Best Shots advance review: X-Factor #1 "a substantial and impressive opening issue"

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

"It's not that mutants can't die. It's that they come back. If only it were that easy."

X-Factor #1
Written by Leah Williams
Art by David Baldeon and Israel Silva
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Northstar has "resurrection problems" and a new X-Factor Investigations team rises to meet them in Leah Williams and David Baldeon's new debut. Torn by the psychic shock of his twin Aurora's death, Jean-Paul Beaubier has questions for the resurrection team known as the Five — namely, why haven't they done anything about his sister's death and when will she be resurrected. Thus begins Leah Williams' deep dive into the Resurrection Protocols, the building and work of this new X-Factor team, and how they now fit into Krakoan society. 

Though a lot of this first issue is laying out a metric ton of exposition, Williams' new take on X-Factor — a canny mix of the first Peter David 'government' X-Factor as well as his subsequent Multiple Man-led noir take on the team — is very interesting, as is her exploration of the Five and the Quiet Council's "rules and regulations" regarding resurrection. Couple this rich narrative potential with her wry, self-aware takes on Polaris, Northstar, and Daken (the team's self-proclaimed "enforcer") along with the expressive artwork of David Baldeon and Israel Silva, and you have a brand new X-Factor that is ready for business. 

Leah Williams has to burn through a lot of dialogue in order to thread the book's central mystery and high concept, as not only does Northstar and company need to solve the mystery of his sister's whereabouts, but also the log-jamming of the Five, who require strict proof of death before resurrecting any fallen mutants. Thankfully a lot of it is given a theatrical pop by the expressive pencils of Baldeon and the rich colors of Silva. Williams also further jazzes up these expository exchanges with fun discoveries of team interactions (Daken and Prodigy are standouts) and wry characterizations. Particularly great is Williams' interpretation of Rachel Summers, who functions more like a put-upon wine aunt here, and Polaris, who is seeking a life beyond the shadow of her famous father.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)
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I would even argue that this amount of exposition is necessary and vital to the success of this new X-Factor, even if the investigation goes to some grim places, which Willams and the art team absolutely push. Not only does this establishment of the hard-and-fast rules of the Five and how they could benefit from a new X-Factor enrich the 'Dawn of X' line as a whole, but explicitly establishes how this new team functions in the overall paradigm of Krakoa. Just know you will have to get through a lot of dialogue to get there, but Williams and her takes on these cult-favorite characters are absolutely worth the time and effort.  

X-Factor #1 also looks quite a bit different than the rest of the 'Dawn of X' efforts so far. More akin to the theatricality of Excalibur than the action-heavy X-Men or X-Force, David Baldeon and Israel Silva lean into the more noirish and mystery-based flavors of previous X-Factors. This keeps a lot of the action of this opening issue fairly grounded, especially once the team starts to work the crime scene of Aurora's last known location. But thanks to Baldeon and Silva's broader takes on the character's expressions like Rachel's slight sneer and Polaris' stony, yet sweet support of Northstar and showy displays of the team's powers X-Factor #1 has just enough style to nicely undercut the heavier substances of the opening issue.

Thanks to a keener understanding of the Five's process and an explicit story reason for the new incarnation to exist, X-Factor #1 stands as a substantial and impressive opening issue. Though a bit exposition-heavy and light on set pieces, Leah Williams, David Baldeon, and Israel Silva look deep into the new state of mutant death and give us a team just broken (and fun) enough to stand the sight. The road back to Krakoa might not be easy, but X-Factor is here to try and make sure every mutant — even the currently dead ones — has a home.

Freelance writer

Justin Partridge is a freelance journalist who can be found at GamesRadar+ and Newsarama writing reviews about the best comic books out there. He's also known to put his encyclopedic knowledge of the industry to work by exploring some of the biggest events in comic book history.