Sunday, August 4, 2013

Review # 26: "X-Factor - 'The Many Lives of Madrox' and 'Heart of Ice'"

As is the norm for Peter David's run on X-Factor, any time there's a major resolution to anything, there are a lot of plot threads still hanging and a number of unanswered questions. Example: after X-Factor destroyed rival (and sinister) Singularity Investigations, Madrox is forced to do some soul searching and tell Monet and Siryn about their simultaneous "special night" without getting killed (figuratively.) Meanwhile, Rahne is suffering from a crisis of faith, Guido is disturbed over his role as a Manchurian candidate, Rictor continues to have interpersonal problems and the very unstable Quicksilver is still in Mutant Town.

With so many sticks of dynamite waiting to explode, Volume 3 kicks off in the best way possible: a sequel to the "X-Aminations" issue from the early 90's. Doc Samson returns to perform psychiatric evaluations of each member of the team (and Quicksilver as a bonus.) The sequel is almost as good as its predecessor, with a hiccup or two. For instance, Monet breaks down saying her bitchy disposition is a cover for her emotional problems after being tortured and imprisoned by her brother Emplate. Her crying about it seems a little out-of-character, and David himself may have realized it later as - while she has brought it up since - she's been more angry than sad. Still, this is really strong and Samson's interview with Quicksilver is an excellent callback to their first encounter, which I addressed briefly in my review of Fatal Attractions.

Madrox's interview with Samson sets up the rest of the book, as he tells M and Siryn the truth and - upon surviving - sets out to reabsorb his wayward dupes as a means of becoming whole. His path takes him in some weird and surprising directions, including trying to infiltrate SHIELD (with the return of a former X-Factor power-player) and being abducted by HYDRA. From there, he travels to a rural church where we meet one of my favourite characters in the series, John Madrox, one of Jamie's dupes who has become a man of God and has a family of his own. I don't think there's been a scene with Jamie and John that hasn't been powerful and it begins here.

Meanwhile, M and Siryn do some victim bonding, setting up the events of Volume 4 by bringing around someone Layla (remember: she's Layla Miller; she knows stuff) doesn't expect. With everyone on edge, Guido and Rahne make a crass mistake and find themselves in the middle of a fight between federal agents and a team of depowered mutants who have turned to acts of terrorism. "Heart of Ice" begins with this arc, and seeing how the former mutants are coping is intriguing. This works as the resolution over Quicksilver's presence in Mutant Town and with his recent string of massive screw-ups, it ends about how you would expect.

What you DON'T expect is how Volume 4 wraps up, as a new villain makes his presence known. As what would become the norm with this book, many past events tie into his scheme with a few left turns along the way. In the end, there are major resolutions (including for a heated-yet-unlikely rivalry,) a lot of plot threads still hanging and a lot of unanswered questions. Welcome, once again, to the trap that is Peter David's X-Factor.

Volumes 5 and 6 are next!

Rating(s): 8.5/10 ("The Many Lives of Madrox"), 8/10 ("Heart of Ice")

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