Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Grand X-Factor Investigations Investigation Part 15

The last in a group of 15 posts on X-Factor volume 3.

Some Final Thoughts & Praise

Though I don't spend my time obsessively writing about it (yet), my television addiction rivals my comicbook one. My fiancé and I watch and repeatedly rewatch every comedy series we can, plus a handful of the higher-end crime shows to round things out. We discover series we've been missing and burn through their existing episodes in a matter of days, then start again at the beginning because they're still fresher to us than the shows we've already gone through dozens of times. Right now, I have the fourth season of Gilmore Girls playing in the next room, a show I started rewatching for something like the fifth or sixth time a few weeks ago. Most of it still holds up. Kelly Bishop is amazing.
     I also play Dungeons & Dragons, and have been part of at least one campaign whenever possible since middle school. I'm currently DMing one of the most successful and long-lasting runs in recent memory, consisting of a nice blend of experienced and brand new players, all of whom were friends before we started playing. The enthusiasm and ingenuity of the group are unparalleled, and it has made for some hilarious and unique gaming stories, both in-game in IRL.
     My point is, I have always been and continue to be drawn to collaborative, serialized storytelling. Comics, TV, D&D---they all tell ongoing, sometimes never-ending narratives. You become attached to the characters and, in turn, the creators who are responsible for making you love those characters. There's no Parks and Recreation without a Leslie Knope, and there's no Leslie without an Amy Poehler. My D&D game would lose a lot if Tringus the kobold monk or Bee the pun-loving elf or loyal hawk companion Hotel California died, but it'd lose a lot more if Ed or Arthur or Joel stopped playing. It applies to comicbooks, too, and it's a significant part of why I'm so enamored of this series and it's only, extremely talented writer, Peter David.
     What I like about serialization is that it creates an opportunity to provide payoff to the audience at varying intervals. The stroytellers can deliver a self-contained, single-issue (or single-episode or single-session) story, pause for a beat to explore or reveal something about a character, or take a year or even a few years to tell a sprawling epic with many players and multiple conflicts to resolve. And of course, anything in between is possible, too. The demands of each new narrative in the series can dictate the pacing and spacing they need, which provides variety and a sense of the unknown, even once you've become comfortable with the cast and/or world. David's X-Factor is a master class in using the serialized format to the fullest, telling any and every kind of story, weaving threads of every imaginable length and thickness into an ever-more-complicated tapestry. In the end, it is this that I most admire about the book, and it is the reason I continue to love it and think of it as a favorite of mine even when it's in the middle of a story I'm not crazy over.
     Rahne showed up pregnant in X-Factor #207, and the storyline currently running in last week's X-Factor #253 is centered on her child. We've been waiting even longer than that for an answer to what Shatterstar and Longshot's secret connection is, something that David teasingly reminds us of every so often but has yet to fully reveal. And (unsurprisingly) my favorite example: Layla told Jamie she'd marry him in issue #9 when she was still a kid he'd barely met. Years later, it happened in #247, but only after a twelve-issue arc about her pulling him into the future, a later four-parter where he died and went on a weird reality-hopping journey in order to come back to life, and then a one-shot about Layla preventing the suicide of a woman who many years from now will become the doctor who develops the procedure that'll save Jamie's life. Several stories of many sizes that all also act as important steps in the much larger tale of their romance. This is why X-Factor keeps me coming back no matter what.
     It may not be reliably amazing on a month-to-month basis, though few titles truly are. But X-Factor IS reliably amazing and rewarding in the long term. It is a series that always finds itself again when it gets a little lost, that never forgets the promises it makes to its readers, and provides satisfying answers to all of its biggest mysteries. David is clearly in his element on this title and with these characters, and he's earned my devotion for as long as he has new stories to tell.

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