As “X-Factor” continues to wind down, the latest issue has Peter David and Neil Edwards deal with one of the few remaining members of the team, Polaris. She’s been a character treated rather erratically over the past decade (ranging from collected to insane, and all points in-between), and I’ve appreciated David’s attempt to try and address that in “X-Factor” since she was added to the cast. With “X-Factor” #260, though, it feels like Polaris is swerving towards the crazy side again. And that might not be a problem, if it wasn’t for the final page of the comic.
A confrontation between Polaris and Quicksilver makes sense, now that her status as Magneto’s daughter has been fully set in stone. Both characters have ranged from hero to villain in recent years, so the idea of the two of them hashing out their differences sounds like a lot of fun. In what feels like an attempt to make Polaris a little manic, though, David instead tips the balance a little too far. The end result is a slightly shrill and nasty version of the character, one for whom it’s less than enjoyable to read about. This might not be a problem if some other members of X-Factor were still around to provide balance, but when the only other recognizable character is Quicksilver — well, it’s too much sour with no sweet to cut the taste in your mouth.
It’s frustrating, because if “X-Factor” #260 is boiled down to a brief plot synopsis, it sounds like it could work. David’s dialogue has such a nasty edge to it, though, that it’s hard to cheer on or even want to see lots of Polaris in this issue. This is a comic about a character who’s snapped, and watching her downward spiral that involves a lot of collateral damage isn’t fun. Perhaps more importantly, it’s also something that’s been seen before, from writers like Grant Morrison, Peter Milligan and Chuck Austen. Considering that more recent writers (including David) have been working to rehabilitate the character, this is a huge step back. Add in the final page of the comic — with what feels like a set-up for a re-launched “X-Factor” with Polaris in the cast — and there’s not even the relief of knowing that she’s been pulled off the playing field for a while. If this is the new status quo for Polaris, that’s a negative aspect of a new “X-Factor.”
Edwards’s pencils are good, though, if perhaps a little too effective at bringing David’s script to life. When Polaris is interacting with the bartender, the expressions on her face and her overall body language ranges from prickly to outright nasty. The steely look she gives him when he says he’d like to see her try and destroy the bar is withering with its dead-eyed gaze. When she smirks at the bottom of the page, there’s something about the way that her head is cocked and there’s that knowing look of “this is going to hurt someone else” dancing behind the expression that makes her scream “villain” rather than “lost and confused hero.” Don’t get me wrong, Edwards is knocking his pages out of the park here — they’re well drawn, have a strong panel-to-panel flow, and great body language — but they definitely emphasize the unpleasant turn for the character.
“X-Factor” #260 is a slightly gutsy turn for the book, and if this was truly a wrap-up for Polaris it might be a little easier to swallow. But as a springboard for a new series, or even a follow-on from everything seen for the character to date, it doesn’t feel right on either front. I don’t mind a comic that is prickly and unpleasant, but this feels like it’s a slight misstep in achieving its presumed purposes.