Saturday, 26 April 2014

X-Factor Visionaries vol. 4 review

Peter David’s tenure as the writer of X-Factor was, in my opinion, the biggest waste of talent on an X-title during the nineties. David is a good writer and his strength are in good characterizations but he never really got a chance to tell his stories without interruptions. None of the three X-Factor Visionaries volumes have been great. David is having a difficult time finding his footing and hitting his stride on the title. This volume is essentially more of the same but some of the stories within are much worse and some are actually a bit better but volume 4 is the last one of this particular run and it’s probably for the best.

There was an X-Men crossover in the early nineties called X-cutioner’s Song. The event happened in the pages of four different X-Men comics during four months for a total of 12 issues. Three of those issues are collected in this volume. I’ve never read the whole event but if the X-Factor issues are any indication, X-cutioner’s Song is fucking crap. The volume begins with X-Factor’s event issues written by David with art by Jae Lee. I’m a fan of Lee’s artwork. He’s more stylized and formal than many other artists working in comics but based on his work here he’s had very similar beginnings as many other artists who worked nearly twenty years ago. It’s completely different than the kind of thing he would produce now or even ten years ago. It’s sad to say but it’s pretty typical of the kind of stuff you would find in Marvel comics from the early nineties. The characters have grotesquely exaggerated anatomy and their bodies have unnatural sharp corners. The crosshatchings and heavy inking makes for art that is pretty unpalatable. The garish colouring doesn’t help, either. To top it all off, David’s scripting is sub-par compared to the rest of the X-Factor issues. His heart is obviously not in it. For three months during the X-cutioner’s Song event, David was writing this comic because it was a job and not because he enjoyed writing them. It’s just awful stuff. I don’t even know why I’m still talking about it.

After the crossover issues, we finally get some really good X-Factor stories. My favourite is the psychiatrist issue. Val Cooper, government liaison for the team, has decided that all of the members of the team need to a have session with a psychiatrist after particularly difficult missions. In this case, Cooper considers the events of X-cutioner’s Song to qualify as a trying mission for the team. I like that David could take something so bad and make something good out of it. It’s also great to see just how quickly and accurately he explains the character and identifies their individual faults in the psychiatrist sessions. The only ones that don’t really work for me is Polaris and Rahne. Maybe it’s because I’m not very familiar with them as characters but something just doesn’t quite click. Guido’s session was awesome. I really enjoyed his origin story and I appreciated the explanation for his physical deformity. Quicksilver’s was another exemplary bit of storytelling and character development. That story will forever affect how I look at him.

The art also improved with the post-crossover stories. Joe Quesada takes care of the art and though it’s not my favourite kind of style nor is Quesada a favourite artist, it’s a definitive improvement following’s the Lee issues (truly, that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write). It’s with that particular issue that David hits his stride but it’s a short lived celebration since his run ended soon after. The characters and stories are mixing together nicely at this point

Peter David had an interesting run on X-Factor but there were too many inconsistencies in the stories being told, some artist fluctuations, and a terrible X-men crossover all contributed to destroy any momentum David and his collaborators were able to build on the title. Still, for those who can tolerate 90s X-Men comics, there are some good stories to be found in these collections but you’ll also have to deal with some of David’s worst comics (as far as I’ve read anyway). For those of you who want to avoid the drudgery, do yourself a favour and go diving in the long boxes for X-Factor #87. “X-Aminations” is really an excellent done-in-one story, worthy to be compared with some of the best that X-Men comics have to offer. It’s sad that this run never attained full steam but David got to write many of these characters when he helmed the relaunched X-Factor series back in 2005. It’s actually one of the best X-Men series since the early 2000s . . . but that’s another post. 

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