Monday, January 14, 2013

The Grand X-Factor Investigations Investigation Part 2

The second in a group of like 8-12 posts on X-Factor volume 3.

Anytime You Have Two Evils, One Of Them Has To Be Lesser
Mr. Tryp and The Isolationist

Mr. Tryp is the time-traveling villain who works against X-Factor through his own organization, Singularity Investigations, run by his past, present, and future selves (who all exist at once). Future Tryp says X-Factor will eventually help the mutant population regain its powers, leading to a world overrun by reckless superpowered maniacs engaged in constant battle. Tryp himself is not a mutant but a "changeling," born with his powers already present, rather than developing them in adolescence like most mutants do. He describes himself, to Jamie Madrox's parent, as a precursor to mutants, and claims that Madrox is a changeling as well, hoping to take him on as a student rather than let Charles Xavier have him. When the Madroxes turn him down, he causes the tornado which kills them, and buries the memory in young Jamie's mind. Obviously this is a foe with immense power, yet his tactics are shadowy and slow: developing a virus to kill former mutants, offering to buy out X-Factor, luring individual members of the team to his base of operations. Even that he bothered to build and maintain a successful high-end security firm speaks to his patience, intelligence, and subtlely.
     HIs abilities and origins are deliberately constructed by Peter David, who lets us see what Tryp can do in small chunks before learning his history and connection to Madrox in similar portions. He is in the background or foreground of the team's struggles for the first twelve issues, and has been seen again recently, still scheming and arranging new ways to try and take X-Factor out of the picture. The good guys---meaning a renegade Madrox duplicate---manage to kill past and present Tryp, but old man future Tryp is supposedly immortal, so he determinedly continues to fight against the world he believes X-Factor will bring about.
     All of this is to say that Tryp works as a formidable, interesting recurring villain. He has ties to the past of X-Factor's leader, he can't be permanently defeated, he's got knowledge of the future, and his powers might be limitless. He works in mysterious ways and with mysterious short-term goals, but we know that his long-term goal is to destroy our heroes. So when the next major enemy to reveal himself is weirdly similar but less discreet, it feels a bit redundant.
     "The Isolationist" (X-Factor #21-24) is a solid arc, and the villain after whom it's named is strong enough on his own. But in the light of Mr. Tryp, The Isolationist seems...overly simple, I guess. His story and strategies are more blunt, his motives more selfish. And though the extent of his influence on X-Factor and his exact reasons for hating them remain unknown to the team, for the reader he's an open book, and it makes for a strangely unsatisfying resolution. When he flees, we understand him, but the characters do not, and so they brush him off and move on, after which he is barely heard from again. Like Tryp, he's popped up lately, but only once or twice and in a more passive role. There is a promise of action to come from him soon, but because of how abruptly and disappointingly his last performance ended, it doesn't excite me as much as the first few moves of Tryp's newest plan already have.
     The deal with The Isolationist is that he possesses the power of every mutant alive, which means M-Day was, for him, an immense relief. Now he wants to finish the job, and uses X-Factor as part of a plan to bring the world's remaining mutants together in one place and eliminate them. At first, actually, he is very Tryp-esque. He sends Siryn and Monet on a fake assignment so there won't be any telepaths around. He builds a robotic girl to take care of Layla Miller. He funds X-Factor's other enemies, including Singularity Investigations. But when he realizes that Madrox has found him out, he abandons all of that careful planning to throw down with most of X-Factor in a destructive street fight. It's a good piece of comicbook action, and his defeat comes from an unexpected source, but for a villain who walks away unscathed The Isolationist accomplishes very little after a tremendous amount of effort.
     Tryp is more dangerous (The Isolationist also has a "mental block" that keeps him from killing mutants), has more power and patience, and his history---past and future---is richer and more interesting. I genuinely like The Isolationist and think that a lot of what works for Tryp is working for him, too. But just not at the same level, and with not as impressive results.
     For Part 3, the one and only event to take the reigns of this series, Messiah Complex, and how David made it an integral part of the long-term story he was already telling.

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