My second trade back and I’m loving Strong Guy. Again, I’m shocked that Peter David has made me root for the losers that make up this team. I mean, I know they are the stars of this book, but when the Thing starts going after Shatterstar and Strong Guy, there was not a moment of doubt in who I was cheering for. This era of X-Factor is a delight.
To celebrate the return to New York City, David has the X-Factor investigations team taking a case from Franklin and Valeria Richards. With Madrox and Layla Miller returned to the present, you can only imagine the sparks that fly between Layla and Valeria. It’s a testament to David’s writing that they can maintain their separate voices while exhibiting so many similar characteristics.
I don’t think I’m spoiling anything to say that Reed Richards isn’t really turning into an evil monster. And while the explanation is a bit of an overused cliché, that main plot is only there as a MacGuffin. Once again, characterization is the engine for this vehicle. Seeing the budding relationship between M and Strong Guy as he makes his feelings for her more and more obvious is a classic comics (and soap opera!) storyline, and I know I loved seeing it again. Siryn/Banshee gets rehabilitated and ready for duty in a nice scene involving Jamie Madrox’s most likable dupe.
And again, Layla Miller is playing all the angles as she teams up with Dr. Doom to deal with the Reed Richards problem. The best line of that interaction is undoubtedly Doom’s wish to protect the sanctity of the Richards’ marriage. Even mega-villains have their limits!
The three artists in this collection all do a decent job, but I found myself liking Bing Cansino’s art the best. His work had a pleasing texture to the figures that made them seem more three dimensional, and while his characters had a tendency to fluctuate between cartoony and beautiful, the acting is clear. Valentine De Landro’s work already looks better than in the last trade; more backgrounds and tighter pencils on characters’ faces have done wonders. Karl Moline’s work looks a tad rushed in his short story, with figures a bit more balloon-y and cartoony than I’m used to in his work.
This comic is the strongest ensemble book I’ve read in years. How in the world did I ever stop reading this GOOD comic?