Peter David’s most important and successful contribution to superhero comic books (beyond his amazing facility with puns) is his willingness to go beyond the genre’s traditional limits to explore characterization at a level few other writers can even begin to imitate. His X-Factor, from the beginning, has been an intensive study in the nature of identity — from the negotiation of mutant and former-mutant identities to the effect that superpowers have on the lives and personalities of those who possess them. The book’s central character, Jamie Madrox, has in many ways exemplified those questions of identity, as his ability to produce autonomous, tangible representations of different facets of his personality lead him to question who, exactly, he really is. But even in issues like this one, in which Jamie is entirely absent, David continues to explore questions of identity and interpersonal relationships. How does Rahne cope with her recent trauma, and the knowledge that a man she loved is now involved in a same-sex relationship? How does Rictor negotiate his newly open sexuality and current (troubled) relationship with his loyalty and responsibility to his ex-girlfriend and the baby he believes to be his? And on the other end of the spectrum, how does Monet handle the ethics of telepathy and its potential ability to eliminate the mental pain of a female soldier suffering PTSD — a character whose existence is utterly normalized and resolutely ungendered? As long as Peter David continues to explore these thoughtful, norm-defying questions of identity and character, I’ll continue reading.
What do you do when half of your cast is in New York City and the other half is about 3000 miles away in Las Vegas? You do what Peter David did in this issue of X-Factor. Writers take note: this is how you do it. Rather than try to cram two separate narratives into a single issue, David split the story, alternating between New York and Vegas in each issue. This month’s issue brings us back to New York where, among other things, Rictor and Rahne are in the midst of dealing with the latter’s pregnancy. I don’t know if any readers actually believed Rahne’s version of things — I didn’t — but this issue seems to indicate that our Ms. Sinclair has, in fact, been lying. Oh, and a potential new enemy is revealed (cue ominous music). As always, X-Factor delivers the goods.
Peter David has such a strong grasp on the cast of this series, from top to bottom, that it doesn’t even matter when over half the team (including leading man Jamie Madrox) don’t appear in an issue. Here, the character focus is on the return of Rahne Sinclair and the implications of her pregnancy. Rahne is making some bad choices in leading Rictor to believe that he’s the father of her baby — does she think the team won’t support her if she tells the truth or is she just trying to break up him and Shatterstar? Either way, I’m wincing waiting for the fallout, but watching them deal with things is interesting. Meanwhile, Monet-centric plotlines are always welcome, and here she deals with one that both digs into her own character, and promises to cause more problems for the team in the future. David continues to balance plot and character in a compelling way, and Valentine De Landro’s return on art is welcome.