by Simon Spurrier (Writer), Rock-He Kim (Artist)
The Story: Getting together a new outfit, Cable gets on track with the shady side of the world with a new X-Force.
The Review: We have been spoiled by Uncanny X-Force. The Remender version, for good or ill, effectively made it so there has been a certain modicum of quality attributed to the franchise that not anyone can actually reach. While not, in retrospect, the best run in comics history, this previous iteration did leave a lot of potential for characters and the franchise in general in terms of legacy and importance.
Of course, to compare a new series with one that has attained a certain respect among fans would be unfair, yet it is almost unavoidable in this case. To compare is something that is basic in anyone’s mind, whether it is meant or not. With this regard, there are some things that unfortunately don’t really work with this new version of X-Force.
One of the problems of this book is its identity. While Spurrier makes sure readers do understand what is at stake, there is a certain repetition of some of the elements that is a bit undesirable, while some other important elements are left on the side. The Alexandria incident, for one, is the event that supposedly kicks off the team and gives a certain purpose for the team to be put together by Cable. However, it is merely mentioned in terms of importance as well as repercussions, yet not in any ways that are descriptive or entertaining. Considering the fact that this is an immensely important event, it seems like a waste to not actually show what happened and delve a bit more on the details of this tragedy.
The problem here is that quite a lot is said, yet not everything is actually shown, which isn’t the best of ways to show the strengths of sequential storytelling. In a lot of the dialogue, there is a certain over-emphasis on explaining the purpose of the team and its members, which does seem a bit apologetic instead of actually clarifying the how and why of everyone’s presence in the book. Most of the narration and dialogue does play their part in explaining everything and making most of the concepts concise, yet there are a little bit too much of this going on in this opening issue.
Where things aren’t quite as disappointing, though, are the characters. Some of them have their voice made clear, with their interactions, actions and lines making them integral to some of the more enjoyable part of this book. Cable, for instance, is rather well-written, with a certain down-to-earth and serious demeanour that fits the theme of black ops and dirty deeds very well. His voice, for the most part, is not only consistent but also a nice evolution for the character that can make him very entertaining in the long run as the de-facto leader. Marrow, a polar opposite, with her descriptions driving the issue forward, makes for a nice upbeat and rather kooky take on everything, which provides a nice contrast with everything going around. Her facsimile of insanity and optimism might be a bit too much at times, yet it does bring her character very neatly in the team dynamic.
Where it doesn’t work too much, however, is with Fantomex and Psylocke. While their character are somewhat consistent, there are quite a lot of repetitions with some of their traits and their past relations that dumb things down considerably. The constant mixing of French and English for Fantomex, while actually in character, does become a bit overbearing at times, feeling forced to put a focus on his temperament instead of his actions here. While his exuberance plays with who he is, there isn’t a lot here to make sure he is likable or even entertaining as much as annoying at times. Not helping is how Psylocke gets tired of him quite a lot of time in this issue, with her saying over and over that she dislike him. While the message do get across, a lesser amount of dialogue attributed to this point between them could have helped put the focus on something different which could have helped the book. Still, despite some of these faults, their characterization does manage to be consistent with their evolution and general traits.
An area where it mostly delivers in positive way, though, is the action. While not the main focus of this first issue, the action here shows a certain brutality while serving the character and the plot. The scene with how Marrow is able to do some crazy stunts, how Cable can puts himself on the line for a hostage or how Fantomex blows someone’s head without any remorse do let the point and methods of this squad across without just serving as simple ”cool factor”. The fact that it serves the character very well does a lot of credit to how Spurrier is willing to handle the team, which does show a certain potential for the book.
Where some of the potential is crushed, though, is in the art. While Rock-He Kim does seem to have a good basic grasp of panel composition, there are some inherent problems with his style that bring the issue down visually. While some of the singular panels are pretty-looking, there is a certain static quality to them that makes the panel-to-panel flow quite weak, with the illusion of progress and movement being hampered by some of the stiff poses. The characters are also somewhat problematic, with some of the anatomy in certain panels being a bit off and their eyes being especially bizarre-looking due to their size. An area where Kim seems to be a bit more at ease, though, is with the background, with a good sense of depths and just enough details to render the environment credible, helping se the action well-enough to contribute instead of being merely present most of the time. However, despite some of the finer points, the visual side of the equation isn’t exactly helping the book in this issue.
The colors fares a bit better, but not by much. The heavy emphasis on shading does lend a certain identity to the book, with a very subdued approach that renders some of the elements subtle without being transparent. Where it isn’t very effective, however, is with the low diversity, with a certain importance put on grey and other duller colors. While this artistic choice does fit this title in terms of tone and theme, it does a certain disservice in terms of clear contrasts. Some of the warmer and colder colors are unfortunately lost in this uniformity of colors that just makes the book a bit duller-looking as a result.
The Conclusion: There is potential here in terms of themes, characters and action, but the over-emphasis on explaining its premise combined with the rather weak artistic direction makes this book a rather uneven opening to a series.
Hugo Robberts Larivière