Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chronic Review: X-Force # 1!

Uncanny X-Force # 1
Marvel Comics

Script: Rick Remender
Pencils: Jerome Opena
24 pages for $3.99

Most of you will be anticipating me sodomizing this book with wrath. I'll get to that by the end, I assure you.

First we need to cover what we're actually talking about. Uncanny X-Force is the rebooted X-Force you may remember from a month ago. It ran an entire 28 issues before it apparently became obsolete. Near as I can tell, the prior premise was about desperate times seeking desperate measures. With 198 mutants or so left, Scott was now willing to let Wolverine and a pack of other psychotics run wild. That team was disbanded. Officially.

Wolverine has decided to run his clandestine team even more clandestinely. Now nobody sanctions the squad, which consists of Wolverine, Archangel, Psylocke, Fantomex, and Deadpool.

So what's the mission now? Apocalypse, that's what. Deadpool tracks some clues to a lair with giant attacking statues. Statues that appear to be Apocalyptic type horsemen. The team scrambles to deal with said statue, and the big reveal at the end is that the new incarnation of Apocalypse is actually a small boy who looks like tiny Hitler with blue lips. Most auspicious!

To be fair, there are things I like in this book. For instance:

He's vaguely interesting, and his power set is vaguely interesting. I suspect this is what we'd expect from a Grant Morrison creation. At least this character doesn't stink of product placement, like Wolverine and Deadpool. When I see those characters now, it's like watching a Pepsi ad. Fine, pay the bills I guess, but don't expect me to be impressed.

Fantomex doesn't engage in the usual testosterone-based flexing a book like X-Force demands, which is nice. He solves a boss battle in this story by making the statue believe it had fallen for Betsy. As an avatar of war, it didn't know how to process that and blew itself up. I'm not sure if that makes complete sense, but at least it demonstrates a little creativity.

These two are now involved in all sorts of ways. It looks like Archangel is now a kind of alter ego inside of Warren's mind that he's not entirely in control of. It's sort of a Hulk type situation - he needs to access the power to be effective, but at the cost of control. As a psychic, Betsy is able to help him manage the beast within.

It makes for a pretty co-dependent relationship and a fairly interesting one. If things go south on a personal level, Warren can always play the needy "but who's going to keep me from killing everyone?" card, and that could be fun.

Recap Pages
In the back of the book are six pages recapping the history of the prior volume of X-Force and some relevant events from the whole "Second Coming" nonsense. If you were a new reader coming in cold turkey, I think those pages would be helpful, and once the decision has been made to reboot, including that was a smart idea.

What I can't figure out is why we need a new # 1 for this. Look at your sales data, gents. That new # 1 is going to provide an artificial bump for exactly 1 issue. Then it's going to settle in exactly where it was. So you sold a could of extra copies on one comic. Huzzah!

Congratulations on your extra five dollars while you flush your entire publishing industry. You can't keep the thing afloat for more than two years without hitting the re-set button? Embarrassing. It's patently obvious that the reboot is commercial and gimmicky. There's no reason why this book needs to cost $4, and there's no reason why it shouldn't be X-Force # 29.

There was a day when you could look to a rack, find a product you like, and grow with it. That's gone. Half of what you're collecting right now will be gone next year, in every sense of the word. That title won't be on the rack, and any events/information contained in that book will be retconned out of existence.

Marvel really isn't in the narrative business any more. They simply throw fire crackers at your face and watch your head snap to the pops. X-Force - pop! Uncanny X-Force - POP! Wha - now with 15% more Deadpool? POP! None of it means anything.

Why does this team exist, and why these particular members? Betsy and Warren now make sense to me, since she's the beauty quelling his beast. Fine. Does it even make sense that Wolverine would have his little strike team and Scott wouldn't know about it? Not to me, it doesn't. Scott's not that stupid, and Wolverine frankly doesn't have time.

There's no reason or explanation given for Fantomex. Remender wanted him, so just roll with it, I guess. No explanation for Deadpool, either, and there really ought to be. He's not a team guy. Matter of fact, over in Danny Way's Deadpool, Wade just got done with his epiphany that he's NOT a team player, and he specifically did so by burning his bridges with the X-folks. So his presence in this comic spits directly in the face of everything that just happened with the character less than a year ago. Isn't it wonderful that we have this shared universe? Ridiculous.

Incidentally, there seems to be no indication that Mr. Logan's soul is in hell at all. He's fine. Thank God that Jason Aaron is over there in the Wolverine book telling us the Wolverine in Hell story that's going to CHANGE EVERYTHING! It doesn't change squat. There's not so much as a blip of it in this comic. It's absurd. Marvel editorial should look at this book and just cringe with shame.

The thing of it is, I might be able to forgive all of that if the book was entertaining or groundbreaking or special in its own right. But it's not.

Here's your big opener, folks. You want to know why we need a splashy new # 1 and a big fat "Uncanny" on the cover?

The comic begins with Deadpool diving off of a stone waterfall structure, talking to himself. And here's your joke: "Why did the nickel jump off the building and the dime didn't? The dime had more cents." Exciting new young gun Rick Remender kick-starts this incredible new franchise with a joke peeled off a Bazooka gum wrapper.

It's not funny on any planet, and way beneath Wade. I suppose a devil's advocate would point out that Remender is attempting to play up Wade's child-like aspects. I say poppycock. That's just a weak line. Later we get this gem: "How do you kill a circus? Go for the juggler." It's beyond lame.

This is not a special book. This is a rote actioner with dull, washed out colors to show how "dark" it is in tone. It's a supposed "new" start with six pages in the back explaining to you how to get in on the "ground floor." If we're really a # 1, we don't need those pages. It's typical superhero fare still trading on ground covered in X-Factor and such back in the late 1980s.

And if that's your game, then have at it. Go ahead and drop your $4 on a team that doesn't make sense delivering clever lines that a 3rd grader would find lame. Read your Diet Deadpool commercial and just ignore the fact that the Wolverine you're reading couldn't possibly be the same guy in the Wolverine a few books down on the same rack. Good luck with that. I need more.

- Ryan

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