Peter David is winding down what can only be described as a monumental run on X-Factor, showing the various fates of the characters who’ve made up the team over his decade run as writer. This issue focuses on Polaris and, to a lesser extent, Quicksilver, which made it one of the harder sells for me. I was never a fan of Havok and Polaris returning to the team post-Madrox series as it established a more grounded, noir-tinged, tone that two ultra-powerful, garishly costumed, high-profile mutants didn’t seem to fit into. Yes, between Monet and Strong Guy, the team wasn’t the most grounded to begin with, but their appearances and attitudes still fit with the overall feel of the book, while Havok and Polaris just came off as a little too...bright and colorful. Still, David found a way to work them into the team and this issue even shines through as a great one. Polaris recently found out her true origins (as in: a concrete origin was finally agreed upon for the oft-retconned character) and has been having a great deal of trouble coping as it was revealed that she killed her mother and stepfather when her powers manifested. After the events of the last arc, she’s had about enough and is having a drink or six at a local bar, which quickly escalates into some property damage, which escalates further into a brawl when her half-brother Quicksilver shows up to try and talk some sense into her.
Peter David has been working with these characters for a very long time, so it’s little surprise that he writes them as effortlessly as he does. Lorna has always been a character that short of functions, both in terms of personality and powers, as various writers need her to, but it’s been David that’s written her with the most consistency and that continues here. She wants to be a great hero, but the world keeps getting in the way, and that makes her get in her own way, which leads to a whole “her own worst enemy” thing. She could be a great leader, but she’s reckless and quick-tempered, flaunting her powers even when it’s dangerous and unable to come to terms with who she is and what she’s done. Quicksilver, in many ways, is her perfect foil as he suffers from most, if not all, of the same problems, so he’s probably the wrong person to try and talk her down and watching the two of them go ‘round and ‘round is incredibly entertaining.
Which leads me to the pencils by Neil Edwards, with Jay Leisten on inks and Matt Milla on colors, and how difficult it must be to draw any speedsters. Both Magneto and Polaris have the strangely quantified powers of “magnetism,” but both of them have a color profile that makes illustrating them easy. Pietro, however, is left to trails and after-images which, in a stationary visual medium, can just look like visible linework and a bunch of clones, but the art on this illustrates his movements fantastically. Additionally, and for a book that centers on emotion and characters this is an absolute MUST, the facial expressions, which are incredibly varied and diverse, are absolutely fantastic and spot-on. I’ve given this praise before, but it bears repeating: any time you could take the dialog out of a comic and still know the emotional beats that the characters are going through, it’s the mark of a truly great team and this is definitely one of those issues.
For a book that’s supposed to be tying up loose ends, this issue sure does create a couple of doozies. Both come at the end and both in the form of a mysterious new character making Lorna a very interesting offer that, in spite of her feelings earlier in the issue, she seems all too ready to accept. I’m not saying that leaving some room for future stories is a bad thing, quite the contrary, I’m simply saying that centering an entire issue’s ending on unanswered questions is a little strange at this juncture. There’s very, very little closure to be had in this particular issue. I know I praised the art earlier in the review, and it definitely stands for the majority of the book, but on a few panels the layout or the faces look “off,” either literally askew or just muddled. Quicksilver also gets somewhat short-shrift in this issue. I realize he wasn't a long-running member of the team, and certainly not a well-liked one, but it feels like he deserves more closure than a simple walk-on in someone else's story. Perhaps not an entire issue, but more than just wandering in and wandering off.
X-Factor charges bravely on toward certain doom and remains one of the most emotionally resonant character-driven books on the shelf. Peter David is clearly not content to just shamble across the finish line, but to give it one last sprint and this book continues its excellent run of quality. I truly think it will be remembered as one of the best, most consistent, and certainly longest runs in comics, and a strong ending is a critical part of that. It’s a part that seems destined to be fulfilled, and I can’t wait to read the next two issues.