I must admit that when I think of "X-Factor," one of the subtitles I mentally attach to it is, "Marvel's whipping boy." That's perhaps not entirely accurate, but it's also not without some truth. When the book first appeared, its cast served in part as the protectors of "Mutant Town", the Middle East Side neighborhood of New York City where mutants had moved en masse. Then "House of M" wiped out almost all of mutant-kind, Wolfsbane was shuffled off to the new "X-Force" title, and Layla Miller was at least temporarily written out of the picture thanks to the "Messiah Complex" crossover. (Although with that last one you get the idea that it, at least, might have been Peter David's idea.)
So with this new issue of "X-Factor", officially part of the "Divided We Stand" branding, David addresses these changes. After all, it's hard for there to be a Mutant Town if there aren't any mutants still living there, right? And so, with an air of finality, David wipes the slate clean and begins to set up a new status quo for the title.
The only problem is, coming on the tail end of a storyline pitting the group against Arcade, it feels like a little too much is happening at once. Arcade's plans come to an end, we see what's still standing after last issue's bombs went off, and X-Factor figures out which of the options presented to them is the most acceptable. It's a lot for a single issue, and while I appreciate that it wasn't dragged out simply for the sake of doing so, it feels like something should have given way. Three pages for the start of the new status quo doesn't sound like much, until you remember that there are only 23 total pages of story and art in an issue of "X-Factor", pages that could have just as easily been used to round out the conclusion of Mutant Town and such.
That's not to say that I'm down on this issue, though. There is still a lot to enjoy; the addition of a new character to the group (if one could call it that) is interesting, especially considering how well David's written the character in the past. And while I'll certainly miss the old setup that "X-Factor" is leaving behind, David's rolled with the punches so well here that I'm confident we'll end up with a good conclusion.
Valentine De Landro appears to be a last-minute replacement for Pablo Raimondi, which is a shame since #32 was already slated to be Raimondi's final issue on the book. (Larry Stroman takes over next month.) De Landro's art is so close in style to Raimondi, though, that it'll certainly be a smooth transition when this story is collected. Still, considering that Raimondi drew David's original "Madrox" mini-series that begat the current "X-Factor", it's a little sad to see him leave without any fanfare.
In the end, "X-Factor" #32 does what it clearly meant to; wipes the deck clean of almost everything leading up to this point, then sets the stage for what's to come. I just wish we could've saved the latter for the next issue. Still, I'll be back to see just what David has in store for the title next. So far, so good.