I don’t normally read books with X-Something titles, because that way lies madness and penury. But I liked Peter David’s Madrox , and it turns out that Peter David’s X-Factor: The Longest Night is a straight sequel to that book, with no apparent connection to any other X-titled books. Okay, that I can read.

Like Madrox, X-Factor is a noir-flavored mystery featuring Jamie Madrox, a superhero who can split into multiple versions of himself easily. Here, he teams up with a few other random mutants, with stakes that are higher than last time around. The end result is something that’s more toward the superhero team side, and less toward the noir mystery side, but is still a solid piece of work.

Which is more than can be said for Peter David’s Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, vol. 1: Derailed . David’s take on Spider-Man is filled with all sorts of stuntish gimcrackery. Hey, look, it’s Uncle Ben, somehow alive again! Only, wait, it turns out he’s from an alternate reality and has been pulled here by a bad guy for... um, I forget the reason, but I assume it wasn’t very good anyway. As soon as time travel and alternate realities get in the picture, you’ve got story trouble on your hands, and this is no exception. Mostly distasteful, and occasionally forgettable.

Continuing on the Spider-Man theme, we come to Spider-Man Visonaries: Kurt Busiek , which is a thoroughly unnecessary piece of work. It seems that Busiek wanted to write tales of Spider-Man back when he was in high school. Since it’s impossible to fuck around with continuity enough to make this plausible in any current sense, he resorted to writing interstitial comics, ones that take place between long-ago issues. Which means that no characters can ever change, and that nothing significant can ever happen. Yeah, that really ups the ante of me giving a damn. The only time prequels and interstitials work is when they’re taking place on a periphery that was never explored in the original work; when they focus on the original work’s protagonist, they are doomed and uninteresting. This is no exception.


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