Several weeks ago, Charles Webb and I had great things to say about X-Factor #200. The two of us praised the intelligence and cleverness of writer Peter David’s character depictions, as well as the witty and completely involving storyline he presented. Now, soon after relaunching X-Factor in their own series, we get another bigtime X-Factor book, this one a one-shot as the team visits Utopia, the mutant homeland near San Francisco. And both wacky hijinks and some major action ensue.
Of course, we get wacky hijinks, because Peter David is a master of characterization. Because David is at the helm, this comic is full of funny scenes that flow naturally from the characters. The book is packed with clever one-liners, from the funny bet between Scott and Logan at the beginning of the issue, to the, umm, earthshaking scene between Longshot and Dazzler that closes the issue.
I especially loved the way that all the women responded to Shatterstar as he wandered around the mutant homeland. The man’s prowess with women is practically another superpower. As Monet so cattily puts it, “he certainly excels at making friends.”
Since Strong Guy was along with his friends from X-Factor, you know there has to be a fight involved, and of course there is. David knows he has to give the readers what they expect in order for a comic like this to be successful, so he gives us a hilarious battle between Guido and the Irresistible Force. The scene involves a football and the real proof of who is the immovable object, and, well, you gotta just read it and enjoy the scene.
Of course, David also brings readers several interesting levels of drama along with the humor. He’s always been great at balancing the two, and this comic is no exception. There’s a real sense of the leaders and the followers here, with people like Scott and Jamie talking business while the kids frolic and play. The real reason that X-Factor came to Utopia wasn’t to visit old friends; it was to discuss whether X-Factor should move to Utopia.
Thus we get several philosophical discussions between the lead characters about the efficacy of the island, juxtaposed in a moving way against the prologue that puts Magneto in the Warsaw Ghetto as the Nazis cleared it out in 1943. That prologue gives the decision a real sense of moral weight, as the leaders discuss whether Utopia is the place where mutantkind will be saved or where the seeds of their own destruction will be sown.
These discussions are interesting but never quite reach the level of intensity that justifies the Nazi scene at the beginning. We all know the incredibly tragic results of the Nazis clearing the Warsaw ghetto. But we haven’t yet seen what will happen in Utopia. There may yet be reasons for Scott’s optimism about the new homeland, and it seems to me a comparison to the actions of the Nazis is a bit premature.
David tries to tip the reader away from my reaction by bringing another character into the story, the character that provides the real dramatic tension for this comic. I don’t want to spoil the big revelation, so suffice it to say that there is a non-mutant on the island who knows a little more than the mutants do. This character definitely takes one side in the conflict between the two teams, but her opinion… well, let’s just say that X-Factor ends up making the decision that I expected them to make.
Most X-Factor readers are familiar with Valentine de Landro’s artwork, and he delivers a typically wonderful job with this issue. I’m always struck by the amount of life and energy his characters have. They really seem like men and women with real complexity and quirkiness, which of course makes his art an ideal match for Peter David’s writing. The scene at the bottom of page 16, for instance, is a completely visual joke, and only an artist as good as de Landro could deliver the scene so cleverly.
He also has a good sense of how to depict characters in motion. De Landro’s illustrations of Namor swimming in the harbor around Utopia are some of the loveliest depictions of Namor in motion that I’ve ever seen.
It’s no surprise that a Peter David-written, Valentine de Landro-drawn X-Factor one-shot should be as involving, interesting and entertaining as any issue of the regular series.