"X-Factor" #257 is the first chapter in the six-part "The End of X-Factor," which has Peter David and Neil Edwards wrap up a series that's been chugging along for quite some time. With this opening installment not only wrapping up a plot point from last month's storyline but also feeling surprisingly long, though, it's not the most welcoming first installment.
Focusing on Layla Miller as she hunts down her missing husband Jamie Madrox (who is somewhere in Marrakesh and was transformed into a mute demon by Mephisto), as much panel time is given to a young boy and his uncle who have captured Jamie and declared him to be a djinn that can bring back the boy's dead mother. The problem is two-fold, though. First, these new characters aren't interesting. They're both stock background characters promoted to the main stage; their origins are both very cliche and there's nothing of great interest to make readers want to learn more. Second, this issue suffers by having no one to cut away to. This isn't a full issue's worth of story, something that even Layla herself reflects on at one point. Instead of diffusing the overstaying-its-welcome nature of the issue by having Layla wonder why this is taking so long, David has inadvertently drawn attention to that problem. It is running too long, and with no real surprises around the corner, it ends up being a side trip that will be quickly forgotten.
Edwards's pencils (with an assist from Carmen Carnero) look fine. His characters are leggy and loosely drawn, with Jay Leisten's inks providing a good consistency from Edwards to Carnero. There's not too much with which to get creative here, although I do like the way that we get to see the portal opening up; it's a little different that the norm and stands out as a result. Occasionally there's a strange panel that feels not quite right -- Layla's cross-eyed expression when she says, "Well, this is hostile" being the most obvious example -- but on the whole it's not bad.
"X-Factor" #257 is a less than riveting start to "The End of X-Factor," and that's a shame because I'd like the series to go out on a high note. I think it's still possible, especially now that the missing Madrox subplot has been wrapped up. But for the sake of the readership, I hope that whatever happens next does so in a slightly snappier manner.