Unfortunately, with three random lead characters mashed together, a strange unbelievably conceived corporation, and three D-List characters in need of a rescue, Peter David and Carmine Di Giandomenico’s “All-New X-Factor” #2 mostly feels inconsequential. Not every comic book has to be all “world in peril” stakes, but launching a new series — especially given the plethora of new comic debuts lately — there has to be something else to draw in readers if the stakes feel so low.
David’s story — Polaris’ newly-built corporate superhero team for Serval Industries that includes Gambit and Quicksilver heads off to rescue some mutants being experimented on by a power hungry Doctor — falls flat. The chemistry for the lead characters is almost nil, possibly in part because some of them are unrecognizable. Polaris feels like a blank slate with “leader” stamped on it. Gambit is particularly thick (even for how some write Gambit) and not remotely charming. Quicksilver’s acerbic wit is so dulled down that he barely makes an impact at all. Add it all to their utterly uninspiring mission — both in concept and execution — and there’s just not much here.
The book also generally lacks complexity, especially in the character work. Fatale, Reaper and Abyss — the characters rescued by Polaris, Gambit and Quicksilver from torture that includes vivisection — are enraged to find that Quicksilver is among their rescuers. He apparently is largely responsible for some measure of torture they have experienced, but the vengeful, “I’d rather be eviscerated than rescued by him,” is such a shallow note to choose. There are layers and infinite complications to the feelings they must be experiencing, but they are instead played as straight rage. It doesn’t make a lot of sense and feels like the weaker choice, unless they are supposed to be future adversaries of the team, which would be extremely boring. Since they are unlikely to be ongoing characters in the story, perhaps David cares less about them and their complicated emotions than he does about Quicksilver’s — but there’s nothing on that front either — rather it’s played as a cheap, ill-advised laugh.
Additionally, there’s just some slopping writing and editing on display. Villainous monologues don’t have to make perfect sense I suppose but Dr. Hoffman’s rant is particularly odd when you actually look at it: “Sad, pathetic creatures. To think I actually felt sorry for you.” Calling something sad and pathetic sounds like you are indeed sorry for it. Is something small like this the end of the world? Of course not, but it’s just sloppy work. Add to all of the above that the book ends abruptly, as if cutting out in the middle of a scene, and there’s just not much here to recommend.
The art by Di Giandomenico is a mixed bag. It’s nicely consistent throughout and the slick style isn’t bad for the book’s tone. Di Giandomenico captures a few great moments — like the full splash page of Dr. Hoffman turning into a legit supervillain and a scene where Gambit falls through a trap in the floor, as well as Quicksilver dodging bullets. However it all feels just a bit too glib, and thus emotionless and insignificant. More distracting are the costume designs, which are straight up ugly, especially the oddly designed glasses that two-thirds of the team wears. In an age of incredibly well-considered superhero designs, these costumes are a complete miss. A bizarre uninspired color scheme and terribly dated kneepads for everyone! Polaris also gets a weird exterior pseudo-corset and the aforementioned buggy glasses. Gambit, who doesn’t strike me as the team costume guy under the best of circumstances, suffers the most as the costume, even with added “cool guy” jacket, doesn’t fit his personality at all. Oddly, Quicksilver is the only one on the team so far without the glasses, which makes no sense as a speed character is the one guy on the team with the most potential use for them from a power set point of view.
Perhaps this quieter version of “All-New X-Factor” would have been more passable in a different era of comics, but there’s a large amount of high quality and incredibly well-conceived superhero books on the market — including those that sit next to this one on Marvel’s own shelves. With a thin plot, inconsistent writing, ill-considered costume design and poor character work, this just doesn’t cut it.