It's amazing what a few months can do. When Larry Stroman joined the "X-Factor" creative team just three months ago, the title felt like a bit of a jumbled mess. The story was promptly pulled into two months of a "Secret Invasion" tie-in, while Stroman's pencils were all over the place.
And now? It feels like the book has once more found its way. The new storyline, with Longshot helping the rest of X-Factor locate the missing Darwin, is fun if slightly familiar. Peter David is good at writing clever, slightly snarky bad guys and that's exactly what we get here. In typical comic fashion, we aren't really sure why our mysterious new bad guy has Darwin and what his plans are, but David is able to keep the tension going by keeping him one step ahead of the heroes, thwarting them in all sorts of different and unpredictable ways.
What stood out for me the most, though, was how well David is handling the introduction of Longshot to the book. Taking advantage of his memories recently being wiped in another title, David is writing him somewhat like we'd seen the character back in the original "Longshot" mini-series; not human, still learning, a little out of place with the rest of the world. There's a great moment where Longshot comments, "I found his wallet. Men tend to carry those with them wherever they go." It's just alien enough that it's a good reminder that he didn't grow up on Earth, didn't have those same formative moments that would otherwise be taken for granted.
Stroman's pencils, likewise, seem much more on point here than they did a few issues ago. There's much less random shifting of body types, a stronger stability on everyone's forms. Now we're getting the Stroman that I remembered from his original "X-Factor" run years ago; a good sense in drawing people's faces, and a real sense of energy and movement in his characters. From Monet grabbing a character and hauling him up into the air with her other fist cocked back, to Darwin hammering on the side of the tank he's held captive in, you can almost see the motions coming to life on the page.
I was a little worried just three months ago, feeling like the change in location for the book coupled with Stroman's arrival as artist might be the beginning of the end for "X-Factor." Now? I'm really happy to see how just a few months could make all the difference in the world. This is a lot of fun, and it feels like creatively everyone is clicking together perfectly. Just the way it should be. It's nice to have "X-Factor" back up to its old strength again.