When "X-Factor" relaunched a while back, it had recently concluded a year long plot line which left many readers feeling a little sick of the story. As Rahne's mystical pregnancy reaches its climax, it's hard not to be reminded of those days, so long has this particular thread been going.
Still, it does appear to be drawing to a close, and as a variety of mystical forces, both Canine and Feline, attempt to take control of Rahne's child, X-Factor attempts to protect her and her baby, with mixed results. Meanwhile, M brings Guido back from the hospital.
There's a definite sense that this arc will read better in trade than it does as singles. David's idiosyncrasies -- the ones that keep his readers coming back -- are all evident: witty dialogue, a layered sense of humor and fluid characterizations. However, his worst plotting excesses are also here, as the story begins to drag with only suggestions of an ending in sight. Indeed, this issue's cliffhanger suggests that while we may be in the final act, there's still a lot more to go, barring any rushed endings.
Speaking of the cliffhanger, it’s been long enough since the book has hit store shelves that revealing it isn’t going to spoil anyone’s fun, so let’s address it in full. The issue concludes with the surprise appearance of Jack Russell, Werewolf by Night. Remember him? No, probably not. It’s tough to enjoy a cliffhanger which leaves you scratching your head in bemusement, and I’d normally have expected a writer of David’s ability to have set it up properly beforehand. At this point, it seems less like a smart narrative twist and more of an “everything but the kitchen sink” attempt to keep the story moving.
At least it’s good to see Emanuela Lupacchino back on art duties after a couple of fill-ins. Her style, a bit more traditionally superheroic than other recent "X-Factor" artists, is much more at home with the sort of material David is doing, even if there’s a hint of Dodson-esque cheesecake to it. It’s expressive, energetic, and gorgeous to look at, which makes it all the more surprising that she hasn’t been yanked onto a title with a slightly higher profile.
Still, the world’s loss is “X-Factor”’s continued gain. When “X-Factor” has the right combination of script and artwork, it’s one of Marvel’s most enjoyable series, but between Lupacchino’s absence and David’s increasingly sluggish plotting, it’s been a while since the book was on top form. Let’s hope this storyline ends soon, and maybe the post-“Schism”/”Children’s Crusade” effects can give it a much-needed shot in the arm.