While in principle, a jarring change of artist in mid-story arc is something comics fans can justifiably get upset about, it’s hard to imagine anyone losing much sleep over Larry Stroman’s disappearance from "X-Factor." While the fact that he’s already moved onto another solicited Marvel title does suggest that someone’s happy with his work, it certainly wasn’t the readers of X-Factor, who complained fairly vocally about his artwork for the duration of his mercifully short run.
Incoming artist Valentine De Landro is a regular artistic contributor to X-Factor -- such that the title has any -- and in one short issue manages to reinvigorate the series, snapping David’s comedy dialogue and character-focussed plotting instantly back into focus. X-Factor is back in good shape, and just in time for readers to see a couple of ongoing plots reach a head.
The arc’s main story concerns the ongoing introduction of the Brubaker-created character “Darwin” to the series. As with Layla Miller before him, only under David’s penmanship has Darwin ever seemed like an interesting or well-rounded character, having previously suffered an extended stint as little more than a walking plot device at the hands of his own creator, no less. Darwin’s introduction several issues ago may have been a little wonky, thanks to a tenuous “Secret Invasion” tie-in, but subsequent appearances have been more well-rounded.
Once again, it’s David’s character pieces that make the series stand out, though. Despite assembling a cast of mismatched personalities from the far reaches of the X-Franchise, David has somehow managed to redefine them all and create a series organically driven by their interactions. While Darwin’s story will take top billing, it’s the interaction between Siryn and Val Cooper that really steals the issue.
Even though the rest of the line is belatedly catching up with it, X-Factor remains not only the single best X-Book being published, but one of the most consistently written ever. If only it could find a full-time penciller...