Review: All-New X-Factor #1
Sometimes you’ve just got to be careful what you wish for. The comic I was most looking forward to in the All-New Marvel NOW! has arrived in the form of All-New X-Factor #1, writer Peter David’s latest revival of his long-standing, moderately popular superhero team. Free of past continuity and characters, PAD has been given free reign to re-invent X-Factor as he sees fit, with a new cast, a new purpose and new momentum. So it really is a shame that this issue fails on every conceivable level.
All-New X-Factor #1 is as generic and mediocre a superhero comic as you could get in this day and age. From a boring plot to random characters to a premise that reeks of missed opportunities, every aspect of this comic is uninspired.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
The last time PAD relaunched X-Factor – whether you count the MadroX mini-series or X-Factor #1 – the writer clearly had purpose. Built around the reinvention of the wildly underused Jamie Madrox, PAD’s vision included noir sensibilities, the mysteries of Layla Miller, shadowy villains and a cast of characters with rich histories together. Back then, PAD clearly had ideas. And he had heart.
But all of that is missing in All-New X-Factor #1.
The new relaunch falls victim to Marvel’s recent trend of just piling a bunch of random superheroes together and calling them a team. Again and again, Marvel has done this, whether it’s some new Avengers spin-off or multiple versions of X-Force. And maybe if one of your favorite characters is on that team, you’ll love the comic. But most of these books are just generic superhero stories starring random superheroes, and that’s exactly how the new X-Factor reads. Even the interesting new premise, that X-Factor is now the first corporately-owned superhero team in the Marvel Universe, is painfully generic.
The potential for some interesting ideas or styles is present, but time and again, PAD either skips right over them or doesn’t play them up nearly enough. He could get so much about of All-New X-Factor, but PAD and Marvel seem fine with settling for mediocrity.
I don’t give this comic a year.
Join me after the jump for a full synopsis and more review.
Just a word of warning before we get started, this is going to get pretty ranty at the end, so brace yourselves.
The issue opens with a one-page teaser of the villain, the scientist Dr. Hoffman. He’s experimenting on someone in some out of the way lab, making small talk with his assistant. The victim strapped to the operating table, whose identity is hidden in shadow, tells Hoffman that they’re going to kill him when they get free, but Hoffman tells them that they’re suffering is for the greater good, then he and his assistant go get an espresso.
We then cut to Gambit, who’s solo series was recently cancelled. That series focused on Gambit’s life as a thief, and that’s where we find him, breaking into some kind of building in order to steal an ancient artifact. He sneaks through the laser grid and gets close enough to grab the object…before he gets an unexpected visitor.
It’s Wolverine, and he just strolls in and starts chewing Gambit out about being a thief instead of focusing on his role as a teacher – which is a surefire example of the pot calling the kettle black. I don’t read all of Wolverine’s various solo series, but isn’t he constantly on adventures that take him away from his duties at the Jean Grey School, some of which are probably in a gray area when it comes to the law? Gambit tries to explain that this artifact has the power to summon a demon to Earth, but Wolverine just grumbles that the incantations have been lost for centuries, and furthermore, Gambit can’t just go around stealing people’s stuff! Wolverine spends the whole time emasculating and embarrassing Gambit, which prompts Remy LeBeau to later go out for a drink.
Really? Was someone in a bar really saying that New Orleans deserved Hurricane Katrina? Are we sure drunken Gambit isn’t just making that up as an excuse?
Anyway, Polaris shows up, fully dressed in her new Serval Industries uniform, and Gambit is happy to see her – because they’re both generally members of the X-family. He points out that Polaris is supposed to be insane these days, referencing that incident at the bar in X-Factor #260. She tells him that she just had a bad day, and Gambit agrees that everyone has those. Polaris takes him to a nearby coffee house so that they can chat. Remy explains that Wolverine wants him to cut out all of his thieving, and to no longer have any contact with the Thieves’ Guild, which, again, is really hypocritical. How many criminal organizations is Wolverine a member of these days? Isn’t he the leader of the Chinese Mafia in San Francisco? Wasn’t that a thing?
Anyway, so with no explanation whatsoever, Polaris convinces Gambit to come all the way to Virginia with her. They hop into a Serval Industries corporate jet, and are then randomly targeted by a missile.
Gambit asks why Serval would have enemies who fire missiles, and Polaris gives him the rundown on the company: they own a major Internet search engine and manufacture weapons, which pays the bills. What those two things have to do with one another is anybody’s guess. Polaris super duper promises that Serval’s main goal is helping people, and she says she’s done a ton of research into the company, so she would know. Some people just have a problem with that.
They arrive at Serval corporate headquarters, and Polaris leads Gambit into the building. He meets the chief of security, Teddy, and then innocently jostles some guy in a rumpled suit. Polaris immediately knows that Gambit stole the guy’s wallet and makes him give it back. I think Gambit might have a problem.
They take a fancy elevator up to the meeting room, where Gambit is introduced to Linda Kwan, their PR representative. Gambit takes a seat and asks what Jamie Madrox’s X-Factor has to do with Serval Industries – which leads to the arrival of the guy in charge, Harrison Snow.
Snow says that the media has dubbed him “the next Tony Stark” due to his weapons research, but he explains to Gambit that he’s not really into weapons, despite their profitability. He then explains that he bought the rights to the name ‘X-Factor’ from Madrox, with the intent of creating the world’s first corporate-owned superhero team. Polaris recommended Gambit for the team, so they’ve recruited him. But Gambit is still a little hesitant.
Nobody who laughs like that after a question like that is a good guy, just sayin’.
Anyway, the Avenger he’s talking about is Quicksilver, who has randomly shown up at Serval HQ. He’s following up on Polaris’ well-being after X-Factor #260, and explains that he’s had a bit of a falling out with the Avengers, so he wants to join up. Gambit is a little snippy towards him, and Polaris isn’t too keen on her half-brother to begin with, but she tells him he can stay and join X-Factor. This is all perfect timing, too, because Snow already has a mission for them.
Snow tells his team about Dr. Terrance Hoffman, a noted biologist who has started experimenting on mutants for AIM. That’s it. That’s the depth of the mission. Some mad scientist somewhere is experimenting on kidnapped mutants. It’s a bad thing, obviously, but that’s the big bad of the first issue of X-Factor’s relaunch? The team suits up off-panel and heads out to Hoffman’s secret lab.
Gambit’s narration wonders for a moment what Serval gets out of helping rescue mutants on this “convenient” mission, and Snow told him that they just want to help people. Gambit’s still a little iffy about this whole thing, but he’s done far worse on far less motivation, so he might as well stick around and see it through.
The last page features Hoffman in his lab being notified of the attack. He doesn’t seem at all bothered, and is glad to have new mutant test subjects. We also find out that the test subject strapped to the table from the first page is Fatale, of all people.
I had to Google Fatale to remember anything about her. She was linked to Dark Beast back in the 90s, and PAD used her in his X-Cell story in X-Factor way back in the day. So he really scraped the barrel in terms of picking a random mutant character to put on that operating table. Fatale isn’t even part of the announced lineup of the All-New X-Factor. Unless she’s going to be the sleeper member, to which I say, “her?”
OK, I don’t even know where to begin. This wasn’t awful, by any means. PAD’s writing is fine, and the art by Carmine Di Giandomenico is good, I like it. So it’s a solidly made comic book. But the story and everything in it is just so painfully generic and boring that I’m beside myself with disappointment. Nearly everything is a misstep with this comic, from the choice of characters to their motivations for joining the team to the very ideas behind Serval Industries.
I realize, obviously, I don’t write for Marvel Comics. They don’t care about my creative ideas. But looking over this comic, I was stunned at how much more could have been done. There were so many opportunities for PAD to do something different with the format, something satirical. Here’s a random gathering of some random superheroes for a new team…why not comment on that? Like what Al Ewing is doing over in Mighty Avengers, where he has Luke Cage and the other characters comment on the fact that they’re setting up their own Avengers team in spite of everything Iron Man and Captain America are doing with their Avengers World idea. I wanted PAD to actually comment on the randomness of putting this team together. And maybe a scene of Quicksilver and Gambit reacting to their new uniforms. I wanted something a little deeper, but instead we just get a generic team-gathering.
The characters are disappointing as well. None of them even come close to the focus and reinvention that PAD awarded to Multiple Man at the start of the last X-Factor. Gambit is a fine lead character, but he starts out this issue being emasculated by Wolverine. What’s up with that? I thought, perhaps, that this was PAD’s way of maybe reinventing the character. Gambit could definitely use it. After the failure of his last solo series, which focused on Gambit as a thief, I thought this would be a good chance to rebrand Gambit as something other than a charming thief – but no such luck, at least not in this issue. Gambit is written as generically as Gambit has ever been written. No special focus, no real emphasis on his character. This is just Gambit tagging along with a new superhero team. PAD also doesn’t answer what happens to Remy’s job as a teacher at the Jean Grey School. Did he quit? And does Serval expect him to give up the thieving as well?
Polaris doesn’t fare any better. She gets essentially zero personality of her own, and is instead just a mouthpiece to get Gambit to Serval Industries. There’s no indication of why she’s so into this company or this team. PAD clearly has something in mind for a rivalry with Quicksilver, but there’s never been a rivalry before. Remember, the revelation that Polaris is Magneto’s daughter is still fairly recent, and she’s never really done anything with that revelation (it was also a Chuck Austen idea). So there’s no rivalry to build off of, likewise this snippiness between Gambit and Quicksilver. None of these characters really have a history together, so there’s nothing really for PAD to play with. He’s going to have to create it all from scratch.
And Quicksilver, like the other two, is just a random addition to the team. He shows up and they let him join, because why the hell not?
The less said about Dr. Hoffman the better. Generic evil scientist performing generic experiments on mutants, specifically the most boring X-character PAD could have possibly chosen (my apologies to any Fatale fans).
But I think the thing I’m most disappointed with is Serval Industries, the one thing that was supposed to make this comic special.
PAD clearly wants Serval Industries to be Google, but for some reason, he doesn’t commit. He mentions that they own a popular online search engine, but that is completely overshadowed by being a weapons manufacturer. Really? Yet another generic weapons manufacturer in the Marvel Universe? How many weapons manufacturers have been name-dropped in Marvel Comics over the decades? They’ve got to be a dime a dozen.
Being the Marvel Universe’s answer to Google is something new and unique! Google has such a presence in the real world that it’s ripe for satirical storytelling. Everybody knows their company motto – “Don’t be evil” – that’s perfect for a world of superheroes! Google’s internship program is so famously fun that they made a movie about it. And Google is on the cutting edge of new technologies, like Google Glass or Google Chrome. In a world of superheroes, it would make total sense for Google to want to put together their own fun, friendly superhero team. So why didn’t PAD do that?
Why did he make Serval as painfully generic as possible? Why make them a weapons manufacturer at all? The Marvel Universe doesn’t need another weapons manufacturer, and it doesn’t need another generically handsome, generically charming guy to be labeled ‘the next Tony Stark’. I wonder how many times that phrase has come up in a Marvel comic.
PAD doesn’t even do anything interesting with Serval Industries. Aside from Harrison Snow being as clean cut and boring as humanly possible, PAD added the plucky PR lady and the bald security chief. Both of those roles are as cliched as they come.
And could the company be any more obviously evil? Everyone who picks up this issue clearly already expects the corporation to be evil, because in fiction in this day and age, corporations are evil. PAD has Gambit sort of mention this nagging concern, but why avoid the question? Why not settle in the first issue whether or not Serval is evil just to get it over with? Personally, I’d rather they not be evil. I’d rather this company legitimately want to put together a superhero team to help people. That would at least be new and interesting. But no, PAD settles for vaguely sinister, making Gambit, Polaris and Quicksilver out to be dopes. When all of this blows up in their faces – and I really think it will sooner rather than later – they’re all going to feel like assholes for going along with it at all. But by then they’ll be randomly inserted to some other superhero team, so who will care?
All-New X-Factor #1 was a huge disappointment on every level. As you can see from my rant, I don’t think there was one aspect I liked about the comic. It’s a subpar outing from one of my favorite comic book writers. PAD had every opportunity to come up with something new and exciting, with a real focus on some interesting characters. But he delivers a generic, boring superhero story, like a million others being churned out of Marvel these days. All-New X-Factor #1 has no heart. And that’s going to cost it in the long run.
Of course, I’m more than open for issue #2 to completely change my mind!
Posted on January 9, 2014, in Comics, Marvel, Reviews and tagged All-New Marvel NOW!, All-New X-Factor, Gambit, PAD, Peter David, Polaris, Quicksilver, Serval Industries, X-Factor. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.