Comics, like all serial story telling mediums fall on a continuum. On one side are purely episodic books. On the other are books where the entire series is one big story. In general, modern comics tend to be closer to the latter. There are some exceptions - Batman: The Dark Knight, for example. The most recent issue did not have anything to do with the previous arc. It seems to exist to be a series of one-offs about Batman rather than have a strict issue-to-issue continuity. X-Factor is the opposite - each arc leads directly into the next one. This tends to make it hard to drop X-Factor once you start reading it - there are always loose plot threads to see through. It also makes it a little tougher to just jump in. The last arc was about Jamie going through different dimensions and near the end they have a scene with a couple of noob-like super heroes in Seattle getting murdered. This new arc picks up that thread.
We quickly learn that this arc is, essentially, Peter David’s quirky take on the ideas of Kick Ass. To call the Seattle heroes naive amateurs is an understatement. Unlike the main character of Kick Ass, I actually feel sorry for these guys. It also leaves me wondering why they’re being targeted if they’re so ineffectual. The humor works really well, especially as a couple members of X-Factor go undercover as ineffectual super heroes to try and solve the case.
We continue to see clashes in the leadership between Madrox and Havok. Interestingly, Havok looks ridiculously out of place in his costume since the X-Factor regulars tend to dress like regular people. I’m sure that was a conscious effort on Peter David’s part to show how much the team had changed since Summers ran it. So far the clashes make sense, but I can only see them going on for a few more issues before they get tiresome. Also, Havok and Polaris seem shoehorned into X-Factor. I know that editorial has more power at the big two comic companies than the writers, but I feel like Peter David would have enough cachet to keep X-Factor pure if he didn’t want them there. So hopefully he has some good story ideas as to why they’re on the team and how they can mesh with the others. Polaris, more than Havok, seems like dead weight. She spends most of the time quietly in the background. At its heart, X-Factor under Peter David is like the TV show Angel - it’s about investigations and it’s about the character interactions. The main team works very well (I especially love Guido as the source of the jokes) and I’d like to see the new members integrated a little better. Perhaps we need a guys/girls night out issue or something where they bond.
Overall, this issue’s a lot of setup for a two-issue arc. So I’m hoping the next issue doesn’t seem too rushed. We need to have some battles as well as find out why in the world these dorks were being targeted and murdered. X-Factor continues to be a book I look forward to every two weeks. If the humor matches yours, you really should have this book on your pull list.