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411’s Comic Reviews: X-Factor #4, Juggernaut #1, and more

October 3, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
X-Factor 4

Hello and welcome to 411mania’s weekly Comic Book Review! Each week we’ll be serving up a warm dish of reviews (and previews) from Marvel, DC, and anything else that captures our interest. What did you pick up this week? Let us know in the comments.Want to write a review? If you can write at least one review a week, consistently, email me at [email protected]!  

X-Factor #4
By Jeremy Thomas

At first blush, it might seem too early for X-Factor to be swept into a major crossover like X of Swords when it’s only entering its fourth issue.  After all, one could argue, it hasn’t had time to really get its feet under it and figure out what it’s going to be.  Putting Leah Williams’ fledgeling X-team under the weight of such a sweeping series of events could derail the book before it even gets really started.

On the other hand, it is in good company there, as one of the best X-titles of 1990s had a similar situation in Generation X.  Just four issues in before the entire world was literally unmade in the Age of Apocalypse, the series found itself instantly taking on a very different tone for four issues (technically another title, but it was in every way that counts the same series) before it could return.  And it handled things admirably.  And judging by this first X-Factor issue as part of the X of Swords arc, it’s got a good shot at doing the same.

With the team’s Mojoworld escapades behind them, Williams wastes literally no time jumping right into the events of X of Swords: Creation and following up on that.  Polaris has to deal with what Saturnyne has put into her head in terms of the challenge that lays ahead to defend Krakoa from the Arraki, and the fates of Apocalypse, Rockslide, and Rictor hang very much in the balance in our opening pages.

Williams, building off the work Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard started in Creation, proves herself well up to the task of laying out the next steps.  Those steps are monumental for Krakoa going forward and seismically raise the stakes for what’s to come in X of Swords. Williams has to juggle the voices of characters she isn’t normally working with in X-Factor and does so admirably, from Apocalypse as he reels from his sudden status quo change to Emma Frost’s fierce devotion to the children of Krakoa.  Meanwhile, she advances the plotline well and gets in some big moments for a couple of her team members in Lorna and Rachel Summers.  It can often be difficult to maintain a character’s intricately-created tone when the big events come by, but this is a book that feels like both an essential X of Swords chapter and an authentic X-Factor issue.

Williams’ usual artist for this book, David Baldeon, is gone this issue and in his place is Carlos Gomez with colors by Israel Silva.  Whatever the reason for this, it was a canny choice. Baldeon’s art has been very good thus far, but it may have been a touch too cartoony for an issue that goes as hard into serious themes as this one.  Gomez puts some rapturous work on the page, whether it’s capturing the sheer scope of Saturnyne’s power while still getting her charm through or displaying the rather graphic seriousness of Rictor and Apocalypse’s injuries as they’re ferried back to Krakoa.  Add in several datapages from Williams that lay out realms of Otherworld and allow the scope of what has happened to kick in in clinical style, and you have a strong follow-up to X of Swords: Creation which keeps X-Factor going strong.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10 

Juggernaut #1
By Jeremy Thomas

The Juggernaut is one of those characters where it is both unexpected and yet not that shocking when you realize that he’s already had two previous limited series.  Cain Marko is never someone who is going to be on the stature of villain-antihero heavyweights like Magneto, Venom, Elektra, or Mystique.  And yet, he’s such an indelible part of the Marvel Universe that I’m actually kind of surprised that this is only his third miniseries in the 55 years he’s been around.

And if someone is going to bring Juggernaut back to the pages of his own series, Fabian Nicieza is the man to do it.  Nicieza has always had a talent for taking characters with long histories that frankly have long periods of nothing interesting going on and giving them stories with weight.  Marko has had his moments; I personally considered his time with the X-Men one of the few merits of Chuck Austin’s run on the X-family.  That’s the basis Cain that Nicieza returns to in the first issue of this book, which explores what Juggernaut is like as a more complex character than he’s often allowed to be.

“Picking Up the Pieces” sees Cain working for Damage, Inc. cleaning up parts of New York that still need it after the War of the Realms. During his work, he discovers a group of squatters who are willing to fight to keep their homes from being destroyed in the name of industrial renewal including a young woman with powers.  How he deals with this is intercut with his escape from Limbo after the Cyttorak gem was ripped from him by Magik at the end of Matt Rosenberg’s Uncanny X-Men arc.

Nicieza does a nice job here of getting Juggernaut’s voice right – which is not exactly a hard thing, as Cain Marko has been almost astonishingly consistent in terms of his trappings over the years.  But more importantly, he gets down to the core of what have always felt like core elements of the character.  He doesn’t paper over Cain’s flaws; instead, he focuses on those strengths that can be used to give him back a sense of balance.  Whenever Cain has turned back to the dark side, it often feels like a nonsensical regression just so they can get Villain Juggernaut back.  Nicieza’s Juggernaut seems more lived in and real than those versions, enhanced by artist Ron Garney’s ability to capture the man’s intimidating stature without forgetting to give nods to his humanity.  Colorist Matt Milla plays in dark tones with Cain in his superpowered armor but lets the man shine through out of it.

There isn’t a ton to rock you back on your heels in this book, to be fair.  It’s half-flashback and half-set up, with a final page reveal that has some real potential.  But it’s a decent start to a book that could really do some interesting things with a character who hasn’t really felt relevant for a while.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10  

Giant Size X-Men: Tribute to Wein & Cockrum #1
By Jeremy Thomas

With the X-Men back at the top of Marvel’s status quo, it’s been a great time to be a fan of the mutants.  But it’s also given Marvel the chance to dip into some of their most irritating habits, like trying to put a new coat of paint on an old classic and sell it anew.  At this point, there’s no shortage of ways you can get a hand on Giant-Size X-Men, which introduced the second team of X-Men like Storm, Wolverine (as an X-Man, at least), Nightcrawler, and Colossus. But that’s not stopping Marvel from kicking out a new special on the backs of the recent run of Giant Size one-shots with a “tribute” issue to artists Len Wein and Dave Cockrum.

The concept of the book isn’t the worst, to be fair.  Using the original script by Wein, Marvel has tasked a host of their current artist roster to each take a page and interpret it.  That includes everyone from Alex Ross and HoX/PoX stars R.B. Silva and Pepe Larraz to Kris Anka, Rod Reis and many others. Each artist puts their own stamp on their pages and the art, for the most part, is really solid as many find a mix between Cockrum’s original pages and their own style.

Still, while it makes for a fine experiment it is a jarring read. It’s one thing to do a one-shot with a bunch of one-page stories each with a different artist.  It’s another thing altogether to try to tie a cohesive, classic story together with wild art swings on each page.  For me, it was too much a reminder of the X-Men’s downward slide in the era after the Red and Blue teams of the 1990s but before Grant Morrison New X-Men run that revitalized the books, when they would sometimes switch multiple times in an issue.  I’m pretty sure that’s not the nostalgia they were looking for, but it’s where it took me.

This is an iconic story, of course.  But Wein’s distinctly 1970s dialogue (such as Wolverine saying “All right gents, I’m here!”) works well when paired with Cockrum’s art, which reminds us of the era in which it’s set.  Put against a more modern sensibility, it reads perhaps even more stilted and dated than it should.  And despite some standout work here – Jen Bartel’s page 32 is an gorgeous – there’s nothing that justifies paying $5.99 for a book I can read on Marvel Unlimited, short of collector value.

Rating: 5.0 out of 10

Postal #1
Review by Steve Gustafson
This review originally ran on August 15, 2019 at Also, this book seriously in need of a television series based on it.  

Postal is one of those books that you might have passed by that you don’t realize could be one of the better reads you’ll have in a while. With a story that feels like it’s waiting to be adapted for television, the first issue is a smooth ride through a familiar town that hides plenty of skeletons.

Eden, Wyoming is a small town where fugitive criminals pay a fee to reside and hide away while they get a new identity from the surgeons, bankers, and hackers that work there. No one is innocent but all live under the same rule: no crime while you’re there. The town has operated just fine for 25 years under that rule but Postal #1 opens with a murder. The first murder ever there.

Co-writers Matt Hawkins and Bryan Hill craft a story straight out of Twin Peaks, filled with odd characters and surreal situations. Artist Isaac Goodhart keeps the lines clean and the action fluid, anchoring the issue with a sense of mystery and dread.

First published back in 2015, I missed the Postal boat and only through a Kickstarter was I reminded that I needed to catch up on this. I’m glad I did. Hawkins has become one of my favorite writers and has yet to disappoint me.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Unseen #1
Review by Steve Gustafson
This review originally ran on August 15, 2019 at

Today I had the pleasure of experiencing a comic book in a way that I’ve never thought possible. Auditorily. To say I enjoyed it is an understatement and it’s brilliance comes from Chad Allen. Unseen is an audio comic created by Allen, who was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa as a teenager and lost his vision by the age of 28.

His life could have taken a number of different directions but Chad chose to live life independently and do the things he finds fulfilling. I read up on him and he likes to say, “Art is experienced in the mind, not the eye.” That’s a great mindset when preparing yourself for Unseen.

Unseen is Chad’s debut comic book and tells the story of Afsana, a blind assassin living in a chaotic world in which she is invisible to society. Discounting her abilities is her enemies’ gravest mistake. The plot has plenty of meat on the bone and the real meal is in the details. Without giving away too much, this is a story that’s pulled straight from the world outside our window with a twist. While the story is fictional, it could also be prophetic, and that’s the scary part.

Because of the nature of “reading” an audio comic, your imagination becomes a little more vivid thanks to the descriptions. Unseen feels like an event, it’s story carries more weight, and the reader is more focused. It’s a story written by a blind person, with a blind heroine, for blind (and sighted) audiences. And it means much more than that hook.

I love coming across projects like Unseen. It’s a needed reminder of what’s attainable with comic books and storytelling. While some feel tied by constraints, creators like Chad Allen realize the limitless possibilities. Unseen is currently programmed into the San Francisco Exploratorium’s summer exhibition Self,Made, through September 2. To follow along visit

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

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