One of the biggest criticisms of the Dawn of X era has been a lack of emotional catharsis for its characters, the quiet heartfelt moments that the X-Men are so well known for. Luckily, Leah Williams and David Baldeón’s X-Factor #5 delivers a sweet story with a lot of heart, giving a lot of X-fans what they’ve been waiting for for a long time.
The Academy X kids have a dedicated fanbase, though the characters themselves sadly haven’t been used much past the Utopia era of comics. In many ways, X-Factor #5 feels like a love letter to the Academy X and Utopia eras, providing fans with plenty of content they’ve missed in recent years. With several Utopia/Academy X kids playing pivotal roles in The Five, X-Factor takes advantage of their line up and its own team line-up to reunite the kids.
The Academy X era is a tragic run, giving readers a glimpse of a group of wide-eyed children who had their childhoods slowly ripped away from them. In that regard, showing them on Krakoa where they can finally have a chance to be kids is much-needed and feels well-earned. The minute Wind Dancer is resurrected, Julian greets her with the nickname he had bestowed on her in the early days of New Mutants volume 2. Watching her reunite with Surge, Prodigy, Cessily, and company was a quick, but an incredibly strong moment for the Dawn of X series as a whole. The return of Sofia and Prodigy’s unique friendship is very welcome –and their conversation sets up an intriguing mystery for David’s character moving forward.
Emma Frost and Scott Summers had a particularly rough time during the 2000s, dealing with the fallback of M-Day and increased hostilities towards the mutant population they swore to protect. Emma, in particular, took the M-Day losses and the deaths of the Academy X students quite hard. As usual, Leah Williams proves she is one of the best Emma Frost writers in years, giving readers what is undoubtedly the best Emma Frost content since Uncanny X-Men (2019) #19 and her own work on X-Men Black: Emma Frost. A hallmark of Emma’s character is that above all else, she loves her students and her job as a teacher, though she has always tragically lost her students. Emma watching the Academy X students reunite from afar, lamenting over how she believes she “failed” Rockslide is an excellent look at Emma’s character.
Reading this issue, it almost comes as a disappointment that Williams doesn’t have more of an opportunity to write Emma or the older generation of mutants. If Marvel ever needs someone to write an Emma Frost-centric comic of any sort, it’s hard to find someone better for the job than Williams. Dani Moonstar also has a standout moment in this comic through her interactions with Emma. The two have seemingly buried their drama from the Academy X days (and, of course, the original New Mutants days when Emma was a villain), choosing to start anew as friends. It’s the kind of quiet character building that gives a lot of insight into these characters and this new world.
Other highlights included the reunion between Mercury and Bling!, a fan-favorite couple from the Utopia era who has seemingly disappeared from comics without explanation. Though the Rockslide/Polaris dynamic is odd considering the two have never meant much to each other beforehand, within the confines of Williams’ own writing, the moment they share watching the sunset is very touching.
Jean-Paul and Aurora’s relationship also is a standout, with the sibling dynamic being one of the many sweet moments of a comic that’s already giving its readers a sugar rush. Jean-Paul also reveals something extremely important about Aurora’s resurrection, divulging that Langkowski’s experiments on her against her will were not taken into account when The Five designed a new body for her.
Williams’ writing is punchy, but sweet, proving that she knows the history of these characters very well. Baldeón’s art is expressive and cartoony, fitting for the fun-loving nature Williams usually writes with. X-Factor #5 has a lot of heart, a lot of history, and sets up an intriguing mystery for its future arc.
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