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:
X-Factor sort-of rescued a girl in kind-of distress. So… now what?

The Review:
If X-Factor were to be a brand, you’d expect its signature to be seeing a diverse and quirky cast engaging in witty banter, often over divisive issues. This month is no exception, although I do have a few questions about the characters and the visual storytelling.

The opening couple of pages is a good example of an introductory scene done right. Notice how the minor characters are really just background goons but display distinctive traits, and by so doing, they offer an intriguing tease about our story without having to slog through unnecessary exposition or unnatural dialogue. Visually, we the readers experience watching the “watchers” with dramatic choices of panel layouts, including one where the panels that display video camera feeds resemble an arrangement of monitors themselves.

Overall, this issue allows every character a moment to be in focus. Polaris and her interactions with Snow continue to display an uneasy tension and implications over who exactly leads this team; Quicksilver, whose character history takes him all over the hero-villain spectrum, is the one to take the team to task about the right course of action.

Cypher and Danger’s moments are in separate interactions with Georgia, with different degrees of success when trying to connect with the young girl. Visually, these two pages are near copies of each other, offering an interesting visual juxtaposition. (Male Gaze Alert: While Cypher gets a full-body shot in the middle panel, the same exact layout is used with Danger, but she gets a butt shot.)

Gambit attempts to solve his existential dilemma (and inexplicable friction between him and Cypher) by defaulting to his type– a ladies’ man. And that’s when we meet Angela, the boss’ wife, who has taken Gambit to bed. Or does Gambit take her to his bed? It’s really not that clear. Is Gambit at her place, which is shown to be in the Serval Industries building? You’d think that would be a tip off. Or is Gambit as his place, in which case, does he have several pet cats for some reason? I mean, I can buy that Gambit’s signature color for his room is pink, as non-traditional as that might be, but cats? Also, the layouts require a placement of word balloons that do more to add to the confusion. Who is the one who greets the secretary? You have to reread the page a couple of times to get it.

And finally, there’s Georgia. Perhaps she’s being written as a flighty, moody teenager, since she goes from closed-off to bounding down the steps in glee in the course of a few pages, but it just comes off as not having anything for me the reader to latch onto. To have no singular voice means that she has no voice at all. She’s not really a character if her character simply displays whatever is “needed” for that particular story beat and/or plot point. This is really a problem since so much of the story beats and plot points are built around her.

A few more artistic notes– as always, the coloring really important to the book, as there is specific palette used for each scene, and it helps the reader as the scenes shift. But something that didn’t work was the scene with Dr. Wexler, as the layouts make it confusing. Are those masked figures giant manikins of some experiment, or lab assistants who just stand around? What’s the height relationship between Wexler and the other characters?

Finally, despite the “Previously” page telling us that Serval Industries offers X-Factor as a different kind of super-team, there’s really only a couple of “missions” the team has undergone by now, which makes me wonder if being a super-team really is the point of this comicbook or not. I am interested in seeing how the private vs. public nature of superheroics play out in context of of metaphors of mega-corporations in the 21st century, but without more missions, this key conceit is getting lost in the other (admittedly well-done) plotlines.

The Bottom Line: It’s an “aftermath” issue, which means a lot of talking heads and discussion about status quo. Good thing these are always Peter David’s strengths and X-Factor’s distinctive characteristics. The bad things, however, include a weak central character in Georgia and some significant visual storytelling hiccups. And while it’s always a neat cliffhanger to see a new villain, I suppose this means that we won’t see the end of Georgia’s storyline for a little while more.

The Grade: B+

-Danny Wall

One Other Tidbit:
— I really hope that the sheets that are pictured on the cover have some kind of avant-garde textured pattern, because otherwise that’s a pretty dirty bed to be lying in.