Written by Peter David
Art by Paul Davidson
Colors by Rachelle Rosenberg
Review by Joey Braccino
Those that caught my review of X-Factor #238 a couple of weeks ago will be pleased to hear that issue #239 shares many of the same highs (and lows) as its precursor. For those that didn’t, here’s a brief recap:
- High: Peter David is (still) one of the best writers in the field of superheroics. There’s enough wit, pop (and obscure) cultural references, and heart in his storytelling to fill a barrel of monkeys. Twice. His ability to effectively explore each member of his large ensemble cast without sacrificing characterization, long-term character development, and continuity is uncanny (sorry).
- High: X-Factor generally is one of those rare monthlies that can be read as an entertaining, intriguing one-off as well part of a larger, epic, nigh-100 issue storyline.
- Low (and sometimes High): Since 2009ish, X-Factor has featured a round robin of artists. While this has sometimes allowed the book to ship multiple times in a given month, it has resulted in an inconsistent “look.” Early on in David’s tenure, X-Factor featured the gritty, scratchy stylings of artists like Ryan Sook and Pablo Raimondi . Since the renumbering, however, X-Factor’s stable of rotating artists has produced everything from clean-lined classic superheroism (Leonard Kirk) to hyper-real naturalism (Valentine De Landro).
Unfortunately, Paul Davidson’s art aims for the latter category, but falls short. Still, there is some improvement this issue. While his emaciated characters were a distraction last issue, there is an unbalanced element to his figures—something in the way the faces always appear sunken in—that caters to the horror elements of this particular issue. Davidson’s lines work best in panels featuring supernatural, frightening images, like those featuring Celtic witchcraft and Morrigan the Menacing Banshee. In many ways, it’s as if Davidson is trying to channel Peter David’s collaborator on Stephen King’s Dark Tower, Jae Lee, but never quite makes it. It lacks the murkiness of Jae Lee’s artwork, which may be the result of Rachelle Rosenberg’s clean inking. Overall, it’s an improvement, but I’m glad this mini-arc is over, if only so that another artist can swing in between the gutters.
David’s plotting is superb. After spending a few issues with Rahne, we spend almost the entirety of #239 with Havok and Banshee (Siryn) as they investigate a string of murders in upstate New York. There’s an actual Banshee (from Irish folklore) responsible, and when IRL-Banshee meets X-Banshee, hilarity ensues. What really sells the issue, however, is a brief moment in which IRL-Banshee loses her “familiar” (her pet Raven), and X-Banshee feels… what? A pang of recognition, perhaps connected to the loss of her father, or perhaps the loss of her son from earlier in X-Factor’s continuity. And that’s what I’m talking about when I praise Peter David’s storytelling; he can mine these characters’ histories—histories that he has composed himself over the last 100 issues—for meaningful emotional beats and forward developments, even in the context of an out-of-control monster from Irish folklore, murderous wolf-monsters, or Hel’s demons in Las Vegas. There’s also a wonderful vignette with Guido and Monet in the middle. It’s designed to set up the next mini-arc, but it’s still a great character moment for both.
Sadly, no letters page this week, but the recap page promises some exciting developments in #241! Pumped! Party Bus time!
If you’re not reading X-Factor, you’re missing out. The art stumbles a bit, but issue #239 is the “close” to another fascinating character-centric mini-arc in Peter David’s X-Factor opus. Next issue appears to be the start of a Layla-centric story, so it’ll be a better jumping on point, but this is the kind of series that deserves long-term commitment. Like a pet rock.