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Apr 21

“Not Brand X” – All-New X-Factor #1-6

Posted on Monday, April 21, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

The top ten hits for All-New X-Factor on Amazon UK:

  • The first trade paperback of this series, listed top.
  • One Direction: Forever Young – Our X-Factor Story.
  • The X Factor Party Box Karaoke Machine
  • A USB battery charger.
  • Rhydian’s self-titled album from 2008.
  • The official Harry Styles A5 writing pad.
  • A pair of leg warmers.
  • Dare to Dream: Life as One Direction (100% Official).
  • A wallet case for a Samsung Galaxy.
  • An Alexandra Burke car tax disc holder.  (Only £4.98, “top quality PVC”.)

Of these ten options, the trade paperback is your best bet.

Marvel has developed a tendency of late to whack a #1 on the cover of anything, even if it’s just starting a new storyline.  When the writer is sticking around, that’s usually a good indication that nothing much has changed.  But this X-Factor genuinely is a completely different title, with only Polaris carrying over from the book’s previous incarnation.  And it’s not as if she was central to that.

(I intend to politely turn a blind eye to the All-New, presumably the latest in a series of adjectives that Marvel have come to believe holds magical power.)

The new X-Factor are a corporate-sponsored superhero team, backed by Serval Industries, a conglomerate who supposedly “specialise in helping people”.  There’s a passing mention of them owning a major search engine, and the allusions to Google are not subtle.  They bought the rights to the name from Jamie Madrox.  And the first six issues are basically an extended recruitment drive.

Instead of a single “gathering of the team” story, it’s a collection of stories in which, for the most part, the group come across a new potential candidate and offer them a job.  Of course, everyone knows the way this story normally works, and most of the cast are appropriately sceptical about their new employers.  Polaris seems to be properly on board with the new bosses, but then she’s not completely stable.  Gambit and Quicksilver are both sticking around largely out of concern for her; Quicksilver is secretly reporting back to an equally concerned Havok.  Danger, Cypher and Warlock end up filling the remainder of the ranks.

Naturally enough, it seems pretty clear by the end of the six issues that Serval is indeed thoroughly untrustworthy – though there’s room for argument about whether they actually have an evil agenda, or are simply very relaxed about the end justifying the means.  And the evidence of that is largely kept from the main characters, who get to remain merely sceptical without looking like idiots.

The book has two things in common with the previous version of X-Factor.  First, it’s by Peter David, and like the earlier book, you suspect it exists mainly because they figure there’s a gap in the line for a Peter David comic, preferably one semi-detached from the other X-books so that it can go its own way.  Second, the cast is a bit of a collection of underused misfits that David can take and polish up – admittedly bolstered with the relative star power of Gambit, though he’s hardly been a focal point in X-Men stories for some years.

You know what you’re getting with a Peter David team book – snappy dialogue, well defined characters, a load of plot threads all kept in the air.  And this offers pretty much what you’d expect; actually, I prefer it to the previous run, which had got rather bogged down in some mystic storylines that never really appealed to me.  It’s also got Carmine Di Giandomenico on art, which feels like good casting – he’s a solid storyteller, but with a nicely angular, clean line that works for the hi-tech corporate environment.

What we don’t really have, at this stage, is the sort of clever new take on a character, similar to what  David did with Madrox.  Polaris’ instability gives her something new to do, and Gambit’s fish out of water role freshens him up a bit; I’m less sure about playing Danger as a bit of a comic relief figure who takes people too literally.  Still, everyone’s got something to do, which is more than you can say for most Marvel team books, and makes a pleasant change.  

It’s fundamentally a trad superhero team book, but enjoyably done; it’s what the X-books’ Peter David comic should be.

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