Under the reign of writer Jonathan Hickman, dubbed in the credits of most X-books as "Head of X," Marvel's X-Men franchise has been thriving in more ways than one: it's selling. It's getting a great reaction from many readers, and it seems to be breaking ground creatively from the way writers like Tini Howard and Gerry Duggan talk about collaborating on their titles. Now, a new mutant-driven title has launched with X-Factor #1 by writer Leah Williams, artist David Baldeon, colorist Israel Silva, and letterer VC's Joe Caramagna bringing it all together with the style all of the X-books currently have, shirking comics' preference for all caps text. Does this new take on X-Factor measure up to the other X-Men content during this era?
X-Factor starts with a great concept: Mutants are being resurrected every day at the Arbor Magna Hatchery, those in charge of running it need proof of death before doing their duties to avoid creating a "copy" of a still-living Mutant. Northstar, in an effort to rush the resurrection of his sister Aurora who he senses has died, gathers a group of fellow Mutants to investigate. Together, this new X-Factor team will do the same for other Mutants, facilitating their resurrections by investigating their deaths. It's very specifically tied to what's currently going on in X-Men, but it's conceptually strong. However, with a frenetic pace and an unrestrained barrage of dialogue that sometimes strikes a clever note but too often feels twee, none of the characters get time to shine. Instead of allowing scenes to introduce each member of the team, to familiarize the reader with who they're supposed to care about here, the comic pops them all into a room after giving them less than a panel's introduction each. The investigation itself is interesting, and it may have been compelling to watch these characters get on each other's nerves if this debut issue put in the groundwork of introducing the characters and their roles, but instead, the annoyance transfers to the reader.
The art of X-Factor has a paper doll quality to it that works in some scenes and fizzles out in others. Israel Silva does a good job on colors, but Baldeon's heavy hand creates fuzzy lines that create pages that look like they were colored over pencils rather than completed, inked art. Oddly, there is a shading quirk in the lineart where, seemingly at random, characters' entire cheeks are blacked out. It's meant to create definition, but instead, it just works to give characters mutton chops every other panel.
Overall, X-Factor #1 is a messy first issue that has strong potential if more time is invested in showing the reader why these are characters we should care about. The Mutants of Marvel are more interesting than ever, and, with such a dynamic concept, X-Factor feels like it'll be a good series once it finds its footing. It may stumble at the start, but it doesn't seem like a series that should be entirely counted out, even if it's not as intricately imagined and crafted as the other X-books.