X-Factor debuted as an X-Men spinoff in early 1986. For Marvel, it was the opportunity to bring the original X-Men together after so many years. For the record, Cyclops left the leadership of the X-Men to Storm and tried to live a quiet life with his wife Madelyne Pryor and their son. The Beast, Angel and Iceman had recently left The Defenders. Thus, those characters were free game for other projects.
In addition to all that, it just so happened that a recently reformed Magneto had been put in charge of the X-Men by Charles Xavier before the latter left Earth for some years. And more importantly, it turned out that Jean Grey had not died a few years before. She was found sleeping in an escape pod in Jamaica Bay by The Avengers, who brought her to Reed Richards. They all learned, including Jean herself, that the Jean Grey who became Phoenix early in Chris Claremont's run and died in The Dark Phoenix Saga actually was the Phoenix, who replaced Jean in Stephen Lang's platform.
Mr. Fantastic brought the news to Angel, who in turn called the other original X-Men, and they all reunited with Jean. They didn't want to deal with Magneto, so they formed a new group. They dedicated themselves to continuing Xavier's dream, with an odd twist: they masqueraded themselves as mutant hunters living in advanced headquarters, while secretely saving and training new mutants. And thus X-Factor was born, with Bob Layton and Butch Guice as the first creative team. Louise Simonson soon replaced Layton and milked the masquerade for all it was worth before discarding it and making X-Factor publicly mutant heroes, in contrast to the X-Men who were hidden outlaws at the time.
After the original members rejoined the expanded team of X-Men in 1991, Peter David took the series over. The title switched to detailing the exploits of a new, government-sanctioned team of mutants, most notable for turning C-List Fodder like Jamie Madrox into ascended extras. The series was eventually cancelled in 1998.
In 2006, Marvel launched a new series with Madrox as the lead character of a new X-Factor team with more Film Noir elements than before, where most of the old team and some new members had become private investigators. This book eventually resumed the numbering of the old series, so it breaks down into: vol. 1 #1-#70 (original X-Men), #71-#149 (government team), vol. 2 #1-#50 (detectives), then #200 onwards (still detectives). The series concluded in late 2013.
In 2014, Marvel launched All-New X-Factor, still with Peter David and renumbered again. They're a corporate superteam with Polaris as their leader and the mysterious Harrison Snow of Serval Industries as their bankroller. Gambit and Quicksilver joined in the first issue. The series lasted 20 issues.
In 2020, Marvel relaunched X-Factor as part of the Dawn of X relaunch. The series goes back to the private investigator premise, with the titular team investigating missing mutant cases to allow for their resurrection by the Five.
Has nothing to do with the reality series.
Following volumes with their own pages:
The series provides examples of the following tropes:
- Aborted Arc: In issue #12, Jean's sister Sara was apparently kidnapped by a group of anti-mutant bigots who blew up her house. Exactly who had Sara was unclear, with her children later turning up as brainwashed prisoners of Nanny during Inferno. Despite Jean vowing to find out what happened to Sara, the story went unresolved in the pages of X-Factor, with Sara's fate only being revealed six years later in an issue of X-Men that tied into the Phalanx Covenant crossover.
- Ascended Extra: On the second team, Multiple Man and especially Strong Guy, who had little personality and neither a codename nor a last name before joining.
- Bat Family Crossover: Inferno and X-Tinction Agenda involved X-Factor, the X-Men and the New Mutants. The Muir Island Saga led directly to the major lineup changes. Often lampshaded during the government era, as the new cast usually doesn't fit in with the X-Men's tendencies toward Darker and Edgier and Wangst. Doc Samson comments that they're "refreshingly normal" for a mutant team, and Strong Guy's wisecracking during the otherwise grim X-Cutioner's Song crossover leads Havok to say, "stop it, you're embarrassing me." During the Phalanx Covenant crossover, Strong Guy comments on how he hasn't even met most of the roster of the other X-Books.
- Brainwashed: Even though Warren had willingly agreed to serve Apocalypse in exchange for new wings (bear in mind he was borderline suicidal at the time, and everyone thought he was dead), Apocalypse still programmed him to be loyal. It wasn't thorough enough, though, and Warren rejoined X-Factor.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Havok during part of the Inferno storyline.
- Cape Busters: When they first started using the name X-Factor, the team pretended to be normal humans who captured mutants as an excuse to recruit young mutants to train.
- Catchphrase: The initial government lineup tended to say "cripes" a lot. Then there's Strong Guy's made-up insult, "blork", his politically correct term for mutants "geecees" (short for "genetically challenged"), frequently threatening "I'll defenestrate 'em" when a villain does something offensive, and several instances where someone responds to "nobody move!" with "mind if I scratch my nose?".
- Cloning Blues: Jean learns to deal with two beings copying her body. Madelyne, meanwhile, couldn't cope with the revelation of being a clone.
- Colorful Theme Naming: The vampiric Ravens all had names related to blue or red: Crimson, Azure, Coral, Cerise, Beryl, Ruby, and Cobalt.
- Custom Uniform: The government team shared a common color scheme, with individual variations: Madrox's full cowl and Badass Longcoat, Havok's leather jacket and headgear, Strong Guy's coke-bottle glasses, etc. Quicksilver stuck out because he kept his traditional light-blue with silver lightning outfit. It fits his aloof and arrogant demeanor, but also shows his grudging acceptance of membership in the group of True Companions that develops. Although when it's noted that the uniform is optional, Strong Guy says he wished somebody had told him that before he got one.
- Deadly Rotary Fan: Rick Chalker attempts to use rotors grafted in place of his hands as weapons, extremely incompetently.
- Deadpan Snarker: Everyone on the initial government lineup cracks wise, and three characters served as Designated Joker: Madrox, Strong Guy and Quicksilver. When their government liaison is unexpectedly teleported in, Strong Guy quips, "oh, good, the comic relief is here."
- Epiphany Therapy: An issue has the team engaging in therapy with Doc Samson (the universe's resident superhero psychiatrist). It helps some of them a little, and makes no difference to others. Then much of the original team goes back to him... and it's noted by Samson that they're significantly more messed up.
- Evil Costume Switch:
- Havok when he becomes the Goblin Prince to Madelyne Pryor (although the switch in question is really just his old suit reduced to tatters to match Madelyne's outfit).
- Angel, as Death of the Four Horsemen (he kept his costume after returning to X-Factor and becoming Archangel).
- Caliban, as a willing servant of Apocalypse.
- FaceHeel Turn: Angel was brainwashed by Apocalypse into becoming the Horseman of Death; Caliban willingly joined Apocalypse to get a power-up for his revenge against the Marauders; Madelyne Pryor's sanity slipped after realizing she was Sinister's experiment all along; Havok was turned into the Goblin Prince by Madelyne. Angel/Archangel and Havok came back, though. As did Caliban, but not until well after his incarnation in X-Factor.
- Five-Man Band: The original group had the same dynamic as when they were the first X-Men team.
- Flashback: How Jean came back was summarized by Warren, although the As You Know aspect for the first part was getting on Scott's nerves.
- Fun Personified: Madrox got a little more serious after discovering his duplicates are alive, and Strong Guy got a little Darker and Edgier after revealing a Dark and Troubled Past and suffering a massive heart attack, but both of them actually cope with their pain through humor.
- Genius Bruiser: Beast, as always, except during his near-human phase. Also Strong Guy, who was a nerdy, grade A-student at junior high.
- Invasion of the Baby Snatchers: Nanny and Orphan-Maker specialize in this. Nanny steals children to raise them as armored soldiers, and Orphan-Maker kills their parents.
- Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Jean plays with this when she wears an evening dress and fur coat, and then acts like a snowball fight with Scott is an epic battle.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: More of a reference really, but one issue revealed that the team's government liaison, Val Cooper, really envied her brother, a FBI agent who gets really cool cases:
- Literal Disarming: The "Judgement War" storyline culminates in Jean absorbing the energy of the alien factions of the planet where the arc took place, and transferring it to Scott to stop the Celestials' judgement. A cosmic symbol imprinted on Arishem's hand could start the judgement process if his verdict was negative, so Cyclops destroyed the hand with a powered-up optic blast.
- Little Black Dress: Jean wears one in the first issue, and another in the three issue arc where she loses her winter coat and then replaces it with a fur coat.
- Losing Your Head: Memo to Cameron Hodge: don't kill the girlfriend of the guy with brand-new razor-sharp wings after you've already betrayed his team and ruined his life. Though Hodge did plan ahead.
- Luke, You Are My Father: It was in this book that Rachel Summers finally told her parents who she was. This was followed by typical Nineties Wangsting from all parties involved.
- The Men in Black: The team's cover story at first was pretending to be an organization like this.
- Mundane Utility:
- Jamie constantly uses his dupes like this, sending them out to learn and explore the world, creating them on the other side of locked doors, playing duets on piano (pity the only song he knows is "Chopsticks") and doing super-babysitting.
- Quicksilver is shown reading books at super-speed.
- Subverted when everyone takes a crack at prying a stubborn lid off a jar of mayo, but even Polaris's magnetic powers and Havok's plasma blasts are useless.
- Pretty in Mink: Jean buys a white fur coat in issue #53, and some background ladies would occasionally wear fur.
- In issue #55, Hank saves the life of a Streetwalker who is wearing a full length white fur coat.
- Lorna wore a fur-trimmed coat or two.
- Punch-Clock Villain: Random, a bounty hunter, is wreaking havoc in downtown Washington, D.C. because he's chasing a bounty. X-Factor arrives and defeats him, by paying him *more* than the bounty was worth.
- Putting the Band Back Together: This is how the series starts. Jean gets the original X-Men team together to find a way to help mutants again.
- Retcon: How Jean was brought back. But it was done in a way that didn't contradict any of the past stories note , by revealing Phoenix was going around disguised as Jean and Jean herself was alive, if sleeping.
- Shared Mass Hallucination: How X-Factor publically handwaved the demon attacks in Inferno. Their explanation (mass hallucination caused by A.I.M satellites) works since the existence of scientific terrorists is accepted by the average joe. The existence of demons is apparently a totally different matter.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The three Chalker brothers' individual attempts to avenge each other's deaths as well as their combined vendetta once they were resurrected by a demon.
- Shout-Out: The government era team was written by Peter David. In the early nineties. An abundance of pop cultural references were inevitable.
- Snowball Fight: Issue 53 has it Superpowers style, with Jean even calling herself "The Queen of the Icy North!"
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Valerie Cooper, X-Factor's human government liaison, is buried in a ton of paperwork. Baldrick, her assistant says to deal with the paperwork, "I have a cunning plan." After Valerie goes on about how Baldrick wouldn't know a cunning plan if it bit him in the arse says, "You don't suppose they'd know it if we burned it all." Baldrick admits this was his cunning plan."You ask me, I blame society."
- Tonight, Someone Dies: Madrox, although he obviously got better.
- Tonight, Someone Kisses: Scott proposes to Jean in issue #53. She turns him down. For a few issues it becomes a source of angst and awkwardness for both of them until Scott goes "let's forget I asked and let's figure it out later, okay?". Some publication years and Character Development later, Jean is the one to successfully propose to Scott.
- Vapor Wear: In issue #212, Hela wears a dress that makes it clear she is not wearing any underwear◊.
- What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: The "power" of Vague from the Hell's Belles was that she was transparent. Not even invisible. Just transparent.