Review: X-Factor #230

This is it folks, what I believe is the first ever perfect score since I started doing comic book reviews on my blog! Peter David lets his hair down with this issue of X-Factor, writing a touching, twisting, and downright hilarious character-driven story. I’ve always said that the best issues of this series are the ones that focus on character interaction instead of weird plots, and this issue is the perfect example. This is why I love X-Factor so much. I’ve complained in the past about the overly large cast, but here every character is used to great effect, along with some wonderful additions.

X-Factor #230

All that, and I still don’t know what’s going to happen to Multiple Man!

Comic rating: 5/5: Great!

I’m not going to hold back my love for this issue. David has built up a fantastic cast in X-Factor, and here he is firing on all cylinders with each and every one of them. There is a great turmoil at X-Factor Investigations in the wake of Multiple Man’s death. Does the team want to stay together? What other emotions have been drudged up? What do they make of the fact that Strong Guy has no soul? How many push-ups can a soulless Strong Guy do?

And how great is the art of Emanuela Lupacchino? I praised Michael Lark the other day for his gritty character work. Well Lupacchino does a fantastic job with her realistic yet slightly cartoony character work here.

Join me for a look at one of the most delightful casts in comic books as well as a small peak at the ongoing fate of Multiple Man. Synopsis and spoilers after the jump!

I know my brother, for one, has wanted a firmer grasp on my ratings system. I could and should provide one, but mostly the ratings are off the top of my head based on a few unofficial factors. Is the book well-written, well-drawn? Is it fun to read? Does anything happen in the story? Does it tell a good story? Does it tell a horrible story? Is the dialogue stupid? Does it accomplish what it should be accomplishing as a comic book? These are all thoughts I put into my reviews. And X-Factor #230 succeeds at them all!

This issue is a perfect issue of X-Factor. I wouldn’t hold it up as one of the greatest comic books of all time, or as great as some truly brilliant series at their best. But X-Factor is a very good book, and issues like this one show us why. For one thing, this is some of the sharpest, snappiest writing you’re likely to find in mainstream comics, outside of Joss Whedon or Atomic Robo.

Pip the Troll finally earns his place on the team

That right there is just a snippet of the great dialogue in this issue, a mix of witty humor and a lot of soul-searching. Like I said, the team is kind of reeling after Madrox’s death, proving that he was something of a lynch pin keeping all these strong characters together. Without him, they’re bringing up old grudges and basically bickering with each other. It’s great!

The issue starts with Layla Miller and the issue’s guest star, Wolverine.

Thank God it's not Justin Bieber

X-Factor’s HQ is in an old funeral home, and so they have Madrox’s body in some type of dry ice container to keep him preserved. Layla, who has some weird mechanical device on the back of her hand, is keeping watch. Silently and with little interaction with her team. Banshee tries to comfort her, but Layla responds with threats. Wolverine, who has been in the room the whole time, tells Banshee that he’ll handle it.

In the other room, Rahne has her head down on the table, worried about Wolverine’s arrival. There’s a funny moment, as I posted above, where Shatterstar tries to figure out who Rahne is worried about. God? Justin Bieber? Then it must be Wolverine. Rahne is upset because the last time she and Wolverine hung out, she was on his secret strike team X-Force. She got kidnapped by some quasi-religious nutjobs, forced to OD on drugs and then killed not only her adopted father, but I think some other people as well. Being with X-Factor is part of her recovery process.

Back in the morgue area, Wolverine apologizes to Layla for some stories from several years ago.

Oh you know, just a little casual time travel

He asks her why she’s standing guard over Madrox’s body and what she’s waiting for. Layla doesn’t know. And she says that she isn’t necessarily avoiding her teammates so much as they are the ones steering clear of her. Everyone’s a little worried about Guido since they found out only a few issues ago that Layla used her mutant powers to bring him back to life – only without a soul!

Poor Guido's in Time Out

Monet is particularly freaked out that Guido doesn’t have a soul, but Guido feels fine so he doesn’t know why everybody has a problem. Monet says that he’s a powder keg of evil, a person who has no morality or restraint. Guido gets riled up, angrily proclaiming that there are plenty of super-villains who have souls. So why not a superhero without a soul?

Banshee comes in and tells them that Guido can now make the hard decisions and take difficult actions that the others might find morally reprehensible. Guido can do what they can’t without the usual hang-ups, without being worried that he’s going to Hell.

Most X-Factor women sport eye-defying cleavage

This touches off an argument between Banshee, a Catholic, and Monet, a Muslim, and the differences in their religious ideas of Hell. Basically Monet insists that she can do what needs to be done, and doesn’t need some soulless “freak” to do it for her!

What a bitch!

Guido calls her on it, but Monet doesn’t back down in insulting Guido.

Which is when Pip the Troll shows up to put Monet in her place with a rambling monologue about death and weirdness in comic books.

Why is Pip on this team again? Oh right, for the lulz

Back to Wolverine and Layla, she explains that they had some medics repair Madrox’s body. They sewed him up and fixed all of his internal injuries before they put him on ice. Wolverine asks how Layla didn’t see Madrox’s death coming, considering her whole gimmick is to ‘know things’.

We get a weird flashback/flashforward to Layla writing in a diary about the battle with Bloodbath. She writes that Monet and Shatterstar easily defeated Bloodbath, but she’s sad that Guido was no longer alive to be there.

I don’t really understand this scene. But then I’m not particularly sure how Layla’s ‘I know things’ power works. At one point in the past, they had future Layla give child Layla some kind of weird mind-meld…so how does that have anything to do with Layla writing in a diary about her time with X-Factor? Is this some alternate reality Layla writing in a diary that other Laylas get to read? It doesn’t make much sense at all.

But basically Layla was not supposed to bring Guido back to life. She thought she could get away with it this one time.

Someone has pulled the drama tag

Wolverine is just as confused as I am, but he and Layla bond slightly over the fact that they are both loners trying to fit in with a group.

Cut to Madrox! As we left off last issue, he’s in some weirdly apocalyptic world with smashed cars and destroyed skyscrapers. He’s standing over the very dead body of a dupe and starts to try and understand what’s happening to him.

I’m not a fan of that possibility. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here: there’s no need to give Multiple Man some kind of crazy secret origin. I love him specifically because he’s just a normal, ordinary mutant. Nobody special or unique. Being a mutant is just the origin of his powers, everything else important about him is based on his personality and sense of humor.

Plus his power of self-duplication is simple, cool and easy to understand. It doesn’t need some weird explanation involving alternate dimensions or whatever. Doing so would take away from the appeal of his mediocrity. But Peter David is the writer who has single-handedly revolutionized Madrox as a character. So I’ll wait to see how this plays out before I rush to judgement.

Before Madrox can suss anything out, the ground starts shaking something fierce. He flees and hides under an old wreck of a car. As he hides from whatever has landed nearby, he feels confident that his team is on the case of how to bring him home!

Or not.

They've got better stuff to do, like talking about dead fathers

That’s cold, Monet. First they argue about religion, and now she’s bringing up Banshee’s dead father. And Monet’s still harping on Guido being ‘dead’ in her eyes, even though he insists he’s got the hospital bill to prove that the doctors certified him “100% not dead”.

The argument has drawn the attention of Rahne, Rictor and Shatterstar, who come into the room and the argument gets bigger. They argue about Layla bringing Guido back, and whether or not it would be so bad if Layla brought Madrox back without a soul. Shatterstar says that, for heroes, death is just something else they must overcome. Rictor tells him that Layla didn’t ‘overcome’ death, she simply brought Guido back as half-a-man!

The argument continues between all parties. Shatterstar and Rictor argue about whose side they’re taking. Monet brings up Banshee’s dead child. And Guido tells Longshot that not having a soul means James Brown just doesn’t do it for him anymore.

So Wolverine steps in to regain order and stop the bickering. This leads to an explanation of the ‘Regenesis’ that was on the cover, how Wolverine and Cyclops had a falling out and split the X-Men. Cyclops is leading his team of superheroes in San Francisco, and Wolverine has re-opened the mutant school outside New York City.

Longshot already knows. Dazzler told him.

I bet the Dazzler/Longshot 'shippers loved that one!

Cut back to Multiple Man in his burned out New York City. Whatever was coming for him has gotten close enough for Madrox to see what it is. But instead of Sentinels, he sees…

Two giant Sentinel-sized versions of Iron Man. Freaky stuff.

Anyway, back to X-Factor. Wolverine explains Regenesis and tells X-Factor that he wants to put them on retainer. They’ve been in New York City for a long time and have contacts that he doesn’t. They’re a good team who work off the beaten path, which he could use.

Even though the members of X-Factor are not quite sure they can keep it together as a team. But Wolverine has thought of that. With the gap in leadership, he’s asked some old friends to come and help out.

Way to rub it in, Havok. The dude already doesn't have a soul

I bet Peter David has been waiting to make that crack about Strong Guy’s hair ever since he shaved  bald a few years ago.

Havok and Polaris are joining the team! If you don’t know your X-Factor history, they were on the team back in its original run (also written by David) back in the 90s. Madrox, Guido and Rahne were all on the team back then too. So this is like a mini-reunion! Albeit one without Madrox.

And I hope they get new costumes. Those looks may have worked when they were space pirates (Yes, space pirates!), but they definitely don’t fit in the more casual ensemble of X-Factor.

Anyway, Havok and Polaris definitely don’t make up for losing Madrox. We haven’t lost him yet…but if we do, they’re not worth it. Madrox and his personality were a large part of X-Factor. And as I said before, he was a good lynch pin for the series. He gave it a special life, and that will be sorely missed if David truly drops the star. I don’t want this to become just another superhero book.

Man, it is tense not knowing what’s going to happen to Multiple Man.

Anyway, I hope my review gave you a really good idea why this issue was so much fun! The banter was both sharp and at times funny. It dug into the characters as they hurled barbs at one another. You could feel the history between all of them, the friendships that are now only hanging on by a thread. And artist Lupacchino provides so much emotion on their faces. It’s delightful to read and view.

Wolverine worked well as a mediator, and Havok and Polaris show up with a witty line and a lot of personality.

Even Madrox’s short segment was fun. His adventure is so incredibly mysterious with so many questions. I can’t wait to find out what happens. Only a few more issues to go before we learn the final fate of Multiple Man!

——————————————-

What did you think of the issue? Do you agree or disagree with my perfect score? It may not be one of the greatest comics of all time, but I think it was a perfect issue of X-Factor! Tell me in the comments.

About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on January 11, 2012, in Comics, Marvel, Multiple Man, X-Men and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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