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Uncanny X-Force #2 – Review

UNCANNY X-FORCE #2

By: Sam Humphries (Writer), Ron Garney (Penciler), Danny Miki with Scott Hanna (Inkers), Marte Gracia with Israel Gonzalez and Wil Quintana (Colorists), VC’s Cory Petit (Letterer)

The Review: One of my big comic book regrets of late is that I didn’t pick up Remender’s run on Uncanny X-Force. I borrowed the odd issue from friends but didn’t get the big picture, and from what I hear the whole run is an epic Must Read; I’m basically waiting for Marvel to package the whole thing up in an Omnibus edition so I can try and read it all in one massive sitting. Anyway, the point is that as well as missing out on some great storytelling, I also feel that I’ve missed out on some key moments which inform Sam Humphries’ turn on the title.

This feeling was a bit more pronounced with the first issue (lots of vague plot points discussed between Storm and Psylocke and glimpsed in flashback panels) but the sense still lingers here. This, along with the general bluster that dogs the books composition, makes things a little hard to follow. I can’t quite work out whether I like it or not. There’s good and bad, and I’m not sure if any one side really wins out.

It’s full steam ahead from last month’s developments. Storm, Psylocke and Puck’s investigation into Spiral’s nightclub/drug den are still on-going (though with a significantly higher level of punching involved this time around). Psylocke is initially left fighting for her life on the dance floor while Storm and Puck are hot on the trail of Spiral and the young mutant Ginny, who they assume she’s holding against her will. It’s one of those assumptions which could have been easily cleared up with a nice calm discussion, but can’t because, y’know, comics.

I found Psylocke’s scenes a bit messy (and it’s surprising how a in a crowded room full of knives and katanas no one appears to suffer so much as a paper cut) but there’s the odd nice moment; at one point she psionically takes control of some of the nightclub brawlers to fight on her side, implanting video game-like hallucinations into their heads to make them more effective. However, a lot of the best stuff has to do with Storm and Puck as they chase their teleporting quarry across the rooftops. Puck’s the definite highlight of this issue with his bawdy quips, country music references and his part in a variation on the classic Fastball Special manoeuvre: “Saskatchewan steel, comin’ though!” However, Political Correctness fans should take note: this is a blatant move on Marvel’s part to legitimize Midget Tossing. For shame.

Elsewhere things get really weird. Again, without the knowledge of what happened in Remender’s Uncanny X-Force (or a crash course courtesy of Wikipedia) I have literally no clue what’s going on with He-Fantomex and She-Fantomex. I could dig through the internet to find out but…should I really have to? Without Humphries putting their situation into context its inclusion here feels kinda odd at best, extraneous at worst. Weirder still is Bishop’s appearance, where he spends nearly all of his page time growling. And I don’t mean muttering angry sentiments through gritted teeth, I mean literally “HWROAAAR!” Chill dude! Still, he does seem to be possessed by a gigantic Psionic grizzly bear, so fair play. Poor old Bishop…hopefully Humphries will see fit to give him the final time-travelproof death the character so rightly deserves. The poor fella’s been through enough…let’s end his pain already.

While the story’s a little hit or miss the art team is undoubtedly putting their all into it. I love Ron Garney’s work and it looks fantastic when coupled with Miki and Hanna’s boldly inked lines and Gracia and co’s stellar colorings. Garney has a great handle on all of the characters, though again Puck’s appearance shine the most – the l’il guy looks positively carved out of granite, a fortified homunculus. Some nice kinetic splash pages help taint the fisticuffs with a slight edge of grandeur too. All in all it’s lovely stuff.

But the art was never going to be book’s main problem. Chief among its troubles is its erratic composition, a scattershot approach to jumping from one scene to another without warning and, sometimes, with no link clear between the disparate elements. If there’s one thing I’ve come to notice about writer Sam Humphries from his time on Ultimate Comics Ultimates it’s that plot-wise he likes to have his fingers in various pies at once, often to his detriment. He has skill, but I think his work would be a lot stronger if he allowed himself to focus on one thing at a time, thereby crafting a depth to his core cast of characters which he can then exploit later down the line. In his defence though everything does seem to be coming to a head, so perhaps that’s what we’ll get moving forward anyhow.

Conclusion: The latest volume of Uncanny X-Force is certainly not a bad book by any means but it can feel a little bewildering in its execution. Its handsome looks aren’t a problem, but its short attention span can be, though with the more disparate plot elements seemingly being reigned in for next month’s issue a spike in quality could be just around the corner. It’s not essential reading, but it manages to be more entertaining than not. And anyway, if you dig Midget Tossing where else are you gonna get your kicks?

Grade: B-

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One Response

  1. Great review, Matt. I don’t feel you need the Remender run to give this book a try, as I think it’s not meant to be a continuation.

    Then again, I’m not sure what this book is meant to be. Two issues and we still don’t know what the book’s purpose is; the writer hasn’t told us. It’s not the previous black ops incarnation, that’s for sure. He called this book “mutant ninja noir” in an interview, but what does that mean? The writer’s not doing a good job of telling readers where characters are at right NOW; I think he’s assuming everyone’s read the previous run (or knows the characters’ backstories), which is the opposite of Marvel NOW initiative.

    The other thing not working for me is the art. Ron Garney’s style is like a more refined Rob Liefeld. He definitely likes to draw machines/cars, and his Fantomex scenes were intriguing. But everything else feels rushed, sketchy. Too many one-panel pages with not enough detail in them. Storm’s always posing in hers.

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