Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Scanned Thoughts: All New X-Factor #1
When it comes to consistency in X-men comics, Peter David is like Brett Favre, minus the sexting scandal. There have been a lot of shake-ups and fuck-ups over the past decade with X-men. Hell, I've covered a good deal of them. But Peter David has always been quietly going about his business, churning out consistent awesome with X-Factor. I know I've never reviewed one of his comics on this blog. I just can't get drunk enough to go on a sufficiently insightful rant, but I don't deny for a second that X-Factor is a consistently awesome supplement to the X-men library. It was also the last series to be ended and effectively relaunched. Peter David is still the writer, but now he gets to slap a brand spanking new #1 on X-Factor. That should give any experienced X-men fan a nice boner so I’ll be keeping my pants nice and loose for this review.
As with every new relaunch, there must be something or someone who needs to have their ass kicked. X-Factor is like any other X-men team. They take on that special breed of asshole that jerks off to the sight of suffering mutants. So it makes sense that on the first page of this first issue of this relaunched series, we’re introduced to just such an asshole. He’s basically a mix of Dexter and clichéd Weapon X guy. He and a buddy are experimenting on an innocent, albeit unknown, mutant who would rather be locked in a room with polar bear on crystal meth. But it’s not enough that they’re tormenting a mutant. They’re doing it with the kind of casual attitude that I usually reserve for ordering Taco Bell after midnight. These are basically the kind of guys that deserved to be horribly maimed by the X-men so why not let a new team take a crack at them?
That team still doesn’t exist though. The X-Factor that Jamie Madrox has been running for years is officially closed for business. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few X-men who are too busy to pick up where Multiple left off. And some X-men have more free time than others. Hell, some haven’t been doing jack shit in the other books while others have had their solo series get canceled. It’s one of the drawbacks of having a team as big as the X-men. There are only so many comics with which to cover these characters and the audience has an attention span only as long as the last Duck Dynasty scandal. It presents a special challenge for X-Factor, but it actually does have some notable names to work with.
Gambit is one of those characters that seems to soak the panties of a certain segment of fans, but he has never been able to function on a major title consistently. When he’s not trying to bang Rogue, he’s basically an afterthought. And it turns out that when he has no Rogue to bang, he reverts back to some of his old habits, like breaking into some rich guy’s house and stealing a mystical artifact that could open the gates of Hell itself. Since there are already several of those in the Marvel universe, Wolverine catches up with Gambit and informs him that he needs to find a better hobby. He’s supposed to be a teacher at the Jean Grey Institute, but all he has been teaching lately is how to ditch class. And trust me, most teenagers don’t need a class to learn that shit. Wolverine does come off as a bit of an asshole for barging in, ruining Gambit’s score, and chewing him out for not doing his job, but he’s not wrong. Gambit has been MIA from every major X-men event lately and he’s not keeping himself busy in a very healthy way.
This provides some nice insight into Gambit. For anyone who hasn’t been keeping up with the shit that has happened to him lately, and that ain’t much, this offers a perfect recap of sorts to help readers understand where he’s coming from. There’s some hints about what he did in his solo series and a mention of the Thieve’s Guild, which is a big part of his history. It’s not telling die-hard Gambit fans anything they don’t already know and jerk off to, but it does provide a base for his character.
And at the moment, that character isn’t really sure what to do with himself. Teaching at the Jean Grey Institute just isn’t doing it for him anymore. He’s a lifelong thief. Asking him to settle down and be content with teachings snot-nosed teenagers is like asking a crack head to invest their savings wisely. So Gambit does what I often do and drowns his sorrows in a bar, but not before doing a little property damage. Usually it’s the other way around for me, but I don’t see why both approaches couldn’t work. He only seems to be partially drunk as he probably fantasizes about pouring acid down Wolverine’s throat for talking down to him like a child, but then Polaris shows up and gives him a better reason to get drunk. She has a new opportunity for him and it doesn’t involve listening to teenagers bitch and moan about homework.
Now Polaris is another one of those characters who hasn’t been a major player, but she did play a large part in the latter issues of X-Factor. She kind of went a bit insane and broke up with Havok. Then again, I think every character in the Marvel universe deserves to go insane at some point. She now seems to have her shit together again. However, there isn’t much of an explanation of how she suddenly became sane again. Her recent history isn’t as detailed as Gambit’s, but she is the one who apparently is setting up this new team so I’m willing to overlook that. Plus, she looks fucking hot in that new uniform. That always is a bonus in my book.
She invites Gambit to join her at a coffee shop, probably because she understands that few successful partnerships that don’t involve one night stands and broken jaw bones ever begin in a bar. She then listens to him bitch about how Wolverine wants him to be an upstanding, boring ass teacher who never steals anything. Polaris looks like she just found pictures of Channing Tatum’s abs because she wastes no time in inviting Gambit to take a trip with her. They even get to fly on a fancy private jet. Sure, that jet gets shot at by a missile. But in the Marvel universe, if someone isn’t trying to shoot them out of the sky, then someone isn’t being heroic enough.
Along the way, Polaris explains that the jet actually belongs to a company called Serval Industries. They’re basically a typical faceless entity that has their hands in weapons manufacturing and internet search. They’re basically a cross between Google and Stark Industries. Now they’ve also decided to get into the superhero business. Sure, that means some people will want to shoot at them with rockets, but that’s probably no less hazardous than being probed by the FTC.
They arrive at their headquarters in Virginia where they have a base of operations that Google would probably be proud of. It looks like a fairly typical business, so much so that Gambit takes a chance to do some pick-pocketing. Like I said, he’s a thief at heart and he’s not going to stop so long as there’s no naked Rogue to keep him occupied. But in terms of a base of operations, this is the kind of facility that’s equipped in a way second only to the Playboy Mansion. There’s still the matter of why the fuck a successful company would want to have its own team of superheroes. I imagine those resources are probably better spent on lobbyists, but I guess this would fall under the category of thinking outside the box. It worked for Apple. Why not these guys?
They then meet Harrison Snow, the President and CEO of Serval Industries. He’s no Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Hell, he looks more like a Tony Stark wannabe, which he freely admits is the public perception. But he seems dead serious about setting up this new team. He even went through the trouble of buying the rights to X-Factor from Multiple. I mean when is the last time any hero got paid for their superhero team that didn’t involve merchandising? He still comes off as someone who is about as honest as a tobacco lobbyist, but he does make a few semi-logical arguments. Countries and transnational organizations have superheroes. So why not rich corporations? Sure, they already run countries, but why not skip a step? He claims his company is in the business of helping others and X-Factor will just help that purpose. He makes it sound so noble, but it’s hard to take him seriously when he’s wearing a suit that probably cost more than my last five paychecks.
Whether Harrison Snow is being noble or not, he still believes that X-Factor will serve his company. He has even started expanding his team, enlisting Quicksilver while Polaris was out recruiting Gambit. He’s yet another character that has been MIA from major X-men stories for a while. But he also has a history of being a villain, an Avenger, and an overall douche-bag. I suppose every superhero team needs someone like that. Just look at Wolverine. There’s still the matter of Polaris trying to kill Quicksilver the last time they met, but he seems willing to chalk that up to booze, bad weather, and bad moods. If only my parole officer was so forgiving. Quicksilver does try to explain himself and like Polaris, it’s not a very detailed explanation. But it at least makes clear that he’s not a total asshat and is trying to be a hero again. Since the Avengers are overcrowded and the X-men aren’t about to overlook his bullshit, he might as well take a chance with X-Factor.
It seems like there’s a lot of boring chit chat going into setting up this new team. Most of this issue consists of characters talking about how dissatisfied they are with their current situation in the Marvel universe and are in need of an upgrade. It may not be as exciting as watching Wolverine decapitate Apocalypse, but it establishes a few layers of detail with the story that set the foundation for what this new era in X-Factor will be. One of X-Factor’s greatest strengths historically is that attention to detail and while it may not be as thrilling as a roller coaster, it makes the story more engaging.
And with an engaging story, the action is even more satisfying when it finally happens. After the awkwardness between Polaris and Quicksilver settles, they set out on their first mission. It’s pretty standard. They have to hunt down an exceedingly unethical biologist named Dr. Terrance Hoffman, who may or may not be spooning AIM. They find his facility, they start blowing his shit up, and they do it in a way that’s very satisfying. It’s a little rushed, but the details that led up to it are what make it fun.
As for Dr. Hoffman himself, he’s still as casual about tormenting mutants as I am about tormenting bags of potato chips after several bong hits. He’s about ready to operate on an innocent mutant without anesthesia and he’s about to do it with a goddamn smile on his face. Then when he’s told that they’re under attack by mutants, he doesn’t look all that threatened. Hell, he looks like a kid whose parents just told him there’s a freshly baked cake in his bedroom. He’s just begging to be this new X-Factor’s first success. He’ll probably help boost Serval Industries’s stock in the process. I usually don’t like when corporations exploit heroes to turn a profit, but in some cases I’m more than happy to make an exception.
This comic has many messages and themes. The most prominent of all is basically, “The hippies were full of shit.” There’s no question that we live in a world of corporations act like dicks and make it their mission to shove said dicks into the asses of its customers and the mouths of the politicians that assist them. But like it or not, corporations are capable of doing good. Do we not owe greedy corporations some credit for creating the computers that so many people rely on to binge watch Netflix or download unlimited amounts of porn? Well in All New X-Factor #1, a corporation has decided to dip their hands in the superhero business. Serval Industries may look like a Google wannabe, but it has effectively set up a new X-Factor. And while I’m as inclined to trust a rich CEO as much as I’m inclined to trust the IRS, Serval has created a unique and interesting new setting for X-Factor. While this issue did drag in a few parts, it was nicely detailed and almost as engaging as a living blow-job machine. I give All New X-Factor #1 an 8 out of 10. I’m still not sure if I would invest in Seval Industries if I was an overpaid Hedge Fund manager. But if corporations are going to be dicks, they might as well squeeze in a few heroics. Nuff said!