Wow. So much is happening in the X-World since the conclusion (and I use that term loosely) of ‘Messiah Complex’, and for the mutant team of ‘X-Factor’ the effects are less than pleasant. Out of all the X-Teams, X-Factor has probably been hit the hardest with the repercussions of ‘Messiah Complex’; losing long time team player Wolfsbane (Rhane Sinclair) to the assassination squad X-Force, losing team ally Layla Miller in another dimension, having one of Jamie Maddrox’s (Multiple Man) dupes (clones) wandering around in another time line, and team member Rictor losing his mutant power and wanting to leave the group. Oh yeah, and Multiple Man, the leader of X-Force, still doesn’t know that his teammate and lover, Siryn (Theresa Rourke), is pregnant with his baby.

In X-Factor #29, one more problem lends itself to the team; The reappearance of long time X-Men villain, Arcade. Arcade is essentially Marvel’s answer to ‘The Joker’. He comes up with twisted ways to try and kill his enemies, be it from trapping them in a room that slowly fills up with water, to containing them in a mind/reality-twisting-warp zone, to stranding them on a rock in the middle of an ocean, and even to putting them on a cross with a pendulum that inches closer and closer to the captives body. It’s easy to compare Arcade to the culprit in the movie Saw; Both enjoy the ‘game’ of killing. In X-Factor #29, Arcade unleashes a new set of deadly games upon the team in yet another rendition of his twisted concept: Murderworld.

With Arcade quite literally running the show, the roster of X-Force is in for a wild and dangerous ride.

The issue begins with Rictor’s decision to leave the team. He torches a letter written to him by former teammate (and lover), Rhane Sinclair a.k.a Wolfsbane. The scene then shifts to leader Multiple Man, and team heavy weight, Strong Guy, discussing the current lack of mutants in what was formerly known as ‘Mutant Town’. Since M-Day when the Scarlett Witch (Wanda Maximoff) declared that there should be ‘no more mutants’, most of the worlds mutants lost their powers, the residents of Mutant Town notwithstanding. Strong Guy points out that ‘Mutant Town’ is now called the ‘Lower East Side’ due to the lack of mutants in the area. The two discuss how members of X-Force seem to be dropping out of the squad at a rapid pace, and both return to X-Factor HQ.

Monet St. Croix, the team’s telepath amongst other things, and Siryn, whose super power is a destructive super-sonic scream, are eagerly awaiting the return of Multiple Man. When he and Strong Guy enter the HQ, Siryn tries to tell Jamie that she is pregnant with his baby. Before she can drop the b-bomb, however, Multiple Man cuts her off. Jamie jumped the gun so to speak, and expected Siryn’s statement, “This may not be the best time to tell you this . . . ” to conclude in “I quit the team” as opposed to “I am pregnant with your kid.” However, since Maddrox interrupts her, Siryn does not get the chance to inform her leader/lover of her pregnancy. At the same time, a powerless Rictor enters the room, announcing to all present that he is quitting the team. With the loss of his powers and his love abandoning the squad, Rictor’s decision was not a difficult one. Confronted with his teammates seemingly quitting every time he turns around, Maddrox angrily lets Rictor leave.

Then things start to get interesting.

As Rictor opens the door to leave the HQ, his environment drastically changes; The HQ building is there, but in the middle of outer space!

Rictor frantically tries not to slip into space as the stairs to the HQ become flat. He grabs onto the door handle and hangs on for dear life. Then, as the door swings open, Rictor throws himself back inside, and everything returns to normal. Apparently, Strong Guy did not notice any abnormal changes to the environment. The following conversation ensued:

STRONG GUY: I knew you’d come crawling back.

RICTOR: Close the door! Before we lose all the air or something!

SG: What are you talkin’ about?

R: We’re in space!

SG: We’re in what now?

R: Space, man! The Final Freakin’ Frontier! Just look out the–

SG: Uh… Ric? Don’t take this wrong, but… You been smokin’ something?

The shot then reveals both men to be standing in the hallway of the HQ, everything looking as it should. That doesn’t last long, however, as Rictor suddenly drops through the sidewalk. Perplexed and a little uneasy, Strong Guy remarks to the disappearance of his teammate, “Hunh… Okay. Not good.”

Not good indeed. The scene then cuts back to Maddrox and Siryn in the kitchen of the HQ. Jamie rants about how his team is falling apart due to people quitting and how if they wish to rescue Layla Miller from an alternate dimension, they need to stick together and do so as a team. Siryn states that she understands and is about to tell him, once again, that she is pregnant when Strong Guy enters cutting her off. He informs everyone of the mysterious disappearance of Rictor and the team exits the building in search of him.

Monet St. Croix, Siryn, Strong Guy, and Multiple Man don’t have to go very far, for as Strong Guy rips up the sidewalk outside of the building where Rictor supposedly fell through to try and get some clues, they discover something odd; A giant dark hole in the ground that seems to be a trap door. The team descends the hole, walks underground for awhile looking for their lost teammate, and eventually borough their way out. Enter the next surprise; The hole the team exits from is only mere feet away from the hole they entered to get underground! Maddrox’s exclamation sums it up quite perfectly, “What the Hell…?”

We then shift to Rictor who was last seen falling through a sidewalk. He appears to be the victim of a sick, twisted game as he is in a dark room, upside down on a cross, with a giant pendulum slowly making its way to cut him in half… The first area to be hit by the pendulum being his ‘man zone’. He is unconscious but awakes to the following conversation in the dark;

VOICE 1: Give me a gun. Let me just shoot him.

VOICE 2: Now, now… Where’s the artistry in that? The style? The fun?

VOICE 1: Devil take your games! I’m the client!

VOICE 2: And I’m the one you hired to execute your desires, so allow me to do my job as I see fit.

Since the room is dark, we the reader (and Rictor of course) don’t know who is speaking these words. One can make an educated guess, though. Rictor then screams out “Monet!” as loud as he can, and the next panel is a shot of Monet St. Croix hearing Rictor’s cry via her telepathy. She immediately takes to the sky in search of her teammate (yeah, she can fly too) and Multiple Man makes a dupe of himself and sends him with Siryn, who also can fly, to accompany Monet. As the team splits up, Rictor’s pendulum gets closer and closer to splitting him. Strong Guy and Maddrox continue together in search of their lost comrade on foot.

Suddenly, their environment changes from city street to Amazonian jungle land. As they walk through the foliage, the two hear a loud rumble and then an ‘Indiana Jones’ style giant boulder begins to roll directly for them. The friends exchange theories:

STRONG GUY: It’s a hologram. It’s gotta be.

MULTIPLE MAN: That makes sense. Somebody must have installed projectors all over the place. (RUMBLING SOUND) Uh-oh.

SG: Relax, Maddrox. Whatever it is, if it’s just holograms, then it’s all illusion. Can’t hurt us.

MM: Works in theory.

SG: Theory?

MM: The holograms in The Danger Room can hurt you plenty. Even kill you.

SG: Did you say k–

Strong Guy doesn’t get the chance to finish the thought as the giant boulder smashes into him, and as it rolls a little further (with Strong Guy implanted into it) and comes to a halt, a sign is revealed. The last panel of the issue is of the sign, which reads; “Gameday is here! – XOXO – Arcade.” And of course a huge mug shot of the villain accompanies the message.

End Part 1 of “The Only Game in Town,” and thus X-Factor #29.

Arcade terrorizes Colossus and WolverineI truly enjoy what writer Peter David and artist Valentine de Landro have done with this book. Peter David’s writing is fluid, entertaining, and specific to character; Each individual player has their own unique voice and attitude. His team is made up of less popular X-Characters in Multiple Man, Strong Guy, Siryn, Monet St. Croix, and Rictor, yet he manages to make them equally as interesting as the X-Headliners (Wolverine, Cyclops, etc.). As stated in the introduction, the obstacles facing this team are more in number than the other X-Teams, and David keeps the book interesting by keeping loose ends open (Layla Miller in another universe, Siryn’s pregnancy) without annoying the reader that these issues haven’t been resolved yet. The ‘What will happen’ factor plays a huge role in this book. Eventually, Siryn’s pregnancy is going to begin to show and it will be intriguing to see how this effects the character and the team as a whole. There are some loose ends which have not been addressed yet, such as way back in ‘Messiah Complex’ when Maddrox’s dupe was stranded in an alternate dimension- We have yet to hear from the character. Even so, I predict that the creative team will not ignore this facet of the story for much longer. Peter David’s reintroduction of Arcade is commendable and nothing short of awesome. I must admit, I did not see it coming and when I turned to the final page of the book and saw Arcade’s ugly mug, I smiled and nodded my head as if to say, “Alright! Lets see where this goes!” The writing in the scene where Rictor comes to consciousness with the pendulum was brilliant; Especially because at that point it was not yet revealed to the reader that Arcade was running the show. Speaking of that scene, we now know that the second voice was Arcade, but we still do not know who the first voice was. All we know is that this person hired Arcade to take out X-Factor, which makes for an interesting cliffhanger.

Artist Valentine de Landro compliments David’s writing very well. I think his best work shows in moments of high anxiety for the characters; He draws expression brilliantly, which is tough to find in comics. He pays attention to detail in how the characters look, and his style is reminiscent to that of John Cassaday (Astonishing X-Men). And yes, this comparison is a heartfelt compliment. I also appreciated how Landro dropped subtle hints to the reader as to Arcade being the villain in this story arc. One such hint was in the beginning of the issue with Multiple Man and Strong Guy. A sign in the background reads: “-AMEDAY -OVEMENTS,” which I assume should read something like “Gameday Improvements,” implying that Arcade is behind the teams headaches. I really dig Landro’s rendition of Arcade. I was unable to find a picture of it, but basically Arcade now looks even more like a red headed step child than before. The shot of Arcade below is not Landro’s version. Landro’s Arcade has much shorter hair, and seems to be more rotund.

X-Factor #30 (Part 2 of “The Only Game in Town”) was released last week, and with my above summary of #29, it should be easy for a reader to pick up the new issue and follow along with the story. I feel pretty confident that Peter David and Valentine de Landro won’t disappoint to new and old X-Fans alike!

Arcade

Arcade

Second photo from Uncanny X-Men #146.

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