Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Review # 27: "X-Factor - 'The Only Game in Town' and 'Secret Invasion'"

As we move on to Volume 5, something important has happened: In the first (and last) instance of Peter David's second run on X-Factor intersecting with a main X-Men storyline, Madrox and Layla were sent about a century into the future at Cyclops' request during the events of the excellent "Messiah Complex." In the end, Layla ends up trapped in the future and Jamie is left with a mark to forever remind him of what transpired. This, clearly, was going to have some major implications down the line but couldn't be rushed, which makes it as good of a time as any to shake things up for the team.

It starts on two fronts: First, Theresa is pregnant and the father of her baby - in a strange way - is still unclear. Second, Rahne quits the team. While it's written as part of her crisis of faith (or damnation, to put it a better way,) it's in reality an example of how David would often have to deal with other X-scribes picking off his characters. Rahne - also during the events of "Messiah Complex" - had joined a re-formed X-Force and was heading off to that title. David, to his credit, handles it really well. Rahne would be back, but that's for another day.

With the team showing signs of crumbling, Mutant Town literally DOES begin to crumble as the psychotic-yet-pricy Arcade is hired to effectively wipe out the entire community. While he and his clients work more as placeholders than anything, I love how David manages to take a story about a crumbling city and make it personal. He picks three targets - two individuals and one group. While you may not like all three of them, you empathize with them and as the team swoops in you care about their fates. Ultimately, X-Factor decides to leave Mutant Town, shooting the government a huge bird as it does. It quickly comes back to bite Madrox in the ass.

Bridged between Volumes 5 and 6 (included as a bonus in the former) is the fate of Quicksilver. Insane and imprisoned, Pietro needed at least some form of redemption and needed it fast. Why? Well, I'd love to say there was real character motivation, but the truth is Dan Slott wanted him in Hank Pym's "Mighty Avengers." While Quicksilver was definitely not a saint in that book, he needed to be a hero again somehow and leaving it in the hands of David - who has written Pietro better than anyone - is a good move. His imprisonment problem is solved, but as for his sanity? That's definitely open to interpretation.

So now we head into Volume 6 which - sadly - is probably the WORST of David's run. It's not entirely his fault, however. The brunt of the blame goes to artist Larry Stroman, who I find terrible to begin with but ESPECIALLY terrible on a book like this. Filling in for Valentine De Landro (who I feel guilty for not mentioning until this review. His work is always excellent, so I feel I'd just be repeating myself,) Stroman's style does not suit the mood whatsoever. It's cartoony, it's sloppy and just looks plain ugly. Seriously, he draws the ugliest She-Hulk I've ever seen and that includes her brief Bruce Banner-like freakouts where she'd become grotesque.

Months after Volume 5, X-Factor has moved to Detroit and finds itself in the middle of a small-potatoes part of the line-wide "Secret Invasion" storyline. At the heart of it is the character Darwin, aka "the guy that got killed in X-Men: First Class" who is being manipulated by a Skrull disguised as the three-fingered sex symbol / failed Mojoworld saviour / repeated amnesiac Longshot. They think Darwin is some kind of missing link between humans and their species. The aforementioned She-Hulk gets involved along with her Skrull buddy, stuff happens, stuff ends, the REAL Longshot joins the team, more stuff happens, someone gets shot for some reason and Siryn goes into labour. Nearly all of it (except for an issue by De Landro, and the She-Hulk issue) looks repulsive.

The end result is Longshot and Darwin are now on David's chessboard, one out of sheer chance (acceptable since luck IS Longshot's power after all) and the other for reasons that could not possibly be discerned at the time. Either way, once Volume 6 is over you're wondering if David has started to run out of steam.

Then Volume 7 comes along and rocks your damn socks off.

But that's for the next review.

Rating(s): 7.5/10 ("The Only Game In Town"), 5/10 ("Secret Invasion")

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