X-FORCE #2

#1
Transia and its new anti-mutant government have wasted no time rounding up mutants and shipping them off to who knows where. Young Cable and his new team reluctant allies decide to help as best they can by disrupting shipments and freeing as many mutants as possible from the government.



Their actions do not go unnoticed as the new head of the Transian government decides to pay a visit to his partner, Ahab. In their interaction, we learn hat happened to the mutant hunter as well as why the new President has such a visceral hatred of mutants.

As the stakes get higher and tensions between members of X-Force begin to grow, the President makes a bold statement to his benefactors from the future and launches an assault designed to destroy the mutants encampment.

Ed Brisson isn’t messing around with the immediacy, pace and tension in this series and this issue specifically. Things are moving in rapid succession throughout the story and that adds to the drama. Cable’s relationship with the team sits on the edge of a knife and that tension fuels some great dialogue as Cable refuses to apologize for what he did and the rest of the team refuse to see him as their old friend and mentor. Brisson keeps everyone tense and off-balance and that adds to the unique nature of this team and this story.

Dylan Burnett goes all out with the drama and action with the amazing art in this issue. Every page drives the story forward and follows the pace of the story well.
 
#2
Writer Ed Brisson and artist Dylan Burnett deliver a story in X-FORCE #2 that sounds (almost) like something you’d find in a modern newspaper. That may sound like a good thing, but I’m not so sure it is. Very little character development, an overabundance of action, and political schemes that have little to no nuance don’t make for a read-worthy issue. The allusions to illegal gun trading and state-mandated hate policies lack the emotional bite that a series like UNCANNY X-MEN continues to bring. They’re realistic, but comics aren’t newspapers or even editorial columns — they’re comics. Add some okay art, and the issue just doesn’t live up to its potential.

Image courtesy of Marvel EntertainmentLittle Cable is on a Mission
Cable died in EXTERMINATION but, to no one’s surprise, he isn’t really dead. In a bid to copy Bendis’ lackluster ALL-NEW X-MEN series, Marvel decided to bring in a younger Cable. Why they felt the need to do this, we will never understand.







Anyway, mini-Cable is off trying to uncover who exactly is trading illegal futuristic weapons with the country of Transia. We see a quick glimpse of the shadowy figure in this issue, but Brisson doesn’t give us much. We do learn that the gross Commandant Constantin who physically embodies all things terrible is working with (drum roll please) Ahab! Who would have guessed that two people who enjoy hunting mutants would make a great partnership?

Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment
Domino and her team spend most of the issue trying to save Transian mutants from Constantin’s regime of hate. They save a few, but the numbers of dead mutants in Transia continue to rise.

Where is Domino?
I had a hard time finding the characters who are on the cover in this issue. Domino, Shatterstar, Warpath, and Cannonball all get very little panel time and Boom-Boom, who’s supposed to be a part of the team, gets none. The cover should’ve just shown little Cable and Constantin because that’s who actually appear multiple times throughout X-FORCE #2. I know that making villains three-dimensional is super important in comics, but this is the second issue of a series that needed real revamping. Bite-sized bubbles of Domino arguing with Cable over his “real identity” don’t cut it.

Some quality character development between team members could’ve really elevated this issue. It still wouldn’t have been perfect, but having some dialogue between characters of the X-Force team would’ve made more sense than giving this Constantin guy half of the issue.

Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment
Perhaps the worst part about not having the X-Force in X-FORCE #2 is the notable absence of Domino and Boom-Boom. Without them, this issue is a strict boys’ club. All the stereotypically “masculine” visuals of guns and explosives don’t help.

Where X-FORCE Could Go
X-FORCE #2 isn’t a great issue, but that doesn’t mean X-FORCE can’t be a good series. The storyline of a weapons dealer is a little overused, plus it’s the kind of thing that people hear about in the real world all the time. There’s nothing for the reader to unpack. The country of Transia and the many stereotypes Brisson brings with it are borderline offensive and just generally unsavory. Scratch all that and you still have a dynamite team of characters that a lot of fans really love. I even believe that Brisson can transform Cable into a character readers can get behind. This series just needs a new direction.

Since his first series, Cable’s always been leading a team, so I definitely think some other character, maybe Domino or Cannonball should take the lead. X-Force operates in darkened corners, which is partially why they’re so cool. I’d like to see them go down a darker path that’s a little less on-the-nose. Something that will leave readers with a lot of questions at the end of each issue. Something that will leave them wishing and waiting for the next installment.




Image courtesy of Marvel EntertainmentExplosives and Gunpowder
Dylan Burnett’s style brings me back to Saturday morning cartoons. Personally, that’s not a positive thing since that’s not what I like to see in the comics I read. But, I know for a lot of readers, it’s a desirable look. The elongated faces and simplistic forms really work sometimes (especially in scenes with really grotesque subjects), but often times this technique falls flat. Burnett is, however, excellently skilled at drawing explosions and gnarly wounds which, for X-FORCE #2, take up a majority of the issue.

Colorist Jesus Aburtov is a shining star in X-FORCE #2. His excellent use of color makes this whole issue feel like a cinematic masterpiece, full of complex lighting and saturated tones. He really helps to bring the art of the issue up a level.

Image courtesy of Marvel EntertainmentFinal Thoughts on X-FORCE #2
While not my favorite, X-FORCE #2 has good roots. With a change of direction, I firmly believe that in a few weeks, I could be writing a five-star review for this series. In order for that to happen, Brisson needs to move the series away from the land of predictable, action-packed thriller and into the land of complex, nuanced storylines that aren’t afraid to leave some of the work up to the reader. Will that ever happen? At this point, we can only hope.
 
#3
The first issue of writer Ed Brisson (Extermination, Uncanny X-Men) and artist Dylan Burnett’s (Cosmic Ghost Rider, Reactor) re-launch of the sometimes serious, sometimes senselessly scandalous but always scintillating X-Force was fun, if disparate. The second issue is, unfortunately, only the latter.
First, the good. In an attempt at clarifying the kind of muddy stakes that the first issue left us with, Brisson steeps this issue in connections to Extermination and even the more recent Uncanny X-Men successfully and fully immersing us in the world this narrative takes place in. There’s certainly no lacking for big picture stuff here, and some of the twists and character introductions, as expected as they might be coming off of the conclusions of both of those series, are well executed and still shocking. The general themes around mutant autonomy, discrimination, and resistance might be better served without a kind of uneven direct connection to Romani peoples and their struggles across Europe, but the ways in which they all tie back to several major and minor plotlines is well done.

Credit: Marvel Comics
In return, however, this focus on establishing big picture stuff (admittedly strangely missing in a decontextualized first issue) means that all of the minor plotting and characterization go more or less out the window. There’s no heart to any of this. Take this snip of dialogue as an example:
Shatterstar: “Look me in my eyes”
Kid Cable: “I’ll stab your damn eyes if you don’t drop that blade!”

Practical, yes, but spartan — lacking any specific character traits or tells. This is especially strange given that the preceding issue established such a darkly funny tone I assumed many fans would be ready to ride with, but has been stepped away from here. I would welcome a return to it as scenes pass by with exposition, introduction, and stakes but little voice or merit. It’s not all ineffective — one particularly good bit from Kid Cable has him saying he had a plan, it just didn’t work — but it’s on the whole lacking.

Credit: Marvel Comics
Similarly, Burnett’s art lacks a certain definition into the second issue as well. There’s more flair here than before, and one can really see the fun, frenetic energy he brought to books like Cosmic Ghost Rider taking hold — especially in an explosive two page spread that gives each character a moment to shine, but their application is diminished quickly. The primarily problem is a lack of consistency as characters’ faces warp and elongate, become grizzled and cartoonishly shocked without a unifying manner — as if they’re jumping genres or even artists across not just pages but the same conversations, panel-to-panel. It’s entirely distracting and inconsistent in a way that doesn’t totally detract in massive, cool and fun action sequences which Burnett sincerely succeeds at but cannot be avoided in dialogue which the narrative equally relies on.
And that’s the larger issue with X-Force thus far. It set itself up to succeed in both a massive action capacity as well as an intriguing character driven drama one, but the creators don’t seem interested in serving both of those masters in one issue, hoping to bounce back and forth in an unsustainable way that works in short bursts but not on a bigger scale — too much to offer with too little to hold onto. Now that things are in a clearer focus, I’m really hoping that the narrative and art can both take a solid step into something cohesive, but my confidence is undeniably shaken.
 
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