Comic Book Review: X-Factor #17

X-Factor is one of The Revolution’s favorite Marvel titles. I always look forward to the latest issue of X-Factor. Unfortunately, it seems that the artist carousel on this title is going to keep on spinning. We get yet another artist on this young title. Artist change notwithstanding, I am confident that David is going to turn out another well written issue with X-Factor #17. Let’s do this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Khoi Pham
Inker: Sandu Florea

Art Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: We flashback to last Christmas. The Undersecretary of Defense, Edward Hutchinson, and his daughter are watching Edward’s granddaughter open her Christmas gifts. The little girl opens up one gift that Edward doesn’t recognize. It is a stuffed elephant.

Edward holds the elephant and sees that it has a chocking hazard warning on it. Suddenly, the toy elephant’s trunk wraps around Edward’s neck and begins to choke him. Edward’s son-in-law races into the room and shoots the elephant to bits with his gun. Edward sees a note in the remains of the elephant. The not says “We want out powers back.—The X-Cell.”

We cut to present day in Detroit. Jamie Madrox approaches one of his dupes who is getting drunk outside of a police station. The drunken dupe comments how Jamie sent him out to learn to become the world’s greatest detective. The drunken dupe says it has been a success and that the dupe is the world’s greatest detective. Jamie retorts that he though Batman was the world’s greatest detective. The dupe makes some comment about not digging little boys in green shorts. (Wow, like we haven’t heard that crack about a million times.)

The dupe tells Jamie that he knows about “uber.” That the dupe knows what is coming. That the dupe knows the secret about Jamie’s powers. That once Jamie absorbs the dupe then Jamie will have all this knowledge. The dupe then says that he doesn’t want Jamie to have this knowledge. The dupe said he has thought about killing himself so Jamie won’t get this knowledge. Jamie says that one of his dupes died recently and Jamie got all his memories anyway. The dupe replies that that only happened because that dupe was one that Jamie made after his powers started changing. The dupe adds that he knows why Jamie’s powers have changed, too.

The dupe tells Jamie that he didn’t kill himself because he is still on a case. The dupe says that the captain of this police prescient they are outside of is dirty. However, the captain is too well insulated for the dupe to get him. The dupe asks what kind of world is it where evil triumphs and good watches helplessly. We see the police captain walk out of the precinct surrounded by police officers. Jamie’s dupe whips out a gun and kills the police captain. The police officers then return fire and kill Jamie’s dupe.

Jamie is shocked that his dupe would pull off such a reckless act. Jamie realizes that his dupe wanted to die and wanted to prevent Jamie from finding out what his dupe knew. Jamie starts crying. Suddenly, Jamie’s cell phone rings. It is Layla. Layla tells Jamie to come back to the X-Factor brownstone because they are going to need him. Layla tells Jamie that a plane ticket is waiting for him at the Detroit airport. Jamie responds that Layla knows he is in Detroit, because “she knows stuff”, right? Layla says no. Jamie has a locator beacon in his com device.

We cut to Rictor and Rahne walking down a street in mutant town. Rictor asks Rahne what is bothering her. That she has been acting totally out of it lately. Rahne snaps that if Rictor wants to talk he should go visit his new friend Quicksilver. Rahne then reminds Rictor that Pietro is evil. Rictor retorts that appearances can be deceiving. That many people think X-Factor is evil.

Rictor then stops Rahne and says that she is upset because Jamie didn’t think she was good enough to sleep with. Rahne is stunned and hurt. Rictor immediately apologizes for what he said. Suddenly, there is a cry for help in a nearby alley. We see a boy being attacked by two armed me. Rahne and Rictor spring to action and take down the two men. The boy runs away during the fight.

Rictor checks out the I.D. of one of the attackers and sees that the two men are FBI agents. Rictor tells Rahne that they really screwed up and are lucky these two agents didn’t have any backup. Suddenly, the backup arrives in the form of a whole bunch of SHIELD capekillers. The capekillers tell our heroes that they are under arrest.

We shift to the X-Factor brownstone where Guido is sampling some ice cream that Layla bought on sale. The ice cream is named “Tooty Fresh and Fruity.” Guido says it tastes good, but he has an image to protect and can’t be eating any ice cream with that kind of name. Layla then replies that the ice cream is named “Smelly Armpits.” Layla then shows Guido that she bought enough ice cream to fill up the entire freezer. Guido asks Layla if she is expecting an army to come by and eat all that ice cream.

And suddenly, an army of capekillers come crashing into the brownstone’s kitchen. The capekillers tell Guido and Layla that they are under arrest for the suspicion of working with terrorists to over throw the government. Layla then offers the capekillers some of the ice cream.

We cut to Jamie arriving at the X-Factor brownstone only to find the area sectioned off and crawling with SHIELD agents. Jamie wonders if he fell asleep and woke up as Snake Plisseken. (Nice Escape from New York reference.) An agent instructs Jamie to come with him. The agent leads Jamie to Val Cooper.

Val fills Jamie in on how a terrorist group named the X-Cell tried to kill the Undersecretary of Defense, Edward Hutchinson, last Christmas. Val says that X-Cell is a terrorist organization made of former mutants. They are attacking government agencies and representatives because they believe the government is behind the Decimation event. Jamie is stunned that anyone would be so stupid as to believe that. Val reminds Jamie that the same stupid people first thought AIDS was first cooked up by some government germ warfare lab.

Val shows Jamie a picture of X-Cell’s leader: Elijah Cross. Cross is only three feet and six inches tall. Val tells Jamie that she needs him to do something for her. Jamie asks if it has anything to do with saving a cheerleader. (Nice Heroes reference.) Val says that Jamie and X-Factor are going to help ONE find Elijah and busting X-Cell permanently since X-Cell is hiding out in mutant town.

We shift to Elijah Cross arriving at Quicksilver’s apartment. Elijah tells Quicksilver that he is the only person who can help him. Pietro says he is happy to be of service. End of issue.

The Good: X-Factor #17 was another solid read. David just continues to impress with the quality job that he is doing on this title. I keep waiting for David to deliver an average read on X-Factor, but it never happens. It is incredible how consistent and dependable David has been on this title.

X-Factor #17 is a steady to slightly slow paced issue. There isn’t much action. We get the one page shoot out with Jamie’s dupe and then we get the one page fight between Rictor and Rahne and the FBI agents. But, readers who have been reading this X-Factor from the start know that David never relies on big brawling battles to carry an issue.

I had no problem with the slower pace of X-Factor. David used this issue to slow down the story and introduce the new major story arc involving X-Cell. David introduced this new plotline seamlessly. I have been really impressed with how David has been able to let each plotline and story arc grow organically. None of the various plotlines have ever felt forced or out of place. Each plotline is a natural extension of the previous storyline.

David has demonstrated excellent vision and direction for X-Factor. David is letting the stories naturally unfold at a nice enjoyable measured pace. There is a clear direction that David has for this title and he keeps giving the reader little teasers of questions that will be investigated at some point in the future. X-Factor is well plotted and it is been enjoyable to read an issue that smoothly transitions from story arc to story arc and is moving with a definite purpose.

David introduces the new main story arc involving the terrorist group X-Cell comprised of ex-mutants. I dig X-Cell and think this story arc has plenty of potential. It makes sense that desperate and paranoid ex-mutants would blame the Decimation event as a government conspiracy. The AIDS analogy was perfect.

This X-Cell story arc should place the members of X-Factor in an uncomfortable position of working for ONE and the government after Jamie went public stating that mutant town is under the protection of X-Factor and that X-Factor doesn’t support the Registration Act. There is clearly no love lost between X-Factor and the government. The other members of X-Factor will probably be less than pleased with having to do the dirty work for the government in this situation.

Plus, the fact that Elijah Cross has turned to Quicksilver for help means that X-Factor is on a collision course with Quicksilver. And this should place Rictor in an extremely uncomfortable position. Whose side will Rictor chose? Will Rictor fight against his new friend in Quicksilver or will Rictor stay loyal to his team members in X-Factor? It should be interesting.

David also teases the reader with future plotlines concerning what Jamie’s dupe said about “uber” and how he knows what is coming. I’m curious to learn more about this teaser. Plus, how do all of these plotlines tie into the appearance of Mr. Sinister that was teased in the last issue?

As always, David serves up his usual excellent dialogue. Each character has their own unique external voice. David also delivers his trademark humorous banter between the various characters. David’s witty dialogue is always well placed and serves to lighten up a story that can get a bit dark and somber at times. The scene with Guido and Layla about the ice cream was classic. David knows that a strong read must have a good balance and being too dark all the time loses its impact on the reader quickly.

And because David crafts such well done dialogue, the various characters have well developed personalities. David also engages in more character development and issues devoted to character studies than just about any other title published by Marvel or DC. Because of this commitment to strong character development, each member of X-Factor has become a three dimensional character who have taken on a life of their own. It seems like the characters are controlling where the storyline flows and David is just on for the ride.

Jamie Madrox continues to be the star of this title. David has done an incredible job making Jamie a fantastic character. It is amazing to think how Jamie used to be such an insignificant and minor character in the X-Men universe. That is a real testament to David’s writing talents to take a character like Jamie and make him so interesting and give him plenty of significance.

We get teased about Jamie’s powers and how they work as well as why they have changed recently. David clearly has plenty in store for Jamie in the near future. We know that Jamie is not a mutant. I’m curious to learn more about the source of Jamie’s powers and why they are suddenly beginning to change.

The Bad: Rahne is the only character that David has failed to get me interested in. I don’t dig her personality or her look. And do you blame Jamie for bagging hotties Monet and Siryn and not Rahne. If Austin Powers saw Rahne he would surely exclaim “That’s no lady. That’s a man, baby!”

And what is the deal with the ever spinning artist carousel on this title? It is as if Marvel is trying to sabotage X-Factor by not giving David one artist to work with for a decent period of time. In the past seventeen issues, X-Factor has sported six different artists. That is simply way too many different artists being switched out in just seventeen issues. It is critical that Marvel give David one artist that he can build some chemistry with and create stability on X-Factor.

Almost all successful titles have a writer who is paired with one artist on a consistent basis. Look at Bendis and Maleev on Daredevil. Brubaker and Epting on Captain America. Bendis and Bagley on Ultimate Spider-Man. Waid and Kitson on Legion of Super Heroes. The list goes on and on.

A consistent creative team allows the writer and artist to feed off of each other and to give the title its own unique and identifiable look. The fact that X-Factor is still an excellent read is a real testament to David shouldering all the work without the help of a consistent artist to partner with.

I found Pham’s artwork to be rather drab and dull. Pham’s art created a boring looking comic book.

Overall: X-Factor #17 was another solid read. David continues to make X-Factor unquestionably the best X-title that is on the market. That’s right, I said it. X-Factor is better than X-Men, Uncanny X-Men and Ultimate X-Men. X-Factor may not have the sales numbers or get the pub that the other titles get. And that is too bad because David is writing a story that is ten times better than what we are getting on the three X-Men titles.