by Simon Spurrier (Writer), Rock-He Kim (Artist)
The Story: Sometime the ends justifies the means, no matter the cost to your soul. Apparently, Cable really believes in that line.
The Review: Simon Spurrier is a writer whose work I appreciate. Being a regular of 2000AD and the one who wrote X-Club, Six-Gun Gorilla and the delightful David Haller volume of X-Men Legacy, he has grown from nobody to a talented writer in my perception. With such a pedigree, it’s hard not to want to try some of his stuff and give him a chance, if only to see if he can recapture the magic of some of his previous work.
As it turn out, anyone can make mistakes, as the very first issue of this new volume of X-Force was unfortunately a rather clunky affair, filled with some questionable choices as well as a tendency to repeat some key information without actually clarifying much. It was a bit of a letdown, to say the least, yet a single issue is not always the best of indicative of what is yet to come. While other writers might have scared me off the title by delivering an issue that wasn’t exactly the best all-around, to put it gently, in Spurrier I trusted as I continued to buy the title. Was my choice a wise one or am I deluding myself?
For what it’s worth, this issue work a good deal better than the previous one, even though there are still some clunky bits here and there that doesn’t make the book reach the height it can attain.
Switching the focus from Marrow to Cable, the writer calms the rhythm down as he gets more in depth with the mission and how things will get done by this new iteration of the team. Pushing other characters on the side for the most part, Spurrier shows a good understanding of how Cable work and interact with others, with his semi-delusion of heroism, his general personal sacrifice and his attitude being well-represented here. Making for a good lead thanks to his macho attitude and his general disregard for approval from others, the more violent and secretive aspects of the book are more pre-eminent here.
This is, of course, precisely some of the elements that are better handled in this issue, with the themes and the tone being more fitting with the story presented. Getting the message of how things shall progress from here and getting it done in something more akin to a singular story, Spurrier shows a better handle on his book here than he did in the first issue. Thanks to some good scenes, like Cable speaking to mutants representative or Cable bringing some pain to someone in order to get what he wants, the book offer a better idea of its identity.
It is not by any mean perfect, though, as there are some particularly rough spots in there as well. While most of the cast here is colorful and certain full of personality, with some like Dr. Nemesis and Fiqh being rather entertaining, not all get a good amount of panel time nor are they all particularly interesting. Psylocke and Marrow, for all they are worth, simply don’t add much to the reading experience as they get a few lines and nothing more, being not exactly active participants in the whole thing. Fantomex, while getting in a few zingers here and there, continue his unfortunate habit of mixing French with English, a dialogue change that is still more annoying than it is entertaining, which comes with a certain questionable quality.
What’s also a bit more annoying is the fact that the Alexandria incident, while being the driving point for all that the team is doing, is still left unexplained. While there are some additions that makes it a bit more precise, the fact that its effects are talked about as well as its repercussions without the readers actually seeing it makes it more of an annoyance than an intriguing mystery. Curiosity can drive a reader so far until he tires of being teased.
What’s also not so hot, unfortunately, is the work of Rock-He Kim. While the artist knows how to compose a scene for the most part, there is a certain stoic and static quality to his faces, motions and sense of progression that makes it hard to enjoy. With a much more blocky quality to his figures, some of the anatomy looks more stiff when shown in movement, making the panel to panel evolution looks a bit more forced than it really should. When dealing with unmoving characters and with general designs, the artist manage to make his panels and the atmosphere work for him, but it all comes down when action is presented.
The characters aren’t really helped either with their poses and facial expression. While some of the poses are decidedly very evocative, the way the faces are drawn doesn’t even come close to it. The eyes, the mouth and some of the finer features don’t really work very well, with a certain repetition of blandness and a certain restraint in terms of style that don’t make the most of what Kim could do with such an approach.
Still, the colorization fares a little bit better this time around, with the artist sticking around with a certain number of colors as he works his way around them to send off the proper effects. White, grey, black and red being very present here, many of the other quirky colors comes off as stronger here thanks to a focalization on such themes. The psychic powers of Psylocke, the very being Cable tries to destroy, the effects of the bodyslide and multiple other aspects are much more easily identifiable thanks to this approach. What also work is how the very themes and the tone of the book is well-represented here, with all shades of grey mixed in with red, symbolizing violence as well as the dubious morality of the group. While the colorization did not fare that well in the previous issue, it does manage to get better here.
The Conclusion: It could still get a better visual direction and some of the questionable choices in terms of characterization and direction could still be corrected, yet the emphasis on Cable, his mission and the general operations of this team makes for a more enjoyable issue than the first one. Decent, yet not quite on par with what some of the people here can achieve.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière