"Happenings in Vegas" begins with has be the mostnNoir scene there's been in this noir homage. A stunning woman walks into Jamie Madrox's office asking that he track down a single piece of jewelry that's in the possession of someone else. That individual won't leave you Starlin-struck... er, I mean star-struck, but it's definitely not a character you expect to turn up the pages of "X-Factor." The same could be said about the threat they face when they DO retrieve the jewelry.
While that's going on, Rahne returns from the pages of X-Force pregnant with the child of the wolf god Hrimhari (who she met alllllllll the way back in the 80s as one of the New Mutants during "The Asgardian Wars.") She walks in on Rictor and Shatterstar sharing an intimate moment, and - shocked by their relationship - tells Rictor it's his baby. As Rictor, Rahne and Shatterstar deal with this lie, most of the team travels to Las Vegas to continue its investigation. There, Longshot's luck powers are used at the gambling tables to draw attention as they try to lure Norse hellspawn out into the open. Trust me, it makes sense.
With Norse ghosts rearing their ugly heads, you just know that Thor is going to come calling. It's always neat to see the heavy-hitter interact with mid-level heroes, and this is no exception. Shatterstar's first impression steals the show, something I'm getting used to. I can't help but marvel at how Peter David took such an empty Rob Liefeld character and made him this amazing. Liefeld may scoff at Shatterstar being bisexual, but he can seriously screw off after being so horribly outclassed by greater talent. The same could be said for the evolution of Deadpool.
So, off to Hell (or Hel, actually) the team goes with Thor. They cut a deal with the villain, Shatterstar has a revelation and - this is the important part - we finally find out why David added the seemingly out-of-place Darwin to the team. At least three ongoing storylines are winded together. "Scar Tissue" raises the stakes.
This sets up an assassination attempt on J. Jonah freakin' Jameson - a situation that develops from an incident that happened in the "Vegas" trade. Three experimented-upon femme fatales are seeking revenge which has Jameson calling in X-Factor for a favour. That favour moves another piece on David's chessboard, gets us a Spider-Man cameo and has Black Cat heavily involved in the plot to boot.
For what really amounts to two trades that are mainly window-dressing, these are very good. The writing is strong, all of the outside (and new) characters are handled perfectly and the humour continues to be top-notch.
Up next: time to up the "crazy" level again.
Rating(s): 8.5/10 ("Happenings in Vegas"), 8/10 ("Scar Tissue")