For every random “Wolverine Special” that seems to show up these days (and there are quite a few, the last I checked), it’s nice to see that other one-shots at Marvel are serving an actual purpose. Take the “X-Factor Special: Layla Miller” from Peter David and Valentine De Landro, by way of example. Here, David is using the one-shot format to look at a character who is at least temporarily no longer a member of the cast; a perfect way to catch up with Layla Miller without putting the rest of the title on hold.
It’s a smart move on David’s part; Miller’s unexpected, abrupt departure from “X-Factor” during the “Messiah Complex” cross-over could have derailed the title, with Layla being such an important part of the comic. While the exact time of her return is still unknown, it’s nice to see what she’s up to in the dystopian future of Marvel Comics. Of course, when that future involves mutant prison camps and squads of Sentinels patrolling the streets, that future is a less than rosy one to live in. To David’s credit, he doesn’t candy-coat or dumb down the nasty situation that Layla landed herself; instead, he’s presenting it as the scary, nasty place that it is, even as he provides a glimmer of hope for mutant-kind in the form of someone who can see the future.
David makes his additions to the future of Marvel very slight, but they’re smart ones; I like his portrayal of how the paranoia of the future can accelerate in the blink of an eye, and his new character is a clever extrapolation of what the child of two present-day characters would probably look like. And as said before, David’s planting of hope for mutants is here; it speaks well not only towards the future but towards our own present-day world, with the idea that there is only so far that the public can be pushed before they finally stand up for themselves. It’s a nice message to see added here, and a good balance to the scenes before where Layla details everything she knew she had to go through in order to get to this point; a reminder that sometimes, resistance is not easy.
De Landro’s art is solid, if not spectacular. It’s best when detailing the horrific world that the Marvel Universe becomes; a strong combination of run-down camps and depressed urban street scenes. His drawings of Ruby in particular are also good, letting her come across in her body language as being very strong and self-assured. I’m not as crazy with some of the other characters and their facial expressions, though; some of them look like they’re forever trapped with a single look on their face. In the end, it works well enough for this book.
Like the previous special focusing on Quicksilver, “X-Factor Special: Layla Miller” could very well serve as a template for how to best handle an extra one-shot for your ongoing comic. It touches in on a character that readers care about and want to see more of, but at the same time is a story that is best served by not breaking up the other stories running in the monthly title. If David has any more “X-Factor Specials” up his sleeve, I’ll definitely be back for more.