Friday, August 6, 2010

X-Factor #207

Now well past the corner of its bicentennial, X-Factor presses onward with off-and-on series mainstay Peter David behind the wheel and a roster so overstuffed it nearly takes the entire recap paragraph to run through their names. With plot threads sprayed out to every corner of the X-Men universe and membership pulled from every team to ever include the letter X somewhere in their moniker, at this point X-Factor's readership appears to run the risk of becoming an exclusive club. If you can get past all that, though, David's pulled together a ragtag cast of some of the family's most interesting, yet overlooked, secondary characters and given them a few continuity-heavy tasks with which to occupy themselves in between snide one-liners and not-quite-heroic poses.

Peter David's writing is every bit as professionally clever as it's always been, at least in terms of narration and dialog. His cast is never short on zingers or witty comebacks and the team's membership is a charmingly odd assortment of personalities and demeanors. Although their lines don't always match up with their historical personalities (I can't remember Longshot being quite so brainless in the past) the team's membership provides, and exploits, countless opportunities for colorful character interactions and bouncy back-and-forths.

His plots aren't faring quite as well, though. The story leaps all over the place, from one locale to the next in a desperate, rapid-fire attempt to keep up with the squad's scattered membership. David doesn't seem to have much trouble keeping tabs on each character's current whereabouts and directive, but he just might be the only one. With so many faces on so many different paths and just over twenty pages to keep track of them all, this is beginning to feel like a slightly more involved rendition of the old Marvel Comics Presents anthology. X-Factor might be one team in theory, but it's five teams in action and their connections to one another aren't presently at the top of David's list of things to explore.

Artist Sebastian Fiumara generally delivers a solid showing, with a few minor hiccups. Perhaps the most pronounced is right there on the issue's opening page, when a mysteriously exotic new supporting character strolls in Madrox and Longshot's front door. While the narration describes her as "80% legs," it seems Fiumara misunderstood that metaphor and adorned the character with a set of limbs around 80% the length of a normal human being's. Which, I'm sure you'd agree, sort of kills off the power of her entrance. His work throughout the rest of the issue is more adequate, especially when the scene shifts to a darker, grimier setting. Brightly lit, his style leans more toward exaggeration, like a more generic Frank Cho. Against a dimly-lit background, Fiumara's work changes shape and shifts tone, adopting a stricter, more grounded look that I found more original and interesting.

The current shape of X-Factor is tough to classify. It's literally bursting at the seams with character, wit and good humor, which is both a blessing and a curse. The team's half-dozen simultaneous adventures make for good entertainment, but the all-at-once presentation means each chapter takes an eternity to reach any sort of resolution. It's enough material for at least three different books, most of which would be worth regularly reading on their own. Stuff the whole lot into one monthly title, however, and they all suffer. Borrow it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7

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