Mutant History X: 'X-Factor' Returns

[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' mainstaysthrough the late 1980s and 1990s, "X-Factor." While the original X-Factorcharacters -- the original X-Men themselves -- have found homes in thepages of other X-books, the title itself will be coming out of mothballsthis April for a four issue miniseries by writer Jeff Jensen and artistArthur Ranson.

"The high concept is this," Jensen told CBR News on Thursday, "'X-Menmeets Mississippi Burning meets The X-Files.' It is indeed dark; butultimately, it's a very hopeful book, about two very damaged adults on along, painful struggle toward redemption and some sort of peace -- withthemselves, 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 hatedminority in the Marvel Universe to being pop stars and media darlings inthe 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'tdivulge at this time.

"But I will say this: 'X-Factor' seeks to be a compliment to the monthlyX-books. It seeks to interface with Morrison and Milligan's wild,universe-expanding work. It seeks to add new dimension to the X-Menuniverse. If 'X-Factor' fails to succeed at any of the aforementioned, thenI 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, Ico-wrote about 14 or so issues of 'Team Titans' for DC Comics with my goodfriend Phil Jimenez, who was drawing the book at the time. The quality ofthe books were not helped by my inexperience and immaturity as a comicswriter; sheer enthusiasm and instinct, apparently, are not enough to be acompetent 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 getback 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, afterseven years on the sidelines, I'm giving it another crack. I like to thinkI learned a lot from past experience. One of the reasons I waited so longwas to make sure I had an idea worth readers' time, worth a publisher'smoney, worth the risk of embarrassing myself once again; hopefully,'X-Factor' will succeed on all three counts. Last summer (summer, 2001), Icame up with such an idea, a refinement of something I had beenbrainstorming for years, and pitched it to Marvel. The result is 'X-Factor.'"

Sharp-eyed comic fans may have spotted his name elsewhere in theintervening period.

"I am a staff writer for Entertainment Weekly magazine. I work for the Moviessection, though I've written all sort of stuff for the magazine, includingcomic book reviews. EW is my bread and butter, the real focus of mycreative/professional life; comics are for fun. I'm pursuing the comicswork with the blessing of my editors, though to protect the magazine fromany 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 wasmy first exposure to these characters. There was something weird anddangerous and mature about those stories. I was hooked, and was especiallydrawn to the Cyclops/Phoenix love story and Nightcrawler's struggles withhis freakishness and faith. As I got older, I came to better understand andappreciate the X-Universe as allegory for tolerance, discrimination andplurality. '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 findmore of Jensen's work on the stands soon thereafter.

"I've written three short stories for Marvel that should see publicationthis year: two Captain America shorts (drawn by Frank Quitely and PaulRivoche, respectively) and a Beast short (drawn by John Tolteben). Marvelhas 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 forchecking out more of my work ... well, there was 'Team Titans.' And Iwouldn't recommend that to ANYONE."

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