Review: All-New X-Factor #3
I need to talk about the cover of All-New X-Factor #3 for a moment. I don’t usually discuss covers in my reviews, but this needs to be said, because cats in comics is kind of my kryptonite (as well as Youtube videos of cats who sound like they’re talking). I dig the unique look of the All-New X-Factor covers. But this cover shows Gambit snuggling with a bunch of cats, and the quote, “I’m their freaking king” above his head. This led me to believe that X-Factor was going to meet an army of cats, and they were going to really like Gambit, and therefore he was going to declare himself the ‘King of Cats’! BUT IT DOESN’T HAPPEN!
I kind of want to demand my money back. And I want the ‘King of the Cats’ to become a thing immediately.
All-New X-Factor #3 shows a bit of improvement over the first two issues, but not by much. The characters and their relationships are still paper thin, the premise is still a bit uncomfortable, and writer Peter David hasn’t found anything really interesting for anyone to do (other than crack crappy jokes). But somehow, this issue at least felt like it was put together a little better than the first two.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
At three issues in, I see signs that some of my concerns with this comic might even out. PAD is clearly trying to build up the relationships between his main characters, but he’s still working with a bunch of blank slates, so there’s just not much he can do yet. I get why Gambit doesn’t trust Quicksilver, but the characters have never had anything to do with one another, so the mistrust just rings hollow. And Polaris has been such a non-player for the past few years that she doesn’t really have any sort of relationship with anything, whether it be her teammates or the Marvel Universe as a whole.
Also, when has Gambit been a crazy cat person? That cover isn’t about Gambit becoming King of the Cats, but instead its about how Gambit has brought three pet cats to live with him at Serval Industries. When did that happen? Has Gambit always had a bunch of pet cats and I’ve just never noticed?
Or is it another bit of plot that PAD has pulled over from Gambit’s recently cancelled solo series? I hope the lot of you were reading that series, because X-Factor’s second big mission is mired in characters and plot points from it. Of course, considering the series was cancelled due to low sales, I think we can all agree nobody was reading it.
But PAD forges ahead anyway! Join me after the jump for a full synopsis and more review.
We open with a scene that I actually like between Havok and Quicksilver. They’re playing pool at some bar, and it’s revealed that Quicksilver joined the new X-Factor to be Havok’s ‘eyes and ears’ on the team. Havok is concerned about his ex-girlfriend Polaris and the fact that she’s basically crazy. Havok is an Avenger these days, but he’s not asking in that capacity. He’d just like somebody to keep an eye on Polaris so that she doesn’t get in over her head with this Serval Industries thing.
I like the scene because it adds a lot to Pietro’s character. It not only gives him a legitimate and interesting reason for signing up with Serval, but it’s a nice little fleshing out of his character. PAD needs to write scenes like this between the characters that actually matter. It’s nice to see Havok, considering his history with the team, but I doubt he’s going to become a major player. Still, the scene does wonders for Quicksilver and his place in the comic. I’m actually kind of invested in him now. Plus this is a legitimately interesting plot going forward.
Less interesting is the fact that Serval Industries is obviously corrupt and evil and our heroes have no idea. We get a brief interlude where CEO Harrison Snow (it rhymes!) reveals that he had a camera surgically installed into Polaris’ eyeball without her knowledge or permission so that he could spy on X-Factor during missions. That’s what bad guys do. Way to suck a lot of ambiguity out of Snow.
Moving on, PAD tries to do for Polaris and Gambit what he just did for Quicksilver by giving them a brief scene together. I like the effort, but the scene still falls kind of flat for me. As I’ve said before, Gambit and Polaris have zero history together, but they’re both X-characters. So it’s like they’re distant cousins put on the same volleyball team at a family reunion. They basically know what they’re doing, and are friendly to one another, but the only thing that binds them is their larger group affiliation. Still, it’s Gambit and Polaris just hanging out and bonding, which is exactly what I want to see in All-New X-Factor.
And here’s where we get introduced to Gambit’s weird love of cats.
Again, where did the cats come from? Remy Lebeau has never struck me as the kind of guy who has an inordinate number of pet cats for a bachelor.
One of the felines, Oliver, scratches Polaris on the hand when she goes to pet him, and she gets pretty pissed. Considering the cat drew blood, I would be too. But she uses her powers to angrily raise the cat in the air, and Gambit yells at her to put him down. Lorna snaps out of her evil funk and hangs her head. She says she should go, and Gambit agrees. So much for team bonding.
Before she leaves, however, Snow shows up because he needs their help. Their powerful, Google-esque search engine computer servers have been hacked. And along the way, here’s an example of the quality of jokes in the All-New X-Factor.
Some people might find that kind of joke funny, but I don’t. On the previous volume of X-Factor, PAD’s jokes were hilarious! But I think he’s struggling to find Remy’s voice. He kind of cracks wise like Jamie Madrox, but PAD clearly doesn’t want to make Gambit a Madrox clone, so he’s trying out a new sense of humor and personality. It’s not working. Gambit is making silly pop culture references and bad puns. It just doesn’t feel like Gambit. Maybe if everybody acknowledged that Gambit made bad jokes? But I’m pretty sure PAD is playing them straight.
Polaris and Gambit meet Dr. Anton Wexler, the guy in charge of Serval’s computers, who is kind of a nutty professor type dude who really loves computers. We also meet his weird, Court of Owls-style minions.
Wexler tells them that it’s pretty impossible for Serval to be hacked, but it’s happened, which is why they want X-Factor to investigate. They’ve pinpointed the source of the hack to a mysterious island in the Mediterranean Sea. Gambit has heard of the island before, though he keeps that to himself. It’s the Stolen Island, home of the Thieves Guild, of which Gambit is their king.
And this is where we start diving into the recently cancelled Gambit solo series. I don’t understand why PAD feels the need to use anything from that series. Nobody read it, that’s why it got cancelled! I’m all for sticking with continuity, but PAD should be focused on making All-New X-Factor accessible to new readers. Instead, we’re off on a merry jaunt to the Stolen Island in one of Serval’s team jets. Oh, and Quicksilver catches up to them.
Again, does Gambit really seem like the kind of guy who would watch/love Air Force One, and then comment on it? Madrox, probably, but not Gambit. At least PAD is trying to build up some banter between these three. I can support that. Even if it still rings kind of hollow.
We get another quick interlude where Harrison Snow meets with Dr. Hoffman, who is being illegally held prisoner at Serval. Snow offers the villain a job at Serval. So basically, more bad guy stuff.
On the flight to the Stolen Island, Gambit fills in his teammates about the island, the Guild and his role as King. He also tells them that the Guild has a technomancer/hacker named Nil, who is probably behind the hack. Gambit figures he can just get Nil to knock it off. They land and immediately run into Jean-Luc Lebeau, a classic figure from Gambit’s past. Also, it doesn’t sound like he has much confidence in Gambit as King of Thieves. But then Gambit is off hanging out at Serval Industries instead of leading the Guild. But then, again, a series about Gambit as a thief didn’t sell. I probably wouldn’t have much faith in him as king either.
So the team checks in with Nil, who readily admits to being the hacker. He tells them that he discovered a new secret weapon that makes him the best hacker in the world, and he readily shows everyone his secret weapon.
It’s Danger, a relatively new X-Men character who hasn’t been seen for awhile. Danger is an alien robot/android who was once enslaved by Professor X to serve as the Danger Room way back in the day. But then she became sentient, rebelled, fought the X-Men, then later mellowed out and joined them. She’s going to become one of X-Factor’s new members, but first she’s pretty pissed about being used by Nil. Gambit tries to get Nil to let her go, but Polaris just uses her powers to yank Danger free. She’s pissed and declares that all of them are doing to die.
I don’t know what it was, but I just felt that this issue was better put together than the first two. Between that strong opening scene with Pietro, and the urgency of the final moments, X-Factor was an entertaining comic. PAD is definitely trying. But there are still just so many problems with this series. Gambit’s characterization is way off from what I expect of the character. I thought he was a Cajun Lothario. Is that no longer the case? He’s coming off like a weaker Jamie Madrox. Polaris continues to have no personality beyond ‘she might be crazy’, and everyone working at Serval is pretty much a cardboard cut-out just standing around fulfilling their stated purpose. Only Snow has any depth, and all that depth is just him being sneakily evil. Nobody wants to see Serval Industries be revealed as an evil corporation. It’s too obvious. Surely PAD has something better in mind.
As for the action in this issue, it’s yet another story of X-Factor heading out to rescue some obscure X-character who has gotten themselves into a bit of trouble. Danger may have a little more name recognition than Reaper or Fatale, but only because she was created more recently. Trust me, Danger is going to become the Fatale of the 00’s. Danger joining the team is really only interesting to Danger fans, of which I am sure there are 12.
I’m also not sure what PAD’s fascination is with Gambit’s recent solo series. Maybe he was one of its only readers and super-loved it just that much, that’s why we’re visiting the Stolen Island and meeting guys like Nil and Gambit’s cats. But for someone who didn’t read that series, it’s a little mind-boggling that PAD’s favoring it so heavily in All-New X-Factor. He treats this stuff as if it’s common knowledge about Gambit instead of doing anything interesting with it. Of course Gambit is the King of Thieves on some magical, invisible island, and of course it’s populated by charming criminal types who don’t seem to really like him. Let’s just fly there in a jet and not bother exploring any of it to any deeper degree.
All-New X-Factor just isn’t doing anything for me yet. PAD isn’t saying anything new or interesting about the random characters he’s chosen, and he’s just not doing a very good job of building up the relationships between them. The plots of each issue have yet to grab me as anything more than generic superhero fare. And PAD simply isn’t doing anything with Serval Industries or what it would be like to be a superhero team owned by a corporation. The characters might as well be getting their missions from anybody. It’s clear that PAD’s probably having fun writing this comic, but All-New X-Factor is lacking in anything that would make it truly special.