The latest issue of "X-Factor" is an odd one; it's not a bad issue, but it does seem like a strange step into the previous run of "X-Factor." When "X-Factor" hit #200, I remember hearing that the book would be more integrated into the rest of the Marvel Universe, with the first storyline guest-starring the Fantastic Four offered up as an example. New artist Bing Cansino came on board, replacing the departing Valentine de Landro and Pat Davidson. The team, in general, was finally reunited and all operating (more or less) in one location.
So with "X-Factor" #203, we've ended up with a story starring just two members of the team (Guido and Monet), drawn by de Landro and Davidson, and using a slightly obscure villain as the evil mastermind behind the plot. Haven't we been here before? Sure, the book is about to get pulled into the "Second Coming" crossover just around the bend, and that will help raise the profile (and presumably sales) of the book for the duration. But ignoring that upcoming temporary bump, this seems like the book is sliding back into its old habits.
On the bright side, this issue at least shows that what was old can still be somewhat entertaining. Guido gets some nice moments of characterization, perhaps because he isn't having to vie for time with the rest of the book's cast. And while Monet is sidelined for most of the issue, her particular experience is an interesting nod to a moment of the character's history that I thought everyone was deliberately trying to forget. So it's not a bad bit of story, but rather a puzzling one more than anything else. I keep thinking that fragmenting the cast where only several would appear in an issue didn't work that well the last time around, and I'm hoping it doesn't head that direction again. As for the art, de Landro and Davidson provide all right, solid art. It doesn't jump out at the reader, but it competently and reasonably tells the story. Solicitations for upcoming issues show de Landro and Davidson on board for them at well, so Cansino's run might already be done for now.
The previous storyline that ran in "X-Factor" #200-202 was easily my favorite story we've seen from the book in a year or two, now. This issue was all right, but it didn't instill me with confidence that the quality of the last storyline will be repeated here. I'm hoping this isn't an ill omen of things to come.