Readers seem to like Peter David comics. I keep hearing about how this is one of the best — if not the absolute best — of the X-family titles. He gets plenty of credit for his deft characterization and wicked plot twists, but every time I sample an issue of “X-Factor” I find the same recurring problems: sit-com dialogue and forced gravitas.
David at least tries to push the X-concepts into new directions, particularly with the Madrox psycho-drama and his reverse-Oedipal misfortune. This certainly isn’t a bright, shiny post-human future, nor is it a victimized-mutants-protecting-the-very-humans-who-hate-them situation. No, “X-Factor” is a weird tangle of relationships and time paradoxes. It’s certainly unlike any other Marvel comic, and it deserves credit for that. But it’s not very good at doing what it seems to be trying to do. It’s just a goofy, overdramatic sci-fi superhero comic that takes itself too seriously.
The art is pretty good — nothing particularly inventive, but it’s standard Marvel fare circa 2009 and I can’t fault it for that, even though it’s a five-man effort, apparently. The writing is what bumps this train off the rails of quality. From Madrox’s self-conscious wimpering (“There’s no crying in noir,” he says), to the z-grade jokes (“A codex is a kind of book. And Kotex is–uhm, never mind), David lumbers from page to page looking for pop-culture gags and awkwardly stylized dialogue. Issue #44 reads like a very special episode of something like “The Big Bang Theory” — complete with warnings about the evils of alcoholism — and “The Big Bang Theory” is a pretty terrible show.
Then again, that show seems to find an audience.
So if you like that kind of groan-inducing humor and heavy-handed attempts at pathos, then “X-Factor” #44 might be for you. It not only has tampon jokes, but it has a super-sexy seduction scene that turns into bad news for the good guys. Maybe that makes it worth reading? No it doesn’t. Not for me.