Peter David’s run on X-Factor continues toward its inevitable demise, but rather than trudge unwillingly, he plunges headfirst, almost seeming to revel in the tragedy. This issue focuses on Darwin, searching for Hela to undo his status as Harbinger of Death, and Monet, searching for meaning after Guido brought her back to life and cast her out of Hell. By focusing on a couple of characters per issue, David has given us a truly introspective and intimate look at each character from this series and their motivations and this one’s no different (even though Darwin hasn’t actually been in THAT many issues). Monet’s always been one of my favorite character’s in this series (Team M all the way!!), so an issue that focuses squarely on her is an absolute treat, and bringing in Darwin, one of the more underutilized characters, is also a tremendous boon. The two of them have always had something of a complicated relationship, one that Monet has actually been a little bit mean about, and that relationship certainly complicates further, but as all the best issues of this have: it leaves the thread open, but at a satisfying conclusion. There’s a real economy to the pace here and very little exposition outside the first few pages, so the banter between them feels both peppy and a little bit sad as they’re both very clearly at a loss of what to do or where to go.
Neil Edwards is on pencils and, for the most part, is absolutely fantastic. This is a book about raw emotion and characters over action, which is why it’s a great thing that Edwards draws such expressive, evocative faces. Everyone from the random thugs Darwin accidentally (though not undeservedly) menaces to the patrons of the bar he and Monet eventually wind up in to, of course, the principal players themselves have these amazing, emotional expressions. Jay Leisten’s inks help bring these details into sharp relief, highlighting the eyes especially, and Matt Milla’s colors are gorgeous and subdued, again perfectly fitting the tone of general depression that pervades the issue.
I believe I’ve had this complaint before, but as great as most of the panels are, some are very awkwardly blocked or drawn, particularly the faces. It might not have been as noticeable if they weren’t so great throughout the rest of the book, but when they don’t look amazing, it’s really apparent. There’s also a panel where Hela appears, orders her undead vikings to “find” Darwin, and then...she finds him near the end of the issue, so that entire page was essentially pointless and set up some tension or suspense that didn’t really go anywhere. As great as the character moments are, the action is a little stiff and sometimes hard to follow. There’s not much of it, but what is there is definitely not the issue’s strong suit.
I love both these characters and I love seeing an issue that focuses squarely on them. Their banter is great, the sorrow is real, their ending is appropriate and very satisfying, even heartwarming. A couple of missteps can’t keep down what is the penultimate X-Factor title under Peter David and this is a great one for longtime fans of the series. If you’re not one, become one! The series reads amazingly well in trade and now there’s a clear-cut beginning, middle and end, so there’s no excuse not to get onboard.