The Pull List: X-Factor-Fox’s Next Priority
The Pull List started as a weekly spotlight on interesting new releases, but it has since redirected that spotlight to random thoughts about characters, storylines, and other comic book elements.
The R-rated, modestly budgeted one-two punch of Deadpool and Logan seems to have lit a fire under Fox. Sure, they are moving forward with X-Men: Dark Phoenix, where they are re-doing the Phoenix Saga, and The Gifted, Fox’s new mutant underground railroad show, and both are probably going to be the same-old-same-old. Everything else they are doing is really excited though. Legion was a crazy mind trip of a show, the best new show so far this year, from Fargo showrunner, Noah Hawley. Deadpool 2 is happening with one of the co-directors of John Wick, and it is leading into both a Deadpool 3 and an X-Force spin-off (also featuring Deadpool). For some reason, they are adapting the Demon Bear Saga for the horror-leaning New Mutants movie. Plus, Deadpool is getting his own prime time cartoon on FX from Donald Glover. That one doesn’t even sound real. It sounds like something I made up to make myself feel better. All of these bold choices make me think an adaptation of my favorite X-title is right around the corner.
But first, a little background.
Following the Dark Phoenix Saga, where Jean Grey was thought to be dead and the X-Men were scattered to the wind, the original five (Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Angel, and a not-so-dead Jean Grey) pretended not to be mutants and set up shop as mutant hunters for hire. Of course, this was all a ruse so they could round up outed mutants and protect them. The name was eventually co-opted by The Pentagon for their pro-mutant task force led by Cyclops’ brother, Havok. It featured characters like Multiple Man, Strong Guy, and Wolfsbane, all three of whom would be featured in the version of X-Factor I am actually talking about.
It all started with a miniseries called Madrox, which I included in our must read comics of all time list. It starred Jamie Madrox, aka the Multiple Man, who over the course of this mini and the series it spawned, became one of Marvel’s best characters. His mutant power was the ability to make clones of himself, that he called “dupes” (short for duplicate). These dupes could be sent out into the world to learn things and then return to be re-absorbed along with all the knowledge they collected. Madrox sent one to law school. One to seminary. One to study with Buddhist monks. One to enlist in SHIELD. Countless others. The one sent to study philosophy is real peach.
Meanwhile, he opened up a private investigator office (named X-Factor Investigations), with dupes wandering in randomly to give Madrox-Prime a little extra know-how. He has spread himself pretty thin. He is literally and figuratively searching for an identity, plagued by an existential dread that pairs nicely with his obsession with film noir. He is trying so hard to carve a place for himself in every possible niche that he never really comfortably fits anywhere.
He is pretty well-staffed too. His closest employee and friend is the powerhouse palooka Strong Guy, a goon by most standards except for his general friendliness. They are joined most memorably by:
- half-human, half-animal, all-Christian, Wolfsbane
- the traumatized Irish screamer, Siryn
- Monet St. Croix, a debutante who has way more control over her super strength and ability to fly than her psychic ability
- 2 genetically engineered, interdimensional super-soldiers: Longshot and Shatterstar
- and 2 de-powered mutants for moral support: Rictor and Layla Miller
That de-powered element is no joke. This is one of the X-titles to sort of spin-off from the Marvel-wide House of M event that concluded with the Scarlet Witch announcing “No More Mutants.” The sudden drop in the mutant population was one of X-Factor’s first investigations, and that trend would continue through its run as it was continuously interrupted by Marvel’s big picture events. However, it is its ability to be foot-on-the-ground superhero tales that make it great for this newly ambitious Fox Studios direction.
The X-Men are essentially the best the mutant community has to offer. They’re cover models essentially. The all-star team of an entire species. The impossibly attractive and talented spokespeople for the community at large, who just so happen to be protected in a fancy boarding school on a secluded piece of New York land. X-Factor, on the other hand, have set up shop in a brownstone in downtown New York City. They walk outside their door, and they are rubbing elbows with mutants of all sorts. Some of them can barely control their abilities. Some of them are too strange looking to pass for human. Their problems become X-Factor’s problems, and suddenly, it becomes a very different kind of mission than the X-Men’s.
If the X-Men are the Avengers, than X-Factor is the Defenders. There are no safe havens in Mutant Town. Madrox and his team get cynical quick because the desperate fight for survival is around every corner. There is no downtime between cases. The uncaring world continues on not worried about whether or not you need a break. Mutants are hunted, attacked, kidnapped, and killed on a regular basis making the idea of a pick-up baseball game or pool-side cookout, the kind we might see between X-Men missions, seem trivial. Instead, they drink at the bar across the street and hook up with each other looking for a semblance of happiness, even if it is fleeting. Madrox essentially infects them all with noir.
Of course, there is an elephant in the room that I have avoided. Being detectives makes this version of X-Factor even better for TV where the case-of-the-week procedural is so popular. If any of the basic TV channels are going to bite at this chance, they are going to want weekly resolutions, basically turning it into Bones or Castle but with superpowers. I honestly can’t think of anything more boring. I despise shows that solve a case every episode, and I hope if this particular property ever does make it to TV, it follows in the footsteps of other golden age TV shows: a slim 10-13 episode series with a few different B-plots but one major A-plot.
Further reading: Here’s an old article I did fan-casting this team. There are definitely some changes I would make, but for the most part, I stand by it.