X-Factor comic books in a definitive issue-by-issue collecting guide and reading order for omnibus, hardcover, and trade paperback collections. Find every issue and appearance! Part of Crushing Krisis’s Crushing Comics. Last updated January 2024 with titles scheduled for release through July 2024.
Marvel launched X-Factor in 1986 as an outlet for the original X-Men team of Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, Angel – and, in a late-breaking decision, the return of Jean Grey.
At the time, the X-Men were at their initial peak of being hated and feared. Public sentiment had turned against mutants. Professor Xavier had just been gravely injured in a hate crime. And, the government had formed its own mutant squad – Freedom Force – to keep the X-Men in line.
As a result, X-Factor launched not as an out-and-proud mutant team, but a team disguised as mutant hunters! In a slight nod to 1984’s hit Ghostbusters, the team suited up in matching jumpsuits and promised to dispose of any mutant problem (though, really they were letting most of their “captives” bunk with them in their own headquarters).
Meanwhile, Louise Simonson slowly built the tension of the comic of Apocalypse while re-establishing (or, really, establishing for the first time) Jean Grey’s character. Rather than a token female and romantic foil, she often became the lead of the book as a multi-dimensional person coming to terms with a cosmic force hijacking her life.
Within a few years the team’s true identities were exposed, but that sent the title into an identity crisis. If it followed the original five X-Men doing mutant things… shouldn’t it just be called X-Men?
Eventually, the line’s editors came to that conclusion, and merged the original five back into the main X-Men flagships with the 1991 launch of adjectiveless X-men.
In their wake, they left the team that would redefine the core X-Factor’s cast for the next 30 years. Peter A. David assembled a gathering of cast-offs including the 6th and 7th X-Men – Havok and Polaris, a little-known Claremontian mutant named Jamie Madrox – The Multiple Man, New Mutants refugee Wolfsbane, an overgrown bouncer generically named Strong Man, and one of the few non-X-Men mutants – Quicksilver.
The book was a surprise hit with fans, less a book about its team being a government-sanctioned squad of heroes and more about them being damaged people who lost the confidence to act heroically of their own accord. David left as the book became increasingly mired in X-line crossovers, but the focus stayed centered on Havok’s team as a rapid succession of replacements gave way to a lengthy run by Howard Mackie. The run later added Forge, Mystique, and Sabretooth as recurring cast members.
After an unrelated, X-adjacent mini-series in 2002, the franchise went dormant until it was revived in the wake of House of M by Peter A. David, back to center the book on a Private Investigation agency headed up by his longtime favorite Jamie Madrox and another unlikely cast of cast-offs. PAD’s 100+ issue run included PAD’s original 90s cast members Wolfsbane and Strong Guy, plus Rictor, Siryn, Monet, and Shatterstar – and, later, Longshot, Darwin, Pip the Troll, and the returning pair of Havok & Polaris.
The run was notable for its comedic take on detective noir, for character-focused stories, and for winning a GLAAD award for Rictor’s coming out and subsequent relationship with Shatterstar. After a brief break at the top of Marvel Now, PAD relaunched the team as a corporate security force lead by Polaris in an oft-ignored run that lasted an impressive 20 issues while other books struggled to pass a dozen.
X-Factor’s next return was under the pen of Leah Williams, who retained the “investigations” angle and Polaris as a cast member, but reimagined the book as Krakoa’s SVU – investigating mutant disappearances and wrongful deaths. It was a fun book filled with big ideas, but editorial tinkering killed it (and scuttled the final arc), shunting Williams and the team off into X-Men: The Trial of Magneto.