The second volume of Peter David’s tenure on X-Factor is actually half The Incredible Hulk and half X-Factor. There’s as much jade giant as there is green haired Polaris. Both series are written by Peter David and the members of X-Factor do appear in all six issues, but it made for an inconsistent read. The first two issues in the collection are The Incredible Hulk #390-391, parts one and two of a three part story. Issue #76 of X-Factor takes place afterwards and that is followed by one more issues of The Incredible Hulk and the collection ends with issues #77 and 78 of X-Factor. There’s nothing wrong about that reading order other than the fact that the Hulk issues and the story it tells completely distract from the story and the momentum David was building in the first volume.
Other than the Hulk: The End trade paperback, these are the first issues of David’s popular run on The Incredible Hulk that I’ve ever read. My first reaction is that Dale Keown’s art is excellent. It’s so good and I might have to order the first Visionaries volume of David’s hulk run just to see more of Keown’s art. Keown’s sleek and muscular art contrast pretty heavily with Stroman’s thin lines and exaggerated anatomy. Seeing Guido and Hulk on the same page is startling. Even when drawn by Keown, Guido’s musculature is so bizarre it’s truly because a part of the character. Larry Stroman only draws two of the six issues collected here and although it’s a shame because I was just getting used to his art, it is nonetheless a welcome break. I’m warming up to his style but being so closely juxtaposed with Keown, it does leave something to be desired.
I wasn’t overly impressed with the Hulk issues. The story was somewhat uninteresting but it did provide plenty of opportunity for good superhero action. That’s what the highlight was, in fact. Watching Keown’s Hulk in action was a treat and David has a much better grasp of him and his supporting cast (Rick Jones!) that he has on the characters of X-Factor. It’s difficult to judge the quality of these three issues of The Incredible Hulk since I haven’t read any of the others by the same writer and artist but I have a feeling that just like the X-Factor issues aren’t as representative of the rest of the issues written by David, the same can be said for the three-part Hulk story.
There was some good character develop in X-Factor. David is starting to get a feel for the characters and his story is developing beyond “good guys beat up bad guys” kind of stories.
I can’t finish this review without talking about the humour. It’s better than in the first volume. I think that has to do with David getting to know the characters better, he’s had the time to get accustomed to the members of the government sanctioned team of mutants. Guido especially is shaping up into an interesting character. He’s developing a voice and it’s often pretty funny. Rahne also starts to go through some changes and it’s adding some nice depth to the comic. I really like the cast of X-Factor. They’re interesting because I do not know every little thing about them and they’re not A-list characters so I know there can be and will be some serious and pretty permanent changes to their personalities and character makeup.
It’s unfortunate that The Incredible Hulk gets in the way. It’s a decent story and there are some interesting moral questions raises by some of the characters. I’m glad it was collected somewhere but I’m not sure this was the best place. I honestly can’t think of a better way to have included it. It’s right where it should be but it distracts from the real focus here which should be the X-Factor team. At the very least, Dale Keown’s art helps make the Hulk a bit more welcome in an x-book.