After a nice string of strong issues, “X-Factor” #239 is the second one in a row that’s started to feel like the book is meandering a bit. And in the past, that’s spelled trouble.
Peter David’s script for the issue half-heartedly wraps up the storyline where Havok and Banshee go up against a real banshee — except it’s not wrapped up that much at all. We’re given a bit of a deus ex machina conclusion to how the banshee is defeated, following by an ominous warning by a character that’s been equally ominously foreshadowed for several issues. In other words, it feels like “X-Factor” is starting to fall into Chris Claremont’s old plotting patterns from the late ’80s when nothing ever got resolved.
Now it could very well be that starting next month we’re going to see everything click together wonderfully, and with that issue we’ll be having a better and more-cohesive “X-Factor.” But judging “X-Factor” #239 based on what we have right now, it’s not a satisfying reading experience. Leaving aside that once again half the cast is missing (many of them with minor or major cliffhangers that continue to not be addressed), the characters that are here all feel a bit lackluster. Havok’s presence in this issue is barely needed, and while it’s nice to see Banshee actually get a storyline again, she seems to react rather than act from start to finish. I never got the impression that she was a driving force in the issue, worthy of the title protagonist. At least M and Strong Guy get a small subplot moving, but once again it’s one with little momentum. I like that they’re addressing the budding relationship they had before Strong Guy’s death and resurrection, but it’s still moving at a snail’s pace.
Part of the problem may also be that Paul Davidson’s art isn’t quite clicking. Everyone looks a little too lean and elongated; when even Strong Guy falls into that category something isn’t right with the overall look. There are a couple of good bits visually this issue, like the way the smoke billows up around Morrigan when she’s summoned, but it’s a minor moment in an otherwise not quite there issue for the art.
“X-Factor” is a book that I’ve been cheering on for the majority of the year, so seeing it start to misstep and scatter is a bit disappointing. This is a book that I know is capable of so much better, because we’ve had it before. Hopefully Longshot can work some of his luck powers on his home title and right things again, because “X-Factor” could use some right now.