THE UNADAPTED: X-Factor

Posted: August 12, 2014 in Havok, Madrox, Marvel, Peter David, The Unadapted, X-Factor, X-Men

The “X-Men” sub-genre of books within the Marvel Universe tend to be very different from one another. There are various teams, agencies and allegiances and too many characters to name here. Within so many of those X-books the idea of change remains a fitting constant. All of these titles have seen massive shifts in tone, characters and concept. This edition of The Unadapted will look at one of those teams that’s had relatively little in the way of exposure outside of the page.

Together again…

The original version of X-Factor was created as a way to get the X-Men back to their roots. In the mid-80’s, the team had an ever-increasing roster that was becoming unmanageable. Founding members were being relegated to smaller roles due to increasingly popular new additions. The original five left the team (which was a feat in and of itself due to the complex character histories) and set up shop as “Mutant Hunters”. This novel idea was that the main characters would pose as humans who would hunt rogue mutants for hire. However, instead of killing or imprisoning their prey, they were actually rescuing and recruiting them to their team. A shockingly interesting idea for a group as well-worn as the X-Men. This iteration of the team lasted until the early 90’s. In that time, they had recruited new members and become a force all their own.

In 1991, the X-books were undergoing a bit of a re-branding. With that came a new status quo and shifting around of popular characters (Thus, the original 5 went back to the X-Men to appeal to wider audiences) however, X-Factor didn’t end. With issue 71, the team became a government entity with an entirely new roster. It was now lead by Havok (Cyclops’ brother) while Val Cooper (an NSA agent) was in charge of their oversight. The remainder of the team was filled with second stringers from various mutant-centric comics.

So wonderfully 90’s.

The new direction of the book proved to be hit with readers. In part because of the well-known bit players who were given a chance to shine, but largely due to the writing of Peter David. He fleshed out the personalities of this group of mutant G-Men and gave them each moments to prove themselves. Easily the character who stood out the most was Jamie Madrox, The Multiple Man. He had been introduced a decade and a half prior and hadn’t done much to make a mark within the Marvel U. Once David took over the character, he became a fan favorite. He was sarcastic, humorous but remained remarkably human.

This version of the team went through many rosters before it ended in 1998 after a total of 149 issues. There was a mini-series in 2002 that shared the name of the series but almost nothing else. This version focused on non-mutant government agents investigating mutant related hate-crimes and conspiracies. It didn’t make much of a splash despite borrowing imagery from the X-Men films for its covers. Many fans assumed the team had run it’s course. However, Peter David wasn’t through with his favorite mutants just yet.

X-Factor Investigations

In 2006, David revitalized the characters in a mini-series called Madrox. In the series, the titular Multiple Man (along with Strong Guy and Wolfsbane) operated a detective agency originally titled XXX Investigations (…yes there was a porn joke) in “Mutant Town”, an area of New York overrun with Homo Superior. The team was reimagined as detectives and cast Madrox’s multiplication powers in an entirely new and interesting light. The book was a huge success and months later spawned a new X-Factor ongoing series. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s available in trade and is a wonderful starting point to these characters.

The new book focused on a team of “has been” characters from the 90’s. It dealt with their reaction to a recent loss of mutant powers as well as their own relationships within the team. It was even more popular than the Madrox series and (despite renumbering) ended in 2013 after 94 total issues. Not long after its finale, X-Factor was relaunched once more with an “All New” prefix added to it. While it retained Peter David as writer, it ditched Multiple Man in favor of some fresh blood. To date, the series is going strong and continues to garner critical praise.

“Don’t worry fans, we’ll be back!”
“Oops. Never mind.”

The modern take on the team has especially resonated with readers. Madrox has proven to be a flawed and undeniably likeable character while the (slightly rotating) supporting cast provide an interesting mix of personalities. Any adaptation would be wise to pull extensively from this iteration. Speaking of adaptations, X-Factor did make one small appearance on television. Many of the individual characters have shown up in the various X-Men cartoons (Madrox even had a bit-part in the third movie!) but the team showed up in a single episode of the 90’s cartoon. Cold Comfort saw former X-Man Iceman track down his ex-lover, Polaris, only to discover that she’s moved on to another team of super-mutants. X-Factor, lead by Forge on the show, spars with the X-Men in the closing moments of the episode and the two teams part as uneasy allies. While they are only featured for about 5 minutes, it was a respectful and interesting debut for them. Sadly, the show was cancelled before anything more came of it.

I’m not exaggerating when I say his 30 seconds of screen
time was the best thing in that movie.

There would have been a prefect time for an X-Factor film about 5-8 years ago. After X-Men: The last Stand closed the book on Xavier’s School, Fox could have introduced the world to a new batch of mutants. Eric Dane had already played Madrox and he likely would have been a good lead. I think it would have been a great idea to borrows elements of the comic’s “Decimation” story but adapted it to the “Cure” plot of the films. Since that didn’t happen and X-Men: Days of Future Past quietly changed the [redacted due to spoilers] of the preceding films, the field is pretty wide open. Recasting would probably be required, but I think a live action franchise could be built around X-Factor. Madrox, Strong Guy, Siryn and Wolfsbane should be the core of the team with tertiary characters added as the script dictates. The X-Men films haven’t yet given us “street level” characters to follow and this would be a wonderful opportunity.

While there are no current plans from Fox to create a spinoff to their X-franchise, they would be foolish to not at least consider it. There are entire franchises worth of potential within the expanded X-books (don’t even get me started on X-Statix…that’s another Unadapted all together) and they should follow the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s lead in trying out some of the lower profile heroes.

Just look at how f*cking cool he is!
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