When the members of Peter David’s X-Factor aren’t too busy fighting each other, they actually make a pretty decent team. Monet’s death at the end of last issue has provided more than sufficient motivation them to prove it, with Polaris single-handedly storming Mephisto’s castle. What follows is a wholesale slaughter as Tier is unleashed upon the captive Hell Lords, Madrox creates an entire army of demonic dupes, and the rest of the team generally lets loose.
Of course, this being X-Factor, nothing goes as planned, and things take a fairly surprising turn. Without spoiling anything, several members of the team are killed – completely disintegrated – and a new King of Hell takes the throne. And while most of this arc’s events are quickly returned to normal (the bleeding sky, armies of demons, and transformation of New York into a Hell Dimension), the rest of the issue is not so easily tied up. Some of those dead characters are still dead. Madrox is still a demon. And this new King could have an impact on the greater Marvel Universe as a whole.
Peter David’s penultimate arc was a big, ambitious one; by and large it was also quite successful. And while it could have quite easily been a line-wide event – it featured various Avengers teams as well as the FF fighting to protect the world from multiple invading demon hordes – it instead chose to tell a more personal story (or stories). A wife losing a husband. A mother fighting to protect her son. Two former friends and almost-lovers fighting. A daughter turning against her father. These are the kinds of stories that matter, that stick with readers.
That being said, hopefully the last arc will be somewhat more quiet. There are a great many unanswered questions for the series – what is the true nature of Jamie’s powers? Will Banshee remain The Morrigan? Will Guido ever get his soul back? How will Jamie become a human again? Will the dystopic future Layla spent years in still come to pass? Will we ever find out the relationship between Shatterstar and Longshot? While it isn’t essential that every loose end be tied up, what is important is that time be spent with the characters that have shaped the series for the last eight years.
Ultimately, this is a fantastic issue. Leonard Kirk turns in some amazing art. There’s violence and tears and significant plot development. The series is in a strong position as it moves into its final arc next month.