Peter David’s "X-Factor" has always been one of the more consistently good X-Books -- at least in terms of its writing -- and indeed, it wasn’t so long ago that it routinely outclassed every X-Book around it. These days, the raised quality of the line in general gives it a run for its money, but issues like this one remind you why it was very popular in the first place.
In an effort to give X-Factor an overhaul, David has placed them as the Marvel Universe’s go-to detective agency, which means interaction with a host of unlikely guest stars. The current arc’s plot involves the team tracking down Pip the Troll for a woman who we know is actually Hela. However, for better or worse, the team itself is huge, so the bulk of the issue is spent on superheroic soap-opera. If you’re me, that's perfectly entertaining. Your mileage may vary.
Notionally, this issue’s plot sees Hela catch up with Pip, and X-Factor deciding to follow her and find out what’s going on, but the bulk of the issue is taken up by scenes between the team members. For example, Wolfsbane walks in on Shatterstar and Rictor in a compromising position. M confronts a returned Layla. Banshee, Madrox and Madrox’s dupes spend some quality time on the job together. And, last but not least, Longshot and Darwin are out on the town. It’s all about the characters, and all the more entertaining for it.
As if going for a record, the book also throws up yet another new artist. "X-Factor"’s art has been as inconsistent as its writing has been consistent. I’m pleased to see that in this case, there’s at least a reasonable chance that the style of this issue’s artists will blend with the previous issues’ in the trade collection. Aside from a few sketchy-looking faces, it’s of a high enough quality that Luppachino would be welcomed as the ongoing artist. At this point, it’d be nice just to get two consecutive arcs done without a fill-in.
I feel, too, that additional praise should be heaped on "X-Factor" for having a cover image showing something that actually occurs within the book, rather than a generic group or character shot. Call me old fashioned, but I preferred it when cover images were so distinctive you could immediately recall the issue from them. These days, it feels like a treat if the cover even references the contents, let alone forms a striking part of the book on its own.
It’s been a while since I reviewed "X-Factor," so I’m pleased to say that the book remains as strong as ever, helped enormously by the fact that the crossover has been banished from its pages once again. Solid, entertaining, and with a next issue preview that you can’t help but look forward to. Not bad at all.