REVIEW: Queer Eye For the Mutant Guy: X-Factor #1

Is Someone You Love Dead? X-Factor Investigations

Leah Williams and David Baldeon’s X-Factor #1 marks the newest title in Marvel’s ever-growing Dawn of X lineup. The new team addresses some of the strange wrinkles of Krakoan society, namely the minutiae and bureaucracy of mutant resurrection. This week’s oversized first issue is the classic getting-the-team-together story, but it delivers more than enough personality and intrigue to keep readers excited.

X-Factor #1

Joe Caramagna (Letterer), David Baldeon (Art), Ivan Shavrin (Cover Art) Israel Silva (Colors) Tom Muller (Design), Leah Williams (Writer),
Marvel Comics
July 29, 2020

Cover of X-Factor (2020) Issue 1

Tom Muller’s visual design of the DoX books is key to their cohesion and success, and X-Factor is no exception; X-Factor oozes style, in both the central characters and the book itself. This is not a story filled with operatic superhero costumes and codenames. When we first see Jean-Paul (Northstar), he’s in a robe drinking coffee with his husband Kyle. This opening scene immediately gets to the heart of the book. The scene is personal and queer, and funny and sad all at the same time.

X-Factor #1 Opening Page

David Baldeon does an amazing job drawing everyday clothes on all of the superpowered characters, even going through multiple outfit changes for some characters in a way that quietly highlights their unique personalities. The team includes multiple queer characters, and their relationships to their genders and sexualities vary as much as their clothes. Northstar scolds Daken at one point, asking him “do you do anything other than slice and flirt?” yet Daken’s flirting with a guy later helps with their investigation. Williams and Baldeon use this book to rehabilitate and add new depth to all of the characters involved. Characters openly discuss their previous power losses (Prodigy), villainous turns (Daken), and struggles existing largely as problems for more important mutants (Polaris). We even get a tender moment with Magneto, where he condescends to Polaris for associating with X-Factor, and she stands up for herself. She wants to figure out her own personality, and Magneto smiles seeing her newfound agency.

There’s a complicated relationship with death throughout this book. The team investigates mutants missing and presumed dead, with the intention of bringing them back to life and Krakoan society. In a way, it potentially fights against fridging, providing new opportunities for previously killed-off or written-off mutants. Yet the first issue centers around the death of a young woman (Aurora, Northstar’s sister) and uses her mainly as an initiating event and cause for the central male character. Hopefully, the creative team stays mindful of providing both depth and joy for these characters, and not wallowing in suffering and deaths. I trust Williams and Baldeon after this issue, but it’s a fine line to walk respectfully.

This issue’s first data-page is an ad for the newly formed (or reformed) X-Factor Investigations, and it’s unlike anything we’ve seen in the other recent X-books. It looks like crumpled paper, a personal ad probably passed around the mutant bar. It tells the reader that X-Factor Investigations is here to locate missing and dead mutants, and comically invites the reader to “QUIT’CHER BITCHIN’, AND COME ON DOWN TO THE BONEYARD.” It’s funny, silly, a little dirty, and breaks the fourth wall, while outlining the purpose of the new team.

X-Factor's First Data Page

The final data pages are more traditional scraps of Krakoan bureaucracy, outlining the rules and protocol for resurrection, but with large chunks of text blacked out. It doesn’t tell the reader anything they won’t get from reading the preceding issue, but it foreshadows future twists and turns for the book and the team. The visible parts state what we largely already know and make up less than a quarter of the text, and I look forward to Williams and Baldeon unraveling the secrets hidden within the last two pages. X-Factor #1 is a welcome addition to the current X-book lineup, offering deeper takes on traditionally sidelined mutants and an interesting look into the everyday culture of Krakoan society.

Sasha Fraze

Sasha Fraze

Sasha Fraze is a professional comic book gremlin. You can find her on Twitter at @schlocking where she's probably sharing random thoughts about comics new and old or retweeting trans news and memes.