Wednesday, 25 September 2013

X-Factor: Visionaries Peter David volume 1 review

Like all of Peter David’s other works that I’ve read, X-Factor has a lot of humour. I enjoy it for the most part but it does take over sometime and it can distract from the rest of what’s happening in the comic. Similarly to his Star Trek writing, the jokes occasionally go too far. Not too far in a sense of indecency, but in a way that feels unnecessary. You can only keep a joke going for so long at which point it loses some of its effect.

One of my issues with the first volume of Peter David’s tenure of X-Factor has to do with his main collaborator, artist Larry Stroman. I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of Stroman’s art. I’m pretty certain this is the first book I read where he’s on art duties and it didn’t completely agree with me. His characters look stiff and often times they also look squared off. His lines are thin, which isn’t a problem in itself, but there’s too many of them on the page. It fits into the style of 90s superhero art but that’s something I’m not really a fan of in general. It’s not all bad though. He uses exaggerated anatomy to pretty good effect, particularly on Guido (Strong Guy). I think that where Stroman’s art really excels is with the portrayal of Guido and Lorna “Polaris” Dane’s hair. He draws Guido large and muscular but in such a way that it clearly demonstrates his awkwardness. Guido is physically awkward because he’s so big and so strong. By drawing him in a way that makes him look somewhat deformed, he’s adding quite a bit of personality to the character. It’s physically impossible for anybody to be that big but, being a mutant, of course it’s possible for Guido. But it wouldn’t be a seamless growth and it’s to be exaggerated that his muscles would seriously alter his physical form. The art isn’t all good but it’s not all bad either. There is a lot of potential for a unique look and feel but it’s too unpolished and inconsistent to be qualified as really good in the context of superhero comics.

The same can be said for the writing. David tries to do a lot with six issues worth of pages. He packs a considerable amount of story in a 120 page story but parts of the comic feel bloated while others feel decompressed. The exposition is often done on pages that have a significant number of small panels that have more word balloons in them than is visually appealing. The action and humour scenes on the other hand feel decompressed. They take a lot of space and that shouldn’t be where the focus, especially because David is trying to tell an interesting story. He still accomplishes this but there are a lot of kinks to work out on the title.

I find that often first arcs on superhero comics are slow to start and uncertain in their quality or they’re phenomenal stories. In the case of phenomenal beginnings, many writers cannot keep the momentum they build. There can be multiple reasons for this but essentially it amounts to lack of skill or because they only had one or two really good stories to tell and they didn’t know when to quit. Peter David’s X-Factor falls into the first category of opening arcs. He has plenty of good ideas. One of them is the study of Jamie Madrox, Multiple Man and his powers and the other is to take a waning superhero title composed of A and B-list X-men and try to make a great comic by replacing the existing team with C-list heroes. It’s a smart move because everybody’s written about the most well-known X-men but the lesser known ones have more potential for characterization and interesting stories. Jamie Madrox is an excellent example of this.

X-Factor Visionaries: Peter David volume 1 is a good start. The writer and the artist are finding their footing and it’s apparent but it doesn’t get in the way of enjoying the parts of the comic that work well. You can tell that they’re trying to tell a story that isn’t your traditional good vs. evil comic and I appreciate that. Still, X-Factor is still clearly a superhero comic and there will always be good guys fighting bad guys and the creative team even struggles with that. One of the most boring parts of this volume was the villain. There are quite a few things that were more interesting that Mr. Sinister and his Nasty Boys. The forming of the team, the jokes and Jamie Madrox where all significantly more worthy of my attention that the X-men baddy, Sinister and his goons. This is a good start and I look forward to seeing where the title goes because it’s clear to me there is quite a bit of potential for a great comic within these pages. 

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