I feel no compunctions saying this is one of my favorite issues of X-Factor ever written or drawn. My reviews of this arc may be glowing, but I have definitely had my problems with certain issues, and the fact that the arc itself seems to have dragged, but the final siege of Mephisto’s fortress is one of the most impactful, gut-wrenching issues of X-Factor that I’ve read in the last 10 years. Last issue, Guido made a mistake he may never be able to forgive himself for, but he’ll be damned (perhaps literally) if he doesn’t try, Polaris still isn’t sure what her role on the team is, Mephisto’s daughter Jezebel has had enough of papa’s wheeling, dealing, and treachery, and Tier has decided, sadly, that non-violence isn’t going to cut it against an opponent incapable of feeling compassion. These threads and so many more, I haven’t even mentioned Layla and Madrox, weave perfectly together in this issue about sending a message to Mephisto that he may have won the battle for the title of Lord of Hell, but he’ll have to defend it if he wants to keep it.
Peter David has absolutely outdone himself this time. I was already amazed when, in the midst of a mega-crossover event like Messiah Complex, he was able to keep the spotlight on his characters and their stories (that still have tremendous relevance years later), but this arc was completely contained in X-Factor and so would succeed, or fail, on its own terms. And while it faltered a few times in the lead-up, it has succeeded beyond even my elevated expectations. The action really takes a backseat to the moment to moment characters, so many of whom get to take center stage, if only for a brief and shining moment, before being cruelly brushed aside. But it’s the kind of cruelty you can get behind because it feels earned rather than stunted and the issue ends with one of the absolute most jaw-dropping moments that I absolutely can’t wait for the next issue.
Leonard Kirk is firing on all cylinders as well. I’ve always praised his facial expressions, but in an issue like this, they’re more important than ever and they’re all absolutely amazing. The action feels a bit more like you’re taking long blinks in the midst of a heated battle, but in this case the feeling of disorientation and unexpected interlopers works well. There are many, many shocking moments in this book and Kirk captures each and every one beautifully.
What can I say? This issue is everything I love about X-Factor and while this arc may have taken a little too long to wrap up, this particular issue is perfect. It’s not a great issue for someone just getting into the series, or who has been off-and-on with it, but it’s the finale of a vast and major arc, it shouldn’t have to cater to everyone. The only thing I don’t like is that future authors of not just this book, but many others, may disregard one particularly huge change to the status quo that happens. Here’s to hoping they’re paying attention and that they think it’s as amazing of an idea as I do (or that Peter David himself closes the loop by series’ end).
If you’ve been reading X-Factor, you absolutely must pick this issue up. Certain events transpire that completely change the dynamic of the rest of the Marvel Universe, there’s a literal siege on the palace of a Lord of Hell, but, as always, the book is about the individuals that have made it up for the last approximate ten years. I say approximate because, obviously, not all the characters have been in the book for that long, but those who have seem to have found a place they can truly belong, and grow, outside of their humble origins. I know that Peter David still has issues to go before the series concludes, but if this had been the end it would have been a worthy, if not a little urgent, one. I can’t recommend this issue to those who haven’t been following the series closely, but I can recommend the collected trade when it comes out to anyone who likes a ton of character in their superhero stories. And of course, to anyone already reading, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??