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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 02/28/07
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X-Factor #16
writer: Peter David
artists: Pablo Raimondi and Brian Reber

It's really a shame that X-Men: The Last Stand reduced the Multiple Man to a one-dimensional character for the sake of a visual joke. That alone may have kept people away from this series, confused that such a lame thug could become the leader of the most interesting team of Marvel's mutants.

In the mind of Peter David, Jamie Madrox has as many dimensions as he can produce duplicates. So many, in fact, that he has decided it's high time he start drawing those duplicates back in to himself. The temptation to live multiple lives has gotten too great and caused some friction within the team.

Last issue, David used this to great effect, utilizing the Madrox that had become an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Emotionally broken down by Hydra, a brainwashed Multiple Man revealed the one thing that all of his selves have in common: self-loathing.

So of course, David has to show us the flip side. Madrox goes after the self that he sent out to find religion, quite possibly to find his soul. And once that plot gets rolling, it's almost impossible to determine where it will go. One option will satisfy the reader; one will satisfy Madrox. With each page, it gets harder to tell which is which.

Also running in the background are other members of X-Factor, specifically Siryn and M, both unintended victims of Madrox's personality conflict. They have fled to Paris for a girl talk weekend, and end up embroiled in a mutant conflagration that will no doubt have long-lasting effects.

Despite dealing with the fantastic, though, X-Factor feels like the most realistic of Marvel's X books. Almost all the members could pass as normal humans, and their costumes rarely get noticed. Instead, it's all about their internal struggles, both with their powers and their place in society. If you know somebody that doesn't read comics but has gotten addicted to watching Heroes, this is one of the best books you could hand them.

It's also a decent stand-alone issue, even though it's midpoint in a storyline. Peter David is simply one of the best out there at crafting complex stories within stories that allow new readers to check a book out without feeling lost - and he doesn't overexplain things to bog long-time readers down.

Up until today, I hadn't realized it's also a bit experimental art-wise. Colorist Brian Reber goes digitally over Pablo Raimondi's pencils. It's not a new technique, but Raimondi's use of heavy blacks made me assume that he inked himself. The result isn't as glorious as Richard Isanove's work, but then, this should be a grittier book, and Reber uses a well-muted palette.

Raimondi's work has also improved. Occasionally, panels still look a little static, but he carries the emotion well.

X-Factor is an adult book in the right sense - a rich story with challenging ideas, and nothing added gratuitously. It's not violent. It's complex.

Also on the Stands:

Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus #1: At least in the wake of Annihilation we only have this one spin-off. I…what? There are? Oh. So anyway, at least Stuart Moore does a heck of a job explaining the character of Stardust. Just as in Civil War, it's frustrating when these good writers do good work in the service of a crossover I just didn't want to get sucked into. But again, this is just a one-shot, so if you like the Heralds of Galactus, it's worth a look.

Daredevil #94: Put aside the jokey (and maybe just a skosh tasteless) cover copy. Inside, we get little more than a recap of Mrs. Murdock's experiences as girlfriend and wife of Daredevil. Lee Weeks delivers some terrific art, but overall, it's the kind of issue that seems to be killing time until the new status quo can be messed with - seems to be a lot of that going around at Marvel.

Dorothy #7: Illusive Arts Entertainment's science fiction retelling of The Wizard of Oz rolls around to the Cowardly Lion, here simply known as "The Beast." Told in "fumetti" style then steeped in computer graphics, the book aims pretty high, and almost gets there. The actors still tend to look posed, but when artist Ray Boersig deals strictly with his digital creations (the Beast designed by creator Greg Mannino), this book veers into magic. Let that not offend writer Mark Masterson, whose characterization of Dorothy's companions keeps this book flowing past an intricate and dark plot.

Jack Staff #13: No less confusing than any other issue of Jack Staff, this one at least has the advantage of being a tale of an "alternate reality." Our hero, now perceived as a villain, has to fight to restore the reality he vaguely thinks he knows. This issue eschews the usual feeling of random stories popping in to interrupt the main narrative, and even if you feel a little bit lost, the ride is worth it. This is a fun book, parodying but loving a style of comics that, honestly, most of us here in America don't quite get. But Paul Grist is just so doggoned good at it.

Runaways #24: In one month, Joss Whedon takes over, but Brian K. Vaughan goes out in a blaze of glory. The team only barely resembles what it started out as, and yet Vaughan does a nice nod back to its beginning. He also sets things up for Whedon, with enough closure that we're satisfied, but enough crap that the new guy has a lot of work ahead. It's work we look forward to seeing.

True Story Swear To God #4: Nothing earth-shattering happens here, except Tom Beland gets one awful, awful sunburn. No, this book is just for those that like really good cartooning combined with really good storytelling by a creator who's a nice guy and deserves a little more attention.

The Walking Dead #35: Just when you think things couldn't get worse, they get worse. In this case, my advance review copy had a misprint that caused the second to last page to get printed twice, instead of the ACTUAL LAST PAGE. AAAARRGGGHHH! Robert Kirkman has figured out how to completely frustrate me in a whole new way!

Wolverine #51: Okay. The art here, by Simone Bianchi, is just gorgeous. I do not take issue with that at all. The pacing by Jeph Loeb is well-done, perfectly matched to make sure that Bianchi gets to really show off. So far, no problems. Well, okay, there's one problem: this storyline isn't just cheating with the idea that Wolverine remembers everything about his life except, conveniently, the truth about his relationship to Sabertooth. No, where I'm particularly annoyed is that a long-standing character clearly clearly knows the truth that neither Wolverine or Sabertooth themselves know. And this character was keeping it from them for twenty-five years why?

Wonder Man #3: Stop me if you've heard this one. A young girl gets raised to be the perfect killer, until a well-meaning superhero steps in and tries to break her of her instincts. If you thought this was X23, please play again. Batgirl? Nope. Oh, forget it. The art by Andrew Currie is at odds with the story, and the story is at odds with Peter David's talent. If you haven't skipped this already, it's never too late.

Hey, write to us and let us know what you think, or talk about it on the forums!

Derek McCaw


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