Sunday, August 11, 2013

Review # 28: "X-Factor - 'Time and a Half' and 'Overtime'"

These two volumes represent a major turning point for the X-Factor series as its scope becomes far more ambitious. The plots become bigger (and surprisingly more mystical,) notable relationships develop while others fall apart and character conflict goes into overdrive. Thankfully, Larry Stroman is gone and Valentine De Landro - X-Factor's first definitive artist - is back for what I consider a masterpiece.

The first two issues of "Time and a Half" are among the best of Peter David's run, if not THE best. Siryn gives birth to her child, comes to grips with the death of her father... and then her world is shattered. This sends Jamie Madrox into exodus, eventually crossing paths with his priest dupe John. Once again, these distorted reflections play off each other brilliantly. As Jamie contemplates his own existence, his world is turned upside-down and he finds himself far in the future trying to find out exactly what happened to Layla Miller.

That's the mostly spoiler-free version, which cannot possibly do justice to the material collected. I know it's vague, and I am practically omitting two MAJOR story elements here, but these works leave your jaw on the floor along with your heartstrings tugged and I don't want to ruin that. They represent two incredible payoffs which close to 40 issues had been building to. But - of course - this is Peter David's X-Factor, which means if there's a resolution, a ton of questions linger.

The answers - again - have to wait for a while as more new pieces enter the story. First, the return of Shatterstar who (within a few issues) becomes 100 times more interesting than he had been with X-Force. Looking more badass than ever, he arrives as the pawn of a mysterious new villain. Shatterstar manages to break free of the control, and his reaction to seeing former X-Force teammate Rictor again is certainly one you won't forget.

The aforementioned mysterious new villain is trying to alter the past to eliminate mutants from the future Madrox finds himself trapped in. He's in the midst of the "Summers Rebellion" against Sentinel-policed mutant oppression, which had been vaguely mentioned by Bishop - who's from that timeline - in X-Men issues all the way back in the early 90s. Two members of the Summers family are involved, including new character Ruby - the daughter of Cyclops and Emma Frost - who in an amazing coincidence has inherited Emma's power to change her body into walking jewelry. Only instead of diamond like her mom, it's what her dad's sunglasses were made out of. How convenient. The other member of the Summers family living in that time is an unexpected twist that plays off Madrox's presence 80 years down the road perfectly.

So... Jamie, the Summers family and their allies - including a strangely non-villainous Trevor Fitzroy, Bishop's psychotic former arch-nemesis - have to stop the villains of this arc from changing the past, and they need a time travel expert to do it. The only one available? A half-senile Doctor Doom, who even with his diminished mental capacity still manages to be more evil and manipulative than all of the other villains combined. David's writing of the character is on par with the likes of John Byrne from his legendary run on Fantastic Four, and old Victor proves to be such a bastard that you can't help but love him.

In the end, the success of the plan is left partially up to interpretation, we learn about why Fitzroy's conscience disappeared... and we learn the TRUTH about Layla Miller. Yes, she knows stuff. While it's creepy, her REAL power is much more disturbing.

These books play out like the finale of one season of a TV show and the start of a second one. It's pretty obvious where the cliffhanger would be, too. What's unfortunate is both of these books are overdue for a reprint and - combined - can cost hundreds. That, or you're waiting for months. I feel incredibly lucky to have gotten my hands on these at a local shop and it's a crime that Marvel is practically withholding them from the masses.

Get off your ass, guys.

Rating: Normally, I'd break these trades apart, but this really is just a single arc. "Time and a Half" and "Overtime" get an overall score of 9/10.

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