There was a recent interview with writer Peter David where he said he didn't have long-term plans for "X-Factor" because he constantly had to change his plans based on other occurrences in the Marvel Universe. While it sounded a bit exaggerated for appearance's sake, I will admit that this current storyline in "X-Factor" has felt aimless enough that I'm starting not to doubt his claims in that regard.
If you sit down and map things out, the stories are all after all connected; Madrox and Layla in the future are tied into the rest of the team trying to save Lenore from the possessing villain as well as a group of Sentinels. But as new characters are added into the mix (Madrox's priest duplicate! Shatterstar! Lenore!), it's starting to feel like it's at the expense of other characters. Characters walk on for a brief scene, then vanish until the next issue, sort of like soap opera characters who get to appear just long enough to remind the audience that they exist (and to get a paycheck).
The bigger problem, though, is that David's storytelling doesn't feel like it's up to its normal strength in thinking things through. It's hard to believe that a thrown blade from Longshot can take so long to bounce around and find its target, for instance, or that Siryn can so easily destroy Sentinels on her own. Things seem to happen for expedience's sake rather than because it makes sense. At this point I'm actually somewhat eager for this story to end (I'd prefer to see the characters as a team again and actually working as such), but this feels like cheating to get to the end of the chapter rather than to move things along in a logical way.
Valentine de Landro's art isn't quite up to par this month, either. There are too many expressionless faces here, with lots of characters relegated to being drawn into the background where not as many lines or details are used. There's one scene where I had to figure out by process of elimination that it was Darwin, because de Landro drew him so featureless. Then again, that's better than Monet's old-lady face when she attacks the villain this issue. It's such an unattractive, unrecognizable portrait of the character I was actually slightly taken aback.
"X-Factor" lately has had its ups and downs, and this one is more down than up. Hopefully next month will be another up, but at the moment I think I'd settle for feeling like "X-Factor" has a purpose again. I know David has said he can't plan that far ahead, but somehow I'm sure he can put something together if he and editorial really wanted to.