Jordan D. White
2014 brings us another iteration of the X-Factor team with new characters, costumes, and bad guys! This is no shock to lifelong Marvel fans. The X-Factor team has gone through multiple restarts and roster changes over the past thirty years, as well as multiple team creation stories.
Fan favourite Peter David is still at the helm of the title as he has been since practically time immemorial. That makes me a little more hopeful than I otherwise might be about a restart and storytelling direction.
PAD wrapped up the old X-Factor and continues writing for All-New X-Factor; the transition started in the final few issues of the old series and is referenced partway into the first issue of the new series. For those who didn’t follow the previous series’ wind down:
Lorna Dane (Polaris) was distraught over her longtime lover Alex Summers (Havok) coming back to co-lead X-Factor with her, only to turn around and end their relationship to go join up with Captain America’s Uncanny Avengers.
The already fractured X-Factor team was scattered to the four winds after a fight nobody remembers, and Lorna just kind of maxed out her cope meter, poor thing. She went on a drinking binge in one of the best scenes in comics this century, and got into a skirmish with Quicksilver.
The police ended up arresting the despairing mutant, and a mysterious benefactor bailed her out, offering her a new opportunity, which we find her having taken now.
She’s the leader of the team, although it’s through the eyes of the first recruit the premiere story is told.
The new recruit in question is Gambit. We encounter him doing his Man of Steal thing, only to be chopped off at the monofilament wires by an irritated Wolverine. Logan calls him out for the fancy MacGuffin he’s trying to lift, informing Gambit that he’s only here because Tony Stark summoned him at the owner’s behest (who has enough mojo to summon Wolverine anywhere yet doesn’t merit a name check?! Curious.). Remy defends trying to steal the MacGuffin as it could potentially be used for bona fide capital E Evil. Unmoved, Wolverine chews Remy out further; not only is he stealing, he’s running the Thieves Guild, and worst of all, blowing off his responsibilities as a teacher at the Jean Grey school.
Stung by the dressing down, when Polaris shows up while Remy’s drowning his sorrows: ooh, a commonality! Remy is curious enough to go with her to Virginia to meet the CEO of Serval Industries — the handsome and charismatic Harrison Snow. While Remy is not convinced of Harrison (I can’t blame him. What good guy has a BWA HA HA HA laugh?), Snow suggests an Avenger’s word. It turns out while Polaris was recruiting Remy and casually dispatching a missile fired at their plane, Quicksilver came looking for his half-sister, and wants in on this new X-Factor action. Two’s company: three’s a team!
Their first mission will be to take out the bad guys we get a glimpse of on the first page: some creepy mad scientist slash Starbucks dwellers who are doing nasty experiments on mutants. The cover boasts two more players, but they haven’t appeared in this issue. One looks a lot like Doug Ramsey, and the other? A smile in a red hood. Intriguing.
People of color appearing in the comic? So far, just Snow’s assistant, Linda Kwan, who greets Snow with a Japanese bow. Bechdel test? Eh…technical pass. Gambit’s in the room, but he’s not the subject of conversation. Lorna and Linda discuss what Serval is, what it does, and how Linda helps with the PR.
The writing is PAD’s typical top-notch It’s enough to whet the appetite, at least. Characterization has always been Mr. David’s strength, and the relationships are already developing. The Remy-Lorna friendship was delightful. Remy’s curiosity and thief-oriented paranoia are also in evidence. The Quicksilver-Gambit friction was also fun to watch, so plenty of character stuff to go around!
Carmine DiGiandomenico, last seen in Spider-Man: Noir has an angular, dynamic style, and the colors by Lee Loughridge really make the art pop. Blackbirds! Lasers! Aeroplanes! It’s a duck blur! What’s especially nice is that while the first issue contains rough and tough Wolverine, scruffy-but-loveable Gambit, clean-cut yet slightly sinister Snow, sneering Quicksilver, and oh yeah, the women — they’re all individuals. The body language is unique to each character, from Remy’s sulky slouch to Lorna’s casual, elegant use of her powers, to Pietro’s arrogant stance and Snow’s trying-too-hard affability.
The costumes, which include the Serval Industries logo over the breast, are similar in style to the ones the All-New X-Men just started wearing. This is an interesting visual choice as are the dual monocles that appear, so far, to be a style thing only. We also get to see him rendering Polaris using her powers in the same way PAD showed them in the previous iteration of X-Factor — flying — as opposed to doing that “standing in mid air” thing her father Magneto is known for.
My single complaint so far is that although Polaris is obviously the leader of the team, and the most powerful, the woman to man ratio is skewed badly in favor of the boys at the moment. Kwan is Snow’s support and she’s a non-mutant desk job so far. If the victim survives the bad guys and joins the team, that’ll put them on 50-50 footing, and I’ll be a bit more pleased. Even so, PAD is a known factor, and the previous incarnation of X-Factor had a reasonable number of girls on the lineup. I expect the book will be worth the read even if the woman on roster count doesn’t climb as fast as I’d like to see it.