By Brian Martin | Graphic/Novels Editor Published: 07/18/2013 1:00 pm EST
Every Wednesday, there is one comic at the top of Graphic/Novels editor Brian Martin’s “pull list.” Whether it’s because the comic is consistently brilliant, it’s the beginning of a new series or run, or it’s purely a whimsical choice, one book must be read before all others. In this weekly column, Brian examines the book he’s anticipating most, why he’s looking forward to it, and, after reading it, whether or not the issue met his expectations. Expect mild spoilers!
The Book:X-Factor #259 (Marvel Comics, $2.99)
Why is it at the top? Peter David’s eight-year run on X-Factor is coming to an end, and this final story arc intends to tie up several dangling plotlines and bring at least a little closure for the characters. The first part of the story was a little less than I was hoping for, honestly, with the second marginally better, but part three of “The End of X-Factor” looks like it’s going to address a plot thread that has been dangling since the time of David’s first run on X-Factor in the early ‘90s. David has been teasing the reveal of the long-assumed connection between Longshot and Shatterstar for a while now, and this issue, if the solicitations are to be believed, will finally set the record straight. X-Factor has been one of Marvel’s most consistently entertaining comics under David’s pen, and combining that with the origin of Shatterstar is certainly enough to put this issue at the top of the pull list.
So how was it? Well, this issue certainly delivered on its promise, and gave us quite a bit more on top of that. And it is…well, insane…but anything less would have probably felt like a disappointment. Spoilers ahead!
There are two basic schools of thought regarding the impact time travel can have on a timeline. One: That events in the past can be altered, resulting in subsequent (often unpredictable) changes to the present (i.e., the butterfly effect, as seen recently in Age of Ultron). Two (and this is where it tends to get head-scratchingly complex): Traveling to the past actually results in events that were not only meant to transpire, but had to transpire for the time travel to have even been possible in the first place (i.e., a predestination loop, as surprisingly NOT addressed in the film Looper). In this issue, David not only goes for the latter, he doubles-down on it, delivering a done-in-one origin story that plays with typical time travel conceits in a fun way (that, yes, will also leave your head spinning).
It’s been established that Shatterstar, like Longshot, was a refugee from the Mojoverse, albeit from over 100 years in the future. Despite the century-wide gap between them, fans still assumed there must be a connection between the two characters, and with good reason. Back in 1992’s X-Men #11, Dazzler was revealed to be pregnant. As the X-Men left both her and Longshot in the Mojoverse, Longshot quietly made the suggestion that they name their eventual child “Shatterstar”. This, fans assumed for a while, pointed fairly decisively toward the origin of the former X-Force member, although for a long time it was the only tease we got regarding the connection between the two characters.
When we next saw Dazzler, she had returned from the Mojoverse, where things had clearly gone south. She feared that Longshot was dead, and was fairly forward about the result of her pregnancy—she had lost the baby. By this point, both Shatterstar and his ambiguous history had faded from the forefront of fans’ minds, so no one really made much of a stink about it.
Because of this semi-abandoned storyline, I wasn’t surprised to find that X-Factor #259 didn’t really seem to have much to do with Alison’s pregnancy or its fallout. I was, however, surprised when the issue opened with Rictor (who, you’ll notice, is not Shatterstar or Longshot) being held captive by Mojo and forced to compete in gladiatorial matches in the name of (what else?) entertainment for the masses. Since this issue seemed to be more about Rictor’s desire to escape than filling in plot holes, I started to fear that the promised answers would actually not be revealed in these pages.
It wasn’t long, though, before Shatterstar finally showed up, battling Rictor in the gruesome, alien coliseum. Apparently, when Mephisto zapped the two of them into seeming nonexistence during the “Hell on Earth War”, he had actually shunted them across space to the Mojoverse. When a young Longshot appears to liberate the combatants, it becomes obvious that Ric’ and ‘Star have also been sent across time. We soon learn that Shatterstar “fell from the sky” into the heart of the resistance before being captured by Mojo, and rabble-rousing geneticist Arize, curious about his advanced physiology, began doing what he does best—cloning Shatterstar and creating (you guessed it) Longshot. So Shatterstar is actually Longshot’s “father”, and not the other way around.
This development certainly bucked expectations, and I left feeling fairly satisfied with the explanation. But then, something else happens…
As Shatterstar and Rictor attempt to get back to their own time, they land a few years off, during (anyone care to take a guess?) Longshot and Dazzler’s time in the Mojoverse following X-Men #11. And, yes, the pregnancy is revisited and, yes, the child is Shatterstar. Even weirder—adult Shatterstar actually delivers the baby before taking the child into the future to be raised (which is something that seems to happen pretty frequently in the X-Men universe, despite how hellish these futures always are). Shatterstar effectively begins and closes his own temporal loop within the span of 20 pages.
The end result of all of this insanity is really a great example of just what has made X-Factor such a solid comic for the better part of a decade. Peter David loves taking established devices and mechanics and just having a ton of outright fun with them. Here, he plays on our assumptions about both time travel staples and X-Men continuity, taking a joke of a plot device (“I’m my own grandfather!”) and molding into a really entertaining comic. David wisely saved the birth scene, the one we were expecting, for last, allowing for us to be tricked into thinking the earlier sequence was the extent of Shatterstar and Longshot’s connection. Pretty deft work from one of the best writers in comics.
Brian L. Martin is an educator, writer, and amateur curmudgeon. An avid fan of novels, movies, and beer, he would much rather spend his time reading comics, a lifelong love since receiving a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man # 242 from Spider-Man himself in 1983. His favorite books include The Grapes of Wrath, Siddhartha, and The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, which is heavy enough to be considered the only real defense weapon he has in his home. He currently lives with his wife in Uppsala, Sweden.