Review: X-Factor #256
This is it! The big finale! The Hell on Earth War comes to a crashing conclusion this issue, and it’s…pretty good. It’s not great, but then I don’t think X-Factor has been mind-numbingly great for some time now. I would definitely say this was one of the best issues of the Hell on Earth War, that’s for sure, giving the story a resounding climax. And that twist ending is definitely something special. I did not see that coming. But then the comic just ends. Right on the verge of giving us a proper denouement, the comic just stops, and that was just as jarring as the twist ending, but in a bad way.
I know there are going to be plenty of comics following up on this ending, but I don’t want to have to wait another month to read them. This issue should have been double-sized or expanded so that Peter David could have given his story a proper epilogue in the proper place.
Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!
In terms of a fitting conclusion to the Hell on Earth War, this issue more than succeeds. This is as action-packed and seismically epic as X-Factor has ever been. The action and art are great, but as I’ve been saying all along, the characters themselves don’t get much to do. Most of the emotional weight of the story still rests on Tier’s young shoulders, and while he does an admirable job as the star, I just can’t bring myself to care all that much about him. I care far more about the actual members of X-Factor.
After I finished this issue, I thought back to where the comic began, with Jamie, Guido and Rahne setting up their own detective agency in the pages of MadroX. How the heck did we get from that to this, where those characters battle the forces of Hell for the fate of the entire world? X-Factor has definitely been one long, strange trip, and maybe the time has come to let the comic end. PAD has told a lot of amazing stories, and breathed new and wonderful life into all of these characters. Letting him end the series on his own terms is the perfect way to end X-Factor.
Besides, we all know what would have happened had PAD left the series. X-Factor doesn’t have the best sales, and a lot of them have to be boosted by PAD himself. So if Marvel had decided to put some new writer on the title, X-Factor probably would have languished for half a dozen issues before they’d put it out of its misery. So this is for the best. PAD gets to say goodbye the way he wants.
Though I’m still going to hold out hope that his new project will be some kind of new Madrox solo series for Marvel NOW! Wave 2. Fingers crossed.
The issue begins the only way it can, with a full frontal assault on the castle of the Devil himself. Last issue, Mephisto conquered the world and turned the planet Earth into his own Hellish wasteland of a kingdom. Only X-Factor remain to oppose him, driven by grief and anger. Polaris leads the charge at Mephisto’s front gates, blasting her way in. But she’s not alone. Polaris has Jezabel flying alongside her, and an entire army of Demon Madroxes!
Inside the castle, Mephisto sends his soldiers out to battle X-Factor. He’s ready for a fight, and he sends Satana down to the dungeon to free the other Hell-Lords. Mephisto wants to make them the offer that if they agree to fight for him, then they’ll each have a place in his new kingdom. Satana doesn’t believe him at first, but then runs down to fulfill his bidding – except when she arrives, she finds them all dead. It appears that Tier (who has still been narrating) and the rest of X-Factor snuck in the back door and killed the Hell-Lords. Or Tier killed them in a blood-thirsty manner, while the rest of X-Factor just stood back and awkwardly watched.
Which is what happens to Satana.
I guess Tier has definitely gotten over his hesitation at killing the Hell-Lords.
Elsewhere, Layla Miller is keeping Demon Madrox Prime company on a hilltop overlooking the battle. They don’t want to risk his life, just his dupes. Demon Madrox Prime is still feral and attacks Layla to try and get away, but she just puts him in a magic bubble to keep him in place. Looking out at the fight, Layla comments that she doesn’t know how this is all going to end…
Well for one thing, we know it’s going to end with a big fight!
Mephisto and his demon forces face off against X-Factor! First, he exchanges heated (did you see what I did there?) words with his daughter Jezebel, who is fighting alongside Polaris. Then Tier and the rest of X-Factor show up, but Mephisto was ready for them and he traps Tier in a fiery cage. He’s not about to let himself get killed anytime soon. Shatterstar decides to confront Mephisto, but the devil simply vaporizes Shatterstar! Rictor is none too happy with Mephisto torching his boyfriend, but then Mephisto just vaporizes him too!
Things are not looking good for X-Factor. But then Mephisto makes the foolish decision to target Wolfsbane next. He launches blast after blast in her direction, and Wolfsbane can only evade them for long. But Tier isn’t about to sit by and watch his mother get murdered by the devil. Through sheer strength of will, Tier breaks through the flaming bars of his fiery cage and tackles Mephisto! The final battle is upon us! Teir vs. Mephisto for the fate of the world! The young, hairy lad claws into the demon king with righteous fury, his blows raining down like Death’s own scythe! He’s got X-Factor at his back, holding off Mephisto’s army, leaving Tier to finish off Mephisto and finally end this horrible war!
But wait…something has gone wrong…
Tier doesn’t look so good…because holy cow! Strong Guy comes out of nowhere!
Guido has won the Hell on Earth War! From out of the fiery pits of Hell, Strong Guy picked up Mephisto’s pitchfork, snuck up behind Teir and skewered the kid in the back!
Wolfsbane cries out in horror and anger at Guido, but he just tells her that she doesn’t know anything. The powers of Hell start to feed into Guido, and he uses them to kill Mephisto and turn his bones to dust. Guido is in charge, and now everything is going to be done his way. The castle fills with light and Guido uses his new power to change the world back to the way it was.
Only Layla is there to witness it, and she notes that Jamie, the castle and everyone else is suddenly gone.
Then down in Hell, Monet wakes up and finds Guido sitting on the throne. He’s the new Lord of Hell, and he’s a grumpy one at that. He bluntly tells Monet that he did it all for her. He killed Teir and he became a Hell-Lord just so that he could bring her back to life. Now if she would so kindly GET OUT! Monet flies away, leaving Guido to be a grumpy Hell-Lord all on his lonesome.
And that’s it. That’s the end. I was shocked at just how suddenly the issue ends.
This would have been the perfect time to PAD to visit with all of the characters, if even just for a little bit, to see that they were all well and good, and that Guido had remade the world into a better place. Instead, we only get to see Layla remarking at how things are back to normal, and then Guido bringing Monet back from the dead. That’s all well and good, but as far as we know, Shatterstar, Rictor and Tier are all still dead, Rahne is still mourning her dead son, Madrox is still a demon and everyone in the world still knows that they were just conquered by the forces of Hell. I can assume that things have straightened out, and I’m sure we’ll find out the truth in the next issue, but in terms of pacing, all of that should have happened at the end of this issue.
But it didn’t, so I guess complaining isn’t going to get me anywhere.
As for the rest of the story, it was all very good. The action was lively, and Tier had some big moments. Since I don’t really know the kid, his death isn’t all that sad, but PAD did a great job of setting Tier up as someone special in this issue. I wish I could say the same for everybody else, but I just can’t. With the exception of Guido, everybody else is really just sort of standing around or fighting generically evil demons. That’s disappointing, but it’s mostly fine. It’s a fine issue. It’s big, it’s epic, it’s dramatic, and against the forces of Hell, who better to have than X-Factor?
I loved the twist with Guido. I did not see it coming, and that makes it a great twist. I have been mostly disappointed with Guido over the entire course of X-Factor. He was never the character I wanted him to be. But at least PAD wrote him well, and gave him some big moments. I have no idea what’s in store for him now as the King of Hell (if anything), but maybe some more good will come.
And hopefully he’ll get around to changing Madrox back to normal, please.