The investigation into Siryn’s death continues and sees its first stumble as Lorna is hypnotized to interfere as much as possible in X-Factor #7. What comes next?
David Baldéon (Artist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer), Tom Muller (Design), Ivan Shavrin (Cover Artist), Israel Silva (Color Artist), Leah Williams (Writer)
February 3, 2021
Before the release of the first issue of X–Factor, the character Daken/Akihiro was never one I thought about very much. Anything I’d read of him online never painted him as a character I would have positive opinions toward. Leah Williams’ storytelling and David Baldéon’s artwork have slowly shifted me on the latter as Akihiro is made into a focal character rather than standing in the background and snarking at other members of X-Factor. This is the latest example of the book finding a structured balance between the characters as each is given breathing room and the microscopic and the macroscopic plots are interwoven.
“I’m not a telepath,” Akihiro begins after Aurora questions him about his powers. It’s an emotionally intimate moment brimming with vulnerability as he exposits the technicalities. Aurora assisting him along with extra exposition works as a bonding moment between the two mutants and thus brings them closer together.
Alongside Lorna’s quick conversation with Magneto about her personality back in issue #1, this works as a rebuttal of previous depictions of Akihiro, where it seemed he could make feelings toward him appear from nothing. Caramagna’s stern lettering effectively carries across the tone of disgust radiating from Akihiro. It is a solid character moment in a particularly powerful issue.
Akihiro opening up in large and small ways in the issue turns him into a counterpoint to the Morrigan-possessed Siryn, who is drawn faceless for its entirety. When Siryn makes her first appearance, Baldeon importantly draws her with no facial features, symbolically asserting Teresa Cassidy has been deprived of her agency and thus the first victim of the Morrigan. This removal of her face fully sets the Morrigan as something monstrous and implicitly terrifying to glimpse, like an abuser.
The emotional and dramatic tension of the issue steadily rises in the second half, after Akihiro follows the Morrigan. It leads to Kyle, Jean-Paul’s husband, going in-depth into abuser tactics. The conversation being synchronous with Akihiro’s confrontation with the Morrigan adds an even more nightmarish atmosphere to what’s happening, telling the reader in no uncertain terms abuse is what is taking place right now.
Later, Aurora and Akihiro’s burgeoning relationship is fully encapsulated when she tells him “Akihiro, it’s me.” Whatever walls Akihiro had built around him fall and completely shatter as he opens up not only about what’s happened, but also his insecurity resulting from being on X-Factor. The empathetic affirmation Aurora provides him enables Akihiro to abandon any sense of falsehoods about himself and allow himself to be fully open with her.
X-Factor #7, “Scientia Vincere Tenebras”, is its strongest in terms of emotional tension as well as narrative. The creative team (Williams, Baldéon, Silva, and Caramagna) delivers a story that is equal parts raw, painful, and deeply empathetic. It does not feel like an understatement to rank this among the best issues in Dawn of X and Reign of X combined.