Look at those Kris Anka-drawn kitty cats on the cover. They make ya happy just lookin' at 'em. Look how much fun they're having palling around with Gambit. Cover and a couple of pages aside cats actually play a very small role in this comic, but they DO typify the tone of this book, which is to say pure fun with a dash of intrigue. Over the last two issues, we’ve gotten to see Gambit, Polaris and Quicksilver out together on a mission, and here we get an issue that’s part downtime, part investigation. Someone’s hacked Serval Industries unhackable server leaving only the clue that it originated from an island that doesn’t seem to exist. Except to Gambit. Because it’s the island that hosts the Thieves’ Guild, which he has recently taken control of. Peter David has done a great job of integrating the cancelled-just-as-it-was-getting-good Gambit solo series. He also integrates it with enough ease that having read that story isn’t necessary. There’s a lot more going on in this issue than just that, though. We get to see that Polaris still isn’t quite sure what’s going on with her temper, Quicksilver isn’t working for who X-Factor, or the reader for that matter, thinks he is and, of course, we get a great reveal in the last few pages of X-Factor’s next potential member. If they survive the experience, that is. There’s a great focus on character, as opposed to action, in this issue and that shines through beautifully. As I’ve said previously, I was never much a fan of Gambit beyond my adolescent enjoyment with the 90s X-Men cartoon and that centered FAR more on his style over his substance, but in three quick issues, David has established the character far, far more powerfully than many, many writers before him. Polaris gets the well-worn trope of the “unstable woman,” but unlike a great many previous incarnations of it, this one actually feels earned and well-used. It isn’t just that she’s crazy, it’s that everything that’s been done to her, particularly the revelation of her origin, has driven her to near-madness that embodies itself amazingly well for anyone who’s ever had an unstable temperament.
Carmine Di Giandomenico continues providing beautiful, distinct linework that highlights the characters emotional states and puts their facial expressions front-and-center while never skimping on the action. Again, Quicksilver remains one of the highlights in this case, his speed amazingly represented both in his initial pool game and, especially, after he dons his uniform that leaves light trails in his wake. Lee Loughridge provides colors and they are absolutely gorgeous. This is a book that is rich with new, exciting locations and those new locations all demand a unique, different color palette which Loughridge seems delighted to provide. There’s nothing boring going on in this comic and the art does an amazing job of showing the locales, from the exotic to the mundane, and making them exciting.
Serval Industries is very clearly up to something. Their reputation as a squeaky-clean corporate sponsor has already been questioned no fewer than two times in the past three issues and I feel like that particularly plot point is having its hand played too early. I would’ve liked to believe they were actually on the level and wanted to improve the world before “clues” were given to their misdeeds, even clues these obvious. Unless it all turns out to be an intentional misdirect, which I would actually love.
I absolutely love what’s being done with this book. It has some of my favorite characters from a great run on X-Factor and introduces, and quickly defines, other characters. There are three spots on the roster already filled, but the intro page hints at three more and while we’re getting a look at a likely one by issue’s end, I’m still excited to find out who the others are. Between the writing and the art, this is a delightful book to jump onto. If you like your mutants not overpowered and handling not-exactly world shattering events, this is a book for you.