more dictatorial than DeFalco, but he used to be able to do that in the old days.

  6. I dunno, Madrox has never been the most interesting element of XFactor to me.  I thought the original ensemble was the strength of the book; it was Layla and Monet and Terry and Guido that kept me coming back.  I don’t think it’s an either/or proposition, it’s just a question of using the ensemble well.  

  7. I’m not sure how much I agree with the premise. There certainly has been some meandering, and crossovers have done the book few favors, but even under those circumstances I feel that the book has remained strong when it didn’t have to pause to punch She-Hulk. Even the crossovers haven’t always been a negative; the outcome of Layla Miller’s story (assuming anyone soon remembers that it happened in the first place) is something I have been eagerly anticipating for a while now, and that was a direct result of "Messiah Complex," which I remember getting some pretty positive mentions ’round these parts.

    I do think the book would benefit a great deal from the noir equivalent of a "playing softball at the mansion," sitting and breathing issue. The characters seem to have been running from one crisis to the next before the previous crisis has even been resolved. I wasn’t reading comics in the nineties, and even after reading every issue of this book I feel as though I have no idea who Monet and Rictor even are. Does Monet have powers? What are they?

    Also: I haven’t seen anyone screaming about the absurdity of the plot twist, which was great. I have seen it spark a large debate about spoilers, since Peter David took to the streets to ask in every possible venue that people not spoil the ending of the book online, even in the context of a review. So far, I have not seen any site fail to honor his request until just now.

  8. I really need to get my own copy of the Madrox mini.  I remain loyal to X-Factor, but I think Ron’s suggestions would help make it great again.

  9. As long as Marvel keeps X-Factor as the ‘event whore’ of the Marvel U then it’ll never be good.

  10. @Jimski

    Fuckin’ A.  At least wait until another issue or two have come out before blowing off the spoiler plea from Peter David.

    Personally, the only thing I would say that X-Factor has done wrong is the seemingly endless (but probably only a few issues in the grand scheme–man it felt like forever) stretch with Stroman as the artist.  That really hurt the book while it was in effect, and I love the book enough that it hurt to see it looking that bad.  Were I a wealthy person, I’d find a good artist and pay them to draw me my own pretty versions of those issues to replace the ones that blight my collection.

  11. re: #2 – Wasn’t Raimondi back on the book recently, like 6-7 issues ago when that guy from the arctic, or something, showed up and tried to kill all the mutants because they were giving him a psychic headache? And if you’d like to see Calero on X-Factor, go back and give your post-Sook issues a 2nd look – he drew at least one arc about Syren getting kidnapped.

  12. Spot on. Somebody fax this to Marvel, and don’t forget the cover letter. I don’t even think you have to read this book to realize it was something special that’s lost its magic, the fade of the buzz, and the solicitations are enough. I haven’t checked it out since Civil War.

  13. Judging by the latest issue, I think the book is heading in a positive direction. 

  14. @Jimski- Monet, or "M," was introduced in the build up to the first Generation X book (the one where Sean and Emma ran the Massachusettes Academy).  She was a semi-mysterious character in terms of powers; I think she was a high-level telekinetic as I remember her flying, and also unbelievably smart.  She was also unbelievably pretentious and rude, coming from a wealthy (I want to say French) family and having a life of privilege.  In fact, the first time we see her is when the Phalanx attacks her limo.  She survives and becomes one of the first members of Generation X. 

    She was also one of the characters in that awful live-action Gen X movie on Fox.  I’ve been reading old back issues while snowbound and came across an advertisement for that.  

  15. It’s great that they pull runaway away from NYC and bring them back to LA for that reason (#3) X-factor is the same. they need to pull madrox out of the continuity. especially the unnecessary ones like secret invasion. i like the old madrox mini. that’s why when i ask peter david to only sign madrox mini, first tpb of x-factor, and layla miller one-shot. the she-hulk-secret invasion cross over is not good. the art was bad too. i want my 3 issues money back. =( I definitely agree with ron about all his points. but i wouldn’t mind keeping strong guy and syrin around. or bring wolvesbane back. all just for XXX investigation.

     @ron what did you think about gen-x during its run. who you would have save in that team? can’t pick jubilee. 

    @jimksi – M has hyper senses that’s all. don think she has telekinesis. just telepathic, flight, strength and flight. she’s a super princess.

  16. I really didn’t think the baby thing was that confusing.  It was the child of one of his dupes, therefore, genetically, it was also a dupe.

    And to eahc his own, but Ron is the only person I’ve heard that didn’t think that issue was T-N-T.

  17. I want to start by saying I’ve loved Peter David for a long time. He’s one of my favorite writers in and out of comics, and generally a pretty cool guy. I even bumped into him at a Big Apple Con a few years ago. it was, decidedly, awkward. As I would expect. (But not as outright terrible as Paul Dini cursing at someone for taking his picture!)

    Anyway, it was a great amount of anger that welled in me when I read David’s plea in the front of the latest issue of X-Factor. It really soured me to him. And the fact that so many fanboys (i or other wise!) have bent overbackward to heed it has lead to one thing…. there has been no discussion about it amongst fans who have read the thing and WANT to discuss it. Essentially, everyone is so "spoiler" conscious about it we can’t even discuss it in vague whispers. We are being stifled. And for what? Fear that the ghost of Jack Kirby will attack us!? I don’t get it. And the ending isn’t even that great. It’s an easy way to maintain the status quo but have emotional impact. Quite frankly, inventive as the concept was, it wreaks of lazy writing and shock value. And that’s not good in one of Marvels more grounded books.

    Ron’s points are exactly what this book needs, here and now. I found myself nodding along. David’s original X-Factor run remains one of my favorite performances on a book by a writer. He tried to do it here, but it just doesn’t work anymore. The recent addition of seemingly random characters to the mix and medicore art weren’t helping. Hopefully the book gets back on the right track.

    Oh, and hopefully David can get off of his little soap box on the recap page by next issue. 

  18. Ron, it feels like like your five point plan is really just a one point plan in disguise.

    1. Start writing "Madrox, Volume 2."

    I won’t disagree that the Madrox miniseries was absolutely fantastic.  It was a solo-character book, which enabled Peter David to really focus on just one guy and go deep into his character.  Team books don’t allow the same level of deep individual focus, and X-Factor is, and always should be, a team book.  No one is crying for Uncanny X-Men to be a book about Cyclops (maybe a bad example, but the analogy remains).  Team books are about relationships, and getting rid of the team in a team book doesn’t seem to make much sense to me.

  19. Isn’t Madrox the French Villian in Cap?

  20. @ato I think you mean Batroc?

  21. thats batroc

  22. @PraxJarvin, I don’t know what qualifies a book for this particular double standard, but I do know that if you applied your outrage and inalienable right to spoil to an issue of Walking Dead, those people would have your head on a pike at the city gate as a warning to the others, and no one would say boo about it.

  23. @Doski I see what you mean, but I don’t think so – nothing says X-Factor has to be a team book.  In fact I think making it a team book has hurt it.  That said, nothing says a book about Madrox has to be a solo book, he can have supporting cast and explore those relationships – just don’t overdue it…

  24. @Jimski-I agree.  If you even attempt to talk about The Walking Dead anywhere without the *Spoilers* warning in the title, and 10 additional warnings in the beginning of the thread, people go ape shit.  Same can be said about Fables.  So what makes them different from X-Factor?  Now that is a topic worth discussing

  25. i dropped this but i was SO concerned as to the baby and picked it back up. i like madrox as a character hes awesome i want more of him

  26. Make Madrox the leader of a new X-Factor Corps, and make the book into a galaxy spanning epic… ah forget aboot it, Im still going to pick it up whatever happens. Seriously though, keep it as a team book, when i first read the book i had no idead who any of the team was but i loved it. Plus, i mean i havent read it in a while but dont layla and Jamie have to get married at some point?

  27. When I read the first point about dropping the cast, I was apprehensive, but the more I am thinking about it the better the idea sounds to me.  My favorite issues were the ones withMadrox searching for his wayward dupes and I think a return to those story types would be great.

  28. I take it that the buzz I have been hearing about the book being good again was all hype.

    It was greatest when it was all about Madrox.  The last page of the first issue of X-Factor blew me away, (what type of dupe would appear being the "x-factor, "  ….and I wasn’t even into X books.

  29. i think mr. david’s steering the story right back to the right path. it had a few hiccups, but i don’t think drastic measures such as a strong guy-ectomy are necessary. i personally think the M tattoo isn’t so bad, and frankly i’m perturbed when they have him cover it w/ make up.

    didn’t a dupe have a family in one of the earlier issues? unless they said that he was like a step father to the kid, neither maddrox nor the family man dupe absorbed the child. i don’t think this is a plot hole either,david put in his intro about not spoiling the twist that he asks of us not to spoil anything for the next several issues, so i can only assume he has a big plan for all this.

  30. I whole-heartedly believe that, aside from the truly awful issues that Stroman drew–mostly awful because of that man’s complete inability to draw anything even remotely resemblant of a human being (maybe he’s drawing with his opposite hand for shits and giggles)–X-Factor has been, at the least, a good comic.  Yes, it hasn’t been as great as the earlier issues but I don’t think it needs any retooling now that David is in the clear in respects to bogging tie-ins.  Last issue is a great, if not perfect, example of that.  In fact, I think the last issue was quite possibly the best issue in the line, mostly for its deftly written character moments.  I am unbelievably eager to see where this is going and if David’s special intro to last issue is any portent for things to come (he did, afterall, ask us not only to keep the last issue a secret but the ones to follow as well), we’re in for one real doozy.  This article, in all honesty, actually came as a shock to me seeing that the last issue was amazing.  Oh, well, to each his own.

  31. @pudgyninja:

    Ah, so YOU’RE the other person that bought Livewires. We should get together sometime and compare notes.


  32. @Jimski  This might not be the place for the spoiler discussion, and I’ve gone into it at length elsewhere, but I do think that there is a material difference between ‘Walking Dead’ and ‘X-Factor,’ which is the shared universe.  People who are reading other books may want to know how X-Factor affects them (the fate of a possible other mutant baby, for instance), whereas there’s no reason for anyone not reading Walking Dead to care about Walking Dead.  

  33. You’re dead-on Ron. So much so that everyone should start calling you "Dead-On Ron", at least when it comes to the X-Universe. I had much the same reaction to Madrox absorbing the baby. I was feeling so good and a little choked up during the scene with the naming of the baby, with Siryn realizing that Banshee was actually dead and all that, and then… (they really should assign one of those trademark Marvel sound effects to Madrox absorbing a dupe, like "snikt", "thwip", or "bamf"). Just when this book was showing the interpersonal drama and interaction that made me fall in love with it during the first six issues, Peter David goes and sucks it all away from me. I’m still reading with the hope that it turns around, but it’s officially on the chopping block (which is really difficult for me when I’ve been reading a book from issue 1).

  34. Not that I’m reading it now, I dropped it about 6 months back, but there’s no way in hell I would read a book about Madrox solo. He’s, easily, the least interesting character in the book.

  35. I’ve read that Peter David is on a three issue run to get this book back where it needs to be, with the latest issue being step one in that direction.  Everyone should wait for the next couple of issues before passing judgement.  Hopefully he can make this comic great again.  I really enjoyed last issue, and am actually a little excited about this title again.

  36. So Peter David has said he’s on a quest to make the book awesome and, considering that the last issue was damn good, I’m willing to give the man a chance.

    As for your points:

    1. Disagree. The supporting cast genuinely helps the book. The Madrox trade, while awesome, is not better than the first X-Factor trade. They are equally awesome in different ways. That said, Longshot and Darwin have no place on the team and need to go. Those characters only really work with those they have some history with. Send them both to Uncanny where they can chill on the bench for a while.

    2. Agree. Noir works and it should remain. I know he doesn’t always wanna do noir stories (and so only does them with Raimondi and does other styles with other artists), but noir does work best with X-Factor.

    3. Mostly agree. Civil War was harmless, as was Messiah Complex. Secret Invasion was the crossover that really cockslapped the book, IMO. Generally, though, your point is sound; the Captain America model is the appropriate one for this book.

    4. Agree. (And I would be *insanely* happy if it were set in L.A.!)

    5. I suppose I disagree with this point in the same way I disagree with the first. The book shouldn’t just be about Madrox, but it should be about the characters. We need to dig deeper into them.


  37. @Actual  I certainly don’t believe that that moment sucked the interpersonal drama out of the comic.  I’m also baffled that it would be considered particularly ‘absurd’ in the context of this book.  It seems like the kind of interesting and unexpected exploration of the implications of a character’s powers that PAD excels at.  And I’m interested in what I’ve seen about upcoming issues too.

    I’m with Diabhol. . .give the guy a chance.  It’s commendable to want to see a book get better, but I don’t really think it’s the fanbase’s place to start writing the books for the creators.

  38. I was loving the series up until about the time Secret Invasion happened. Adding Darwin and Longshot, removing Layla (I think what they’ve done with her is interesting, but I liked her in X-Factor), and moving the team to Detroit largely killed it for me. This list would pretty well fix it in my eyes, though I do think they need to keep Strong Guy and Monet at least for support roles.

  39. I read this book in hardcover. I was getting ready to stop buying the hardcovers after volume 5 when I heard the majority of the problems with the story were occurring; however, I enjoyed this book a lot and decided to stick with it.

    The next hardcover is secret invasion, so I will be ready for some bad art and weak storylines. I’m definitely going to give David another trade before I stop buying.

    I like Darwin. Have to wait to see if I like him in X-Factor.

  40. i had a chance to tell peter david how much i loved Mardox a few years ago at a Wizard World Chicago Con and he said "yea, i thought it was time to do a crime noir story with jamie madrox".  what an amazing story teller to just see that as being a natural progression as a story teller?  having said that, x-factor never clicked the same way madrox did, and i think alot of that has to do with the art, becuase every time Raimondi has done a few issues, ive loved them. and likewise, Stroman’s recent run made me almost drop the book, and if it wasnt for the gut punch of the baby being absorbed last issue, i mightve, but now im back in, and reay to go.

  41. Step one cancel this book, steps two through five rinse and repeat.

  42. You nailed it Ron, your point 3 explains it all!!!!