With Marvel's 'Dawn of X' era X-Men line back on track and heading toward its first line-wide crossover in 'X of Swords,' the publisher is setting the stage for the crossover with some new X-Men titles altogether – including July 29's X-Factor #1, which revives the classic spin-off team - but with a new twist.
Written by Leah Williams with art from David Baldeón, the new X-Factor revives the classic concept of a mutant search and rescue team, revamping it for Krakoan society. Newsarama spoke with Baldeón ahead of X-Factor #1's release to get the skinny on how the new team stacks up to the classic X-Factor, and how this always off-kilter team will forge a new legacy.
Newsarama: David, X-Factor is finally launching after COVID-19 put everything on hold. How does it feel to finally have #1 coming out? How did the quarantine affect your working plans?
David Baldeón: Oh, it's been a long wait. In one way or another, this has been going on for almost a year (even more so, for Leah and our editors Jordan D. White and Annalise Bissa). So finally sharing this book of ours with everyone is kind of a relief. There’s a lot of love and caring for the team in it, and I was really looking forward to seeing it out into the world.
Nrama: Without getting too spoiler-y, what's the latest thing you've been drawing for X-Factor?
Baldeón: Hm. It's hard not to spoil anything, to be honest. So I'm going to go with the cryptic, technical answer: page layouts. A lot of timing and pacing and blocking.
Nrama: This new volume of X-Factor introduces the first version of the team in the 'Dawn of X' era. How is the new X-Factor different from the previous incarnations? How is it the same?
Baldeón: X-Factor has always been an investigation, mutant-tracking team. Our X-Factor carries on the tradition that comes with the name. But in the context of 'Dawn of X' and the effect Krakoa is having on everyone and everything mutant, "tracking mutants" means a whole new, different thing.
We're looking into some of the implications of this brave new world of theirs. So the spirit follows in the tradition of X-Factor, but it unfolds in a very, very different world with different implications.
Nrama: You designed a new X-Factor uniform for the team. What was on your mind when you put it together? What are the sensibilities you were aiming to capture?
Baldeón: There were a lot of things to put together here. Leah had done a beautiful job defining the individual style of each of the members of the team. Then there's the fact that they're not, strictly speaking, so much a superhero team as they are an investigation group.
And last but not least, I really wanted to include some kind of nod to the original Jackson Guice X-Factor designs. All that and more got into the mix to come up with uniforms, rather than suits. At the end of the day, it was all about what would these people wear as a uniform that was both personal and part of a team.
Nrama: You've worked on team books before, but working on an ongoing series in the X-Men line is a little different. What are the key things you’re keeping in mind as you put together an X-Factor page?
Baldeón: It's all about the characters, always. Even the action. Especially the action! Powers and punches and stances and choreography, they all speak about the core of the characters. How they react, how they relate, how they emote. Leah writes some of the most layered, absolutely naturalistic characters, which are just a luxury to move around a page, doing their stuff. I always try to do that, in solo books and team books, but it makes three times as much sense in an X-title. That goes deep into X-Men tradition.
Nrama: This version of X-Factor has an interesting roster including some classic X-Factor characters. Which member of the cast has surprised you the most so far?
Baldeón: Probably, it's been Daken and Lorna. It's not like I didn’t know them, and I went on a little reference trip before starting to work on them… But they clicked in a very special way for me (Lorna real fast, in the design stage, Daken a little later). There's a very specific vulnerability to both of them that I like very much… And it feels to me that the (very subtle) way that Krakoa has affected them is very interesting.
Although to be clear, it's not that I'm hinting at anything here, it's just me relating to the characters and connecting with them.
Nrama: You're working with Leah Williams on X-Factor. You've worked together before, on Gwenpool. How has your working relationship evolved since then?
Baldeón: I absolutely love working with Leah. I really learn and have learned a lot from her ever since the beginning of our collaboration with Gwenpool Strikes Back. But in our continuing into X-Factor I'd say we've grown closer as a team, and we have a certain shorthand in our coming and going of notes and ideas.
Of course it helps that she’s one of the most talented writers I've had the pleasure to work with, and that she writes characters in a way that’s both unequivocally Leah and completely in synch with their history at the same time. What can I say? I'm a fan!
Nrama: What's your favorite thing you've drawn for X-Factor so far?
Baldeón: Hm. Quite a few, actually. But I think I'm going to go with a scene in #1 in which Lorna lifts a car. I think that's as far as I can go without spoiling anything!
Nrama: What, in your opinion, sets this series apart from the rest of 'Dawn of X'? In other words, what is its unexpected 'x-factor'?
Baldeón: Each 'Dawn of X' book explores one part of the new post-Krakoa mutant world, and that’s exactly what X-Factor does: take a deep look into the implications and ramifications of some of the things going on in the new mutant nation. We're looking into resurrection and death, and how one might have changed the other, and how it affects all these people. And I'm sure readers will come for that, but I'm betting they'll stay for the amazing, beautiful chemistry of our cast.