Somehow, in my three-month absence, Peter David managed to crank out five "X-Factor" issues. Let's get started!
X-Factor #239: This issue is odd. The main story begins with Havok and Theresa interviewing a guy related to the people killed by the mysterious woman with the sonic scream. We eventually learn that the woman is a banshee (who refers to herself as the Morrigan) and the man's daughter accidentally summoned her while trying to put a curse on her cousin's girlfriend. (Her cousin was the security guard killed by the Morrigan last issue.) I could buy all that, but David leaves a lot unexplained. We never learn why the Morrigan turned on the girl in the first place, deciding to go after her family members rather than the aforementioned girlfriend. We also don't really learn how the Morrigan learned enough about Theresa to be offended by her calling herself Banshee. The Morrigan knew enough about her to grab her when Theresa has the girl summon the Morrigan in her bedroom, but how did she know about Theresa? Was she aware of her in whatever place she lives when she isn't being summoned to Earth by tween girls? David seems to imply that the Morrigan manipulated the situation to have the girl summon her so that she could go after Theresa, but he doesn't actually connect those dots. Why couldn't the Morrigan just go after her on her own? Why did she decide to go after Theresa now? Did she just learn about her? Did Jezebel tell the Morrigan about her? I'm surprised that someone who normally doesn't drop a ball left so many questions unanswered. Along those lines, why did Jezebel help Theresa defeat the Morrigan? Did she orchestrate the whole sequence just to remove the Morrigan for the playing field? I'd buy that, because we're never really been asked to accept Jezebel as anything other than truly villainous. David casts doubt on that portrayal, but not in as artful of a way as he usually does. Instead, she just spouts some mumbo jumbo about the coming of new gods and serving two masters. In so doing, David seems to be tying this story to the ongoing subplot of Jezebel's arrangement with the Isolationist, so we might be getting answers in the future. But, the lack of any clues on that front and of information on the Morrigan made the issue pretty frustrating to follow. All in all, it was a rare miss for Peter David in my book.
X-Factor #240: All right, so, Layla's ability to see the future makes my head hurt under the best of circumstances. But, since saving Guido, her ability to see the future is even less clear, and David attempts to explain why in this issue.
The good news is that he does a pretty decent job of it. I was never really clear how Layla knew that, by causing one path to happen over another one, she wasn't making matters worse. In other words, when she acted to divert a path to prevent an outcome in the future that she knew would happen, how did she know that she wasn't creating a path that she would like even less? Here, David explains that, when her older self gave her younger self her memories, it re-wired her brain so that she was able to see all possible paths. It wasn't just a choice of choosing between one of two paths; it was the choice of choosing between all of the possible paths.
The bad news is that I can't say that I full believe this explanation. How exactly did older Layla giving younger Layla her memories of her specific future allow her to know all of the potential futures? Even if that were true, how could Layla really see all of the potential futures given how many variables are involved? As we see here, even a small misstep could completely change the future, so you'd imagine that, at any given moment, an almost infinite number of potential futures may hang in the balance. Can Layla really see them all? I'm also not sure that I buy that Layla would know that the woman whose life she saved would one day invent a cure for a disease that Madrox would get. Did she take down the girl's name and, 15 years later, just happen to recognize it as the person whose life she saved? What if the girl's name had been Jane Smith? How would she have known?
But, at the end of the day, I'm willing give David a break, since his explanation is at least consistent with the way that Layla has been portrayed throughout this series. She has always seemed to know not only how to avoid a certain path but how to make a certain path happen, which implies that she hasn't just been trying to change paths willy-nilly to avoid a possible future without understanding what other future she might be creating. In other words, I don't totally buy it, but I buy it enough to go with it. (Still, between this issue and the last one, I feel like David hasn't quite been as on the ball as he usually is, having left a lot of details unclear. I'm hoping "Breaking Points" goes a little more smoothly.)
X-Factor #241: Occasionally, one of the drawbacks of "X-Factor" having ten cast members and being on its 15th issue of the year is that it gets difficult to remember the exact details of all the various plots and sub-lots. This issue presents a case in point. Although I remembered faux Dormammu, Death-cap, and Vanora coming to our dimension from their own dimensions after they fought Madrox, I'm surprised to see the alternate Mr. Tryp also here. In fact, I sort of remember this Tryp not really being a bad guy in "They Keep Killing Madrox." He just seemed confused by Jamie's presence more than anything else. As such, I thought that it was odd that he was not only in our dimension, but that he had the clear intention of using the three villains to do harm to X-Factor in this issue. I mean, sure, our Tryp would do the same thing, but I thought this guy was a different Tryp. Were they the same?
But, it actually appears that the answer to that question is more or less irrelevant, since Mr. Tryp and the three villains appear to have been nothing more than a MacGuffin. Whatever Tryp's plan was after Dormmamu used Alex, Jamie, and the other two villains to bolster his power, we don't see it realized thanks to Strong Guy stopping Dormmamu mid-spell. The possibility that it will happen in a later issue seems remote, given that Polaris killed Death-cap and the mysterious figure killed Dormmamu. (I wonder whether Alex and Lorna are going to fight over her killing Death-cap.) As such, it's clear that the advent of the mysterious figure was the real purpose of this issue. (Though, I love how David manages to use Tryp and his friends as MacGuffins to advance one plot and, at the same time, tying up loose ends. Death-cap? Check. Faux Dormmamu? Check. Now, we just need to find Vanora.)
Therefore, the real mystery of the issue isn't what Tryp's plan was, but who the mysterious figure is and what he wants (hence why it's a mystery). Was he the one telling Theresa to drop the bottle? Maybe. But, that person had a Scottish accent and the mysterious figure didn't appear to have one, so maybe not. I guess we'll see. In the meantime, David makes it pretty clear that the Guido situation is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. If all that wasn't enough, we of course still have the real Rahne out there looking for her son. I was disappointed with the last two issues, but David seems to be righting the ship here a bit. We'll see where it goes.
X-Factor #242: To repeat the same thing that I said at the beginning of the last review, the problem with "X-Factor" having ten (well, now nine) cast members and being on its (now) 16th issue of the year is that it occasionally gets hard to follow all the plots and sub-plots. Although I vaguely remember Darwin's Western-themed issue from "X-Factor" #213, I didn't remember him fighting Hela in that issue. A quick trip to Wikipedia reminded me that they fought in the Vegas arc and that preceded issue #213 and that it was his inability to adapt to the changes to his powers (and possibly his soul) that came from his battle with Hela that led him to leave X-Factor in the first place.
However, despite serving as narrator, Darwin plays second fiddle in this issue, with Rahne and Tier serving as the central characters. Their emotional reunion is, I'd argue, as satisfying of a moment as you're going to find in comics. You can just feel their mutual relief at finding each other, Rahne realizing that she no longer has to carry around her guilt at abandoning her child, Tier realizing that he's no longer as alone as he's been. I have to admit to being more than slightly annoyed by the fact that we didn't see Rahne, Rictor, and Shatterstar fight their way through Hel to find a way to locate Tier, but I accept the fact that David is trying to wrap up loose ends as quickly as he can.
As such, David brings some closure (for now) to Rahne's storyline. Do I think she, Tier, and Werewolf by Night are going to live happily ever after in a cottage in Nova Scotia? Nope. I give them 20 issues of peace at best. But, for now, Rahne is more or less settled with as happy of an ending as Rahne is likely to get. David certainly keeps us wondering about other characters, though. Who did Tryp flee? The mysterious figure from last issue? Darwin, obviously, isn't well, given the "voices" in his head that are convincing him to chase Tier. Who are these voices? Are they also connected to the mysterious figure? Who are these "lords" that Darwin mentions are after Tier? How the Hell did Vanora survive two blades to the back? I'm not sure if David intends to wrap up these loose ends by the conclusion of "Breaking Points," but it would be nice to have them addressed at some point. At any rate, it looks like we're moving onto Havok and Polaris next issue, and God knows that those two kids need some attention.