Written by Peter David
Pencils by Valentine De Landro
Inks by Pat Davidson and Craig Yeung
Color art by Jeremy Cox
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Brendan McGuirk
X-Factor #50 is the long-earned payoff to Peter David's long-form story arc on the cult favorite mutant magazine.
And boy is it explode-y.
David addresses the book's change of pace right off the bat, with the rogue Jamie Madrox duplicate Cortex explicitly stating of the long awaited battle, “There's nothing elegant about this. Nothing clever. It isn't the slightest bit noir... It is what it is.”
“What it is,” is a frenzied throwdown across time and space, with stakes that are nothing less than the fate and future of mutantkind. It's a departure from the book's assumed role as the thinking fan's X-book, but it manages to, despite Cortex's lamentations, solve some mysteries along the way. Madrox is fighting for the future, against his own dark shadow, the greatest villain in the Marvel Universe, and the usual hate & ignorance vendetta mutants find themselves opposite. Oh, and there are Sentinels. Mega Sentinels.
X-Factor is a funny book, because on the one hand it is very modern in its pace and structure, but on the other hand its central players are all pretty closely tied to the late 80's/ early 90's X-boom, an era not exactly known for its subtly. The plot is meticulous, and the genre stylings deliberate, but at the same time- hey- there's Trevor Fitzroy. This, of course, is the handiwork of writer Peter David, who was present in those heady, halcyon days, but survived through the bust to the market of today. It is to his credit that he has managed to creatively evolve throughout the bridging of those eras, as few artists and even fewer writers have, but at the same time there's something precious about using modern narrative tools to tell time-traveling mutant stories. David himself even seems to poke fun at the confounding, incestuous nature of those old stories with a wink and a nod here and there.
Of course, David has always been a master of all kinds of stories, so the development of this one from shrewd detective to Sentinel heavy blockbuster is both organic and successful. It's got action and excitement, but more importantly; it also has answers. Finally revealed is the secret, and the curse, of Layla Miller. Her story, much like that of antagonist Anthony Falcone, is tragically circuitous. Layla's big reveal, a long standing thread of the book, is satisfying, but while it is sure to impress some, it is just as sure that it will underwhelm others. Such is the nature of comic fandom.
X-Factor fans will find this anniversary issue to be a stark change of pace to the title, but a rewarding one. Artist Valentine De Landro brings great vibrancy and clarity to the work, with a style that compares itself favorably to Mike McKone. This installment closes the book on one of the great mysteries of modern X-books, but does so while reminding us that there are many more stories to tell.