Regenesis affected the X-Men books in many different ways. But one thing it didn’t do was have any effect whatsoever upon X-Factor. In many ways a Peter David showcase title, X-Factor has spent the best part of a year shunning the rest of the Marvel universe in favour of getting into some long, character-driven storylines about the core cast. Essentially, it is the ideal title for people who don’t want to see their stories interrupted every other month for a crossover or tie-in storyline.
But X-Factor #230 changes this, with a visit from Wolverine as part of 'Regenesis'. Although it doesn’t look like the book is going to take a side during the Schism, David makes it clear that he’s intending to shake up a title which has, in fairness, been in danger of stagnancy for a while. The issue, therefore, builds up to Wolverine’s big plan for X-Factor, by setting the various members of the team against each other. And anyone who has read X-Factor before will know that there’s nothing David enjoys more that getting his characters into frenzied arguments.
Building on plot points from the past few storylines, Wolverine’s arrival doesn’t take up as much space as you’d think – he instead spends most of his time acting as a wall for a grieving Layla Miller to bounce exposition from. He acts as the surrogate for the audience, asking questions which will help them get up to speed. And, although Layla normally only works when she’s holding secrets from everybody, this part of the comic still stands out as some of the best work of the issue. David gives her a chance to fully express herself in a way which fleshes out more of her character, and works to establish her personality. Which, is what Peter David is known for.
The other half of the issue, in which the other members of X-Factor all get into a big argument, works less well. Mostly because it paints half the team as silly objects of mockery, and the other half as unlikeable idiots. Shatterstar and Monet come out of the exchange as particularly terrible, as the former only exists to make weak sex jokes, and the latter has apparently become shrill and unbearable. Her arguments don’t make any sense from any perspective, and David seems overly keen on the idea of shoehorning in her religion (recently established as Muslim) into every conversation. This is where the large cast works against the book, because characters like Wolfsbane – who is typically a great choice to throw into an argument – are sidelined in favour of Longshot and Shatterstar, who contribute nothing. While David has spent a long time building up Siryn and Rictor, he has yet to give Longshot or Shatterstar anything remembling depth or likeability.
Which means the final reveal of the issue is an incredible relief. It’s no surprise to see Polaris and Havok return to X-Factor, but it’s certainly nice to see them back. And not least because the pacing of the issue suggests that they’ve been sat in a car during the entire argument, waiting for Wolverine’s summons and entirely oblivious to everything. David is clearly trying to suggest that with the team in such shambles, they need reliable leadership to steer them straight. And boy, but that’s true. As a comic, X-Factor really needs to start realising the characters that are working and the characters who are getting in the way, and perhaps this will pave the way for a cull over the next few months.
Let’s get to the highlight of the issue. We’d never seen any art by Emanuela Lupacchino before, but her work in this issue is absolutely STUNNING. Less bulky than Terry Dodson, but more consistent than Daniel Acuna, her character models are distinctive, entertaining, and tell the story brilliantly. She has an excellent command of facial expression and body language, giving every member of the cast their own posture and attitude. The issue doesn’t give her much to do other than conversations between the cast, but she manages to make things seem reasonably dynamic. The inking and colouring as well, by Guillermo Ortego and Matt Milla respectively, is superb, and gives each page a vibrant, fresh feel. For the artwork alone, X-Factor is worth picking up. It’s fun, interesting, and effortlessly stylish.
X-Factor #230 is a decent issue. It sets us up for what will hopefully be an interesting upswing in the ongoing saga of the team, and features some great artwork. If we’ve seemed overly critical of the book it’s because there are so many characters, and they’re a frustrating mix of complex, layered personas and stupid gimmicky joke characters. If David can get that fixed in future issues, he’ll be onto a winner here.