With Darwin returned to his father last issue, the character’s story seemed to be at an end. Unusually, the apparently neat ending was actually a colossal fake-out, and Darwin’s plight once again return the character to the spotlight, definitively paving the way for his integration into the cast -- assuming he makes it out of this arc alive.
David also brings Longshot to the cast, this time in non-Skrull form, and immediately starts having fun with his oft-ignored “attraction aura” power, last mentioned by a writer some time in 1822. Longshot is seemingly an odd choice to join the “X-Factor” cast -- but under David’s stewardship, that paradoxically leaves him the perfect choice. His presence returns some of the lightness and humor the title lost when Layla Miller disappeared, but the character does get some serious material, too. While the character is frequently the butt of industry jokes, David manages to keep him believable, even in the context of a grounded title like “X-Factor”.
Stroman’s art regrettably drags the book way below par. While it recalls his collaboration with Peter David on the original “X-Factor” many years ago, it isn’t quite as solid as back then -- the evolution of his style since then makes for one ugly looking book. The series to date has been cursed with a succession of inconsistent artists, and while it’d be nice to get someone on regularly who can keep up the pace, Stroman doesn’t seem destined to be the one who fills that role, based on the reaction he’s been getting.
After a long period of derailment following the Messiah Complex crossover and the loss of two of the title’s better cast members, “X-Factor” does finally appear to be regaining its pace. While it’s easy to pine for the return of Miller, it’s worth remembering that David has consistently shown a masterful ability to take the unwanted and unexpected and run with it until, against all odds, it works -- even the original inclusion of Miller in the cast was an example of this. “X-Factor”, if nothing else, is a title that’ll reward readers in the long haul as much as on an individual issue basis.
Unfortunately for readers, while the story and script are both engaging, neither can be fully appreciated until Stroman tightens up his work. You know there’s a problem when the artwork actively distracts you from the story. It feels harsh to criticize so strongly, but it can’t be ignored that Stroman is clearly capable of much better work, and the buyers of “X-Factor” deserve better too.