Funnybook Babylon

January 16, 2009

Waited for the Trade: X-Force v1 – Angels and Demons

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , — Matt Jett @ 3:22 pm

Spinning out of the events of Messiah Complex, X-Force follows a “black ops” team of X-Men, tasked with missions other mutant superheroes would find morally compromising. These missions invariably end up being incredibly violent, as X-Force is the sort of superhero team that doesn’t stick to the standard “no killing” type of heroics. The philosophy of the team (and the marketing of the title) is probably best summed up by the fact that Marvel issued variant covers for the first few issues that were simply changed to be much, much bloodier than the standard covers.

The team makeup is about what you’d expect. It starts out as a one-trick pony with Wolverine, X-23, Warpath, and Wolfsbane. Every single character is the stealthy, weapon using type, which has led to the team getting the rather unfortunate nickname of “Stabby X-Men.” The team fleshes out quickly enough, picking up Archangel, who at least flies around and stabs people, and Elixir, who doesn’t stab people at all.

Angels and Demons collects the storyline of the same name, which spans the first six issues of the book. It’s been out in the Premiere Hardcover format for a few months now, but it’s just now hitting softcover.Crain\'s Art As an introductory arc, it both succeeds and falls flat on its face. If you’re a new reader, whether to the X-Men or to comics in general, you’ll get everything you need to know about the team right up front. They’re all killers to varying degrees, some of them are troubled by what’s going on, some of them aren’t. Even though this series comes on the heels of a big event, you don’t need to know anything about it, other than the fact that it’s made Cyclops feel like he needs a new team.

The friendly readability stops there, though. Just about every other aspect of the storyline is a callback to the last 10 to 20 years of X-Men continuity. All of the villains are old ones that haven’t been seen in years, outside of very infrequent appearances, yet they’re reintroduced with no information. This isn’t the same situation as being able to discern the status-quo through the scant information provided. You are told nothing about the villains, except that they’re evil villains who have killed mutants at some point. At one point, there’s a two-page spread that gives the characters’ names, what organization they led, and how many mutants they’re responsible for killing. That’s all you get, so if you’re not familiar with them you’re not going to be informed.

For the most part, the lack of information about what’s going on doesn’t really hurt the story. While you never know all the little details about what’s going on, the broad strokes are all clear enough to bring you through the plot points.X-Force #1 Cover At its core, the story is the X-Men against a weird pseudo-religious cult that really, really wants to kill all mutants. The fact that the cult is led by a Bastion/Phalanx hybrid and the reanimated corpses of old villains is only incidental.

The art by Clayton Crain is done in a fairly unique style for mainstream comic book work. Normally I’m not a fan of the dark, hyper-realistic style Crain uses but it fits the tone of X-Force perfectly. The rough painted colors and the muted palette give the book a totally different feel than the normal computer-color style that your average title has. There’s not a shiny surface to be found anywhere in this collection, which is no mean feat considering that there end up being several dozen people with gigantic metal wings.

The art is the main reason I’d recommend X-Force to anybody. The story is nothing to write home about, but the art really carries the book and makes the comic readable nearly on its merits. Buy this if you’re a fan of Wolverine, big bloody fights, or gorgeous painted artwork. Otherwise, borrow someone else’s copy.

Quick note: As of this writing, the paperback version of Angels and Demons isn’t actually available to purchase at Amazon. You can either go by your local comic book store to pick it up, or grab the Hardcover version (linked above) for two dollars more.

2 Comments »

  1. Interesting review.

    I’ve been of two minds about X-Force. When it was announced and the first promotional images showed up, I rolled my eyes and thought to myself ‘wow, it’s Team McStaby/Team Pointy Thing. Totally not buying that.’ It all just struck me as so juvenile and silly. A team composed of people who ALL have claws or knifes, are ALL bad ass, and EVERYONE is dressed in black? Seriously?

    So I didn’t buy it. And then I started reading stuff on the internet about how they were resurrecting all these semi-obscure villains and bringing back Archangel (which is the only incarnation of Angel that was ever cool, IMO). At that point my inner X-Men fanboy started to kick in and I started to consider trying it out.

    So I had a choice to make. Pick it up because what’s going on sounds vaguely awesome, or not pick it up because, you know, it’s probably not very good. I didn’t do it, in the end. I’ve gotten to the point in my ‘comic reading career’ where something being kinda awesome is not enough anymore for me. A comic like X-Force just doesn’t make the cut of what I am willing to spend money on.

    Comment by Derk van Santvoort — January 19, 2009 @ 8:45 am

  2. Wolverine, Wolfsbane, Warpath…couldn’t they have given X-23 a “W” name to go with it? “White Lion”, maybe. And Archangel is obviously “Winger”. Elixir, well, I guess “Warrant” just so you don’t double up on the “White”.

    Comment by DensityDuck — January 19, 2009 @ 3:51 pm

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