Contents: X-Factor #36 (January 1989) to #50 (January 1990); X-Factor Annual #3 (1988); and Uncanny X-Men #242 (March 1989) and #243 (April 1989)
Key Creator Credits: Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, Chris Claremont, Kieron Dwyer, Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefeld, Arthur Adams, Paul Smith, and others
Key First Appearances: Alchemy
Story Continues From: Essential X-Factor Vol. 2
Story Continues In: Essential X-Factor Vol. 4
Overview: This book has a little bit of everything for the mutant fan in all of us. Sit back and enjoy the read of Essential X-Factor Vol. 3.
First up is the Evolutionary War crossover in X-Factor Annual #3. From a chronology point of view, this should have been collected in the prior Essential volume, but there was a lot going on in that book, so we get it here. In the main story, we see X-Factor trying to stop the High Evolutionary from exterminating the Moloids and others that are at the end of their evolutionary development. It’s part of the big storyline running through the annuals that year. The big take away from the annual is the back-up feature, which features the various kids in training with X-Factor, such as Skids, Boom Boom, Rusty, and others, taking off in their own adventures, which would be told in the X-Terminators mini-series – sadly not reprinted in Essential form.
Next up is Inferno, which we have talked about previously with Essential X-Men Vol. 8. The big takeaway for the X-Factor team is the resolution of the Jean Grey-Scott Summers-Madelyne Pryor love triangle. Madelyne is killed, leaving Scott and Jean to resume their lives together raising baby Nathan. As the team all catches their collective breath, the X-Terminator kids return, only to break up their band. Many of the older kids would transfer over to the New Mutants title, becoming key members for the years to come.
But I need to focus on X-Factor here, because we are quickly caught up in the Judgement War. The team is kidnapped and sent across the galaxy to a planet facing judgement by the Celestials. On this planet, everyone is ranked on a perfection scale. Jean Grey is viewed as being perfect, while some of the guys (Beast, Archangel) tend to fall at the bottom of that ranking. The team members work independently before reuniting and stopping the Celestials.
What makes this Essential?: This is a transitional volume. We see Walt Simonson’s run on the book come to an end with the Inferno storyline. The art is handled by committee, with most of the work done by the criminally-underrated Paul Smith. We do experience Rob Liefeld’s first work for Marvel – you decide what to make of that! Through all of this though, writer Louise Simonson continues to provide a steady direction for the title.
My biggest issue with this collection is that the book gets highjacked by events going on in the other X-Men or Marvel Universe books at the time. The first half of this book is given over to tie-ins with the Evolutionary War storyline or the Inferno storyline. Considering that the Inferno story has been reprinted already (see Footnotes), you almost feel cheated by paying full price for half of a volume of “new” material.
Footnotes: X-Factor #36 to #39 and Uncanny X-Men #242 and #243 are also reprinted in Essential X-Men Vol. 8.
If you like this volume, try: the Acts of Vengeance storyline. After multiple summer events which focused solely on the Marvel mutants, this event crossed over across the Marvel Universe. Secretly organized by Loki, the villains unite and agree to change up their normal foes, in an attempt to surprise the heroes. So you have the odd combinations of the Punisher facing Doctor Doom, or Daredevil vs. Ultron. In typical fashion, the villains plans unravel due to infighting and personal agendas. Loki is revealed as the organizer, which leads to yet another face-off with the Avengers. Now, this may be a harder storyline to track down. There was an omnibus released which collected the main issues of the storyline. However, this omnibus has gone out of print, and the prices have skyrocketed in the secondary market (eBay). A second omnibus was released featuring more of the crossover issues, but not the main storyline. This omnibus is still readily found for cover price or less. This may be a case where the thrill of the back issue hunt is more fun, to track down all of the numerous crossovers, which should be noted by a triangle window in the upper right corner of the covers.