Factored Out

Would you rather be prepared for bad news and dread it for three months, or would you rather have it dawn on you for the first time as the pulled rug takes your Reeboks out from under you? “Only seventy days, thirteen hours until The End,” or “Oh, my! It seems my face is headed rapidly for the pavement. What could this be about”?

When it comes to canceled books (which my spellcheck insists are not “cancelled books,” no matter how much my brain cries out in protest) I could go either way. I think I would have enjoyed the recent Captain Britain series more if I hadn’t known the last arc was the last arc. As it was, I felt a bit like that friend of mine who spent our senior year of high school acting like, on graduation day, we would receive our diplomas and continue the procession directly up to a waiting guillotine at the end of the stage. “These are the best times of our lives, man, and they’re ending! We have to enjoy ourselves! Now! Start 110% enjoyment! Go! Enjoyment audit: you’re not enjoying enough!” That is not a recipe for taking it easy and loving life. At the same time, I can’t imagine being blissfully unaware and then turning to the last page and seeing, “Well… that’s it! Book’s dead. Hope you liked that. Pip pip, on yer bike.”

Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t have to imagine. Y’ever see that show Home Movies? Used to be on Adult Swim? Man, I loved that show. Laughed my empty, cavernous head off every Sunday night at that show. I loved it… but I didn’t follow it. I wasn’t on a message board with a squiggle-headed avatar as “McGuirkboner99.” I just watched it when it was on. (There was a time when you could be a fan just by watching something when it was on.) Then, one night, I was watching it when the characters rode off into the sunset, and the music got sad, and the screen went black, and a split second before the credits rolled I realized with bus-collision suddenness that I was watching the final episode of the show and would never see it again. This was five years ago, and thinking about it tonight still feels a little like someone rocketed a soccer ball into my gut.

So maybe it’s for the best that I’ve been hearing all the grim whispers this weekend about X-Factor.

Gossip-fed superpredator Rich Johnston has noticed that other people have noticed that there is no issue of X-Factor solicited for November 2009. Rather than responding to all this negative noticing with a lot of harrumphs or “poppycock!”s or even “campaign to save my book! Start a petition and show that windmill who’s boss!”s, writer Peter David’s comments have mostly been along the lines of, “I assume Marvel will announce… something.” That’s not the kind of thing that makes a man rest easy.

I’ve liked X-Factor in most if not all of its incarnations, and I’ve liked Peter David since before I knew who he was. Back when the lights of adulthood first started blinking on, and I started looking past the Hulk and Spider-Man for the first time and realizing that there were guys with names behind the curtain actually creating these adventures, Peter David was the first name I knew and followed. Years later, I’d look through some of my favorite Spidey comics and discover he’d written those, too.

(I still maintain, after hours of exhaustively failing to research it at all, that the quippy, jokey, happy-go-lucky character that we think of as the definitive Spider-Man did not exist before Peter David got his hands on Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man in the mid-eighties. Someone always pipes up and tells me I’m crazy when I say this, usually a scholar who has done just as much research as I have. I’m telling you: at this point, I’ve literally read Spider-Man comics that even Spider-Man doesn’t remember, and before the mid-eighties Spider-Man was Eeyore in a unitard. That’s a matter of public record. David’s Amazing Spider-Man #267, “When Cometh the Commuter,” changed my perspective on superhero adventuring forever while also answering the iFanboy question “How does he get out to the ‘burbs?” hilariously years before iFanboy was even around to ask it. But I Digress.)

Like Chris Claremont, Peter David was easy to follow because at the time he was in the process of writing the same book for twelve years. When I started outgrowing comics, his Hulk epic was one of the last books I stuck with… and strangely, even though I had “quit” comics when it came out, I somehow have almost every issue of X-Factor he did when he took over in the nineties.

What a great book that was! His exploration of Quicksilver alone is worth the price of admission. (Of course super-speed would make the rest of the world seem maddeningly frustrating! Why didn’t I think of that?) I can’t explain why I have this sense, but I feel like if there’s an unenviable writing task somewhere, you’ll never lose any money betting that Peter David will get that task. Someone will have to take over after Dan Slott redefines She-Hulk? That’s a Peter David job. Somebody needs to write about what the Hulk is doing during House of M? David, party of one! I don’t mean to suggest anyone is dumping these things on him; if anything, he just seems amiable, talented, and up for a challenge. “We’re going to keep publishing the book about the original five X-Men, except we’re taking all the X-Men out of it”: even if I didn’t know anything about it, that description would make me say, “That sounds like the kind of book they’d give to Peter David.”

Its new incarnation is easily as good. Probably better, actually, since it is largely in its own corner staying out of history’s way, to paraphrase a Star Trek movie I once saw, rather than having X-tinction Agendas or whatever-the-hells to contend with. Don’t get me wrong: no matter what else is going on, by God, Peter David’s book will be in the crossover. Not because anyone made him, in so many words– it doesn’t sound like Marvel’s HMO has to cover as many arm twisting injuries as they used to– but there are certain economic realities and one wants one’s books to sell. Even so, the author seems to have been largely left alone to tell his story, and we readers are all the better for it.

Unfortunately, it sounds like all the Messiah CompleXes and Skrull religion and twist endings aren’t getting the job done in terms of sales. (I’ll have to take everyone’s word for it; I stopped checking the box scores months ago and never looked back. That’s like twenty minutes a month that are all mine again.) David himself said it best, as he is apt to do:

On the one hand I’ve got X-fans who claim that X-Factor doesn’t read like any of the other X-titles and therefore they don’t read it. And on the other hand, I’ve got people who say they don’t read any of the X-titles and therefore don’t read it. And people wonder why we’re struggling in sales.


I earnestly hope all of this hand-wringing is for nothing, as I always do right before the book is canceled anyway. Some have observed that the original X-Factor ran 150 issues, meaning they’d be creeping up on #200 with the original numbering. It would be nice if the missing issue in November was just a harbinger of some kind of blockbuster… but I’ve lived too long to hold my breath for that.

It’s probably too late for me to singlehandedly save the book just by telling you very loudly to buy these trades, but BUY THESE TRADES. Put some joy into your life. In the time since their genesis, this former team of rejects and castoffs has endured and cemented a place for themselves in the pantheon as much as the original X-Factor. (Do you even know where Iceman is right now? I don’t.)

Assuming that the whispers are true, loving the creators first and the characters second will ultimately be my salvation. Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk of the aforementioned Captain Britain will still be working, after all; they’ll even be working together on a book. It’s just that the book will be Dark X-Men. I can live with that. I just hope that, if the worst happens, Peter David still has his mitts on Madrox when he lands on his feet.



Jim Mroczkowski didn’t necessarily agree with every one of Ron’s suggestions for making X-Factor good again back in February, but in the end the book was good and everyone walked away happy so who cares? Posting his Twitter ID has been a fruitless effort, so this week you’ll have to guess it.



UPDATE: For the first time I can remember, the irrational hope-against-hope possibility that I wish could be true up until the moment I get the bad news turned out to actually be true. X-Factor is indeed being renumbered at #200. The issue is double-sized, necessitating a delay, necessitating the book’s absence from November’s solicitations. Peter David told Newsarama all about the other upcoming changes and twists the book has coming. Now, everyone go buy a lottery ticket while our luck is holding out!

Comments

  1. Wait… is X-Factor canceled or not…..

  2. Well, I guess David’s comment above explains why it has seemed more and more like a typical crappy X book lately.  He has been catering to readers of X-books.  I’m out.

  3. They might just be leading up to an issue #200, followed by a restart to the series, and thus a new #1…

  4. The issue of X-Factor where David explains Quicksilver’s "dickishness" was phenomenal. I love it when a creator takes explains something or adds an aspect to a character that feels so damn natural that you question why it hadn’t been addressed previously. Of course Quicksilver would be a dick, you would too if you had to wiat for everyone!

    As for the band-aid method of book cancelation, i guess i’d prefer the advanced notice because all I really want is to make sure all the storylines are tied up. Sometimes you’re not even that lucky. Im a big Twin Peaks fan and that ending was phenomenal but it just made me want more when there was nothing left.

    What happened to Bob and Coop?!?!? What’s going to happen to Layla and Maddrox?!?!?!?

  5. I read this in trade, and usually enjoy it enough that I want the next trade quickly. It reminds me a lot of the first season on Angel.

    I like the Noir side of it.

    I did not like the Secret Invasion arc the story and the art were not up to standard in my opinion. I was going to call it quits but if the end is near I’ll follow it through to the end. I want to know what happens with Madrox and co.

  6. I read the first 12 issues of this X-Factor and realized I didnt care for it. Now does this mean i want the book canceled? No, b/c there are people who do enjoy the book and I know the feeling of having a book you really enjoy get canceled (See Captain Britian & M.I. 13) so i hope even if i never read this book again i hope it remains for those that do still enjoy it.

  7. I know a number of you love this title, so I am sorry to hear it is getting canceled (if it really is).  I gave X-Factor a solid try after the Messiah Complex crossover ended and it just didn’t work for me.  I find Maddrox to be an interesting character, but the book felt very whiny.  I get enough of that from students and don’t need it from my comics (unless it’s Damien or Superboy-Prime, where the whininess provides context/laughs that I enjoy).

    I hope they restart the series successfully. 

  8. I enjoy X-Factor, but I will not mourn its passing (if indeed it passes). I will simply hope that whatever Peter David is doing next is something that sounds fun to me.

     

  9. Seems strange that they would add a letters column and then cancel the book…?

  10. I think I started buying this run with issue 13, and at that point if you had told me it would make it to 50 issues, I’d say, "I’ll take it!"  So, I guess that’s my dose of optimism.

    It’s probably too much to hope that if the book is cancelled, it will be relaunched as the team-up adventures of Layla Miller and Ruby Summers, hmm?  (This is why Marvel hasn’t put me in charge of marketing).

  11. Good article, Jim. I can’t say I’d be surprised, sadly. X-Factor is one of my favorite ongoing titles. When I got back into comics in 01, it was the first series I collected the backissues for. I have the whole thing, plus the four issues from 01, and all of the new series. X-Factor is *my* X-Title. That said, I’ve felt that David’s "New direction" has been meandering, and judging by the grades on the book from this site alone, a usually 4.5 book is down to steady 3.7s. I’ll be sorry to see the book go, but yeah. There have been three volumes of X-Factor so far, one for 149 issues, one for 4 and this current one, so we’ve already passed the "reboot to 200" point unless Marvel is doing more funky math to make these renumberings work, at which point X-Factor #51 would be the 200th issue. Still my slavish devotion will persist.

    I do want to point out though, there was an interview I saw a week back that said this current storyline on X-Factor would run for a year, and that we were just at the "Halfway point."  So that means there should be about 5-6 more issues of the story.

    Also, Jimski points out the crossover stuff, which really hurt this current run of X-Factor. Marvel has said they don’t force creators to participate and Brubaker and Fraction have said this is true. But David and JMS have said otherwise. I’ve always been curious what the actual truth is. (But this is a separate point.)

  12. X-Factor is the Marvel title I own the most single issues of, the third book I started buying monthly (after Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men and Runaways) back when I never imagined I could ever buy more than five books monthly.  It’s almost always my favorite book on the stands, and I’m hoping against hope that the announcement will be something good, and not something catastrophic.  I’ve had series I love cancelled before; I know it happens.  But this book is so good, and so different — not to mention forward-thinking in its recent confirmation of the Rictor/Shatterstar relationship — that I’m praying it’ll get to continue for a good long time to come.

  13. There’s an easy solution to David’s puzzlement as to why some people don’t read X-Factor "because it isn’t like a typical X-book", while others don’t read it because it "is an X-book": X-Factor insists on using C-, D- and F-list characters. Sometimes this is refreshing, but this is David’s own fault. Only a real X-nerd could really care about characters like Guido and Darwin, but even X-nerds (and I consider myself own) know that these characters stink. With the exception of Madrox and maybe Siren and Layla, there’s really nothing to any of the characters in X-Factor.

    Still, going FIFTY ISSUES with this ragtag group of characters is pretty awesome. So I don’t see why David or the readers are really complaining. It was FIFTY ISSUES, people.

    As to how the book’s been going lately, for every voice saying that it’s a 4-star book I’ve heard two voices telling me it stinks worse than it ever did. I can’t comment because I stopped reading X-Factor a year ago. It had gotten pretty bad, and not because of any crossovers, either. All of the recent hoopla in the book–the shock endings, the revelations about babies and kissing–just really seemed desperate to me, so I never picked the book up despite being told repeatedly, by no less a reliable sourace than Peter David himself, that "X-Factor is good again!"

    But it’s Peter David. It’s "X-Factor", the second most recognizable "X"-tag out there. There will be a relaunch at some point.

  14. home movies was awesome. that’s a really nice final episode too.

  15. The only X book I buy is X-Factor 🙁

    I don’t like any of the other X-Men books. If it is cancelled the only books that I’ll be buying from Marvel will be cosmic stuff. To bad, I really like the characters in the book. My particular favorite being Layla. 

  16. Well just frak me sideways.

  17. Ron openly laughed and mocked this book, making me think he’s a self hating X fan.  Because supposedly this book was great.  I never read it, but I don’t doubt Peter David’s quality writing.

  18.  I’ve been buying it since issue 7 and the only time I really didn’t like it was when Larry S. was doing the art. Its a pretty big seller in the shop I help out at so this is suprising. This sucks.

  19. I’ve read a couple issues here and there of my friends and bought the Layla Miller and Quicksilver one-shots.  I’ll add this to the list of stuff I need to buy in trade.

  20. Being as this is my favorite book on the stands, I’ve been trying to mentally prepare myself for if the book was ever cancelled, and after 4 or so years, it’s still extremely difficult. This book will leave a huge hole in my stack, as it’s easily the book I look forward to the most every month. Hell, because of this book, I got Madrox’s symbol tattooed on my shoulder blade!

    I hope these rumors arent true, since the stories are still invigorating and, in my mind, never really hit a speed bump. (Except for those Larry Strohman issues, yuck)

  21. Lame if it happens.  This was at the top of my list of "Things That Make Me Happy" last week.  Although the last set of numbers I saw had X-Factor selling about 4,000 more copies than Captain Britain (maybe I dreamed it but I hope not)

  22. Boy, people really have it in for Larry Stroman. He definitely threw me in the nineties, but I enjoyed his brief return visit.

  23. I loved X-Factor until it got eaten by crossovers. At which point I stayed on for nearly a year, but the book never recovered.

  24. The crossovers didn’t help, but I think it still might have some promise.  Daredevil did go bimonthly for a few issues leading up to #500, so lets keep our fingers crossed

  25. Nice piece.  Thanks especially for hi-lighting David’s somewhat forgotten work on Spectacular, which was pretty spectacular (as opposed of course to Amazing Spider-Man which, as I recall, at that time wasn’t particularly amazing–Web of Spider-Man, in all fairness, was constantly fairly Webby).  Looking back, I buy your theory that those books rewrote Peter Parker for the modern era–a guy who took a licking and kept on joking.  Also loved how David put his name at the end of each book like he was signing a love letter. 

  26. Jim, good article – I’ll check out the first trade.

  27. I remember when I read the last issue of The Circle by Brian Reed.  I had no idea the book was going away until his letter on the final page of the book, which was crushing because it was flippin’ awesome.  

  28. @Jimski: I actually think that Strohman’s recent stuff is far worse than his stuff in the 90’s. Yeah, his character models and faces were still all discombobulated back then, but at least they didn’t look like ugly versions of Picasso paitings like they do now

  29. Home Movies *was* a funny show

  30. X-factor was one of my favorite books ever and I loved peter Davids run on it. His exploration o Quicksilver and Madrox was great. he made me care about Wolfsbane and strong guy. He made Alex and Lorna seem more than "The Scott and Jean b team." It was a great title. The Madrox mini later on was strong and I was up for the relaunch. I’ve been on board for the whole run so far, and have enjoyed all of it. it is the only X-team book I read. I it is cancelled,  will be very, very sad.

  31. Home Movies is still being replayed on Adult Swim. If you’ve never seen it, I advise you to seek it out, because it’s fucking funny!

  32. it was only a matter of time after messiah complex.

  33. The only X book I like

  34. Honestly? The book’s been dead in the water for well over a year. Most subscriptions at my shop have dropped it. It hasn’t been very good in a long time. I still suggest picking up the earlier trades. Because they are good, but not just to keep this shambling mess going.

  35. I pray that the book will see new numbering, and not be canceled, but I also find it unlikely. You echo all of my thoughts Jim, but I hate you for bringing me this news. C’est la vie.

  36. Being the only X-book I read, it’s one of the odd men out in my pull list, not really connected to anything else, so every time I feel like I should drop something, I look at X-Factor. But it’s so good, and I always enjoy David’s writing so much, that I just can’t.

  37. I liked this book at first but, seemingly like a few of you guys here, I really stopped enjoying it after a while. I picked up the cross over issues with she-hulk (which PAD ruined incidentally) and Stroman’s art, along with a story which didn’t really make sense to me, reassured me of my earlier choice to drop this book. I get why people like it, but its not for me… and for that reason, i’m out.

  38. I actually dropped this book for quite a while around Secret Invasion and the She-Hulk crossover.  I picked it up at the beginning of the arc that makes up the most recent trade (maybe hardcover?) release. It got better again.  As Josh and Ron discussed on the podcast, it may not have gotten better in a way that people who loved the original noir-in-mutant-town premise are all going to like, but it’s been a consistently interesting book that focuses on the characters PAD built up so well in the early part of that run.  So, what I’m saying is, just because you dropped it once doesn’t mean the book sucks now.

  39. Not cancelled, renumbered from #200

  40. That never happens! Updated to reflect the news.

  41. WHOOHOO!!!  X-Factor is stayin around!  Now for the universe to even itself out something horrible is going to happen…Jeph Loeb takes over at #212…AHCK!!HISSSS!NOOOO!!!!!!

  42. just saw the news on Marvel.com. I don’t read this book but I’m glad for all the books fans that it’s not being cancelled.

  43. I’m not only excited the book is going to stay around, but the planned direction sounds like a good move.  Very pleased!

  44. X-Factor #87 (where Doc Samson is brought in to evaluate all of the team members) remains one of my favorite single issues of a comic ever written. I love those character studies….

     

    oh, and Home Movies was one of the funniest TV shows ever made. I love Metalocalypse, but not as much as HM.

  45. X-factor 13 may be my favorite issue of all time. It was actually the first issue of X-Factor I had read. I wish every series did an issue where all of the characters sat down and had a chat with a shrink. Hell, most of em need it anyway.