By: Peter David (Writer), Carmine Di Giandomenico (Artist), Lee Loughridge (Color Artist), VC’s Cory Petit (Letterer), Kris Anka & Jared Fletcher (Cover Artists)

The Story:
“You don’t understand, my daughter. I’m a bigot because I care.”

The Review:
My critique about last issue was that the plot seemed somewhat forced to get all the characters into the story that David wanted to tell, and sure enough, now that everyone is in place, the story unfolds in a more satisfying way in this issue, with a few unexpected twists to keep the story fresh and to allow the characters some truly funny exchanges.

The twists occur largely because of our expectations on a familiar X-Universe kind of story– the child of a mutant bigot turns out to be a mutant. But the story beats we expect don’t play out to our expectations. Georgia, the mutant in question here, doesn’t even know she’s a mutant, and her father Dakei didn’t take his anti-mutant stance in any way because of or in spite of his daughter. There’s even quite a bit of self-loathing involved. And the ending, which we would expect would result in allowing Georgia to join a mutant superhero team, is never a foregone conclusion from the beginning. I mean, yes OF COURSE Georgia goes on to leave her father, but it’s after Dakei and Georgia have a very complex interchange.

That being said, it’s going to be very hard to take Georgia seriously or otherwise care about her in a real way. Previously, when as far as we knew she was Rebellious Teenager Type B, she was cliché but at least recognizable and therefore somewhat relatable. Here, we realize her warped innocence is all because she’s a shut-in who’s severely stunted emotionally and socially. That’s not weird; that’s just pathetic. So maybe her story won’t be running in the “cliché” category, since at least it’s a twist on what we were expecting, but now it’s running uncomfortably close to the “we’re laughing AT her, not with her” category. When she runs through the house shouting “Daddy!” and beating down the door, the melodrama starts to slip into farce.

The biggest surprise, of course, is having X-Factor’s owner/boss, Harrison Snow, show up as friends with Dakei. (Or perhaps not– but then why have Dakei ask Snow about his wife? It is more of the subplot with Snow’s wife, or did it just so happen that the man X-Factor somewhat randomly decides to investigate happen to be friends with the owner of X-Factor?) And, for some reason, Snow gets Georgia to “go with him,” which implies Georgia will become a new member of X-Factor, maybe? On one hand, this “twist” seems quite deus ex machina, but on the other, it does seem to be purposeful or at least to have implications on the series moving forward.

Because of all the focus on Georgia and her father, the actual members of X-Factor do not really do very much in this issue. Essentially, they help Georgia get a drink of water. That’s an oversimplification to a key plot point, but it’s true. They are also there to provide some talking points– Gambit verbally (and physically) accosting the father, Danger providing what’s becoming her signature deadpan social awkwardness. Warlock gets the quote of the book, however, in a clever interchange. “It just happens sometimes,” he explains when Cyper tells Georgia “We don’t want you to die [if you join the X-Men].” Polaris gets the big action set-piece, inasmuch as she pulls a Magneto-from-the-2000’s-movie move and points they police’s own weapons at themselves.

Polaris’ use of powers are depicted in interesting ways here by di Giandomenico and Loughride. One the third page, there’s a series of close-up compositions with Polaris striking dramatic poses on the left of the page, and the effects of her powers on panels in the right, which work well together the way the dialogue is split to create some tension and momentum. Later, she does a similar trick again, and it’s shown much the same way, setting up her large-scale destruction with a series of close ups. This one works to a lesser extent because Polaris is such a small figure in the panel that creates an establishing landscape, and the reverse angle has her looking down on a scene devoid of people– I guess those officers did vacate the area, quite literally and quite fast.

It’s always the depictions of using superpowers where the art gets very confusing. The panel where Georgia is supposed to be receiving water from Warlock is so obscured by the use of glows and textured brushes that it doesn’t read at all. There’s another scene where Georgia runs past some bars that are the hallway, I guess, and to a door, but I don’t actually know it’s a door because it’s so similar in color and line to the other walls. Then it doesn’t make sense because we see Georgia’s lower face and hands obscured by the glows and textured brushes, and she yells out “daddy!” The father answers “why did you do that?” but as a reader my first reaction is “why did she do *what*?” The art shines instead whenever their are isolated moments of melodrama. The father holding onto his girl at the same time he’s telling her to go, and the last panel of the book with a fallen figure, backlit, with a long cast shadow.

The Bottom Line:
Playing around with our expectations about plot and delivering on our expectations about X-Factor’s characters and their exchanges, this issue is both funny, intriguing, and sets up consequences for future issues. The art continues to display strengths and weaknesses, and it’s a shame that some of the weaknesses have to do with key plot points.

Grade: B

-Danny Wall

Three Other Tidbits:
— I actually like Georgia’s powers, in the sense that not every mutant’s going to have some kind of general energy blast or something. This one’s one of those quirky “magical realism” kind of powers, not epic god-myth kind of stuff.
— I’m thinking it’s about time to visually distinguish Warlock and Danger a bit more significantly. They are too similar in color and visual composition.
— I counted three key players who were dressed with trenchcoats in this issue. Oddly, Gambit was not one of them.