The following is a video from my YouTube Channel, Jack’s World. As someone who has followed and praised X-Men comics for years, I wanted to make a video that articulated just how important the recent House of X/Powers of X story by Jonathan Hickman is in the history of the franchise. I tried to do it justice while trying not too hard to geek out. Enjoy!
Tag Archives: Charles Xavier
The current state of the world is still awful. Let’s not sugarcoat that. As much an optimist I try to be most of the time, you can only try so hard during a global pandemic. I don’t deny these past few months have utterly killed my optimism with a force of a thousand pissed off Hulks.
Even without optimism, we’re all still adapting. We’re learning to live our lives without the luxury of going to a movie theater, hanging out in a crowded restaurant, or just browsing through a mall without someone whining about having to wear a mask. It’s frustrating, but it’s bearable. For me, new comics help make this new normal bearable.
I say that as someone who knows that the whole comic industry has had to adapt a lot these past few months. Between comic shops facing enormous hardship and the San Diego Comic Con being reduced to a glorified series of Zoom calls, things have been very difficult for this industry I love so dearly.
More changes are likely, but I’m still grateful for the efforts of those working in this industry to keep New Comic Book Day awesome. Whether you’re a writer, an editor, an artist, or an IT person working at Comixology, I can’t thank you enough for your tireless effort. The world needs this right now. I certainly need it too.
As always, I show my appreciation by dropping plenty of money on digital comics and assorted merchandise. I encourage others who struggle to adapt in this awful world to do the same. Once again, here’s my pull list and pick of the week.
My Pull List
My Pick Of The Week
In the age-old debate of quality versus quantity, comics occupy a strange middle ground. There have been times when I’ve left a comic shop with a big stack of comics and feel like I just went on an epic bender with an 1980s heavy metal band. There have also been times when I’ve left a shop with only a few books in hand, but I feel just as satisfied because those few books were just that awesome.
I spent a lot of money in comic shops. I hope I made that clear. I’m pretty sure I put some comic shop owners kids through college.
That said, there are times when quantity doesn’t always make that trip satisfying. Sometimes, that big stack of comics that looks so appealing has a lot of duds in it. Like so many other things, from music to gem stones to whiskey, quality will often determine the success of any New Comic Book Day.
Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at sifting through the countless pages of comics and finding which ones offer the most quality. I admit there are times I stumble across it by complete accident, but like fine wine or cars, there’s an art to it. I don’t claim to be an expert, but to all those who love comics as much as I do, I offer my insights so that those who celebrate New Comic Book Day get plenty of bang for their buck.
To that end, here’s my weekly pull list and pick for New Comic Book Day, complete with links to Comixology. It may seem like a lot, but I can attest that in the world of comics, quantity and quality need not be mutually exclusive. Enjoy!
My Pull List
My Pick Of The Week
X-Men/Fantastic Four #4
We’re living in an interesting age of cinema right now. Between massive cinematic universes, reboots, and all-female remakes, we’re in the midst of some major upheavals to the movie industry. It didn’t start with Netflix, but it’s definitely not ending with it. I’m honestly not sure where it’s going.
However, I am fairly certain that when people look back on this era of cinema, they’ll see the release of the Snyder Cut for “Justice League” as a turning point. It’s not just about a company giving into massive fan demand or big tech companies using major franchises to push a streaming service. It’s a sign that the overall vision for movies as a whole is evolving.
The issues surrounding “Justice League“ are well-known. There are plenty of other issues surrounding movies like it, from “I Am Legend” to “Solo: A Star Wars Movie” to “Spider-Man 3.” Those issues usually revolve around a studio, a director, and corporate executives not being on the same page.
The primary reason why the Snyder Cut is a thing is because executives at Warner Brothers opted to revamp, reshoot, and reconfigure the whole movie, completely changing the tone and plot along the way. That effort just didn’t work and it shows in the box office. If the Snyder Cut turns out to be a hit with fans and drives up subscriptions for HBO Max, the impact could go far beyond the future of DC movies.
This could open the door to other movies whose original vision was undermined. Companies are starting to realize that listening to fans can be profitable, as “Sonic the Hedgehog” showed. They’re also realizing that directors and producers need the whole of their vision realized. You can’t chop it up to the point where crucial parts of the story are left on the cutting room floor, as we saw with “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
I hope this will create opportunities for filmmakers and producers alike to realize their visions without having to chop it up for theaters. In an era of streaming services and binge-watching, a movie like the Snyder Cut can totally work. I’m genuinely curious about it and I plan on seeing it the first chance I get.
At the same time, I hope other movies get a similar chance, such as “Suicide Squad,” which was also subject to heavy editing. Sadly, there’s one vision that we’ll never see fully realized in an extended cut and that happens to be a movie that would’ve benefited most from more content. That movie is “Dark Phoenix.”
While I loved the movie we got in theaters, I could tell that it was a movie that had been significantly altered from its original vision. With the pending release of the Snyder Cut, a part of me hoped that we might get an extended version of “Dark Phoenix,” similar to what we got with the Rogue Cut of “Days of Future Past.”
Unfortunately, those hopes have been dashed. In an interview with IGN, Simon Kinberg himself stated outright that there was no “Kinberg Cut” to release. However, he gave a very valid reason for why that is.
“The movie they released was ultimately my vision for the film,” said Kinberg. “That vision did change over the span of making the movie. There are other scenes that we shot, just as there are a lot of other scenes in [Days of Future Past] that we shot and didn’t end up using. There were scenes we shot for that film and an ending that was quite different than the ending that was in the theatrical release. To release [a Kinberg Cut], it wouldn’t be just be like we splice those scenes back in, because those scenes were never completed because of visual effects and sound – all of the technical aspects that go into completing films of this scale. It would take a whole lot of work, but I appreciate the support.”
Kinberg also told us that many of the changes to Dark Phoenix stemmed from Fox’s decision to condense the project from a duology into a single film. There’s no easy way to create a director’s cut more in line with his original story plans without going back and actually filming that canceled sequel.
Kinberg said, “With every movie, there are things you wish you did differently. On every movie there are things you thought were great and perfect, and then you watch them and didn’t think they were as strong as you imagined and you go a different way. Dark Phoenix was a hard movie because, in its initial concept when I wrote it, it was meant to be a two-part film. And then it suddenly became a one-part movie for reasons that weren’t of my doing. Having to create around that massive change was a challenge in itself. All these movies are uniquely challenging.”
Those bold parts are my doing. They confirm what many already knew. There’s no extended cut to “Dark Phoenix” because it was originally meant to be two movies and that second movie never got made. There’s no extra movie of a “Dark Phoenix” sequel gathering dust in Fox’s vault. The cut we got in theaters was much of what got shot. Some things got edited out, but not enough to significantly change the movie.
These tidbits aren’t entirely new. Long before “Dark Phoenix” came out, it was heavily implied that it was going to be a two-part movie. That makes sense, given how it played out in the source material. The first movie would have Jean become Phoenix. The next would have her go Dark Phoenix. It could’ve been to X-Men what “Infinity War” and “Endgame” were to Avengers.
Sadly, Kinberg never got to make those movies. He was forced to condense the story he wanted to tell into a single movie. That means we probably lost some incredible moments that never made it beyond the storyboard stage. We never got to see a bigger, more dramatic journey for Jean Grey, the X-Men, and plenty of other characters who never showed up. It’s a shame, but it’s understandable.
If “Dark Phoenix” had one insurmountable obstacle, it was the pending merge between Fox and Disney. Once that deal became final, Kinberg’s window to realize his vision was greatly shortened. Granted, I think he did a great job condensing the essence of the Phoenix Saga into a single movie, but it could’ve been so much more.
It’s unfortunate, but understandable. There were forces beyond Kinberg’s control working against him and “Dark Phoenix.” Those same forces ensure that we’ll never get an extended cut because doing so would require that they shoot a second movie, as originally intended. That’s just not going to happen.
While that’s disappointing, it’s understandable. I’m perfectly happy with the cut of “Dark Phoenix” that we got, much more so than I was with the theatrical cut of “Justice League.” I genuinely hope that Marvel Studios will create a bold new vision for X-Men in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I just hope they avoid the same mistakes that Warner Brothers made with “Justice League.”
I trust that Kevin Feige has a vision for X-Men.
I hope that vision is as awesome as it deserves to be.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing what the Snyder Cut has in store.
Everyone has their vice. Some are more destructive than others. There’s no question that crack and heroin are more damaging than a spicy foods and late 90s boy bands. Some are only destructive to your wallet. In that sense, I’m lucky my vice is comics. Say what you will about the cost of a collector’s item. It’s still cheaper than cocaine, cars, and caviar.
Wednesdays are the days I know I’ll blast a hole in my wallet. When I was in college, new comic day almost always coincided with Ramen Noodle day. I don’t doubt that dining on cheap food had an impact on my health. For a fresh stack of comics, it was worth the stomach pains.
I’m not in college any more and I don’t have to plan new comic day around cheap meals either. For that, I’m thankful. I’m also thankful that as my financial situation has improved, I’m able to better absorb the weekly splurge I often do at the comic shop and on Comixology. It makes new comic day that much more enjoyable.
In terms of vices, it’s plenty manageable. Sometimes, the message boards are a little dramatic and so is social media. It’s still a price worth paying. Some weeks cost more than others. This week is definitely one of them, but considering what I get from that money, it’s still a bargain.
With that in mind, here’s my pull list and my pick for the week. My wallet may be hurting, but I’ll manage.
My Pull List
My Pick of the Week
When you’ve been a fan of a particular comic or franchise for years, you get a sense for which issues will be controversial. It doesn’t always involve character deaths or betrayals, although that is an all-too-common trope. In fact, those that don’t involve character deaths tend to be the most controversial because they raise difficult questions that even long-time fans struggle to answer.
That’s exactly the kind of controversy that I imagine “X-Men #7” will inspire. It’s one of those books that introduces concepts that are sure make certain fans feel uneasy, but for entirely nuanced reasons. This goes far beyond Charles Xavier lying to the X-Men or Wolverine sleeping with Squirrel Girl. Writer Jonathan Hickman is taking the X-Men into some very morally gray areas that are sure to have larger consequences down the line.
There’s a context to those actions and one that has a basis in the founding of Krakoa. It’s established in “House of X/Powers of X” that creating a powerful mutant nation isn’t enough. Mutants are still a vulnerable species. They’ve been decimated through acts of genocide and de-powered through reality warping. To realize their potential, they need to get take back what they’ve lost.
However, doing so requires a somewhat distressing recourse, to say the least. It involves a process they call Crucible. It’s nothing what it sounds like. I won’t spoil it, but the goal is simple. It gives mutants who have been de-powered a chance to regain their powers, but how they go about it raises some serious moral dilemmas.
It’s a dilemma that some veteran X-Men, namely Cyclops and Nightcrawler, have mixed feelings about. It also raises questions about Krakoa’s resurrection protocols, which they’ve both experienced at one point. They act mostly as observers because as distressing as Crucible is, it’s something that de-powered mutants freely choose and who is anyone to question their choice?
It still feels like the X-Men are crossing some lines in their effort to make mutants stronger. It also raises more concerns about the nature of Krakoa and how the X-Men are going about realizing their goals. Years from now, “X-Men #7” might be one of those comics that acts as a turning point in a larger narrative. Hickman has never shied away from bold ideas, but this might be his boldest to date.
There are many concepts he’s explored since Krakoa’s founding in “House of X/Powers of X.” Many others are hinted at in “X-Men #7,” including some innuendo with Cyclops and Wolverine I’m sure will get a certain sub-set of fans talking. The X-Men franchise is entering uncharted, morally ambiguous territory. If nothing else, “X-Men #7” makes clear that there’s no going back and that’s why I believe it’s my pick of this week.
That said, it might be a good idea to avoid comic book message boards for a while. It’s going to get heated.
I’m a man of simple tastes. It really doesn’t take much to make me content. Give me a glass of whiskey, a box of donuts, and a fresh batch of comics and I’m as happy as a clam on ecstasy. I try to find joy in the little things. I believe that if you need to jump through elaborate hoops to be happy, then you’re missing the point.
On Wednesdays, it’s even easier. As soon as I wake up, there’s a fresh crop of comics waiting for me, thanks to Comixology. As long as my iPad is charged and my whiskey bottles aren’t empty, I know I’m going to have a great day. It doesn’t matter if the weather sucks or another troll army has taken over social media again. I’ve got everything I need to be happy.
That’s not to say new comics and whiskey are a perfect cure, but for a guy like me, it’s close enough. Some weeks are more eventful than others. Many weeks leave me wanting more. Overall, it all balances out. When new comic day arises, the odds are on my side and I’m happy to roll the dice.
Once again, I’m happy to share my pull list for the week, as well as my pick. If you’re a comic fan, this is a day to rejoice. If you’re a comic fan and you happen to enjoy donuts and whiskey as much as I do, then we’re bound to have an awesome day.
My Pick of the Week
What makes a good Wolverine comic?
For longtime X-Men fans, that’s like asking what makes a cake more delicious. There are so many things that make a Wolverine comic appealing. It’s not just about gratuitous violence or having a spitting, swearing, womanizing, hard-drinking Canadian. There many little details that set Wolverine apart from every other stab-happy, violence-prone badass in the world of comics. “Wolverine #1” just happens to capture most of them.
There’s nothing subtle or contrived about it. Writer Benjamin Percy takes all those little ingredients that make Wolverine awesome and mixes it into “Wolverine #1.” It could’ve easily gotten messy and it certainly does in many areas, but in the best and bloodiest way possible. The final product is a perfect reminder as to why Wolverine comics are so delicious.
It helps that “Wolverine #1” is giant sized, just like many of the other first issues of the series to spin out of “House of X/Powers of X.” Percy takes full advantage of those extra pages. There are actually two stories stacked into this comic. Both involve different conflicts with different setups. Both succeed in the sense that it gives Wolverine an opportunity to do what he does best.
One focuses on the ongoing conflicts surrounding Krakoa. Wolverine, as the leader of X-Force, is the first to get his hands dirty any time someone tries to undermine Krakoa’s standing as a nation. When someone is stealing and exploiting the life-saving drugs Krakoa uses to maintain that status as a nation, that requires more than a stabbing. It only goes horribly wrong from there, in appropriately bloody fashion.
The second story is more detached from the politics of Krakoa and tied more closely to Wolverine’s colorful past. That past includes both the beautiful women he’s seduced and the ruthless enemies who want to torture him endlessly. Unfortunately, this story is centered around the latter instead of the former. I’m not saying Omega Red is ugly, but there isn’t enough vodka in Russia to make anyone inclined to kiss him.
That story is every bit as bloody as the first, but for entirely different reasons. It puts Wolverine in the cross-hairs of Marvel’s blood-thirsty, non-parking vampire population. It’s a solo endeavor, but one that gives him just as many opportunities to be exceedingly violent and lovably gruff about it.
There’s plenty of violence, which is the core ingredient of every Wolverine comic. There are also hints of drama mixed in, which bring out the softer side of Wolverine. He’s not just a stab-happy, hard-drinking loner. He does have friends and he values them greatly. He does everything he can to protect them and horribly maim anyone who threatens him. Even when he’s covered in bloody wounds, he’s still lovable in that respect.
Overall, “Wolverine #1” has a little bit of everything for Wolverine fans of all kinds to enjoy. It’s a perfect complement to other over-arching stories in the X-Men comics. It’s also a great singular issue that reminds us why we love this Canadian brute so much. It’s a giant-sized issue packed with the best ingredients for a good Wolverine comic. It’s as delicious as you want it to be.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a hankering for some imported whiskey.
There are just a few days left until Valentine’s Day. For a romance lover like myself, it should be exciting. However, since I’m currently single, it’s hard to get that excited. Being single on Valentine’s Day is like being sick at an all-you-can-eat buffet. You feel awful, but see so many others enjoying the many treats available to them.
I still hold out hope that I’ll one day meet someone that will make every Valentine’s Day both exciting and special. In the meantime, it helps to be a comic book fan. It’s not just that comics offer a weekly dose of concentrated joy, courtesy of Comixology and my local comic shop. Many of my favorite comics also include top quality romance narratives.
I’ve mentioned a few before and every week seems to build on that foundation. Lately, romance in superhero comics has been more refined than usual. I attribute that to far less reliance on horrendous love triangles and more emphasis on actual romantic chemistry. What a concept, right?
Romantic undertones aside, superhero comics are a fertile ground for romance. Some are more iconic than others, but even the non-iconic ones help add a little drama into the narrative. I find myself appreciating those narratives more and more as my tastes in romance mature.
Eventually, I’d like to craft my own real-world romance narrative with that special someone. For now, I’m content being single and enjoying a fresh batch of new comics. Below is my pull list, which tends to be larger than usual around Valentine’s Day, and my pick of the week. Enjoy!
My Pick of the Week
It’s never too late for a character to become more compelling. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a superhero comic, a Seth Rogan movie, or cartoon created by Seth MacFarlane. A character, no matter how flat or one-dimensional they may be, needs just one quality story to give them the depth they need.
It’s been years since Mystique had a story like that. Aside from the underrated and over-criticized version offered by Jennifer Lawrence in the X-Men movies, Mystique has been one of the flattest characters in the entire X-Men franchise. In a franchise that includes the likes of Deadpool and Mojo, that’s saying something. That finally changed in “X-Men #6.”
This is one of those issues that may ultimately become one of the most important single issues in Mystique’s chaotic, yet colorful history. Writer Jonathan Hickman builds on the role she played in “House of X/Powers of X.” Having been part of the deadly battle to destroy Mother Mold and the Orchis Forge, she was on the front lines of the pivotal battles that helped establish Krakoa.
In the shadow of those events, “X-Men #6” expands on Mystique’s motivation and how it clashes with both Charles Xavier and Magneto. For once, her motivation has nothing to do with tormenting the X-Men, alienating off her kids, or messing with Wolverine. Instead of her usual hatred and vindictiveness, this duplicitous woman who never misses a chance to back-stab the X-men is driven by love.
It’s true. Mystique is capable of love. It may seem strange to anyone familiar with her blood-soaked history, but it’s true. She has always had one true love in her life. Her name is Irene “Destiny” Adler.
It’s impossible to overstate how important Destiny is to Mystique. She may be selfish, violent, and misguided most of the time, but her love for Destiny has always been a driving force. Even though Destiny has been dead for years, she still influences Mystique a great deal.
That makes her continued absence a bit of a problem for Mystique. She was among those resurrected by the Krakoan resurrection protocols in “House of X/Powers of X.” She knows the protocols work. She knows that Magneto and Charles Xavier have the ability to resurrect Destiny, but they won’t.
While they have their reasons, which were also made abundantly clear in “House of X/Powers of X,” it’s not enough for Mystique. She wants the love of her life back. Hickman further establishes just how much Destiny means to her. It makes her motivations and frustrations understandable. It even makes Mystique somewhat sympathetic, which is saying a lot for someone with her body count.
It’s refreshing and ominous. “X-Men #6” doesn’t just give Mystique an overdue does of depth. It sets her up to be one of the biggest threats to the future of Krakoa. She’s willing to do all sorts of horrible things for selfish reasons, but when she’s motivated by love, she’s more dangerous than a million sentinel attacks. That’s what makes her worth keeping an eye on. It’s also what makes “X-Men #6” my pick of the week.
If you’re a football fan, this week is one of the most bittersweet times of the year. The Super Bowl is over. Even though it was an awesome game with an incredible halftime show that pissed off the right snowflakes, there’s no getting around the truth.
Football season is over.
Assuming you’re not willing to give the XFL a chance, we’re officially in the dead zone of sports. Until March Madness rolls around, there isn’t much to get excited about. If, however, you happen to be a comic fan as well as a sports fan, then you’re perfectly equipped to endure this distressing stretch.
For comic fans, there is no off-season. Every Wednesday is basically game day for us. Not every Wednesday is the Super Bowl, but some are more eventful than others. They may not include an incredible halftime show, but they include Wonder Woman, She-Hulk, Jean Grey, and Supergirl fighting armies of monsters and looking good doing it. To me, that’s the next best thing.
These next few months will be difficult for fellow football fans. For my fellow comic fans, though, it’s business as usual. Another week has come and another batch of comics have arrived. As always, and with the help of the fine folks at Comixology, I’m sharing my pull list and my pick of the week.
A new football season may be months away, but new comics are never more than a week. Nuff said!
My Pick of the Week
As the great modern philosopher, William Smith, once said, parents just don’t understand. When we’re little kids, we’re often at the mercy of our parents understanding. When your parents happen to be Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four, that is compounded exponentially. Then, you become a teenager and other things become exponentially complicated.
I’m not just talking about hormones and body hair. Kids clashing with parents is a theme older than any superhero comic and while “X-Men/Fantastic Four #1” doesn’t reinvent the concept, it manages to do something uncanny with it.
This book brings to a head an issue that was teased back in “House of X.” Mutants all over the world are gathering on their new homeland, Krakoa. One of those mutants, however, happens to be Franklin Richards. While he’s best known for being Reed and Sue’s first child, he’s also a mutant and an insanely powerful one at that. This is a kid who creates entire universes with the same ease as most kids pop pimples.
While he’s been on the X-Men’s radar, they haven’t really forced the issue. That changes in “X-Men/Fantastic Four #1” in a major way. Initially, writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Terry Dodson has it play out as anyone might expect. A group of mutants come to convince a child’s parents that their child should come with them. Their parents aren’t having it.
When the book begins, you think you know who you should root for in this. However, Zdarsky and Dodson complicate things when they reveal that parents, for all their love and nurturing, don’t always understand. They think they’re doing what they feel is best for their family, but sometimes that becomes an excuse to do questionable things behind their child’s back.
It’s an age-old clash between wanting to protect your child at the risk of driving them away. It’s a clash that plays out in dramatic fashion in “X-Men/Fantastic Four #1.” By the end, it’s hard to know who to root for.
In the end, this is Franklin’s story. The X-Men and the Fantastic Four are just along for the ride and it’s already a hell of a ride. Whether you’re a parent or a child, you can find something in “X-Men/Fantastic Four #1” that resonates. It’s one of the most clear-cut picks of 2020 thus far. I’m not sure whether to call it fantastic or uncanny just yet, but so far, it has plenty of both.
There are some people in this world, as well as fictional worlds, who will never be content to let things progress for the better. No amount of mutual benefit, understanding, or sincerity will be enough. They’ll always seek to destroy anything that might change the world they know, even if it’s for the better. They won’t just complain about it on social media, either. They’ll resort to the worst kinds of violence.
These are the people that X-Force deal with. Throughout their history in the X-Men comics, they’ve dealt with the dirty stains of humanity that never wash out, no matter how hard you scrub. They’re the ones tasked with confronting these threats, be they human or mutant, with a level of gratuitous violence that you won’t see outside of “Game of Thrones” reruns.
The need for X-Force, as well as their violent tactics, is one again reaffirmed in “X-Force #4.” At a time when mutants have made genuine progress through Krakoa and a new geopolitical role in the world, they’re still subject to hatred, attacks, and atrocities.
In the first three issues of the series, writer Benjamin Percy demonstrated that, despite having their own nation in the form of a living island and the ability to resurrect dead mutants, they’re still vulnerable.
Charles Xavier got shot. Domino was captured and had half her skin ripped off. The fact that any of this can happen, given all the resources at the X-Men’s disposal, is wake-up call and a reminder as to why X-Force isn’t just necessary. It needs an overhaul.
That overhaul begins to unfold in “X-Force #4” and in the midst of another mysterious attack, no less. While this one didn’t end with anyone getting shot or flayed, it did hit Krakoa in the wallet, which can hurt as much as getting shot. The nature of the attack and who is behind it remains a mystery, but X-Force is put on the front lines.
However, this is not the same X-Force that that Rob Liefeld brought to live during the grunge-fueled heyday of the 1990s. They’re not operating completely in secret as some secret kill-squad that everyone is better off not knowing about. Instead, Percy sets them up to be Krakoa’s version of the CIA, complete with its own Seal Team 6.
It’s somewhat of a shift for what X-Force has historically been in the X-Men comics, but it fits perfectly with the current situation surrounding mutants and Krakoa. Mutants are no longer scattered, isolated, and running from killer robots at least once a week. They have their own nation, language, and emerging culture. Protecting it requires something more organized than a shadowy kill squad.
That means more assistance from those who have traditionally argued against the merits of secret kill squads, such as Beast and Jean Grey. However, after seeing Charles Xavier get shot in the head and Domino get tortured, they’ve become a bit more pragmatic in handling these kinds of threats.
The events of the first three issues caught them off-guard. They try to be much more proactive in “X-Force #4,” investigating the attacks and organizing a response. Naturally, Wolverine is part of that response since many of the threats X-Force deals with require significant stabbing. Now, armed with Krakoan weapons provided by Forge and Kid Omega’s attitude, they’re ready to be a new kind of X-Force.
It may not be the kind of profane, brooding, blood-soaked X-Force we’ve seen in the past, but it feels appropriate for the X-Men’s current situation. Jonathan Hickman set up a very different set of dynamics for the X-Men through “House of X/Powers of X.” Percy just creates a version of X-Force that fits within the context of these dynamics.
Having a team like this doesn’t just feel necessary after the events of the first three issues. It feels personal. These weren’t just angry protests or hate threads on Twitter. Someone managed to attack their home and shoot one of their most powerful figures in the head. However one might feel about X-Force’s violent tactics, there’s no denying that they’re as motivated as they ever were.
For a quality X-Force comic, it’s not enough to just have ample violence and an attitude ripped from mid-90s heavy metal music. There needs to be a greater context to the added violence, preferably one that complements the current status quo of the X-Men comics. With “X-Force #4,” Percy succeeds in creating that context and artist Joshua Cassara gives it the necessary grit.
The overall lineup for X-Force is still somewhat small, but it has plenty of room to grow. After what happens on the final page, it’ll have to for reasons that are as obvious as they are bloody. The threat X-Force has to kill is still somewhat vague. Only a few details have come out thus far, but the only detail that matters is that they can hit Krakoa where it hurts and they’re not inclined to be diplomatic about it.
X-Force has always billed itself as a superhero team that relies on less-than-heroic methods to get the job done. They’re not a team that wears flashy costumes and parades alongside other, more reputable heroes. They do what they do in the shadows and don’t mind incurring some extra bloodstains to do it.
“X-Force #4” starts with something bloody, but ends with something bloodier. Given the nature of the emerging threats they face and the wounds they’ve already incurred, it promises to get even bloodier with future issues. It’s everything you want in an X-Force comic and then some.
Even the cleanest communities need a functioning sewer system. That’s something that even the most wide-eyed, Utopian-seeking idealists understand. Throughout the history of the X-Men comics, Professor Charles Xavier and his X-Men have had to learn this lesson on many occasions. While they don’t outright abandon the idealism at the heart of Charles Xavier’s dream, they understand that less ideal methods are necessary.
That’s where X-Force comes in. Whereas the X-Men are the public photogenic faces of their heroic exploits, X-Force is the secretive, less scrupulous team that fights the ugly battles that need fighting. They are, in essence, the sewer system of Charles Xavier’s dream. Where heroes and idealism fails, they step in.
It’s a tradition that has gone through many eras, dating back to the X-Men’s heyday in the early 1990s. The threats and the circumstances have changed, but the tactics don’t. Even though the X-Men and the entire mutant race are in the best position they’ve been in since the Clinton Administration, there’s still a need for X-Force.
Writer Benjamin Percy, along with an impressive cast of artists, establishes the extent of that need in “X-Force #1” and does so in an appropriately brutal fashion. Charles Xavier may have set up an ideal environment for mutants to thrive, but that environment is still vulnerable to major threats who don’t stop at throwing killer robots at them.
The nature of these threats are vague, as is often the case with X-Force, but their motivations are clear. The new order that Jonathan Hickman built in “House of X” and “Powers of X” has shaken up the geopolitics of the Marvel universe. Mutants are no longer a disorganized hodgepodge of scared mutants, costumed heroes, and Deadpool. They’re a sovereign nation with valuable resources.
While this has set mutants up to prosper like never before, it also makes them a much bigger target. Instead of hunting mutants in dark alleys, there’s an entire country full of them and not all of them have trained in the Danger Room. It doesn’t take long for a shadowy group of masked mutant-haters to take advantage of that.
Initially, it’s hard to know how serious this threat even is. There have been all sorts of shadowy organizations who wear funny masks and dream of slaughtering every last mutant with a smile. A few have a notable place in the X-Men’s history. However, they’ve never had to face mutants that are this well-organized.
These aren’t just mutant struggling to survive anymore. They have a living island to protect them. They have standing in the international community and they didn’t even need to threaten the planet to get it this time. On top of that, they have powerful psychics, living weapons, and Emma Frost’s sex appeal on their side. How can anyone threaten them?
This is where “X-Force #1” really makes its mark. It doesn’t just set up a new threat for X-Force to combat. It shows that this threat is capable of hitting the X-Men where it hurts. Their elaborate defenses, their legions of powerful mutants, and their emerging place in the international community isn’t enough. They can still be attacked. They can still suffer casualties.
It’s a rude awakening, especially after everything Charles Xavier did to make Krakoa the ultimate haven. It’s also shocking at how successful this attack is. Even those who aren’t traditionally associated with X-Force, such as Jean Grey and Beast, see first-hand how devious their enemies can be.
It’s a harsh reminder that they’re still living in a world that isn’t swayed by their idealism. While some might have their attitudes tempered by diplomacy, life-saving drugs, and Wolverine’s claws, others won’t stop until they’re dancing atop a mountain of mutant corpses.
Those aren’t people that the X-Men can confront through heroic means. This is the kind of challenge that needs X-Force and their less-than-ideal tactics. The last page of “X-Force #1” makes that abundantly clear. The only question is how far are they willing to go in order to respond?
Through its many iterations, X-Force has always had a darker tone to go along with its darker themes. Percy captures that tone perfectly in “X-Force #1.” He crafts a story that isn’t entirely built around X-Force’s harsher tactics and the lines they’re willing to cross. More than anything else, the story reaffirms the need for X-Force.
It lays a foundation that includes characters who are no stranger to X-Force’s methods, such as Wolverine and Domino. It also sets the stage for other characters to play a role, like Jean Grey and Black Tom Cassidy. In other eras, these same characters would oppose the very existence of X-Force or actively fight against them. However, in this new emerging order with Krakoa, they cannot avoid it.
“X-Force #1” has most the defining traits that X-Force comics have always had. What makes it stand out is how it builds those traits around a world in which mutants have never had it better. This is as close as they’ve ever gotten to fully realizing Charles Xavier’s dream, but X-Force is still necessary.
It’s a sobering reminder. You could even argue that it’s a necessary reminder. After what happened on the final page, nobody in X-Force is going to forget that anytime soon.