For the past couple of months writer Peter David has been trying to up X-Factor sales with shocking surprises. Well, this month he pulls off the biggest trick of all - he makes me like Longshot. Yes, the mullet-cursed Eighties holdout gets some great dialogue and charms me with a gag.
Then David, on a roll, goes one better and makes me like Darwin, the evolving wonder boy, with his best transformation ever. But I'm not going to spoil that one, buy the book . . . do so and you'll also enjoy Jamie Madrox's trip to a Sentinel-filled future, X-Factor's latest assignments, Guido reminding everyone he's as much a Smart Guy as a Strong Guy and priest John Madrox showing that he doesn't always need the power of prayer to prevail.
This is a gimmick-free issue, relying on the book's traditional strengths - smart storylining and terrific characters - to carry the day. And on that basis, I heartily recommend it.
Valentine DeLandro continues to provide attractive pencils, and he's joined here by Marco Santucci, who's new to me but I expect to see lots more of him. In nine pages (the Detroit and smuggling sequences) he shows he can handle action and emotion equally well, and is simply sterling at interesting angles, an area in which many an artist falls down. Santucci does his own inking, while Patrick Davidson spots for DeLandro, and they're an attractive team. Colouring the whole lot is Jeromy Cox, who always finds drama in a naturalistic palette. Cory Petit does a grand job on lettering, but he's had his praise for this week in my Spidey 588 review - can't have him getting swell-headed, now.
David Yardin and Nathan Fairbairn have worked up a terrific cover that combines scary looming giant robot with Ditkoesque people - how could I not like it?
All in all, this issue showcases everything good about X-Factor and it does so with style. I do hope you're reading.