Although "X-Factor" attempted to make a clean break when the book was relaunched with issue 200, it's become apparent that -- whether by accident or design -- the same problems are creeping in around the edges. With so many subplots in the air, and so many characters to draw on, the title's consistency is starting to suffer as we bounce from one story to the next, apparently at random.
However, there may be a method to David's apparent madness. This issue starts to bring the inherited subplot of Rahne's child to the fore, and even seems to tie it in with the recent Hela plotline. In the past, David has woven together several apparently disparate threads into a satisfying conclusion. Could he be about to do the same here?
Let's hope so, because if not, the book is being propelled by sheer character alone. This issue's plot, such that it is, consists of mythical and vaguely bestial types converging on Rahne and Shatterstar, presumably drawing the story of her gestating child to a close. Strangely, unlike similar plots, the focus isn't on the child and what might be so important, but on the characters around it and how they're being affected by the conflict. It may be an oversight -- David obviously wants us to believe Rahne's child is important -- but in the book itself, it's just not coming across.
Aside from being a fairly confused succession of fights, the issue itself is otherwise strong. David's dialogue is always great, while his sense of humor means that even the most weakly plotted issues (of which this is one) feel entertaining. When "better than average" is the worst a title gets, it's easy to forgive the poorer issues.
Although it's nice to see Dennis Calero back on art, there's a certain undercurrent of "you can't go home again" in his presence. The book has drifted further and further from its noir-inspired roots, and whilst Calero was a great fit for the book early in its lifespan, he seems at odds with the material here. The appearance of Feral, in particular, sits uneasily with Calero's style, while the scene with Bastet would certainly benefit from a slightly more conventional look of the kind that Emanuela Lupacchino has recently been providing for the title.
Despite these complaints, it's important to note that X-Factor is, as ever, good in its own way. Solid foundations mean that every issue advances the story, and even the shakier moments offer plenty of entertainment for your money. Could it be better? Certainly, and it often is, but for now it's good enough.