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X-Force is the latest to debut a series as part of Marvel NOW!, and if that sounds familiar, that’s because Marvel NOW! has already debuted an X-Force series with three issues under its belt. This is the other X-Force series. This is Uncanny X-Force, However, it may turn out that “the other X-Force” is a more befitting title.
There is one major hurdle Uncanny X-Force has to get past right from the start. It has to prove there is a reason to have more than one X-Force series. At face value, it comes off as a new low for the X-Franchise that even the spinoffs are getting multiple titles. With more than one redundant X-Men book already out there, is Marvel giving us redundant X-Force books now?
The answer is kind of... yes.
As the title suggests, Uncanny X-Force is basically a continuation of Rick Remenders’ series. So much so that it really expects you to have been a reader of it or at the very least fairly familiar with what happened in it. This is particularly true for Psylocke and Fantomex, who are our carry-overs from Remender’s run. It’s hard to imagine a new reader being able to understand the references or understand what;s going on with them in this first issue. Whose neck is Psylocke snapping in that flashback? Why is Fantomex running around with a woman dressed like him? There is even a reference going as far back to the time Spiral helped remove Psylocke’s eyes. I pity new readers.
But for those more familiar with Uncanny X-Force and these characters in general, it’s not bad. What has developed with Fantomex and Cluster is hilariously disturbing and could not be more appropriate for Fantomex. Both Storm and Puck come off well. Given that I have never been able to dredge up any interest in Alpha Flight, it’s rather nice to see Puck somewhere else. I may be able to enjoy the character for once, and his portrayal in this issue is entertaining for what it is. Psylocke is a little more questionable. Her berserker behavior in this issue doesn’t really mesh with where Remender left her. It’s possible that Sam Humphries has something in mind, though. We aren’t picking up immediately after the last Uncanny X-Force, so there may be some unrevealed aspects to Psylocke’s new attitude. Still, it is kind of a startling difference to be hit with.
Also, her censored swearing? It needs to stop. This needs to be the rule when it comes to this kind of thing. Unless you are playing it for strictly comedy, don’t do it. It’s jarring to have to read censor bars in dialogue, especially when it’s done repeatedly. It doesn’t work as a regular feature of dialogue. It’s a gag. If you want the character to swear, just have them swear. I think you can say bitch in a T rated book. And if you want the character to say worse than that? Too bad. You aren’t writing a MAX book! Censoring it just neuters it to the degree that it’s pointless.
Thankfully, Ron Garney delivers some pretty nice art here. I don’t know who is responsible for designing Storm’s new look, but I really like it. I’ve thought Storm shoudl return to her mohawked look since that arc of Astonishing X-Men by Warren Ellis randomly had her back to it. This is because, in my probably unpopular opinion, I generally find Storm to be pretty boring. All her pretentious, regal looks played into that perception. I prefer Storm to have a little more attitude, and this look is a good nod in that direction. I’m less impressed with Psylocke’s new design, though. I guess it’s nice for her to be in a far less sexually exploitative costume, but this black body suit with a white X lacks personality.
Bishop was promised to be a big factor in this book, but the first issue fails to deliver on that. Oh, Bishop does show up -- and let me just say I am glad his new look has abandoned the anti-Cable thing -- but he really just shows up. Bam. There’s Bishop. It’s a brief, random scene that has no apparent bearing on anything going on in the story.
Ultimately, Uncanny X-Force doesn’t have a premise that I can find. What is this team? What are they for? What are they doing? The first issue provides nothing in this regard. It comes off as one of those team books with characters randomly thrown together with no particular mission or goal. It may be a somewhat interesting mix of characters, but that’s really not much to go on for a team book, especially a secondary X-Force one. What makes this even weaker is that it turns out this is not the only place to read about some of these characters. Apparently, this won’t be the only team Storm leads. She will be leading another one in Brian Wood’s X-Men, and that will also star Psylocke.
I’m left with the same question I started with. What is supposed to be this book’s appeal? Puck? Fantomex? Its two most high profile cast members are also appearing elsewhere. It only picks up on a couple of loose threads from Rick Remender’s popular run. And as far as X-Force goes, Cable and X-Force has more of an apparent purpose to it and claim on the name. All this leaves me feeling that Uncanny X-Force is less of a worthwhile story to tell and more of a strained attempt to squeeze a little extra cash out of X-Fans.