"X-Factor" just recently came off of a "point one" issue, one of the "jumping on" identified comics from Marvel. And with this current storyline, it feels like Peter David and Leonard Kirk are doing their best to hang onto any new readers that might have given this series a try.
Unlike a handful of earlier stories, "X-Factor" #226 makes sure to use the entire cast. With ten different characters, that's no small feat. Sure, some of them have smaller parts than others (Pip the Troll, for instance, is hardly front and center) but there's a bit of characterization for each face, and you get an idea of how they interact with other members of the cast.
The story, itself, also moves at a somewhat brisk pace, mixing a painless amount of exposition on Jamie Madrox's past (which, considering the character was originally introduced in 1975, isn't such a bad idea) with the hunt for a slightly obscure super-villain known as the Hangman. David makes this fun, considering the slightly grim subject; we get an inventive use of Madrox's powers to try and avoid being hung, and in general it's a well-plotted fight scene. All around the fight is fun, too; I like the exploring of Rictor and Shatterstar's relationship now that Rictor's powers have returned, and it's nice to see the Strong Guy returning from the dead storyline still simmering in the background. And of course, since this is a David script, there's a small twist waiting at the end of this issue to remind us that not all is quite as it seems.
Kirk worked well with David on a long "Supergirl" run back in the day, so it's no surprise that the pairing is strong here as well. The characters have clean lines and forms here, reminding me a bit of artists like Stuart Immonen. There's a lot of good basic body language on display, although some of the facial expressions get a little bit too exaggerated in places for my tastes. When it works, though, it's strong; Madrox getting attacked under the bridge is drawn perfectly, and those final panels of the Hangman convey a lot of emotion in just a few moments.
"X-Factor" has turned out another strong issue, and it's nice to see the book firing on so many cylinders. With Havok and Polaris about to join back up before long, it's bound to get crazier still, but I've got confidence that two new additions can fit in just fine. Once again, "X-Factor" is a lot of fun.