Introducing the Uncanny X-Force, in all their g(l)ory

If you read comics in the 90s, you’ve seen the work of Rob Liefeld, who penned a number of record-selling comics at Marvel before founding Image Comics in 1992. While only at Marvel for a few years, his trademark (and often maligned) style dominated for quite some time. Liefeld is basically the Michael Bay of the comics world: his work is typified by big-guns-and-bigger-tits art that has no basis in reality (featuring an abundance of pouches and a lack of visible feet).

At Marvel, he created X-Force, a team of mutant mercenaries that was more aggressive and “extreme” than the X-Men. Initially popular, interest in the series waned throughout the decade. In 2008, rising writers Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost re-vamped the X-Force brand, with a team of popular characters that included Wolverine, X-23 and Warpath. In the books, the new X-Force was tasked with doing the X-Men’s dirty work – by any means necessary. Stylistically, it was a throwback to the over-the-top drama and violence of Liefeld’s original work – but with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Kyle and Yost ended their run after 28 crossover-filled issues. In their last book, Cyclops disbanded X-Force after finally confronting the group’s body count. This lead to Wolverine to assemble his own black-ops team, with a very Fight Club motto: “This is X-Force. There’s only one rule . . . no one can know.”

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Uncanny X-Force (featuring Wolverine, Psylocke, Archangel, Deadpool, and Fantomex) launched last fall with Rick Rememder and Jerome Opena at the helm. This is a team of anti-heroes, all with checkered pasts that are soaked in blood. But there’s also a sense of humor to them, between Deadpool’s fourth-wall-breaking antics and Fantomex’s Eurotrash affectations. They might be dispensing with truckloads of enemies, but they do it with a smile. The romantic undertones to the interplay between Psylocke and Archangel is also interesting, as Warren attempts to harness his inner demons with Betsy’s help. And it doesn’t hurt that the book looks fantastic, with vibrant colors and exquisite pencils that capture the team in all their gory detail.

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The first storyline in Uncanny X-Force pitted the team against a frequent foe: Apocalypse. But unlike the towering behemoth they’ve come to know and love, ‘Poc was reincarnated as a young boy. It’s a favorite paradox of the time traveler: would you kill a baby Hitler? How do you reconcile the murder of an innocent, if that innocent will grow into pure evil? It’s a philosophical conundrum, that haunts X-Force even after they solve the problem, in their own way.

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The current storyline, “Deathlok Nation,” focuses on Fantomex and The World, the pocket universe from which he was forged. As Grant Morrison proved during his run on New X-Men, Fantomex is an intriguing character with a rich backstory. Rememder is more than capable telling his story and much more, especially considering the ignominious beginnings of the X-Force.

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4 responses to “Introducing the Uncanny X-Force, in all their g(l)ory

  1. This was an interesting start to the series, but I’m not sure if I can stomach all of the Fantomex stuff from the current arc. He’s an interesting character, but I bailed on the franchise during the Morrison era. I do hope, however, that this incarnation of the book can stay out of being forced into crossovers like its predecessor. I swear, X-Force and New Mutants over the past 3 years existed SOLELY to carry B-level X-overs.

    • I think Fantomex has been underutilized; I liked Morrison and I will keep reading now. The crossover stuff worked with X-Force, since their mission dovetailed with all the Hope storyline, but you’re right about New Mutants. Those kids(?) don’t get a break!

  2. I think one of the biggest failings of the present X-franchise is that, technically, they’re ALL “X-Men”. X-Force, The New Mutants, Uncanny, Adjectiveless, etc – they’re all considered X-Men, but have different assignments (some stronger than others). I think that kinda degrades the brand, as X-Men was the team to which you graduated. You had to earn your place there. I get that times have changed since the whole 198, but they don’t have strong enough identities. It’s clear the New Mutants are just kinda getting in the way of the big boys, while waiting in the wings. As engaged as I was in the Hope story, it was one mega crossover under the guise of “X-Force” and “Cable”. And don’t even get me started on Necrosha AKA “BlaXest Night”. X-Men Legacy exists primarily to keep Rogue in the spotlight.

    Anyway, long story short, I think X-Force is off to a good start, but it’s the kind of book that will be the first to go after the next shakeup. After all, its only a matter of time before Cyclops learns of its existence, which probably leads into the Schism event that’s happening later this year.

  3. Agreed, but I think the mission problems are being sorted out: X-Force does black-ops on their own, and in May, New Mutants will be going after “lost” mutants, namely Blink and Nate Grey. Fraction’s Uncanny is the best of the rest for team stories. Adjectiveless is Heroic Age BS. And yes, Legacy = Rogue.

    I’m sure it will play into Schism, but that event (splitting the X-men between Cyclops and Wolverine) is supposed to mirror the Xavier/Magneto divide re: integration between humans/mutants.

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