Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: David Baldeón
Colorist: Israel Silva
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artist: Ivan Shavrin
Editor: Jordan D. White
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Dawn of X! New title! Finally! X-Factor #1! HYPE!!
Having read every #1 from Dawn of X to date, X-Factor #1 might be the strongest of them all (Marauders #1 was close competition, but I think it’s ultimately slightly less good). This issue sets up its premise and establishes a tone so expediently while still being an entertaining, complete story on its own. That’s not easy! I would even argue most #1 issues aren’t successful on all those counts.
For those unaware, X-Factor is a recurring X-Men spinoff title that began in 1986, mostly as an excuse to reunite the original roster after nearly 20 years of them not being together. X-Factor has since been relaunched several times with varying takes on the concept, but Peter David’s “X-Factor Investigations” run in the mid-00s is perhaps the most beloved. That version re-imagined the title as an independent detective agency run by Multiple Man, coming across more as a hardboiled neo-noir than your typical superhero comic. This new take on X-Factor by writer Leah Williams returns to the detective angle, but within the framework of Jonathan Hickman’s sweeping X-Men overhaul, now approaching its second year of operations.
This new iteration of X-Factor is led by Northstar, the stalwart X-Man who made headlines a decade ago for having the first same-sex marriage in a mainstream superhero comic. He’s thrust into action when he senses that his twin sister, Aurora, has died under mysterious circumstances, and he demands that the X-Men’s handy new resurrection protocols be used on her. When he’s told they can only bring her back to life with proof of her death, Northstar links up with Polaris (an X-Factor veteran) to revive XFI under the specific directive of locating and retrieving Aurora. They’re ultimately successful in doing so, which convinces the Quiet Council of Krakoa that their services—locating missing mutants—would be an essential addition to their cause. And luckily for our new X-Factor, their work is already cut out for them with plenty of potential cases to seek out.
And all of that happens in just one issue!
At this point, we’re so used to #1 issues (especially of team-based books) spinning their wheels and not getting to the point immediately that I was pretty knocked back by how comprehensively X-Factor #1 stakes its claim within 40-odd pages (the expanded length here really helps). It’s easy to imagine another version of this launch story that decompresses everything over five or six issues, but instead, we’re given real bang for our buck. This is how you do a satisfying #1 issue.
Leah Williams’s last X-Men project, X-Tremists, was my favorite tie-in from last year’s “Age of X-Man” event, and I wouldn’t be surprised if X-Factor also becomes this for the current X-Era (say “X” again…). She’s great at balancing a cast of characters well enough so that everybody gets a moment to shine—another potential trap of writing team-based books. I also love her selection of characters here, which consists mostly of solid B-listers (also Eye Boy) who don’t get nearly enough focus otherwise. There’s one Polaris scene in particular that speaks to this: when her father Magneto implies she’s been acting out-of-character lately, she retorts that maybe neither of them know who she “really” is after all. But Williams’s script is also very humorous and funny at times, which is another one of her emerging staples (basically every scene with Daken exemplifies this, but that might just be my bias for the Bisexual Stabby Boy™ talking).
This is also the second go-round for artist David Baldeón, last seen in the X-Men world drawing Gail Simone’s fun Domino series from a few years ago. Baldeón also recently worked with Williams on Gwenpool Strikes Back, and there’s a pretty good sense of writer-artist synergy throughout. His style is a bit more cartoony than some of the other Dawn of X titles, but that’s a good thing; his art helps lend a sense of levity to the otherwise grim premise of the book. I’m really looking forward to seeing what kinds of stuff he’ll get to draw in the coming issues (also, his costume designs haven’t gotten to show up just yet, but they are stellar). I’m a little less enthusiastic about Israel Silva’s coloring, which is occasionally a bit too heavy and textured for my taste, but overall it works for Baldeón linework.
- Excellent plotting for a #1 issue that gets to the point and establishes tone.
- Fun roster of underused characters.
- Dynamic, cartoony art that lends levity to an otherwise grim premise.
- Lack of "A-listers" in the cast might be a deal-breaker for some.