When Peter David said he was going to tie up all the character-specific plot threads in his last arc of X-Factor, I assumed he meant that he was going to keep that to the main cast, but apparently he had other ideas. Or perhaps it WAS his as the character is John Maddox, one of Jamie’s dupes sent into the world who found God and became a priest, even starting a family. Because he had an established life, Jamie relented on re-absorbing him, and he’s been in his small corner of the world ever since, a very occasional player in X-Factor’s life. This time, however, tragedy strikes when a disgruntled former parishioner arrives with murderous intent in the midst of a service. Rahne stops the massacre before it goes too far, but her wolf form is more deranged and aggressive than even its usual self, so when she arrives in John’s office after things have settled down, he’s hardly surprised to hear her life has been one of hardship. David writes these characters with an incredible amount of nuance and subtlety. Rahne’s a difficult character to write, pious to the point of annoying those around her, but conflicted due to her mutation and the madness it brings, along with the self-loathing. David has always leaned into these things, rather than writing around them, which makes the character feel far more defined and consistent. It all comes to a definite head here, and like in previous issues, if no one else ever uses the character again, she meets a very satisfying, long-term fate.
Neil Edwards and Carmen Carnero handle pencils with Jay Leisten and Matt Milla on inks and colors, and they seem like the right team for this mellow, understated book. This is a book that’s very light on action, though for sure it starts high-octane, there are really only about three pages of it throughout. It’s good, then, that these artists’ strength lies in facial features and more relaxed poses. Again, it’s a subtle thing, but the fact that characters, in their calmer moments, aren’t just rigidly standing and flapping their mouths is something that’s often taken for granted. It’s not that the characters are “relaxed,” but they seem to simply be conversing.
As good as the art is, occasional panels look awkward (especially in the face), and Rahne’s wolf form has two very, very different looking versions. One looks as it usually does, the other one looks a bit more like a were-lion.
To get this out of the way: the earlier massacre mentioned happens in a church and, while it’s stopped fairly quickly, it’s not without casualties and, since we have lately been shining a spotlight on more realistic portrayals of violence, there was definitely something very “real” about the opening of the book. Maybe it's recent, unfortunate, events in the news, but you may want to put the kids to bed before picking this one up. Though it wasn’t as graphic as the other title we’ve talked about on the podcast, this bears mentioning. It certainly isn’t a judgement either way, it obviously didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book, but it definitely bears mentioning.
The book is tremendously enjoyable with the characters being absolutely top-notch. Peter David is truly giving these characters a glorious send-off, spotlighting both, so far, with not only apt, but improved and even different, looks at their characters. This issue, though, does something special as it’s one of the few I’d recommend even with little interest in the storyline. It stands very well on its own, and is, very simply, a great, character-driven story.