Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

17 April 2009

X-Factor, v. 5: The Only Game in Town

Collects: X-Factor #28-32 and X-Factor: The Quick and the Dead (2008)

Released: February 2009 (Marvel)

Format: 144 pages / color / $15.99 / ISBN: 9780785128632

What is this?: X-Factor deals with losing Layla and Rahne as Mutant Town becomes the Middle East Side.

The culprits: Writer Peter David and pencilers Pablo Raimondi and Valentine de Landro

See, this is more like it.

I said in the previous review I generally like writer Peter David’s work, and then I proceeded to point to more negative than positive reviews. But X-Factor, v. 5: The Only Game in Town shows the form I enjoyed from David.

Despite David’s conflicts with editorial in his first X-Factor run, he plays well with continuity. When Marvel gives him a lemon of a storyline like M-Day — the number of mutants is reduced to 198, and no more are being born — David takes the idea and does something with it while other writers decide, you know, that’s not a very interesting idea.

X-Factor, v. 5: The Only Game in Town coverBut there is an interesting idea there, and David, who set X-Factor in the heart of the mutant population explosion, is ideally positioned to explore it. As the team tries to figure out how to get Layla back and Rahne is sent to X-Force by editorial (she leaves without explaining, both because X-Force is supposed to be secret and her joining is probably not a logical idea), the characters are forced to accept that the Grant Morrison-era “mutants are everywhere” stories are over, and Mutant Town dissolves into the Middle East Side. As everything falls apart, the team pulls together and battles … um, Arcade, which shows David still has a subtle touch with the absurd.

There’s humor aplenty, even as things get serious; I particularly enjoyed M’s remark about Three’s Company as a way to defuse an obvious misunderstanding between Siryn and Madrox. It never gets too silly, even with Arcade as a villain; the danger feels real throughout — and even at the end. The characters are sharp, well defined, and never confused with each other. There’s little decompression, and there’s enough action to keep the story from being a five-minute dash through talking heads. The subplots move forward and are dealt with as necessary; no one is forgotten, not even the dead.

Really, it’s pretty much what you want from a superhero comic. No, you’re not going to forget Alan Moore, but it’s good enough to inspire touchiness when someone says the phrase “just a superhero story.”

Two minor quibbles: First, I don’t like the cover for this one at all; M is almost unrecognizable, and Strong Guy looks like Zombie Guy. And two, the Quick and the Dead issue feels … not inconsequential, not padded — well, maybe padded or maybe oddly paced. After I read it, it seemed like a ten-page backup story, but re-reading it and counting the pages, it’s clearly a full-length story. An important one, as well, as Quicksilver’s story comes full circle.

Pablo Raimondi and Valentine de Landro each provide about half the art: Raimondi pencils and inks #28, 31, and Quick and the Dead, while de Landro pencils the rest. I slightly prefer Raimondi, but both are good despite the occasional shortcomings. Raimondi has a bit of stiffness to his figures that hampers the action scenes, but that’s not a major problem, and de Landro has a few twisted limbs and overexaggerated features in his art as well. I have to give editors Aubrey Sitterson and Will Panzo credit for teaming two artists whose work, while not exact duplicates, are similar enough not to clash in the collection.

Game holds the excitement of continuity handled well. (Perhaps that’s the problem with his run on She-Hulk; it’s largely separated from most of the Marvel Universe.) At the end, David seems to have freed himself of the baggage Marvel editorial has saddled him with, and the decks are mainly clear. But even if they aren’t, I’m sure David will be able to make fun new X-Factor stories. And I look forward to them.

Rating: X-Men symbol X-Men symbol X-Men symbol X-Men symbol (4 of 5)

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