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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!

All-New X-Factor #3

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 cannot wait for Quicksilver in Avengers 2

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.

The only suitable cat names involve the word ‘Mister’

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.

Court of Owls + dresses

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.

Remember when superhero planes were special?

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.

That guy probably loved Jack Sparrow

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 nice of them to remember her

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.

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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 February 13, 2014, in Comics, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I like how you keep mentioning Gambit and its reader-challenged nature. I read it, and liked it, but I’m okay with other people not having done the same. I know this is supposed to be a team book, but part of, if not the whole reason I’m reading it, is because it’s following Gambit. I knew that this issue would probably involve the Thieves Guild, because of the king quote, and I liked the cats, because yes he did own cats in the solo-series. The “jokes” and crap references seem out of character to me, too. I never really followed the other characters, so I don’t really share your opinion about them, though if it’s all true then I can see where it’s coming from. Serval being evil seemed kind of a lame reveal, I think they should have gone in the other direction with that, something not quite so easily forseeable. What are Polaris’s powers? I thought they were kind of like her father’s, but that thing with the cat doesn’t make sense if that’s the case.

    • Thanks for filling me in on Gambit’s series! I’m glad to hear that cat thing has some grounding and didn’t come out of nowhere. And no offense was meant by my repeatedly saying nobody read that series.

      As for Polaris’ powers, I think they’re kind of up in the air right now. She started out with magnetic powers, exactly like Magneto, but then she lost those powers on M-Day. Then Polaris was turned into a Horseman by Apocalypse and was given totally new, similar powers, but I don’t think they have any particular explanation. They’re kind of just…Magneto-esque.

      And I completely agree that making Serval evil right off the bat is a bad idea. Everybody expects it. Heck, even Gambit expects it. Making them legitimately good would have been new and interesting.

    • I’m following Gambit and he’s the reason I’m reading All-New X-Factor, too! He’s my favorite super, and I started a blog about him at marvelgambit.wordpress.com

      It’s been a while since I read his solo series, I guess I missed his cats in there….
      The voice for Gambit does seem odd and different, but I wouldn’t call it bad. I think it’s refreshing.

  2. I think it was actually Marjorie Liu’s Astonishing X-Men run where Gambit got the cats. A gift from Mystique. Gambit doesn’t know why Mystique gave him cats, either.

    • That’s an even better explanation! Mysterious cats from Mystique is kind of neat, and definitely a reason to keep them.

      • It was definitely Mystique who gave him the cats, and I’m pretty sure it was during Liu’s Astonishing run. I remember him being confused, and other characters also being confused. My guess is she was screwing with him. She’s a troll that way.

        This series does feel like it’s starting to find its feet. The addition of Danger should help. Cypher and Warlock coming in will help even more. PAD excels at writing the misfit characters, the ones no one really cares about, which I think has been the weakness of this book so far. He’s using popular characters. Gambit’s got a legion of fangirls (and fanboys, for that matter), Polaris is fairly popular, Quicksilver’s been an Avenge – they’re all very noteworthy. Danger was pretty important for a few years, prior to the end of Gillen’s UXM run. But Cypher and Warlock are exactly the sort of weird, offbeat, C-list characters PAD is best at.

      • I am definitely hoping Cypher and Warlock explode in this comic. I don’t see Danger accomplishing anything, just like when she was with the X-Men. But Cypher and Warlock might have a special kind of magic.

  3. Rockthrowing Man

    Yeah the cats originated as a joke in Astonishing X-Men where Mystique comes home to find that Sabertooth had acquired kittens for the purpose of snacking. Finding that distasteful by even her standards, Mystique took them away from him. Later she had to visit and ominously warn the X-Men about evil Iceman so she snuck into Gambit’s appartment and also left the cats behind, as one does. Fans liked the cats so they showed up in Gambit’s solo and now here. Kind of breakout characters. Though I think this is the first time they were named

  4. I’d say I’d have to agree with your review here overall, having just read the issue myself. I was really bothered by the amount of unnatural exposition here, and, for me, no one seems to talk like an actual human being, coming across more so as messengers of plot points. I definitely think that it was a bad idea to make Serval bad from the start, and the plots so far have been nothing great or special. I look forward to following your reviews in the future!

    • Thanks! Always great to hear from a reader.

      And I definitely agree. There’s no mystery to Serval. We all know they’re bad, and now it’s just a matter of time before the heroes figure it out and we get to the inevitable confrontation. Though I think PAD has some plans in place for making that part a bit more worthwhile. I like that Polaris seems willingly blind to Serval’s obvious evil, as if she’s so desperate for something solid in her life that she’s deluding herself. And I like that Gambit has already mostly figured it out, but he’s just sticking around to help Polaris and see her through this. So it has potential, I just hope PAD can pull it off.

      And you’re right on about the exposition. PAD keeps choosing villains/adversaries that he thinks require paragraph after paragraph of exposition in order to feature them in the comic. It’s great that the Magus has appeared in comics before, but there can’t be many people who care. Surely there’s a better way to use that villain than to just have everybody standing around for a few minutes explaining to the reader who he is and why he matters. Very clunky.

  5. Just read this book and is amazing. Polaris was such badass that I felt she was ready to lead a bunch of lame complicated mutants and that’s including Gambit. Not such a fan of gambit and Polaris is not crazy. Leader doesn’t make you crazy.

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