Trying out a new segment where I’m going to have a school yard debate on the merits of the best comic book teams. First up is one of my personal favorites and earliest teams I couldn’t wait to read each month – X-Factor.
Angel/Archangel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Marvel Girl
Flight, acrobatic melee combat, concussive energy blast, extreme weather manipulation and telekinetic/telepathic.
(As X-Factor) X-Factor #1 (February 1986)
When Jean Grey emerged from the cocoon-like state Phoenix put her in, the rest of the original X-Men were motivated to reunite to help stem the tide of anti-mutant hysteria while remaining true to the ideals of their mentor Charles Xavier.
Posing as an anti-mutant squad ready to help poor humans from those nasty mutants (who ya gonna call?), X-Factor would secretly use their abilities to help rescue prosecuted mutants and train them in using their powers. When the situation called for a more blatant display of their abilities, the original X-Men took on the identity of the X-Terminators and battled evil mutants, demons and more.
Freedom Force, The Marauders, Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, Cameron Hodge and The Right
Key Creative Team
Louise and Walt Simonson. Louise wrote while Walt drew.
No longer children and without their father figure Xavier around, the team found their reunion more troublesome than they expected.
Angel struggled with a longtime crush on Marvel Girl, who was unaware of Cyclops’ actions since believing her dead. Wracked with guilt over abandoning his wife and child, Cyclops frequently had difficulties connecting with his teammates outside of the battlefield.
Beast constantly shifted from blue and furry to human while also dealing with the loss of his intelligence. In a battle with Loki, Iceman’s powers maxed out and he needed a regulator belt to prevent from covering everything in his path, including himself, in ice.
Warped and manipulated by Apocalypse, Angel became his fourth horsemen Archangel, before returning to X-Factor during Inferno. No longer the carefree pretty boy, Warren Worthington III dealt with a far darker side in an ongoing effort to ignore his twisted impulses.
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3 Must-Read Arcs
Mutant Massacre (X-Factor #9-11)
Mister Sinister unleashes The Marauders to kill the Morlocks sparking a massacre X-Factor unwittingly enters as they try to protect their charges. The ensuing battles cause significant damage and destruction ultimately leading to the death of one team member. Midway through the saga, X-Factor comes close to reuniting with their colleagues in the X-Men, which likely would have turned the tide and prevented further death and changes to both teams.
The Fall of the Mutants (X-Factor #24-26)
Apocalypse unleashes his Four Horsemen to strike fear and terror to the world and only X-Factor can stop him. This was the arc that really set X-Factor up as a top-tier team in the Marvel Universe as Apocalypse’s threat was huge drawing out other heroes including Captain America, Black Widow, Daredevil and Power Pack out. Ultimately, X-Factor triumphed and all the world embraced the former controversial heroes. This was a big step for a mutant group and marked a major turning point in how the team was presented alongside the likes of peers including the Avengers and Fantastic Four.
Inferno (X-Factor #35-40)
This was the crossover everything had been building toward as X-Factor finally reunited with the X-Men, but not in the manner anyone thought as the two teams faced off while Mister Sinister, The Goblin Queen, N’astirh and S’ym plotted. X-Factor more than held their own against the X-Men proving they were just as capable and powerful as their successors. Jean Grey finally conquered the demon of Madeline Pryor while Cyclops vanquished his longtime tormentor Mr. Sinister.
The Case For
X-Factor covered most of the core team abilities with only five characters. It boasted arguably the Marvel Universe’s best tactician (apologies to Captain America), two Omega level mutants and a genius who doubled as a brawler. Angel was always the team’s weak link since all he did was fly, but the transformation to Archangel made him a bad a$$ long before it became an over used 90s trope.
Their abilities put them at least on even footing with the X-Men to the point they battled them to a standstill despite being shorthanded. Even with only three members the team fought Grey Hulk to a draw and held off aliens mimicking the Avengers’ powers with just four members.
The Case Against
While an A-level team, X-Factor struggled with weak villains as the big guns were saved for the crossovers. Unless you were invested in the interpersonal drama of the team members, clashes with giants, Japanese cyborg samurai and a pair of mutant baby stealers weren’t exactly the best use of the group.
Without X-Factor it’s hard to envision the 90s being synonymous with the X-Men for Marvel and comics in general. The regular X-Men team hadn’t lost their popularity, but X-Factor, more so than early spin-off New Mutants, was a team with a shared history with the X-Men legacy and showed the viability of an X-brand franchise anchored by the two teams.
X-Factor also introduced or popularized several lasting villains in Mister Sinister and Apocalypse who would become staples of the X-universe.
Long before Jonathan Hickman established the Future Foundation in Fantastic Four, Louise Simonson kept the focus of X-Factor on the evolution of the mutant hero base. Many of the young mutants X-Factor rescued would go on to become popular and lasting characters in their own right from Boom-Boom, Artie & Leech and Rictor.
So what’s the verdict? Is X-Factor the best team ever? Leave a comment with a score of 1-10. I’m going to keep a running count on the teams for this “season” and we’ll see who wins. Take part in the vote and get a special prize when we wrap. Let’s do it!
Photo Credit: Marvel Comics