I freely admit that back in the day when Louise Simonson was removed from “X-Factor” after #64, I was more than a little disappointed. Simonson had taken a poorly written book and transformed it into a lot of fun, and when she left it was around the time that the X-books in general became a lot more grim and depressing. So in terms of a nostalgia product, “X-Factor Forever” (picking up right where she left off all those years ago) is aimed squarely at me.
The third of five issues, this is unfortunately the moment where the mini-series sags a bit. Simonson had moved all of her players onto the board in the first two issues, and this is the part where the big fight takes place. Well, a big fight, at any rate. It’s unfortunate that Caliban as Apocalypse’s Hound is the one storyline I could’ve done without seeing revisited, because that’s exactly what the bulk of the action is centered around. The fight goes a little slowly and feels a bit dull, almost like it was an obligation to finish off. It’s strange, because while I appreciate how much Simonson did with Apocalypse over the years, I’m actually less interested in him right now and am more about the members of X-Factor and their friends.
Speaking of which, while their roles are reduced, it has been fun seeing characters like Trish, Charlotte, and Opal running around “X-Factor Forever.” They’ve all got backbones and the fact that twenty years later I remembered their names without being reminded said a lot about how Simonson fleshed them out into interesting people. With them and Ship all having been written out soon after Simonson’s departure, their return (even if briefly) is a pleasure. There are nice character moments for the main cast too, and I’d forgotten that I enjoyed that brief period of time where little baby Nathan Christopher was still bouncing around. He’s propelled into the center of the story, here, and the last pages captured my interest for what’s to come.
The visuals are a little erratic this issue, with Dan Panosian and Eric Nguyen splitting up art duties. The staging of Apocalypse’s escape is a little clunky (although I think the colors aren’t helping matters by masking the scene transitions), and Caliban looks more like the Absorbing Man than himself in far too many of these scenes. Archangel’s wings often look like a jumble of shapes, too, almost liking giving up on trying to make them look normal. (I’m also forever distracted by Panosian drawing the exterior view of Ship with the living quarters at a 90 degree angle, instead of remembering that it rotated upright when Ship landed on its end in New York. I know it’s a minor detail, but “X-Factor Forever” is squarely aimed at people who remember Simonson’s “X-Factor” run rather vividly.) On the other hand, they both draw a strong-jawed Cyclops with good effect, and Jean Grey and Beast also come across rather well.
After enjoying the first issue a great deal, this middle slump is a slight disappointment. Hopefully it’s just a dip in the road and not a downward slide; with two issues to go, though, I feel like I’m in until the end. And while we’re at it, maybe someone could offer Simonson a title she’d be interested in writing? I miss her gift with dialogue. It’d be nice to see her do something new.