I’m still not completely sure what to make of the various House of X-related series, so I’m still trying a couple out to see if there are any I particularly care for. Next up: X-Force. No longer the “kid gloves are off” team of young mutants, this time around, Marvel is promising that it’s more of an espionage book where a group of mutants protect Krakoa from threats before the threats get them.
OK, that sounds promising. How is it in execution?
Issue: X-Force #1, November 2019
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Joshua Cassara
The Plot: As mutant diplomacy reaches various levels of success around the world, something more may be needed. That becomes obvious when an attack on Krakoa leads to a real loss for the fledgling nation.
Commentary: I have, many times, noticed a tendency for comic books to be written more for the trade than for individual consumption. It’s a general feeling that a storyarc is being stretched out a bit. Good example: Bendis and Bagley on Ultimate Spider-Man took six issues on Spider-Man’s origin story, a story Stan Lee and Steve Ditko only needed eleven pages to tell. Now, if you read comics in trade form, as I often do, that’s not so bad. When you read them as individual monthly issues, well, that may be another story.
The point here is that after one full issue of X-Force, there’s no X-Force. Not yet. If the team is to be comprised of the characters on the cover–Wolverine, Beast, Jean Grey, Sage, Domino, Kid Omega, Colossus, and Black Tom Cassidy–then I can’t even say all of those characters even appear in this issue. No sign of Quentin Quire anywhere. Solicitations for the issue don’t list Colossus or Black Tom as members. And the ones that do appear don’t always do much.
If anything, this is a set-up issue, showing how different mutants are working to diplomatically pressure other nations when possible to recognize Krakoa and to allow mutants to move there. Black Tom communicates with the island’s plant life to see potential threats coming by sea. Sage monitors computer data. Jean Grey is an eyes-and-ears type. Beast and Wolverine seem to have different views of the island itself, with Beast seeing it as a place to study peacefully while Wolverine is more inclined to see potential predators that can get you if you drop your guard for a minute. And as for Colossus, he spends the issue largely unconscious as Kate Pryde and the Marauders bring him back from a Russian diplomatic mission gone bad. Domino, meanwhile, is seen only in an opening scene trying to infiltrate an anti-mutant group before being caught and eventually captured.
But there is an attack on the island, one that comes through a gap in the security field and does a lot of damage before the attackers find their target. Given what the new status quo set up for mutants, this would appear to be a big blow to mutantkind, but somehow, I doubt it. It felt more like the sort of shock that will be shown to be less severe than it initially appeared. If anything, the seemingly successful attack’s purpose is to galvanize the group that will be the new X-Force into action, giving them a mission and a purpose that suggests the new nation had another problem it hadn’t considered before. However, it isn’t the sort of thing that really grabbed me as a reader. It really did feel like something that wasn’t complete yet, an issue written for a trade and not for a monthly installment. Since I only read one issue, it didn’t work so well for me as I am sure the final cliffhanger moment will be revealed to be, well, not what it is.
But is it me, or didn’t most superhero team books at least have some of the members already working together by the time the first issue ended? There didn’t need to be a complete line-up, but there should have been something. Here, well, there’s a reason to have a team, but they haven’t done much beyond that.