Picking up from the final pages of issue #5, when the New X-Men were all brought back and a death scream filled the air, X-Factor now seeks to find out what caused Teresa Cassidy’s death.
David Baldeon (artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer), Tom Muller (design), Ivan Shavrin (cover artist), Israel Silva (color artist), Leah Williams (writer)
January 6, 2021
Spoiler Warning: Discussion of the final pages of this issue follow.
X-Factor #6 opens up a new story arc appropriately subtitled “Second Movement.” Leah Williams’ usage of musical notation to title each issue forces us to approach reading X-Factor differently than we do the other X-Men books as it insists we think not comic, but rather suite and thus think about how comics and music can intermingle with another as artforms. Consequently, this storytelling choice imbues Williams’ run with a feeling of uniqueness and thus more memorable as a result. It is a fascinating and enjoyable decision and worth seeing where this ultimately leads.
As for the thematic center around which Williams sets the book, death in a Post-Krakoa World (or PKW) is still as likely to have differing viewpoints as it did before the founding of the mutant nation. We also see some measure of this in issues #4 and #5 when Lorna and Emma grapple with what death means to both women. Throughout the issues, Williams enables both characters to find a degree of catharsis and reconciliation about death. In issue #6’s concurrent plot, David Alleyne seeks to begin a body farm so he can learn how being on Krakoa affects the decomposition rate of mutants and more generally the differences between human and mutant decomposition. As he rightly points out, “there is no field of study [concerning these].”
At the conclusion of the issue, Williams and Baldeon weave together both the plot featuring Teresa Cassidy and her avoidance of X-Factor’s questioning and David’s proposal of a body farm. As Lorna makes one final attempt to reach out to Teresa, the moment turns to terror due to Teresa putting Lorna under a hypnotic state and issuing a few orders, most significantly that Lorna will sabotage X-Factor if they try to learn more.
The following page sees a misshapen triquetra formed of birds in the sky as Teresa walks away from a hypnotized Lorna. Caramagna making a shift in lettering color from black to red along with subtly italicizing the dialogue is an effective indicator that the Teresa we saw at the beginning of the issue and perhaps even before is not actually Teresa Cassidy.
These visual cues and clues laced throughout the issue ultimately call back to House of X #5, specifically the second data page on Resurrection where it says “There is no experimentation regarding what happens when you combine a mutant MIND with a HUSK that is not their own.” Taking this quote into the context of issue #6, Williams and Baldeon’s goal with the story arc is to pick up the plot thread from PAD’S X-Factor of Teresa taking the Morrigan’s place and seeing what direction that subplot will lead.
Amongst the small number of X-Factor issues to date, issue #6 is the most effective to date as the two plots are integrated in a narratively and emotionally satisfying way that keeps the reader’s interest for what comes next.