Best Shots review: X-Factor #3 "a lot of promise"

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The team of investigators have their work cut out for them in X-Factor #3. Leah Williams and David Baldeon give the new X-Factor team a rough assignment as they have to investigate a murder in which they don't even know the victim's identity. It's a mystery made all the more complicated by the Mojoverse's nonstop live-streaming. How is the team to get anything done when the world itself won't let them work?

X-Factor #3 credits

Written by Leah Williams
Art by David Baldeon and Israel Silva
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

The outlandishness of the Mojoverse provides the perfect backdrop for Leah Williams's humor, with the X-Factor team having to perform for a live stream hosted by Spiral. Northstar, Polaris, and Prodigy all attempt to deal with Spiral's showmanship, though Rachel Summers learns there's something more sinister behind Spiral's actions. 

Whereas the previous issue delved a bit into the ratings of the Mojoverse live streams, X-Factor #3 sees Williams explore just what that means for the content creators. Spiral is beholden to the demands of her viewers and sponsors, and Williams gives readers a taste of the horror of that world when Spiral abruptly presents an ad. It's a solid update to the TV network allegory of Mojo, clearly targeting today's live-streaming services and the way people interact with them.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

David Baldeon's expressive lineart really shines this issue, with tight framing in panels that really helps sell the ego-driven nature of Mojoverse's live-streaming. This isn't a combat-heavy book, and so the intimacy Baldeon gives to the story helps drive home the emotional beats. 

When the panels do give us more of the world, Baldeon and color artist Israel Silva give us a dazzling chaotic world filled with cameras, lights, and screaming fans. Silva's saturated colors really give the Mojoverse an over-the-top feeling that contrasts really nicely with a more natural-looking interlude on Krakoa where Aurora and Daken have a flirtatious encounter. Between Williams's dialogue, Baldeon's character poses, and Silva's colors, this moment comes as a welcome reprieve from the chaos that the rest of the team is in. It also, unfortunately, highlights the one issue the book has – pacing.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

X-Factor #3 is doing a lot of things within a limited amount of space. Williams further develops the Mojoverse, while also revealing the identity of the murder victim, how they were murdered, and the current state of both Spiral and Shatterstar. Though Williams' dialogue successfully balances fun back-and-forth with exposition, the issue feels too crowded for its own good. The reveal of the victim and the way they died is done so suddenly that the emotional impact that it has on one of X-Factor's members falls flat. 

The modernization of Mojoworld feels ripe for exploration, and when the issue makes time to do it, it lands amazingly.  When X-Factor runs into Shatterstar, he is surrounded by floating cameras, each representing a premium subscriber. Baldeon's artwork makes this image more horrifying as the cameras are drawn as these black orbs with red lenses, a true dark cloud hanging over Shatterstar's every move. This highlights the psychological cost of being a celebrity in this new world, but then the plot whisks readers away to the next development. 

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

It all feels too hurried, which becomes especially evident as the issue closes with a wall of text before offering a tease for the future. Hopefully, some of the dangling threads are explored once the upcoming 'X of Swords' crossover event is finished. X-Factor is a series with a lot of promise, but the fun of murder mysteries is the journey in solving it, and X-Factor #3 makes that journey a bit too crowded.

Robert Reed
Freelance Writer

Robert is a Los Angeles-based comics journalist and writer (formerly Omaha, Nebraska). He currently writes for Newsarama and Adventures in Poor Taste.