Recently, somebody asked Rob Liefeld what the hell he was thinking when he drew X-Force. His response was “Five Million Copies.” But, five million copies of WHAT, you might ask? Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of X-Force #1 awaits!
Writer: Rob Liefeld
Penciler: Rob Liefeld
Inker: Rob Liefeld
Colorist: Brad Vancata
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Bob Harras
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $1.50
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00/$8.00
Previously in X-Force: Assembled by Professor Xavier during a time when the X-Men were thought dead, the New Mutants had a hard row to hoe. The Professor insisted that they not focus on combat or fighting skill, but somehow they kept facing down with Sentinels, evil mutants and lost colonies of Rome. Eventually, the team was torn apart and shell-shocked so much that they hooked up with Cable, a mysterious warrior who vowed to shape them into a powerful fighting force, with or without Xavier’s approval or consent…
With the dissolution of the New Mutants in the last issue of that title, Cable and his new strike force leap into action in Antartica, leaping into action in double-page spread that I’m going to be generous and call an homage to George Perez. It’s undeniably an exciting read, albeit one with some really leaden dialogue. We even get a chance to learn a bit about the new recruits to the team, starting with the mysterious Shatterstar and his impossible double-swords.
I can see why people appreciate the dynamics of a Liefeld drawing from these pages, even if I remember being supremely unimpressed as a twenty-year-old. (To be fair, mocking the work of the artists who would become the Image founders was “in” at the time, so part of that was the company that I kept.) There’s no arguing that everyone in this book sounds like a ruthless sociopath, from Cable calling Shatterstar’s native fighting skills garbage to Feral threatening to rip out tongue to Cable shooting low-level grunts with a massive cannon, clearly murdering them dead. Speaking of Feral, the cat-person gets a little center-stage time of her own.
X-Force #1 shows clearly why Rob was quickly paired with Fabian Nicieza, as this dialogue is really, truly awful, especially when Feral snaps off a line about “animal magnetism.” But it’s an exciting issue, featuring Shatterstar chopping of a villain’s hand, former Hellion Warpath showing off his new giant-and-impossible physique and the power that comes with it as well as the debut of the pointiest and most dangerous villain ever committed to paper!I’m not going to be the guy who tries to argue realistic proportions in comics (some of my favorites, like Kirby, Gil Kane and even Walt Simonson take liberties on that score and make it work) but the logistics of that armor are just so ludicrous as to be impossible. It crosses over the line from ridiculous back to awesome at least twice as you peruse the double-page spread, ending up in a place we can only call “ridicul-awes.” Stryfe gets away from X-Force, thanks to having a teleporter on the payroll, and X-Force also evacuates in a vehicle that looks like a chromed bearclaw donut. After checking in with Sunspot (now working with the immortal Gideon) and SHIELD (led by G. W. Bridge, whose name is that perfect balance of incredible and rock-stupid), we return to X-Force base where Cable confides in Cannonball about the death of his last substitute son. That’s when Domino arrives and Cable reveals that he has even more secrets in reserve…
This is the first revelation that Cable has telekinesis, making it the first hint that he is actually Nathan Summers, the son of Cyclops and Madeline Pryor. Black Tom Cassidy arrives, demonstrating that beards are also hard to draw, and we end with G. W. Bridge calling in the mysterious “Weapon X”! All in all, I have to admit that this issue is not as bad as my memory or repeated internet mockery would have you believe. X-Force #1 has some terrible dialogue, this is true, and while LIefeld’s art is… well, LIefeld’s art, it manages to stay roughly consistent and deliver on the action sequences in ways that later efforts wouldn’t, meaning that even I can see the appeal of his ideosyncratic style, leading to a curve-graded 1.5 out of 5 stars overall. Certainly a speculator bubble contributed to the sales figures, but it’s at least possible for me to understand part of the appeal of this comic.
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Garish coloring and terrible dialogue balance out exciting (if ideosyncratic) art and battle sequences, combined with a plot that throws everything but the kitchen sink at readers. It's at least better than I remembered.