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.”
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.
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.
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.