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. After Peter David left, the title bounced between writers, finally settling on Howard Mackie, who would write the title for the remainder of its run. 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.
- Actually a Doombot: Apocalypse uses some lifelike robots to fight the team on the Moon.
- Arc Welding: In issue #68, Archangel muses if the impossibly large gun the Phoenix used to kill herself at the end of The Dark Phoenix Saga was one of Apocalypse's doohickeys.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Using some stolen tech, Apocalypse makes himself a towering giant.
- Badass Bystander: NYPD Sergeant Jones, Archangel's girlfriend at the time, gets dragged into X-Factor's showdown with Apocalypse, and a battle on the freaking Moon, by accident.
- Bat Family Crossover: Inferno (1988) 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.
- Battle in the Center of the Mind: Issue #68 has Jean and Scott against the techno-organic virus Nate has been infected with. Nate's baby mind is personifying the virus as Apocalypse, but he gives Cyclops enough borrowed power to toast it.
- Brainwashed: Even though Angel had willingly agreed to serve Apocalypse as Death, one of the Horsemen of the 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 though, however. He stayed under his control from X-Factor #21 to #25(October, 1987 - February, 1988). It wasn't thorough enough, though, and after apparently killing Iceman, he snaps out of it and attacks Apocalypse. Fortunately, the Iceman he destroyed was only an ice statue of the original and Angel rejoined X-Factor.
- Brainwashed and Crazy:
- Havok during part of the Inferno storyline.
- In issue #68, the team runs into Medusa of the Inhumans, who's been brainwashed by Apocalypse. She's joined by her sister, Crystal, who'd been nabbed by some of his goons in the issue before.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: She-Hulk makes a cameo in issue #66, and since this was her schtick at the time she grumbles about how terrible the issue's title is.She-Hulk: Gee, with a title like that, you'd think this was one of my own adventures! What comes next, "Return of the Terrible Toad Men"?
- Call-Back: The original team's final fight with Apocalypse has them wind up in the very same area of the Moon where the X-Men fought the Shi'ar Imperial Guard during The Dark Phoenix Saga.
- 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.
- 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.
- Depower: For a while, Jean loses her telepathic powers. An attack by Psynapse starts to restore them.
- Downer Ending: How the Chaykin run ends. One of the trio of Mutants from the future tries to build a time-machine to go home. It doesn't work, and apparently kills both him and Havok, and the team disbands. Havok would turn up alive, having been displaced to another universe.
- Dumb Muscle: For a time, Beast is reduced to this. Any time he used his super-strength he would get stronger, but his mental capacity would decline.
- 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.
- Face–Heel 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.
- Havok again, during X-Tinction Agenda, this time convinced he was a Genoshan hunter. He got better, again.
- Flashback: How Jean came back was summarized by Angel, although the As You Know aspect for the first part was getting on Scott's nerves.
- Genius Bruiser: Beast, as always, except during his near-human phase. Also Strong Guy, who was a nerdy, grade A-student at junior high.
- Insane Troll Logic: Cameron Hodge stating that The Bible is proof of humanity's superiority over mutants, despite having made a Deal with the Devil to ensure his victory. The demon lord even lampshades it.
- 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:Cooper: ...like one time, they found this girl. She was dead, wrapped in plastic...
- 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.
- Narrating the Obvious: Issues 66-68 are scripted by Chris Claremont, so there's a bit of this going on.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In issue #65, a mysterious red-headed time traveler calling herself "Askani" shows up seeking to save a young Nathan, even addressing him as "little brother". In other words, all but outright saying it's Rachel Summers, last seen having disappeared into the future... then in issue #68, suddenly nope! Not Rachel at all, but some rando from the future.
- Retool: Goes through a few, such as the abandoning of the X-Terminators idea, then the switch-over to Peter David, then the end of the government team.
- Shared Mass Hallucination: How X-Factor publicly 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.
- Snowball Fight: Issue 53 has it Superpowers style, with Jean even calling herself "The Queen of the Icy North!"
- 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.
- 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.
- Would Hurt a Child: One of Apocalypse's main goals is either capturing or killing Nate, Cyclops's son. Either way, he's good. The last story before the retool has him succeed in abducting Nate and nearly killing him, forcing Cyclops to give up his son just so he can survive.