Arc Reaction: All-New X-Factor #18-20

Published on January 26th, 2015

All-New X-Factor by Peter David, Carmine Di Giandomenico, and Lee Loughridge has come to a flamboyant end. Identities are unveiled, schemes are unraveled, and robots have robo-sex! Plus Gambit’s there. It’s exciting stuff. So let’s jump into the latest Arc Reaction brought to you by our friends at Serval Industries! Spoilers beyond.

The final arc of the story wraps up two plot threads. First, Warlock and Danger hook up shortly after Danger sleeps with Cypher. Cypher, right? Who’da thunk it. I guess we finally figured out why he’s in this book–he’s a romantic foil for Warlock. Woohoo. I’m not a fan of Cypher in this book, and his limited time in these issues as Danger’s fun buddy is the highlight of his membership. But I’m off topic. Danger is robo-depressed because she doesn’t have a robo-soul, so Warlock has robo-sex with her to fix the problem. This entails the two merging into some sort of mechanical ball in front of the whole X-Factor crew. It’s weird, and in all likelihood the next time we see Danger and Warlock they’ll be a singular entity. Robots, am I right?

The entire plot following Danger’s hunt for sex just has been a running gag that, I feel, overstays its welcome; and the fact that it’s one of the primary plot threads wrapped in the final issue has me baffled. Danger’s an emotionless robot, so the humor found in flipping gender roles doesn’t really work. And it certainly doesn’t help that Gail Simone does a much better version of this type of gag in Red Sonja. The idea of a robot having an existential crisis isn’t new, and in this case it feels like an abrupt and unnecessary addition to Danger’s character arc. The idea is workable, and I feel like the early interactions between Warlock and Danger show potential, but their storyline ultimately ends without real closure.

The other storyline we see resolved is the mystery behind CEO Harrison Snow’s true identity. The big reveal? He’s from the future. Yep. Mr. Snow is from 2099, and he’s formed X-Factor as the first step of his plan in which he hires the world’s superheroes to take down Alchemax. I can dig it. Then he wants to use the world’s superheroes to “guide the world in the direction it should go.” Oh. That’s a tad diabolical, isn’t it? Not to mention that the evil CEO thing’s sort of played out, but at least he’s not entirely power mad. Could be worse. Taking down Alchemax is a noble goal, and I’d like to see where this story goes. Too bad about the whole thing with this being the finale.

Yeah, the ending is satisfying to a point. We’ve gotten answers, the plot’s moved forward, and there’s solid story hooks to pick up from later. The problem is that these hooks are too little, too late. Why are we finding this out now? This should be where loose ends are tied up, not added. Could the story be tighter? Yes. As a whole AllNew X-Factor moves far too slowly. And you know what would have really sped up the story? If Snow’s identity been revealed in issue 6. If Warlock and Danger had robo-sex and merged in issue 12. Why are we getting these big reveals now?

I believe that right now storytellers overvalue withholding information–be it television, comics, or film; it’s happening everywhere. And it’s tempting for a reason. If you can get people discussing the real identity of Harrison Snow online then you have an audience that’s wrapped around your finger. But does it make for a better story? Hitchcock was well known for his amazing plot twists, but he also knew the value of creating suspense over surprise. Suspense involves giving the audience information the characters lack, while surprise is created when with a sudden reveal. All-New X-Factor surprised me for part of a single issue with Snow’s origin, but I would have much preferred twenty issues of suspense.

I want to like All-New X-Factor a lot more than I do. The covers from Kris Anka get me every time. The little tag reading “sponsored by Serval Industries” always makes me smile. Seeing characters listed in the credits is smart. I just like that Di Giandomenico and Loughridge have really developed a firm aesthetic for with sharp lines, angled panels, and a strongly themed color pallette. Thanks to them, All-New X-Factor has a sort of cyberpunk thing going on, which is incredibly appropriate with the techno-corporate theming. I’m a little less fond of the look after twenty issues, but I appreciate the consistency and thought behind it. Yet with all of this going for it, the story moves at a snail’s pace, and the ending feels like an insult. This is what we could have had if All-New X-Factor kept going? After twenty uneventful issues I just don’t care anymore.


Travers Capps