X-Force is back. The new Uncanny incarnation of the most militant X-team assembles a crew of antiheroes united by dark pasts rife with manipulation and experimentation. Does the darker, edgier X-Force have a place in Marvel’s Heroic Age?
Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Jerome Opeña
Color Art: Dean White
Cover: Esad Ribic
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
“No jovial sense of adventure. No camaraderie to overcome the tension. This is not the X-Men.”
The new version of X-Force that Rick Remender has gathered fits together well. The central conceit of a team where everyone has a damaged history is a bit odd on the face of it, but Remender makes it work. The two lone holdovers are Archangel and Wolverine, acting as co-captains. Psylocke and Fantomex fill out the crew, with a newly monochromatic Deadpool assuming the wildcard role. I like this assemblage of characters. It’s a lean team, small enough that each character gets the chance to shine in the space of one issue. They also have a lot in common; this could be the sneakiest, deadliest team in the Marvel Universe.
Remender already has a good grasp of everyone’s voice (although his Deadpool may be a little too childish), and everyone gets their moment. The relationships outlined in this issue hint at some interesting happenings in the future. Betsy and Warren have tentatively rekindled their past relationship, with just the right amount of drama to spice it up. Fantomex gets the best beats in this issue, establishing a funny rivalry with Wolverine, even while hinting at a possible crush on Psylocke. Deadpool is solo for a good portion of the issue, but when he meets up with the team, he’s played as annoying, but deadly. Wade doesn’t overpower the others with goofiness – a welcome change from recent depictions. The plot is a bit light – in terms of getting things done, the team doesn’t do much other than infiltrate a creepy temple and fight a giant minotaur. But Remender ably sets the pieces up on the chessboard with enough character that I didn’t mind.
SO DEADLY, SO PRETTY
I fell in love with the art in this book. Jerome Opeña’s style is well suited to superheroics, in no small part due to his amazing attention to detail on the costumes. The uniforms are intricately illustrated, from the tread on the boots to the folds in the fabric. I don’t think Archangel’s wings have ever looked so good. And in a slight, but important way, Opeña effectively communicates how gruesome Wade Wilson looks under the mask. His figures are posed naturally on the page, and the action flows clearly from one panel to the next. Opeña’s one flaw is that sometimes his faces are a little subpar, but that’s only sometimes, and most of the crew wears masks anyhow.
Dean White’s colors are simply gorgeous. There’s very little light in the book, but White makes up for it with bursts of vivid colors that fill the panels. Certain sections really pop with color; the pages bleed red when the team is traveling in Fantomex’s transport and glow a sickly green when they sneak into the temple. This incarnation of X-Force carries over the black and gray uniforms and shadowy scenery from the old book, but White’s coloring manages to be both dark and vibrant.
DARK AND EDGY – BUT STILL FUN
Make no mistake, this book is fairly angsty and violent, retaining the overall mood of the previous X-Force incarnation. But it works well with these characters. Since everyone on the team has a murky past, there’s none of the handwringing we saw from the preceding team about whether good guys like Wolfsbane or Elixir are getting pushed too close to the edge. If anything, it’s actually less gratuitously gory than before, with a little bit more humor to boot. The faults in the book are few; Deadpool’s jokes could be better, and six pages of old X-Force recaps are unnecessary. There is also a printing error in my issue on a few narration boxes. But that’s all easily forgotten; this is a good book.
Overall, Uncanny X-Force #1 is a strong debut. It sets the stage expertly, establishing each character’s reason for being on the team, while reintroducing an old villain in a way that’s both surprising and chilling. The last page sets up a cliffhanger that guarantees I’ll be reading more. And it is so very, very pretty to look at. I can’t get over how excellently Jerome Opeña draws the costumes.
Uncanny X-Force #1 depicts nine cultists, three nubile slaves, two Neimodian-looking dudes, one human sacrifice, one Miami Sound Machine reference, and one The Thing action figure. It has four breeps, four thnks, two shwunks, one grennchh and one grakadoom. Four out of five stars.