Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest - X-Factor #14

Posted: Sunday, December 10, 2006
By: Keith Dallas

“Multiple Issues (part 1)”

Writer: Peter David
Artist: Pablo Raimondi

Publisher: Marvel Comics

EDITOR’S NOTE: X-Factor #14 appears in stores this Wednesday, December 13.

Average Rating:

Geoff Collins:
Tobey Cook:
Luke Handley:
Shawn Hill:

SPOILER WARNING: The following reviews discuss plot developments of the issue.

Geoff Collins

X-Factor makes me feel like a fanboy. Not in the sense of the comic being outlandish and dorky—it’ s not—rather in the way it makes me wanna call a friend and say, “Did you see the look on his face when she said that? Omigaw,” at which point they cut me off and say, “Who is this? Why are you being so vague? You need to specify who ‘he’ and ‘she’ are and what was said.” I have been happier with previous X-Factor issues, but I’m still plenty excited and giddy after this one.

Peter David has taken a seemingly extraneous plot point (a dupe and/or Jamie himself sleeping with Monet and Theresa in the same night) and, turned it into a major part of the storyline.

Their sordid affair was re-introduced in issue #13. Marvel is promoting this issue #14 as a turning point for the focus of the series. Issue #13 was the jump-in spot—an “all therapy issue” which displays all the baggage and dysfunction (Ric uses the cliché, “we put fun in dysfunction” in issue #14, but readers of New Excalibur know better) each character has gone through so far in this current X-Factor run. As issue #14 shows, Singularity Investigations has been replaced as X-Factor’s immediate threat and overall focus. The team is no longer investigating M-Day; they are now pursuing Jamie’s rogue-dupes. If your fear of picking up X-Factor is the non-episodic story arcs, now is the time to find out if it’s something you want to follow.

A third of this issue involves Jamie in a zoo talking to Doc Samson, the psychiatrist from last issue. I think there is symbolism here beyond the words David puts on the page. An opening inner-monologue of Jamie’s creates that feeling: “It’s a gorgeous day at the Central Park Zoo. I like looking at zoo animals. / Some people get outraged at the caged beasts. They say it’s unnatural. Wrong. / I say they’re lucky. No decisions. No choosing who lives and who dies.” While talking to the doctor, Jamie comments on global warming killing polar bears, “I think it shows that things of beauty can be hurt without anybody intending to,” which I assume references his current bed problems.

Even the art style has changed in these past two issues. The dark and soft colors have been replaced with standard colors. Ink-filled, detail laden drawing is now softer and more colorful. I really liked the previous artists, but the new team is good and still captures amazing facial expressions, but I prefer this change.

This is one of the best titles around right now. The art is solid. Most issues have all around great writing. Though David doesn’t produce nearly as much, his writing is at least on level with the Meltzers, Straczynskis, Johns, and Brubakers but grounded with more reality. I wish more comics were like this.

Tobey Cook

I love this book. I really do. Ever since I found out that Peter David was returning to the characters of Jamie Madrox and the rest of the X-Factor gang, I was on board. Add to that the new artist in Pablo Raimondi (who previously illustrated the Madrox limited series), and you have a solid team on a book that just gets better with every issue.

We’re at the start of a new storyline, which centers primarily on Madrox as he decides it’s time to bring in his other duplicates. In what I feel is probably the most creative use of a superpower, Jamie decided a while back to send out duplicates of himself to learn and do different things, and when they returned, he would have that knowledge after they were absorbed. Again, that’s Peter David’s genius mind at work, giving us new takes on characters who by all rights should be boring us to tears, but he gives them each a unique personality that really works.

Also, there’s a scene between Madrox and Rictor that’s just HILARIOUS. You have to read the issue, though, because I’m not going to give that one away. Raimondi illustrates it beautifully, and I rarely, if ever, laugh out loud like that at a comic. It’s absolutely priceless.

Every character in this book gets his or her moment to shine, even though Madrox is the focus of the story. Peter David pretty much does what a lot of writers struggle at, and that’s balancing a large supporting cast in a team book. If you’re looking for a good jumping on point, this is a great place to start. You will not be disappointed. My only complaint? The Rahne/Guido sequence was a minor weak point in an otherwise great book. I just don’t think it grabbed me as much as the rest of the book did.

Luke Handley:

Another month, another good issue of X-Factor. Actually no, a great issue of X-Factor. This book, launched on the heels of House of M a year ago, has proved to be an entertaining read every time. Last issue’s psych-couch analyses were interesting, but this has to be my favourite issue of the series so far.

Peter David has taken an ad-hoc assemblage of second and third tier X-characters and turned them into a functioning (or should that be dysfunctional?) and interesting group. Over the last 13 issues, he’s built up their individual personalities, explored where each one is with their life and established X-Factor’s position vis-à-vis the government and the X-Men. They’ve also taken on Singularity Investigations, killed a couple of people, confronted the new and improved Quicksilver and found out that Madrox ain’t no mutie. This issue sort of kicks off what Marvel would probably have called “Season 2” if the creators were behind schedule, and this actually is a great place to jump onto this great book.

In their first year, most of the main characters have really been put through the wringer, each individual case highlighted last issue, and here they start to try to readjust to life. But it doesn’t look like they’ll get the chance. One of the things that makes the book is the way David writes Jamie Madrox. I don’t know what it is exactly, but it’s definitely right. He’s taken a slight joke of a character and turned him into a convincing lead for the team. And it’s become entertaining to see just how Madrox will screw up each month.

In this issue, Jamie tries to get his team back on track. Each member is trying to cope with the results of the psych session, and the main fallout is Monet and Siryn both wanting to kick Jamie’s arse for sleeping with them both at the same time (literally). Siryn goes for the passive-aggressive response whereas Monet goes for the aggressive-aggressive one. Everyone has issues of his or her own: Guido has to confess to Mrs. Buchanan that he killed her husband; Rahne’s still trying to deal with seeing herself rip Jamie’s throat out, and Rictor continues to bum around not knowing how to cope with his new life.

First person narration via captions isn’t my favourite storytelling technique, but it’s pulled off perfectly here, with Madrox displaying his complete lack of understanding of his teammates emotions. The more he completely misses the mark, the more human and endearing he becomes. Realising he’s quite literally a fractured man, he sets out to round up his stray dupes, starting with “Jaime Madrox, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” and, as usual, he goes about it completely the wrong way.

Everyone gets good scenes this month, except maybe Rahne, but with a large cast someone’s bound to lose out each month. Layla Miller, whose guts fandom hated when she appeared in House of M where she was Little Miss plot device, has quickly become one of my favourite members of any of the X-teams. Even though she appears in just one scene, and quite briefly at that, she still steals the limelight. And I love Monet. Once more David just nails the character on the head. Best scene for me goes to the one between Madrox and Rictor. Even though some of the jokes are slightly clichéd, it’s still amusing.

Art duties are handled by new regular penciller, Pablo Raimondi. Though I’m still sad that Ryan Sook had to leave the series after only 4 issues, with the last two issues Raimondi has shown that even though his style is different than Sook’s, it’s still pretty much perfectly suited to this book. The characters’ body language and facial expressions really draw you into the story. During the bar scene, Madrox’s dejection and Rictor’s smugness are immediately apparent on the page. I could list far more examples of what I think is a fantastic job, but just check it out for yourselves. I don’t want to jinx anything but here’s to hoping that Raimondi sticks around for the foreseeable future.

I think X-Factor is currently my favourite X-title, including Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men. David is doing a cracking job on this title, and I strongly recommend picking up this issue when it comes out later this week.

Shawn Hill

Plot: That Jamie Madrox. If only he could make up his mind!

Comments: Last issue Peter David took a winning formula and applied it to his current team. This issue he reverses the emphasis, continuing the formula (psychoanalysis vs. superheroes) but letting these particular individuals take the lead. Doc Samson tags around the most messed up of all his neurotic patients (clearly, that’s Madrox) while the rest of them try to move on with the insights gleaned from their sessions.

David shows a strong amount of respect for his characters, figuring out compelling reactions and developments for each of them based on their established choices and histories. He’s also hellbent on recreating some of the ambience of his earlier run on the team, this issue bringing back a long-missed supporting player.

He also may be intent on recapturing the gritty noir energy of the Madrox series more directly, something this title has admittedly bungled over the last several issues. Future Jamies with mystical powers involved in a shadowy organization are one thing, but they don’t really have much to do with today’s conflicted and low –budget Jamie right now. That’s where we left off in his old series, figuring out why he seemed to have a dupe for each personality trait, and now it seems he still hasn’t quite rounded them all back up. If we’ve gone full circle only to begin again, it’s excusable, because David seems to have endless complicated facets of Jamie in mind to uncover.

Raimondi’s art just keeps getting better, capturing the wit of David’s words and scenarios on every page. There’s also a racy sex discussion between Jamie and Rictor that dances on an edge exactly between homophobic and homoerotic (which features not one but two spit-takes!), a last minute misunderstanding, and an unexpectedly tender moment of forgiveness.

If this is the format for this title from now on, I’m not going anywhere.

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