Full disclosure, short of Northstar and Prodigy, I have never really liked any of the characters in Leah Williams and David Baldeon’s X-Factor. Rachel and Daken/Akihiro always seemed like characters created out of committee, Polaris has been so inconsistently written that it’s hard to say I enjoy her, and Eyeboy has always seemed like a character created as a joke. I say this to give credit where credit is due: this book made me love them all.
Williams and Baldeon’s X-Factor vol. 2 is a really good standalone book, and an absolute must if you have read the first part. The story sees Krakoa’s favorite CSI squad investigating the seemingly constant deaths of Siryn. Fans of the previous X-Factor series will remember the Irish superheroine’s dalliance with the Morrigan, a Celtic death goddess all too enamored with an entire island full of super people for whom death is a minor inconvenience at best. What follows is some good action, some fun sequences and great art from Baldeon (which I’ll touch on more later), all in the background of the preparations for the Hellfire Gala.
Though I enjoyed the story beats as a fun, relatively low-stakes romp, it’s really the characterization of our central cast that makes this book so enjoyable. This book, more than any in recent memory, features quite the oddball cast. You’ve got two Alpha Flighters, two Young X-Men (of different generations), a displaced time traveler, and two bastard children of more famous characters. It is that misfit nature that really makes the chemistry between the characters shine.
Akhiro and Aurora’s connection as two damaged people who are making peace with some of their darker proclivities is a definite highlight, but my favorite pairing is certainly Prodigy and Eyeboy. David and Trevor’s friendship is one of the most wholesome and fun X-pairings since Logan and Kurt, and the subtle way they are pushing Trevor’s powers (and the unique on-page depiction of it) is a revelation. It’s great to see platonic young male friendship where they both not only enjoy each others’ company, but support one another’s endeavors wholeheartedly. These aren’t tough guys or war buddies or any of the more common tropes found in action comics; there’s a sense of authenticity to their friendship, and it’s great to read.
Baldeon has a co-writing credit on this trade, and given the storytelling that goes on in his pencils, it’s warranted. For most of the book, Baldeon channels a more palatable mid-aughts Bachalo vibe, and I’m here for it. And much like Bachalo, his most interesting visuals are when he is asked to depict the abstract. Particularly as it pertains to depicting Eyeboys powers, Baldeon’s creativity is on full display when the scene requires something that is not easily conceived. His Morrigan transitions from a female form to a cacophonous whirlwind of miasma, to a classic storybook villain and it never feels out of place. I’m not as into some of his character design choices as it pertains to some of the Hellfire Gala looks (Akihiro and Aurora’s looks seem a little plain given how extravagant some of the others’ get) and I’m not a fan of Shatterstar’s Captain Eo booty shorts, but those are quibbles for what is often a visually arresting book.
I’m sad to hear that this is the final outing for this book, as Williams and Baldeon really have a knack for the characters and the setting. I would have loved to see what more they could do with them, but I certainly enjoyed the ride. There was some concern based on a few earlier series coming out of HoX/PoX that Hickman’s revamp of the mutant world may end up fizzling out, but with stewards like Williams and Baldeon handling the stories, the House of X has never been stronger. I’m sad to see this creative team depart, but am genuinely excited for what comes next for these characters.
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