My coworker Chris and I were discussing new comic books the other day, and the subject of X-Factor came up. His assessment: “It’s better than a book starring Quicksilver, Gambit and Polaris should be.” Seems like enough of a testimonial for me… Your Major Spoilers review of All-New X-Factor #9 awaits!
Previously in All-New X-Factor: The original X-Factor was composed of the five founding X-Men, but upon their return to the X-Men fold, the mantle was taken up by a team of lesser lights led by Havok. That incarnation of the team was long-lived, but eventually replaced by an X-Factor run by Jamie Madrox as an extension of his detective agency. That X-Factor ended somewhat badly (six lord of Hell fighting over dominion over the Earth, leading to a number of characters meeting poor ends, and sorta-kinda founding member Havok joining the Uncanny Avengers as their field leader. Now, thanks to the corporate sponsorship of Serval Industries, Polaris has brought together a new X-Factor, including her estranged half-brother Quicksilver, sentient machine Danger, Cajun ladykiller Gambit, as well as Cypher and Warlock, formerly of the New Mutants, and, in the last issue, took the team on an unapproved mission using corporate resources. Think this’ll have negative consequences?
YES, YES IT WILL
We open with Quicksilver and Polaris returning a teenage girl to her mother, while a pair of jerk security guards watch them on closed-circuit television. As they excitedly contact their unknown boss, we leap backwards in time, as X-Factor financier Harrison Snow debriefs Polaris about her unauthorized mission, going to far as to threaten to fire her and the entire team…
…before backing off the threat as a joke. It’s a classic Peter David bit of characterization, leading to some quiet moments between young Georgia Dakei (whose name is a bit TOO obvious a play on one of Peter David’s real life friend/favorite actors) and the members of X-Factor. Doug “Cypher” Ramsey gets the best bits in the issue, a running gag where he smacks his teammates (first Gambit, then Quicksilver), calling them a schmuck as he walks away. The real driver of this issue is Quicksilver, son of Magneto, who reminds everyone that they know where young Georgia’s birth mother is, and his speed would allow him to get there in a matter of minutes, bringing us full-circle and wrapping the story around to the reveal of Georgia’s father, who is clearly set to recur in this series.
GAMBIT’S STILL KIND OF AN IDIOT
It’s good to see Marvel once again assembling a group of lesser-knowns to fill out the ranks of X-Factor, allowing for storytelling free of crossover madness and editorial caveat, for the most part. I expect that there will come a day where someone at Marvel will pull Gambit from this book to put him back in a relationship with Rogue or some such, which is something of a shame, as his use here is an armor-piercing deconstruction of his ongoing characterization as charming ladies’ man. Artwise, I really enjoy the work of Di Giandomenico, as it reminds me of Larry Stroman’s art on the first X-Factor reboot 20 years ago, with a strong line and fun facial expressions. I’m less happy with the coloring in the issue, a primarily orange/brown monochrome palette that undermines the interesting visuals somewhat, and only really works for me in the final reveal of the aptly named antagonist. It is a middle chapter, and suffers a bit as a single issue reading experience, but the reveals regarding Gambit’s foolish extra-curricular activities is both well-handled and hilarious in an appalling way.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A BIT OFF-PUTTING
The overall effect of the issue is an odd one, with some redefined characters experiencing strong character moments in a plot that leaves them feeling a bit at sea, making it a less-than-ideal place to start this story. Still, there’s interesting stuff going on, and a mix of characters at play that has a lot of potential to be even weirder than the old ‘Havok/Multiple Man/Strong Guy/Etc’ lineup, in all the best ways. Long story short, All-New X-Factor #9 is more about building up the team and status quo than breaking new ground, even if it’s a bit wobbly in the doing, earning a more-than-respectable 3 out of 5 stars overall. I’m intrigued enough to give next issue a chance, which means this issue passes the real test of picking up a random comic issue to read…