Four issues of X-Force, and I’m once again revising my opinion. I’m very annoyed with this book and its continual ups and downs!
Joe Caramagna (Letterer), Joshua Cassara (Art), Guru-eFX (Colors), Tom Muller (Design), Benjamin Percy (Writer), Dean White (Colors)
December 18, 2019
I mentioned last time that I have a certain amount of trepidation regarding the power dynamics of embracing a black ops team as a political entity rather than as a marginalized people. In short the situation is different when an oppressed people are acting in the interest of their own survival, rather than as an autonomous nation.
Folks, I don’t want to take credit or anything, but it appears that writer Benjamin Percy was listening directly to me when he penned X-Force #4, months before I reviewed any of the others. Obviously he used whatever surveillance technology Marvel has on hand for such situations and chose to personally address my concerns. I jest, but this issue’s pages answer my prior review so neatly that I’m honestly a little blown away.
It begins with the story of Hercules. You know, that alternate-earth Logan’s boyfriend (we’re never going to forget about that, Marvel)? Well, once upon a time he had to do Twelve Labors to achieve godhood. As Xavier relates the story to the Quiet Council, Hercules did so with the help of his half-sister Athena, who assisted by providing crucial information at necessary moments. “He had the muscle,” said Xavier, “But she had the mind.” Thus is his rationale for this new incarnation of X-Force; not simply a black ops team to deploy, but an active intelligence team, to provide situational and tactical data to deployed groups of X-Men. It seems on the surface, like a reasonable conclusion, as he presents it to the Council.
“A mutant CIA?” suggests Mystique in short order, and there it is, on the page. In the way that the idea of a team like this is different when it comes from a nation instead of a marginalized group, so too is the description of X-Force filling this role different in an interview than it is appearing directly on the page. Mystique putting these words into the X-Men’s world forces them to confront the idea, and I really have to laud the team behind the book for this move. Xavier immediately prevaricates, saying he’d rather not compare Krakoa to human nations, and Nightcrawler immediately interjects, raising exactly the concerns I’ve raised about the moral compass of such an organization. It’s Mystique, though, who once again steals the show.
The concept finally established (the Dawn of X books have certainly taken their time in this regard), the back half of the book is devoted to a team deployment in order to investigate both the assassination attempt and the kidnapping of Domino. It’s here that the book starts to lose me a bit; I like the idea of Forge having his own play space where he gets to be the Q to X-Force’s team of Double-O operatives, but the particular choice of team to deploy in this instance is what doesn’t sit with me. I understand that Wolverine is a fast healer, but deploying both him and Kid Omega immediately after they’ve just finished a mission is questionable at best.
What’s not even questionable at all is that Domino should not be attempting to go back out into the field, and if she is attempting it, no one around her should allow it. She is still visibly injured, still barely held together via Kid Omega’s telekinesis. The X-Men have a healer who is literally named Healer, and she should be with him, getting healed. She needs physical therapy, she needs mental therapy. All of these things are absolutely necessary for the trauma she’s been through, and to see her attempting to bypass it while everyone around her shrugs their shoulders is a very disconcerting sight.
It’s more egregious because it feels like X-Force is a book that generally gets its character voices right; Sebastian Shaw is a bloviating, unhelpful oaf, Mystique is incisive and cutting, Storm is firm and direct. With the advent of Krakoan resurrection, there are many, many mutants that could be deployed for this mission; other mutants with luck-based powers, other telepaths and telekinetics…there are even more Wolverines to choose from! There is no excuse, operationally, to put newly-returned operatives back into the field when you have other resources available.
Now, granted, I’m not saying that these choices make for a bad comic. If anything, X-Men team members making boneheaded decisions is a lasting staple of the franchise; it just wouldn’t be that interesting a book if they didn’t. It’s just…well, I suppose they have to learn this lesson somehow. Last issue Beast asked if the idea of resurrection would make them reckless with the concept of death, and Jean assured him, immediately and firmly, that was not the case. This issue it appears that at least three mutants are intent on making her eat her words. I might paint a dire picture of things to come here, but well, Percy has my attention. I’m interested—excited, even—to see where he runs with this!