X-Factor #1 Review: Strong Characterization Balances a Disappointing Plot

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(Photo: Marvel)

X-Factor #1 introduces a new iteration of the beloved investigative team, this time focusing on some nuances of the new mutant culture surrounding Krakoa. Written by Leah Williams and illustrated by David Baldeon, X-Factor #1 introduces a new version of the mutant detective team, complete with a unique charter that only works in the current mutant status quo. The team, which includes Northstar, Polaris, Prestige (a.k.a. Rachel Grey), Eye-Boy, Prodigy, and Daken, is established to locate missing mutants before they go through Krakoa's resurrection protocols. It's an interesting premise that provides the team with a strong direction from the outset, even if the comic struggles to make good use of it.

Although X-Factor brings back "X-Factor Investigations," you'd be hard-pressed to call this a mystery or detective comic in the same vein as the previous volume of X-Factor. In fact, this might be the biggest failing of the opening issue—it reads like the team is doing a lot of busywork to establish something both they and the readers already know. We know on the first page that Aurora (Northstar's twin sister and the catalyst for X-Factor's founding) is dead, but the group still spends 23 pages "solving" the case and bringing Aurora's body home. What's even more disappointing is that Aurora being murdered is only established after the fact, as though her murder is an afterthought in this comic. Maybe that's the intent—to establish that this isn't a "whodunnit" sort of series—but honestly, it makes the plot feel tedious above all else. As far as mystery comics go, the first issue of X-Factor is a simple, procedural fact-checker.

Luckily, X-Factor #1 benefits from strong characterization, with a roster composed of misfit characters that seems to specifically cater to a specific corner of "X-Twitter" fans. The roster is made up mostly of oft-neglected fan favorites like Northstar, as well as ciphers like Prodigy and Prestige upon whom the creative team can really leave their mark. The team seems to be deliberately made up of misfits, and those are the sort of X-teams that can attract devoted fanbases and thrive in a crowded marketplace. I also feel that this might be the series to finally do something with a few of these characters—making them more than a list of abilities and appearances in notable storyarcs. There's a meta-bit of dialogue where Polaris admits she has no strongly established personality traits, and it's both sadly amusing and accurate. I feel like, for many fans, how the characters grow and interact with each other will make or break this series, rather than the investigative aspects of the comic.

David Baldeon's art and Israel Silva's colors help establish the tone of the series—for a comic about finding dead bodies and determining whether or not someone is dead, the art feels very upbeat and colorful. I like that the characters stick mostly to non-superhero outfits (Daken being the sole exception of sorts) and that there are multiple outfit changes throughout the first page. It shows readers that this isn't a traditional superhero comic, and the details that went into making it shouldn't go unnoticed by fans.

X-Factor #1 brings a lot of positives to the table, which is almost enough to make up for an underwhelming plot devoid of notable mystery or intrigue. The next few issues will better determine what X-Factor is aiming to be, whether that's a mystery-driven comic or merely a look into one of the weirder bureaucratic necessities in a world where anyone can return to life. I think the latter concept holds a lot more promise than the former, and with a few tweaks this could be one of the more fondly remembered comics of the Krakoan era of X-titles.

Published by Marvel Comics

On July 29, 2020

Written by Leah Williams

Art by David Balderon

Colors by Israel Silva

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Letters by Joe Caramagna

Cover by Ivan Shavrin

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