"X-Factor" was a bit of a black sheep when it came to the rest of the X-Men line the past few years. Often left out of crossovers and events, and operating on the fringes of the mutant world, it was certainly ripe for a relaunch in an attempt to drum up more interest with a fresh start. Peter David and Carmine di Giandomenico's "All-New X-Factor" #1 has its heart in the right place, but unfortunately this book ends up a misfire.
At its core, it's not necessarily a bad idea. This isn't the first comic to tackle the idea of a corporate team of heroes, but in today's world it's more ripe than ever for the picking. With massive companies gaining more and more control over our lives, focusing on what would happen in the Marvel Universe if a supposedly altruistic company lined up their own heroes makes perfect sense.
In this title, though, it's the execution that falls flat in almost every aspect. Take the introduction of Serval Industries, the company that the all-new X-Factor is working for. David has the company present itself as one that, among many other things, specializes in helping people. In many ways it sounds like a twist on Google's "Do no evil" mantra (Serval even owns an internet search engine), although this company also creates weapons and has missiles fired at its planes. Here's the problem, though: in what feels like an effort to make them come across as genuinely good, David misses the mark and makes them boring. There are only a limited number of options about Serval Industries (they're evil, they're good, or a mixture of the two) and in an effort to keep our heroes from coming across as idiots, David tilts the book incredibly far into the "good" category for their outer appearance in this first issue. It ends up uninteresting and ill-defined, though; a company that just wants to "help people" may seem great in terms of story hooks, but in the end it's just as uninteresting as all of the various superhero books where the team bills itself as being proactive and trying to stop bad guys before they strike. The spark just isn't there.
Part of the problem is also the lackluster usage of Polaris, Gambit and Quicksilver -- none of the three come across as terribly interesting. Polaris's various breakdowns claim to have been wiped clean, and while only time will tell, the end result makes her appear rather bland. There's no discernable personality to the character that's left. (This has admittedly been a problem for a very long time with the character; writers have been so determined to give her flaws that they eventually wiped out anything else connected to her.) Quicksilver doesn't come across much better, and that's a real shame considering all of the strong work that David did with the character in his original "X-Factor" run. There's nothing new or even noteworthy here.
The biggest surprise is how poorly Gambit comes across. This is the first time David's had him as a main cast member in one of his team books, and the end result is a strange mixture of cliche and boredom. Gambit comes across as a bit of a sheep here, being blindly led forward by Polaris, when not going for a very stereotypical thief role. I understand that some of the latter is an inheritance from the now-cancelled "Gambit" series, but this is one of those instances where just quietly forgetting the book happened might have been the smarter option. For a character that normally adds a lot of flare and spice to a book, he falls flat here.
Di Giandomenico's art for "All-New X-Factor" #1 doesn't help matters, unfortunately. It comes across very messy and sketchy, and for a first issue that's a bad sign. A strange mixture of artists like Simone Bianchi and Larry Stroman, nothing looks quite right. Why are there big Y symbols on the team's knees and forearms? Your guess is as good as mine. (Shouldn't they at least be an X?) Characters are often in strange poses, and the number of pinched faces and expressions this issue made me start to wonder if the entire comic was supposed to take place downwind from a sewage treatment plant. CEO Harrison Snow comes across the worst, with an eerie and almost plastic-like face; when he laughs in one panel and then snaps his mouth shut in the next one, I feel like we're watching a moray eel rather than a person. There are a few small touches that I like -- for instance the Serval logo on the team costumes -- but I can't help but note that it comes more from Kris Anka's cover than Di Giandomenico's interior art.
"X-Factor" had a slightly troubled final year as David started to wrap up plotlines, but I was hoping that "All-New X-Factor" #1 would be a fresh start for the title, free of backstory and moving forward in a smart new direction. And while I give David and Di Giandomenico credit for presenting a brand-new beginning, here, "All-New X-Factor" #1 comes across as a problematic-at-best relaunch. Ultimately, a big disappointment.