This week, as the month-long Hellfire Gala wraps up, so too does one of Marvel‘s X-titles, X-Factor! The final issue of the series arrives this week, and we look at how the issue wraps up the series’ many plotlines, as well as the series as a whole and its place in the prodigious pantheon of X-books.
We’ve got a review of X-Factor #10, plus a Rapid Rundown of other new Marvel Comics titles for the week, all ahead in the latest installment of The Marvel Rundown!
Story: Leah Williams & David Baldeón
Script: Leah Williams
Artists: David Baldeón, David Messina, & Lucas Werneck
Color Artist: Israel Silva
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Design Work: Tom Muller
Cover Artist: Ivan Shavrin
Reviewed by Zoe Tunnell
This is probably the hardest review I’ve ever had to write. X-Factor isn’t just another X-Book to me. While it is among the best the line has had to offer, it is also a step forward for the X-Men as a concept. After years of the mutant metaphor being used as a stand-in for queer struggles, and occasional bursts of progress like Iceman and Marjorie Liu‘s Astonishing X-Men, we finally got a proper, major X-Team with an equal amount of queer characters front and center alongside the straight mainstays, written by a bi women no less. Beyond that, Leah Williams and David Baldeón managed to tell some of the most moving, emotionally resonant, and powerful stories in the franchise’s history in just 10 issues.
And now it’s over.
So, how do you say goodbye to a book like X-Factor? You do it in style.
The final piece of the Hellfire Gala, X-Factor #10 is a standalone tale that follows our band of beautiful, flawed misfits as they get ready to wine and dine with high society. The opening pages are right in line with what fans should come to expect, the team at the Boneyard, interacting in their found family unit and getting ready for the party. It’s as endearing and cute as you would hope, and thanks to Baldeón’s incredible designs for the team’s Gala outfits we get one last beautiful shot of everyone before they leave for the rest of their lives. The highlight of the issue, for me, is the narration here which feels like it could be directed right at heartbroken readers as much as it is relevant to the book itself.
The Gala itself is handled in line with other tie-ins like Marauders and Hellions, little bits of continuity like showing the full context for Shatterstar’s arrival and reunion with Rictor in Excalibur, and MU cameos like Steve Rogers sharing a moment with Kyle as two of the party’s humans as the X-Men election vote is taken. Speaking of the election, the winner is bittersweet, as a fan of X-Factor. Leah is explicit in her farewell that Lorna’s victory had nothing to do with the series ending and I am sure Gerry Duggan will handle her well in X-Men, but it’s hard to see her go when she had just found a healthy, accepting family here on Krakoa.
Outside of the Gala, the bulk of the issue’s dramatic weight is devoted to solving the mystery of how Prodigy died. It is worth noting that Prodigy’s plotline does feature sexual and racial violence as a primary theme and while no act is actively show, it could still potentially be triggering for survivors of those assaults and a content warning should have been placed at the start of the issue. Simmering in the background since his first appearance with his powers restored, the pay-off is a little rushed but still satisfying. Having a deeply human, all-too-real, horror be the cause of his death and lead to some cathartic moments for half of the dang cast is a satisfying, if a bit rushed due to the cancellation, way to close out the book and tie up one of its most prominent loose ends. Of particular note is how well Baldeón and Israel Silva render Eye-Boy showing off a rather impressive new implementation of his powers. Naruto, eat your heart out.
The scattered bits of character growth and pay-off, like Akihiro and Aurora’s dance and frank conversation about their relationship, are as touching and well-handled as the rest of Williams’ outstanding work through the series. Which makes the fact that the shocking end reveal is going to garner all the attention all the more disappointing.
I’m not going to spoil the identity of The Trial of Magneto‘s murder victim here, but if you haven’t heard about it by the time you’ve read this review I will be genuinely shocked. It’s a well-executed cliffhanger ending and sets the X-Factor-starring Trial series up for a very hot start, but it does sting that most of the conversation is going to turn around this single moment when the issue as a whole is a deeply satisfying, beautiful piece of craft. The Trial of Magneto will likely be a great series itself, given Williams’ writing it, but with the full scope of the series revealed with this ending, I suspect it won’t be as grounded in these wonderful, broken, perfect mutants as this series has been.
X-Factor #10 sums up the series as a whole. It’s an emotionally weighty tale that manages to juggle the various Krakoan storylines in play without sacrificing its characters and their importance. In a way, its departure feels like a step away from what I love most about this era of X-Men. Other series like New Mutants are still carrying the character-heavy, personal stakes torch, but no series has so eagerly embraced the Krakoan Era as an emotionally grounded, bold step forward for both mutants within the Marvel Universe and the humans who read their adventures. I can only hope we get another series with the same level of heart and care that X-Factor managed to cram into just 10 issues of story sooner rather than later. Until then, take your bow Leah and David. You’ve more than earned it.
Final Verdict: BUY.
- Black Widow #8
- Inspired by increased buzz around the upcoming Black Widow movie, I decided to jump onto Natasha’s ongoing series with this week’s issue. Imagine my delight to find a team-up between Nat and Yelena Belova, one of the new characters being introduced in the forthcoming film. Kelly Thompson and Elena Casagrande deliver an issue that’s a pleasant mix of character development — Natasha is clearly dealing with some heavy trauma from the series’ first arc — and beautifully-illustrated action. The issue made me curious about what had come before and interested in what’s coming next. I’d say that’s a success. —JG
- Shang-Chi #2
- Looking to capitalize on the upcoming Marvel movie, Shang-Chi is currently on his second mini-series further establishing him in the Marvel Universe. After the events of the last mini-series, Shang-Chi is the leader of the Five Weapons Society — think the Hand with S.H.I.E.L.D. technology — and working to undo the damage done by this criminal organization and bring it into the light. Unfortunately, this task won’t be easy, as shutting down all of the nefarious business dealings brings him into contact/conflict with the superheroes that he has called a friend. Gene Luen Yang has a great way of making this book a fun read that is quick-paced with a ton of action rendered beautifully by artist Dike Ruan and colorist Triona Farrell. This issue has him infiltrating an underground auction and making contact with Captain America. What I love about the character is that in the Marvel ranking of hand-to-hand fighters he is acknowledged as number one and seeing him in what would traditionally be an espionage book is a nice change of pace. It does help if you’ve read the previous mini-series, but this current arc of Shang-Chi vs. the Marvel Universe is still very much accessible to the casual reader, even if it’s just to see him dance with our favorite heroes. — GC3
- The Marvels #3
- Kurt Busiek and Yildiray Cinar’s time-spanning Marvel love-letter goes back to Sin-Cong (yikes) for a pre-Fantastic Four story featuring Reed Richards and Ben Grimm as they’re tasked with studying the recent crop of monsters that have been seen in the area. Three issues in and I don’t think this series is gelling well with me at all; it goes out of its way to paint this overtly political picture about the geopolitics of Sin-Cong which isn’t terribly engaging to begin with, and continues to tease out this weird overarching story about the nation itself which I find extremely boring. I do quite enjoy the aspect of never knowing which characters will lead any given issue since the scope of this series is technically limitless, but I’m also generally not a fan of extraordinary adventures featuring characters before their superheroic careers. The art is fantastic however, with Cinar expertly capturing the essence of the era he’s emulating. —HW
- United States of Captain America #1
- In the first U.S. of Cap #1 story by Christopher Cantwell & Dale Eaglesham, we are introduced to the premise of the series, the theft of the titular shield. We are also introduced to Aaron Fischer, whose status as the Captain America of the Railways is used to cleverly introduce the geographical conceit of the story. In the second story by Josh Trujillo & Jan Bazaldua, Fischer gets an origin story (which suitably uses Roxxon as the face of his first antagonist) that deserves its own follow-up issue. A solid opening that provides a promising framework for the rest of the miniseries, this issue will no doubt appreciate with subsequent issues —AJK
Next week, the new X-Men team debuts, and Ta-Nehisi Coates‘s Captain America run comes to an end!