Thursday, October 8, 2009

Trade Waiting - X-Force Vol 1, Angels and Demons

Generally, I am willing to give most new comics, or creative reshufflings, at least the benefit of the doubt when I first hear about them. Sure, I don't end up reading most of the comics I hear about, but I am willing to pick them up if I hear good things about them. The post-Messiah Complex X-Force relaunch was not one of those books. From the instant I heard about it, I knew it was going to be just a horrible comic, but I kept hearing good things about the pre-Messiah War issues. Eventually the library got a copy of the first trade, so I decided to check it out. Hit the jump to see what I thought of X-Force Vol 1, Angels and Demons.

Written by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost
Art by Clayton Crain
Collects X-Force #1-6

In several ways, X-Force is a continuation of Craig Kyle's and Chris Yost's work on New X-Men, most obviously through the use of the Purifiers as the main villain as well as several character that were apart of that book. Although their run on New X-Men generally received a lot of praise, I didn't like it. While they did some good work, mostly with the characters, it was all undone by the maimings and killings, more maimings and killings, even more maiming and killings and, finally, just way too many f#$%ing maimings and killings. Seriously, it was an utterly depressing affair.

Given the dark tone that X-Force was going to have, I expected more of the same from Kyle and Yost,  which is the main reason why I dreaded reading this trade. The other reason why I expected this book was not going to appeal to me was that it looked like a really, really, really bad comic build on the foundations of the worst things to come out of the 90s. The first, and many subsequent, issue had a bloody variant after all. So, did Team Claws X-TREME!!!, a far more fitting name for the book, meet my expectations as a horrible, horrible idea that should have never seen the light of day? Oh yes, and, shockingly enough, it even surpassed them, becoming one of the worst comics I have read outside of Ultimatum.

In the post-Messiah Complex world of the X-Men, Cyclops decides it's time to get HARDCORE! and thus forms Team Claws X-TREME!!! as a black ops kill squad. Of course, there are several problems with this. First, this seems like something that you could possibly see someone like Emma Frost doing, but, honestly, this is pretty out of character for Cyclops and there is never really any good reason provided for the sudden change. I mean, if all of the shit that the X-Men have been through before, like, say, the massacre of half of their kind in an instant, wasn't enough to convince them to do something like this before, there is no way the events of Messiah Complex would have. It's a very contrived origin for the group that does nothing to help convince me that this is a good idea in any way.

Secondly, for a black ops kill squad, the only thing Team Claws X-TREME!!! can do is, well, shank people, making them pretty useless for this kind of thing. I mean, what are they going to do against an opponent or target who uses long range attacks or can fly, which is entirely possible given the nature of their likely targets.   They've got one flyer on the team, but he wasn't on the initial roster either.  This only helps to re-enforce the idea that this book is solely running on the idea that this team works because it's "cool," logic be damned.

And, speaking of logic, this leads us to the final problem - Wolverine's just wearing a palette swap of his regular costume, bright red X-logo included! Because really, when you form a black ops kill squad, you want people to know who is doing the killing. Such is this book's relation to logic.

Of course, the book could possibly overcome the problems with its concept, but X-Force just turns into a bloody mess, quite literally. The basic story is that the Purifiers infiltrate a S.H.I.E.L.D. base, kill the agents and steal something important, which is what leads Cyclops to put X-Force together (or keeps them together post-Messiah Complex, since they did form their originally).

X-Force eventually tracks down the Purifiers and learn that they have resurrected Bastion, a living Sentinel whose head the Purifiers stole from S.H.I.E.L.D., and find out that Wolfsbane was also captured by the Purifiers. X-Force eventually tracks them down, killing massive amounts of Purifiers along the way, while Bastion and Matthew Risman, leader of the Purifiers, pursue their own agendas and eventually start a civil war among the Purifiers.

That's the basic story of the collection and, to be honest, there is probably a sliver of solid storytelling in there somewhere, but it just turns into a bloody, depressing and unreadable mess. Take Wolfsbane, for instance. Peter David did some solid character work with her in X-Factor, but, here, her sole purpose in the story is to be tortured by the Purifiers and turned into a destroyed character who is probably going to end up spending a lot of time the fetal position, crying herself to sleep like she ends up at the end of this volume. Oh, and she rips off Angel's wings so he can turn into Archangel again.

Well, actually, the Purifiers use his wings create an squadron of Archangels using his blood and the traces of whatever Apocalypse did to turn him into Archangel in the first place. The creation of the Purifier Archangels is apparently what causes Angel to turn back into Archangel . This also causes him to go crazy so he goes to kill a bunch of Purifiers as well and isn't in good shape by the end of the volume. Same thing with X-23, who is already a soulless killing machine at the beginning of the trade, ignoring all of the work that Yost and Kyle did with her in New X-Men.

That's actually the best way to describe this book though - it takes things with potential and turns them into soulless shadows of their former selves. Why the hell would anyone want to read about that and why did Marvel think this was a good idea for a book? I mean, when Wolverine is basically your most up beat character, shouldn't that send off some warning bells that something is, you know, wrong!

Another problem is that the book takes itself way too seriously. It treats everything that's happening as incredibly important and deadly serious, but it only serves to highlight just how bloody depressing the book is. And the massive amounts of violence does nothing but accentuate the problems. This isn't a problem in something like Wolverine: Enemy of the State since there is a layer of absurdity to it, either from the art or writing and whether or not it was intentional or otherwise, which helps to add some levity to that story, but X-Force has no such thing because this is all Very Serious Business, but it just makes the book all that more depressing. I am not against this stuff in general and Eden: It's an Endless World, one of my favorite manga, can often be a violent and depressing affair, but there is other stuff to balance it all out. X-Force doesn't have anything to balance it out. It's just darkness, seriousness, blood and violence just piled on and on and on.

Crain's art doesn't help with any of this either. It's dark and murky and only accentuates all of the problems with the story. The biggest problem though is probably the fact that his characters don't look realistic enough nor cartoonish enough and fall face first into uncanny valley. The fact that the art, probably caused by the colouring, also causes all of the characters to look like plastic only makes things worse. So the fact that you have these odd looking plastic people slicing and dicing each other to pieces only makes the overall package even more unappealing. And then you have the colouring, which mostly consists of black, grey and red, which, again, makes the whole thing very murky and is the final layer of suck in this book. That said, Crain actually does a pretty decent job on colouring with the special effects type stuff.

Verdict - Avoid It. I know I said that this book is only slightly better than Ultimatum, but, honestly, in some ways it is so much worse. At least with Ultimatum there is a 'train wreck, can't look away' aspect of stupidity to the book that prevents it from being the depressing mess that X-Force is.  With X-Force, Kyle and Yost are skilled enough to avoid those mistakes, but that means X-Force has none of the absurdity that made Ultimatum slightly bearable, which isn't very much. So, if you enjoy watching characters turn into soulless bags of flesh while killing as many people as possible in incredibly violent ways, with little to no characterization, then X-Force is the book for you. Otherwise, there are definitely better comics out there for you to read.

Care for a second opinion on X-Force: Angels and Demons?  You can check out Kirk's reviews of the individual issues in this volume by clicking here.

Still interested in X-Force Vol 1: Angels And Demons? Buy it on and help support the Weekly Crisis!

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Klep said...

This was way better than Ultimatum in that, despite the fact that X-Force has way more gore, Ultimatum was the only one that made me nauseous.

Mike said...

I couldn't disagree more. I found the book moody, fun, and beautiful to look at. To compare it in any way, shape, or form to Ultimatum ultimately shows your limited talent as a critic.

Daryll B. said...

THANK YOU!!!! Finally someone gets why I abhor this series with a passion.

X-Force in the past was looked as Liefield's insane red headed stepchild but this incarnation makes his early incarnation look like something from Frank Miller's Daredevil run.

So much potential wasted for stories sacrificed for just schlock violence. Warpath, X-23, Angel, even the Purifiers and Bastion have been turned into one note jokes when they had interesting stories built up by Kyle, Yost & other creators.

Honestly I love Kyle and Yost from their New X-Men and animated ventures but this is a miss.

P.S. If Marvel is listening, can we get an essential line involving Nicenza / Capullo's X-Force stuff? Now that had team growth and we saw Sam grow as a leader...something once again retarded in the X-Books.

Radlum said...

Haven't read the early issues of X-Force (gore and violence aren't something you can use to sell me a comic book), but the more recent ones (Messiah War excluded) weren't that bad. Also, comparing something to Ultimatum has to be restricted to something really awful, if you make the comparison all the time, it will end up losing its meaning, and Ultimatum would look good (and I certainly wouldn't like that)

Rawnzilla said...

Well, that's like, just your opinion, man.

Zdenko said...

Well, I liked it, it seems for all the reasons that you didn't.

Crain's art is a little too black and, yes, sometimes his people look plastic, but I just find that like his drawing style, check out, Venom VS Carnage, for example, he has the same style there, too.

As for the story, I've enjoyed it. I think Cyclops formed the X-Force because he had enough. Yes, Mutant Massacre (The storyline) should tipped him into forming a squad like that, but those were the years when Xavier was the leader. Now, he has the survival of a race on his shoulders, time for playing nice was gone.

As for their designs, it is tad stupid to wear that X on suits, but it's not like anyone's gonna live to tell about it.

For the first arc, I would give a 8/10, although, I've read it as it came out, and I only vaguely remember it. I probably should re-read it...

Eric Rupe said...

Klep - I think Ultimatum is actually the gorier book, what with the Blob eating the Wasp and all.

Radlum - I'm interested in Messiah War, to a degree, since I liked Messiah Complex but, after reading this, I have no real interest in any of the later issues even if I like Mike Choi's art.

Also, X-Force is definitely one of the three worst comics I've read this year along with Ultimatum and Wonder Woman: Rise of The Olympian.

Zdenko - I've seen some scans of Venom vs. Carnage and the art does look better. I think the coloring in X-Force is just really bad though.

Ryan Schrodt said...

@Eric - The Messiah CompleX issues of X-Force were considerably stronger than the opening arc. The Cable issues of teh crossover weren't very good, but Kyle/Yost and Choi really stepped it up in their chapters.

Matt Ampersand said...

I find X-Force to be basically continuity porn. I enjoyed it for what it was and hated it parts of it for the same reason, but I do see where Eric's coming from and I understand it, even though I don't agree with him on everything.

I agree that it's stupid that the whole team, with the exception of Angel, has basically the same power set. One telepathic enemy and X-Force would be done for. It also doesn't make sense for them to broadcast who they are.

That being said, I think the book got a LOT better once Domino was added to cast, since she added some humor to it, and when Mike Choi joined, because his art is a lot more clearer than Crain's. I wish they would add some color to the costumes (doesn't have to be bright colors), because it makes the whole book look more boring visually, since every one is wearing the same outfit.

See? You can disagree with someone without being rude.

Caroline said...

I'm usually in favor of reviews that try to find something positive to say, but this is the most satisfying eviscerations of a terrible comic book that I've read in a long time. Dead on with every point.

Matt Ampersand said...

Oh, and I totally agree that taking Rahne out of X-Factor for this was a waste of everyone's time.

smkedtky said...

I like a little senseless violence in the name of fun every once in a while. I like X-FORCE for the same reason that I like Loeb's HULK...its fun. It isn't great, but it is enjoyable.

As for the X's on the costume...Do you think that Wolverine (or Archangel for that matter) would be harder to identify without an X on their costumes?

Caroline said...

I think the reviewer is pretty clear that he DOESN'T find this fun. I have no doubt that some people do, but just saying, "Relax and have fun and you'll like this thing that you don't enjoy" is sort of nonsensical.

smkedtky said...

@Caroline: I wasn't speaking for the reviewer. I understand why he doesn't like that and accept it without prejudice. I was merely stating my own opinion on the matter. Not once did I suggest anyone should do anything to change their personal opinion about this title. Where did that quote come from?

Caroline said...

We like what you like, fair enough. I misunderstood the comment as a criticism of the review.

smkedtky said...

Fair enough.

Caroline said...

And that should say "We like what we like." *headdesk*

David Not David said...

A love a little controversy in the reviews section! Hurray! It's interesting to see X-Force torn apart so soon after the Top 10 Tuesday deal got me thinking of maybe buying the upcoming crossover. Maybe I'd be best reading some of the trade in the library or B&N first.

Eric Rupe said...

Matt - I think that Rahne is probably my least favorite part of the book, all told.

smkedtky - I don't mind senseless violence either, it's why I read Mark Millar comics, but X-Force is just way too doom and gloom for me.

David Not David - Total coincidence. I started writing this before Kirk wrote the Top 10. Anyway, Necrosha does have some talented contributors with Mike Cary and Zeb Wells outside of the X-Force book.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Yeah, Eric, you totally have limited skills as a critic. Don't you know critics like everything? You should look to Mike, he's got mad skills as an Internet Commenter. Doesn't get any better.

But, I have to ask; Is Ultimatum really that bad? And why, exactly?

Flip The Page said...

Wow how in the world did this garner controversy? I mean the comic is pretty solidly awful and the appeal purely lies in the cathartic thrills stupid amounts of violence entail (which isn't bad per se, just stupid).

Still, I hate it and hate that it's defining where New Mutants is going these days too. And raped Rahne's character... And X-23... And such and such.

Eric Rupe said...

Ryan - Ultimatum is really that bad. It's nothing but senseless gore, characters who lack any common sense and act like incredibly dense morons and, really, just massive amounts of dumb stupidity piled on top of all of that. It's really bad.

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