There are times when Marvel’s aggressive trade paperback program feels like it’s getting ahead of itself, and such is the case for X-Factor in March, as it sees the release of not one but two trade paperback collections. Volume 19, Short Stories, collects issues #246-#249, as Peter David continues to explore the fall-out from the prior storyline, Breaking Points, as well as setting up the climactic Hell on Earth War storyline, that’s only now playing out in the monthly X-Factor issues, after a prolonged period of build-up.
Whereas Breaking Points broke the team up a bit, and allowed David to focus on particular characters and elements of the team while shaking things up, this collection of stories feels a bit more cohesive, as he pulls the team back together and sets up his next major storyline, one which he has been building to for quite a while. The first story collected is a fun little one-off featuring Pip the Troll, which quickly and surprisingly turns deadly at the close of the story. The second issue has Madrox and Layla Miller enjoying wedded bliss, by which I mean of course getting involved in a very strange and odd situation that their unique skill set and powers is well suited for. The last two issues collected here are where everything really starts to hit the fan, and David pulls the story threads together quite nicely. The team comes together when they find out that Pip has been killed, only to discover that Pip isn’t well and truly dead, as a body swap has left him and M in a unique situation. It all leads to Hell on Earth finally coming for X-Factor, with the collection ending off with “to be continued”.
I think I said it before in a prior review, but Peter David has clearly been having a fun time with this series, and that fun continues each and every month. He has his own little sandbox that he can play with, and it’s clear that there’s less and less editorial interference and edicts that he has to worry about accommodating. It’s been a while since this book was forced to take part in any actual crossover, and it allows David to tell his own stories at his own pace, without having to bend to others’ whims.
The artwork in this volume is shared by two different artists, Paul Davidson who does issues #246 and #248, and Leonard Kirk who does issues #247 and #249. It’s interesting that they both do one issue before letting the other artist jump in, and then do so again. Although both artists obviously have different styles, the tone and atmosphere of the book remains unchanged thanks to colorist Matt Milla. Because of his excellent work on the color art, although the pencils/inks might change, the general tone of the book remains consistent.
For fans of this current run of X-Factor, this continues to be a well-plotted, well-written and well-illustrated comic book, which isn’t the best book on the shelves, but is certainly one of the most consistent and well-rounded. I wouldn’t say that this is a great point to jump onto the book, however, as this volume builds up to the long-gestating Hell on Earth War, which finally explodes with X-Factor #250 (to be included in the next trade paperback volume).