With a cast of twelve characters, “X-Factor” sometimes has more characters that it seems to be able to juggle. I think that’s one of the reasons why I liked “X-Factor” #235 so much; it felt like Peter David and Leonard Kirk had just the right handle on how many characters to use and for just the right duration.
David offers up a good division of leadership at the start of the issue between Havok and Madrox, and it’s one that makes sense. It allows the book to get pulled into “big” storylines when necessary, but also continues to ground the book in smaller, more intimate stories whenever David wants. That’s what we’re getting here, at least initially, as Madrox and Shatterstar investigate the deaths of members of the “X-Ceptionals,” a non-powered group of young men in Seattle who dress up as heroes and patrol the streets to help those in need. It’s a nice nod to the people in the real world who are doing that (if you’ve never heard of them before, the most famous one is probably Phoenix Jones. A quick Google search will pull up a lot on him and others in this movement), and the idea of them existing in the Marvel Universe makes sense. I also like the respect that these guys are given; sure, they’re over their heads, but they’re trying to do well and the more you read about them, the less of a joke they are.
More importantly, the way that it’s just Madrox and Shatterstar investigating the deaths makes sense, thanks to a creepy moment where Longshot tries to get a psychic reading off of the video camera. It gives the pair of them motivation to find out who the killer is, and while a lot of the cast gets to show up early in the story, it also gives a logical reason to quickly winnow down the characters to a manageable level. That’s how I’d like to see most of the characters gently pushed to one side and it works well here.
Kirk’s art is good in his smooth, polished style that he’s had for a while now. The homegrown costumes of the X-Ceptionals and the early-’90s flashback to the bad guy’s appearance here both instantly nail their looks, provoking instant reactions from the reader on how you’re supposed to perceive them. Kirk’s also good as always with the action; characters are lithe and energetic and the bad guy crouching on the wall is a great example of a scene that would never work in real life but looks perfect here.
“X-Factor” is on a roll as of late and this issue is a good a place as any to check out the book for yourself if you haven’t done so. David and Kirk are delivering strong, fun, quality comics.