After taking a month off, X-Factor returns. The book’s certainly BIGGER than ever before, even if it’s not quite at the top of its game in terms of quality. Still, there’s boundless affection for the regular cast on display here, and the return to the book’s relatively unusual concept is more than enough to make the buyer keep reading, despite a couple of odd decisions in the construction of the title’s new setting.
After an undefined gap since Madrox’s return to the present day, we find that he’s returned his mutant detective agency to New York, with the male operatives following hot on his heels once Siren decides against continuing the Detroit venture. The Arrival of Reed and Sue Richard’s children on his doorstep presents a high-profile new case foe the organisation, but acting on their clients’ wishes isn’t going to be as easy as it first appears. The return of the crime-solving angle to the book is welcome after the decent degeneration into more standard heroics, and provides a welcome reminder of the halcyon days of the book’s first twelve issues. Despite not taking the opportunity to thin out the duller members of the cast, Peter David has managed to select the more interesting parts of his character’s interactions to retain- Strong Guy struggles to keep his homophobic reaction to Rictor and Shatterstar in check, while Monet is quick to mock the team’s new down-at-heel setting.
Bing Cansino’s art is striking, with a curious semi-shaded approach reminiscent of Tom Denerick. It’s the art which unfortunately depicts the book’s weak link, in the form of the character costumes. You can understand the logic of putting the team in full-on spandex. With the mutant community now to small to provide narrative fuel for X-Factor, the book is being repositioned to investigate crimes in the mainstream Marvel Universe, and the new look for the cast reflects this. It’s somewhat jarring with the book’s occasional noir tone, however, and the next issue’s cover suggests a risk that the initial mystery of the story will soon give way to a more conventional Fantastic Four story.
Despite the five dollar price point, you can’t argue with the book’s value, with the first part of ‘The Invisible Woman Has Vanished!” supplemented by a backup tale of Siren overcoming her grief for her phantom child, character biographies and a welcome reprint for the first instalment of the series’ Marvel Knights prelude. This generosity of content more than outweighs the slight stumble of a couple of the book’s elements.