Occasional Wednesday Soapbox: X-Factor

26th August 2009 | by | 1 Comment

x-factor 47Schrödinger’s longbox: is this book cancelled, or isn’t it? One school of thought said that Peter David’s silence following the Factor-less November solicitations being unveiled was simply the latest phase of the writer’s continually-evolving publicity drive for the title, while the more pessimistic readers instantly feared the worst. The former viewpoint looks likely to be vindicated, although it’s debatable whether raising the spectre of cancellation for a niche product is such a good way of drawing attention to it.

The writer himself has been extremely vocal for the majority of the book’s present 12-month arc, initially pleading with reviewers not to reveal the shock twists he was introducing into the stories, before recently criticising retailers for not raising their orders in line with increased interest in the title. It’s possible to sympathise with David’s views, but it would be easier to do so if the book had been of a consistently high standard. The first six issues of X-Factor were genuinely magnificent, and the book remained extremely strong for the first year of its existence. After that, however, the problems began. X-Factor’s high concept of a detective agency set in the mutant district of New York was an intriguing one, but had its legs taken out from under it by Joe Quesada’s decision to drastically reduce the global number of mutants in the House Of M storyline. Ever since that decision began to bite, the book has gradually struggled to regain its step, not helped by some diabolically poor art.

The present time-travel storyline appears to have finally overcome these problems, but the title is still dogged by a glacial pace and the continual addition of weaker characters to the cast. The writer’s position at the bottom of the X-pecking order was underlined by Wolfesbane being snatched from him to spend ten issues being largely unused in the pages of X-Force, but it’s hard to agree with the view that Longshot and Darwin are the solution to this problem. Even a year in, their appearances grate. It’s difficult to wish cancellation on any book, particular one that frequently contains high-quality work. But the discussion of X-Factor’s survival chances would be of a rather different tone if the book managed to read as well in the single-issue format as it does in trade.