Peter David more or less admits in the "Previously" blurbs of the latest issues of "X-Factor" that he's going for shock endings to get people talking about "X-Factor." Last month's surprise conclusion certainly falls into that category, but at the same time I can't help but feel like it was a little too shock for the sake of shock. So when David promised another big ending with this month's "X-Factor" I was a little worried. Turns out, I shouldn't have been in the slightest.
This issue, David wisely narrows the focus of the book, exclusively looking at the devastated Jamie Madrox, away from the rest of his team. Searching out the one duplicate who was allowed to stay separate and form his own life is a smart and logical turn of events, letting Jamie talk to "John Maddox" and try and work through all the guilt raging in Madrox's head. Between David's original "X-Factor" run, the "Madrox" mini-series from a few years ago, and the current "X-Factor" I think it's safe to say that David has written more stories involving Jamie Madrox than anyone else to date. So by now, he's got a pretty good idea of what makes the character tick, and the end result is a strong look into how the previous issue is eating him up.
As for this month's big shock ending? It's actually a moment that some readers will see coming; it's certainly set up in this issue, and it's a story that people have been waiting for. So while it's a surprise that it's finally happening, it doesn't feel like it's come so far out of left field that it throws the reader out of the story. Instead it's a moment that long-time readers will appreciate, but even new readers (thanks to the set-up provided earlier in the issue) will understand as being important. Most of all, though, David has taken Madrox to his absolute lowest point, so this shift is hopefully the big turning point for the character, where things stand a chance of getting better. To not have that would be more than a bit of a turn-off, and David wisely doesn't go there for now.
Valentine de Landro does a good job drawing this quiet, introspective issue; after de Landro seemed to be showing up just to fill in for other artists on the book, it's nice to see that de Landro can more than handle the permanent slot as the regular penciler. "X-Factor" could use a little bit of stability right now with all of the in-story upheavals happening left and right, and having a regular artist on board again will certainly provide that.
After last month's "X-Factor" I found myself rolling my eyes and groaning a bit with the big ending. This month? I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing the next issue. That's a bit more like it.