Mutant History X: 'X-Factor' Returns

Mon, January 21st, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

[X-Factor?]With last year's retooling and relaunching of the X-Men family of comics,

there were fans who waited and wondered what had happened to one of Marvel Comics' mainstays

through the late 1980s and 1990s, "X-Factor." While the original X-Factor

characters -- the original X-Men themselves -- have found homes in the

pages of other X-books, the title itself will be coming out of mothballs

this April for a four issue miniseries by writer Jeff Jensen and artist

Arthur Ranson.

"The high concept is this," Jensen told CBR News on Thursday, "'X-Men

meets Mississippi Burning meets The X-Files.' It is indeed dark; but

ultimately, it's a very hopeful book, about two very damaged adults on a

long, painful struggle toward redemption and some sort of peace -- with

themselves, with the world around them. 'X-Factor' is an epic mystery,

marked by politics, religion, murder, and most curiously, prosthetic limbs.

And yes, there are X-Men in this book. Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler,

Wolverine and Beast play crucial roles."

Of course, in the past year, mutants have gone from being the most hated

minority in the Marvel Universe to being pop stars and media darlings in

the pages of the new Pete Milligan/Mike Allred "X-Force." How the new

"X-Force" and "X-Factor" co-exist in the same universe, Jensen wouldn't

divulge at this time.

"But I will say this: 'X-Factor' seeks to be a compliment to the monthly

X-books. It seeks to interface with Morrison and Milligan's wild,

universe-expanding work. It seeks to add new dimension to the X-Men

universe. If 'X-Factor' fails to succeed at any of the aforementioned, then

I will have a lot of apologizing to do."

Jensen's name may not be familiar to most comic readers, although

"X-Factor" won't be the first comic to bear his name on the stands.

"This is not my first assignment in mainstream comics. In 1993-94, I

co-wrote about 14 or so issues of 'Team Titans' for DC Comics with my good

friend Phil Jimenez, who was drawing the book at the time. The quality of

the books were not helped by my inexperience and immaturity as a comics

writer; sheer enthusiasm and instinct, apparently, are not enough to be a

competent comics scribe. But I feel I'm a much better writer now; I'm 31,

not 22, and I've lived some life to draw from. I've always wanted to get

back into comics -- after all, it's been a life-long dream to write comics,

and life-long dreams aren't easily surrendered -- and so, finally, after

seven years on the sidelines, I'm giving it another crack. I like to think

I learned a lot from past experience. One of the reasons I waited so long

was to make sure I had an idea worth readers' time, worth a publisher's

money, worth the risk of embarrassing myself once again; hopefully,

'X-Factor' will succeed on all three counts. Last summer (summer, 2001), I

came up with such an idea, a refinement of something I had been

brainstorming for years, and pitched it to Marvel. The result is 'X-Factor.'"

Sharp-eyed comic fans may have spotted his name elsewhere in the

intervening period.

"I am a staff writer for Entertainment Weekly magazine. I work for the Movies

section, though I've written all sort of stuff for the magazine, including

comic book reviews. EW is my bread and butter, the real focus of my

creative/professional life; comics are for fun. I'm pursuing the comics

work with the blessing of my editors, though to protect the magazine from

any conflict of interest, I will no longer be writing about comics for EW.

"Am I a longtime X-Men fan? You bet! Ever since X-Men 113/114, which was

my first exposure to these characters. There was something weird and

dangerous and mature about those stories. I was hooked, and was especially

drawn to the Cyclops/Phoenix love story and Nightcrawler's struggles with

his freakishness and faith. As I got older, I came to better understand and

appreciate the X-Universe as allegory for tolerance, discrimination and

plurality. 'X-Factor' is steeped in my life long fascination with X-Men --

both its fantasy world and real-life corollaries.

After "X-Factor" wraps up this summer, readers should be able to find

more of Jensen's work on the stands soon thereafter.

"I've written three short stories for Marvel that should see publication

this year: two Captain America shorts (drawn by Frank Quitely and Paul

Rivoche, respectively) and a Beast short (drawn by John Tolteben). Marvel

has been pleased enough with my writing so far to offer me other projects,

though it would probably be best not to talk about them now. As for

checking out more of my work ... well, there was 'Team Titans.' And I

wouldn't recommend that to ANYONE."

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