Continuing the title's recent swerve towards self-contained single-issue stories, "X-Factor" #247 by Peter David and Leonard Kirk sees Madrox and Layla, fresh from their wedding day, fighting a zombie General Lee as he murders his way through a selection of professional Lincoln impersonators. Well, at least you can't accuse this book of taking itself too seriously.
In fairness, recent issues have -- if anything -- been entirely too serious, delivering a succession of devastating character deaths, revelations and departures. For that reason, it's good to see David return to the light-hearted tone of the book's earlier years, even if it only seems set to last a short time before "Hell on Earth" (the story this issue foreshadows) kicks off.
The contrast of Madrox and Layla's newly-married bliss (that's bliss by superhero standards, at least) alongside the tumult of recent issues makes for a nice breather, as well as giving us a moment of pause to think about where this is going. Indeed, we may even be asked to wonder whether Madrox will get the blame for letting his team fall to pieces while he's off living it up. David manages to counterbalance the fun of the book with the suggestion that something genuinely bad is on the horizon. Everyone's laughing, except General Lee, who's upset that no-one's quite taking him seriously. The readers, of course, are able to.
Artistically, "X-Factor" remains a solid if not especially spectacular-looking book. Kirk can convincingly pull off the range of moods a writer like David requires, but the amount of mid-shots and tall, rather than wide panels make the book look a little cramped, which gives it a lack of drama moment-to-moment. Where Kirk shines is in his use of comedic timing and character expressions -- certain sequences bring the work of Amanda Conner to mind. It can't quite match those standards overall, but few artists can -- and to his credit, Kirk comes very close.
Still, this issue reminds readers that if any comic on the stands right now is an antidote to the crossover-driven cycle of event and relaunch that permeates Marvel's line, it's "X-Factor." As usual, David delivers a wonderfully self-contained issue that should still work for new readers. Its tone, register and emphasis on old-school fundamentals means "X-Factor" won't be a book everyone takes to, but for now, it remains a book the X-line can be pleased to host overall.