Up front, I must apologize about this. The issue two months ago, ‘X-Factor’ #224.1 (I don’t get the “.1”), is actually a much better jumping on point. Alas, we were neck deep in DC’s New 52 launch and had to devote all our coverage to that. But, you can probably find that and issue #225 for cover price so go grab those before reading this one.
‘X-Factor’ is one of the best ensemble books out there right now. It’s has an ‘X’ in the title, but it occupies its own space, and doesn’t tie directly into the various ‘X-Men’ books. Jamie Maddrox, Multiple Man, runs X-Factor Investigations, basically a private eye firm, employing his teammates, Banshee (formerly Syrin), Guido (Strong Guy), Longshot, Layla Miller, Richter, Shatterstar, Monet St. Croix (“M”) and Wolfsbane. Two issues ago, Maddrox visited his childhood farm, where after his parents’ deaths, he continued to live in hiding in the barn, using his duplicates to maintain the farm at night. The house was now owned by a single mother, Sally Rowland and her young son. While the rest of X-Factor battles a supernatural menace in town, Maddrox talks to the mother and son, telling them about his past and all about his teammates. He leaves his business card with her and departs. Then Sally is killed, the message “B.B. sez u should have hid better,” is scrawled in blood on the wall. The son is missing. The authorities find Maddrox’s card and call him in. Longshot uses his powers on Sally’s body which comes to life, possessed by a force that identifies itself as “B.B.” and warns the heroes not to interfere.
A new plot line is introduced this issue as two gangs in Los Angeles, one Latino, the other African American, are all found dead with what appear to be rope marks on their necks. X-Factor, both in Kansas and L.A. are working on the Rowland case, when they aren’t struggling with their sexual urges or feeling inadequate or fighting. (It’s what they do.) They finally turn up a lead, thanks to Pip the Troll and scour L.A. looking for Sally’s ex-husband who it turns out is a demonically powered criminal named The Hangman and is responsible for the gang killings. The team splits up and searches for him, when they aren’t busy struggling with their sexual urges or feeling inadequate or fighting. (Told ya.) They find Hangman (well, he actually finds them), they fight in grand super hero style, but it turns out Hangman isn’t responsible for Sally’s death. The true culprit is someone much, much more dangerous!
The story is tense, broken up by the soap operatic melodrama this team is so well known for. Three issues back, Wolfsbane gave birth to a demon baby. Before that, Guido died and came back. Banshee confronts Monet for hiding her Muslim beliefs. Monet takes a mean jab at Banshee. Shatterstar and Richter are gay lovers, but Shatterstar hooked up with Layla, while Richter was powerless. Now that Richter has his powers back and is a more active member of the team, this is causing problems as Shatterstar still wants to hook up with Layla. This team needs it’s own live action show on the CW! Or a “reality show” on Bravo!
Peter David is an old hand at this, having written this team back in the 90s for a lengthy and well-beloved run. He understands that while ostensibly, fans read comics for the good versus evil battles, it’s the soap opera qualities that keep people coming back and he shovels that on with a bulldozer! I mean that in a good way! He doesn’t stick to trite drama, he dives right into the crazy pool! This isn’t a super team, it’s a train wreck! And it’s addicting!
I wish I was as enthusiastic about the art. Not that it’s bad or anything, it just doesn’t set me on fire. It’s perfectly fine. The story telling is strong, if not dynamic. The angles and proportion and everything is… fine. I can’t criticize it one bit! It’s just not my favorite. Actually, I think I know what it is and it makes me sound super shallow, but his characters just aren’t very attractive. Don’t get me wrong, “ugly” art has its place, in horror or supernatural books or even gritty regular super hero books. There’s certainly a dark element to this book, but it doesn’t come close to say ‘Animal Man’ or ‘Frankenstein’ territory, so I feel like maybe something cleaner and more polished would work better. But like I said, it’s fine. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker, but it’s not quite my cup of tea.
Verdict: Buy (after you buy #224.1 and #225)
Written by Peter David
Art by Leonard Kirk
Cover by David Yardin