Monday, September 30, 2013

Review # 54: "X-Factor - 'The Road to Redemption' and 'Breaking Points'"

I almost find it hard to believe that - after these sets - there are only three volumes of Peter David's "X-Factor" left to go. In that sense, there's a bit of a feeling that things are being rushed. However, it would be more fair to suggest they're "chaotic." After all, the "Hell on Earth War" is on the horizon. "The Road to Redemption" feels like the setup to the setup.

There are some lingering character issues that NEED to be addressed in the short-term. First up is Rahne, who continues to run herself through the wringer over the disturbing events of her wolf-child's birth. Theresa and Lorna try to solve the problem by taking Wolfsbane on a road trip to Vermont. In between references to "Thelma and Louise" and "Alien," Rahne meets up with everyone's favourite dupe preacher, John Madrox. They have a frank discussion that's shockingly raw at times and Rahne resolves to find her child.

Meanwhile, problems begin to pile up for Theresa as an Irish family is being picked off in ways that suggest she's the killer. What's actually responsible - as if we weren't already being bombarded with mystic creatures - is the Morrigan, an Irish war deity. This leads to a dynamite confrontation at a lighthouse involving the Banshee, Terry and Havok as pieces on the "Hell on Earth" chessboard continue to move.

The best issue in "The Road to Redemption" is saved for last as Layla runs through town in a sequence inspired by the film "Run Lola Run." Through the use of colouring, the story outlines possible futures that come as the result of Layla's actions. However, there is no indication of which future she's ensuring. The ending points to grave implications - literally. It's thought-provoking and foreshadows the extreme unpredictability that's to come.

So, after the "setup to the setup," we get to the beginning of the actual setup with "Breaking Points." This collection starts with the holdovers from Jamie Madrox's trip through various dimensions making their move. Unfortunately for one of them, it draws the ire of one pissed-off Polaris in an epic death scene.

The next three issues feature some serious resolutions and introduces a major change to one of the characters. First up is Rahne finally coming face-to-face with her son, who's in the crosshairs of Darwin. Strangely, Rictor makes reference to meeting the father and acquiring a magical tracking amulet, which - as far as I know - never actually appeared in the series and seems like a gap.

However, Rahne meeting her wolf cub has nothing on what follows as after YEARS and YEARS of mystery, we finally find out the truth about the death of Lorna's "parents" (her father, as she is aware of, is actually Magneto.) Polaris - who is always in a bad mood on the anniversary of her "parents'" death - catches Longshot getting a reading of the events the plane crash where they died off of an old photo and slaps both him and Monet around into showing her exactly what happened. This drives Polaris completely over the edge and Theresa and Layla use drastic measures to repair her fractured mind. Their solution is costly.

With Lorna's brain back in order, she and Havok have it out about the state of their affairs in X-Factor, the state of mutantkind and the state of their relationship. Their conversation as Alex packs his suitcase (ultimately leaving to lead the "Uncanny Avengers,") is grade A-level dramatic dialogue. Havok takes a figurative bullet for a teammate in a selfless move and walks out the front door far too soon. As much as I love Rick Remender, damn him for lifting Havok from this series as his conflict with Madrox had many more miles to go. Fortunately, Jamie does something that easily takes your attention away from Alex's sudden departure, and - despite it being too early - Havok's exit brings a smile to my face. It's a wonderful mkedoment before X-Factor's world goes to hell.

I'm kinda iffy on how highly to rate "The Road to Redemption" as it's all setup and no payoff. There's one issue where barely anything happens outside of some needed talk. "Breaking Points," however... wow. For what amounts to the middle part of a continuing prologue where a great character is unfairly ripped from its pages, it's ultimately incredibly satisfying and another definite high point for "X-Factor."

(And what's this about a new series for Peter David being announced at New York Comic Con? Please, please, please, please...)

Rating(s): 7.5/10 ("The Road To Redemption"), 9/10 ("Breaking Points")

Up next: The story that mucked everything up for mutantkind in the 00s.

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