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Each square represents a plot thread IN THIS ONE BOOK!

X-Factor #238

Written by Peter David

Art by Paul Davidson

Colors by Rachelle Rosenberg

It’s hard to review a book like X-Factor. While I could say that this issue is a “great place to jump on for new readers,” it wouldn’t be entirely correct. It is true that this issue is filled with the same self-referential humor and cultural awareness that Peter David is known for, and it is true that that brand of writing is incredibly accessible for fair weather and curious new readers, but there’s so much going on underneath and behind this little four-color funny book that I advocate reading the 87 Peter David-penned issues first before picking this one up!

Of course, I’m exaggerating, but each month David’s deft plotting constantly befuddles me. Our hapless heroes of X-Factor Investigations are some of the few characters in fiction that actually grow and mature and continue to do so. They have developed a history of experiences over the last 7 years of storytelling (and the decades that preceded this volume), and David never loses sight of it. Reading X-Factor regularly is rewarding because, for example, you see a character like Rahne seeking redemption for acts done in a long while back. No joke. Rahne finally apologizes to Rictor for misleading him (romantically) and running away back in issue number 28. That’s continuity if there ever was continuity!

David juggles his 10-character ensemble cast like clockwork. How’s that for mixing metaphors, huh? We see Guido continuing to struggle with having no soul, we see Havok and Madrox debating leadership skills, we see the aforementioned Rahne and Rictor moment, we see the growing intimate relationship between Layla and Madrox, and we have some Polaris and Monet scattered in the between. Add into all of that a self-aware moment with Longshot, a nice moment between Rictor, Rahne, and Shatterstar, and a bit of suspense-horror hack-em-up, and you’ve got your money’s worth in 28 pages.

One recurring hiccup (is there any other kind?) in the X-Factor series has been the artwork. The series sometimes suffers from its rotating stable of artists. Paul Davidson gets the call this month, and his artwork work is reminiscent of fellow x-illustrator Mike Perkins’ (see his work in this week’s issue of Astonishing X-Men!). With the comparison, however, comes many of the same issues. Several characters’ faces—especially the female characters—come off as emaciated or misshapen in some panels. While the art serves the story sufficiently, there are several inconsistencies in facial structure or body position that knock this issue down a few points. Rachelle Rosenberg’s heavy inks produces some nice tension and shadows in some scenes, but exacerbate Davidson’s shortcomings in others.

Verdict

This issue is actually could be a fun “jumping on point,” if only because it’s the beginning of a new arc for Peter David’s pseudo-noir mutant investigators. There’s also a fascinating reveal at the end of the book with ties to Irish folklore. If you’ve got the money to spare, or access to a fully-stocked public library, try to grab some of the earlier stories in this series. X-Factor is going to make a phenomenal multi-volume omnibus in a few years. For this issue, though, the art suffers a bit, but it’s almost a given that the series will see a new artist take the reins in a few months or less.

 

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