“X-Factor” #256 by Peter David and Leonard Kirk brings the “Hell on Earth” war storyline to a close as the book takes one more step towards its now-announced conclusion — although in fairness, it’s the kind of conclusion that leaves more story to be told.
Although X-Factor’s mystical long-form arc has gone for the better part of 50 issues, it hasn’t ever quite clicked in the way the previous stories of time travel and determinism did. Admittedly, neither is a particularly apt fit for a mutant team, but the X-Men certainly have greater precedent with the former.
On its own terms, it’s a good issue that closes off a number of story threads while giving a definite lead-in to the final arc. The exploration of what it means for Strong Guy to be alive without a soul reaches a head in this issue in one of the book’s most dramatic endings for some time. It’s a twist so audacious that it can’t help but invite reversal (there’s no way Marvel would leave Guido occupying the position in which he ends this story), but it’s not unsatisfying — presumably it was always intended as temporary, and David will be the one to undo it. It’s good that “X-Factor” still has the capacity to surprise, even during a weaker period.
As the book winds towards its conclusion, it’ll be interesting to see how David ties the characters up. The majority of the team are broken in some way by the time this story closes, but we do feel closer to the end than the beginning. In particular, it’ll be good to have Madrox back. His presence has been limited over the last few issues and the book is definitely missing something without his dry commentary.
Art-wise, this would appear to be Leonard Kirk’s final issue on the title, and as finales go, it’s one worth celebrating. The material he’s asked to draw is far from conventional and undeniably epic in scale, but it’s to Kirk’s credit that he handles it without losing the human qualities that make “X-Factor’s” cast so likeable. Kirk goes out with a crescendo rather than a coda, and delivers a hard act to follow.
Still, after multiple issues of scaled-up action, a chance of pace would be nice. Hopefully “X-Factor” can end strong on some more character-centric and shorter stories more typical of the book’s tenure. David’s past form on final issues is impressive (his “Incredible Hulk” and “Captain Marvel” finales spring to mind) so let’s hope that “X-Factor” gets the send-off it deservers after so many issues.