I feel almost…out of practice writing this. It’s been a while since we last had an issue of X-Force, and with the way the last few months have been, it’s been difficult to hold focus. It’s with some relief that I find a connection to that in Jean this issue.
Joe Caramagna (Letterer), Joshua Cassara (Art), Edgar Delgado (Cover Art) Guru-eFX (Colors) Tom Muller (Design), Benjamin Percy (Writer), Dustin Weaver (Cover Art)
July 8, 2020
Because it’s been a while, it might be easy to forget what a bountiful feast the last issue was. We were given the Green Lagoon, Logan and his son being utter fools together, some important details about Domino’s resurrection (ft. Colossus being The Worst), and a return to Terra Verde, with some significant revelations about prior events there. With #10 not intending to drop several months later, the momentum feels a little stilted, but that can’t be helped here; it’s not a function of the writing. Percy takes us in exactly where he left off; with Wolverine, Domino, and Kid Omega in the field, attempting to unravel the mysteries of what’s happened to Terra Verde. Dom and Logan are discussing her resurrection again, and again she plays defensive, brushing it off in the way that she did with Sage. It’s frustrating to watch happen, even as you understand why it’s happening. After all, she feels fine, and she doesn’t remember feeling otherwise. Who among us wouldn’t be dismissive of a pain we couldn’t even remember feeling? I like that Percy is pulling at this thread, though; I like that the people around her are asking about it. There’s an interpersonal concern present that feels quintessentially X-Men to me; these aren’t just teammates, they’re family. It’s a thing that’s been on display multiple times throughout the current paradigm, and I’ll love it every time.
Similarly, I like what’s happening with Kid Omega, aka Quentin Quire. He’s a popular character, and I get it, but I’ve never been fond of him—I still don’t feel that he has adequately answered for his failures back in the New X-Men days, and I resent that he got to be “quirky smartass” after that with nary a word. Quire doesn’t have a heart of gold, to my reading; he’s an entitled, protofash dipshit who’s only barely begun the path to reform. Percy again gives me what I want here: I hate this kid. He’s obnoxious and arrogant, and every single time the narrative punishes him for it. It’s a kind of formalism I approve of. As we see with Domino above, at some point he’s going to be forced to confront the things he’s avoiding, and I relish that day.
Speaking of being forced to confront things, let’s talk about Beast. It’s kind of funny; I’ve been ragging on Beast for the last few weeks, because he’s kind of terrible. I’ve even been batting around some ideas with friends about what a reform would entail. It would be a lot of work, but prior to this, I think it could’ve been done. This, though. The revelations about what he’s done in Terra Verde are another level entirely. I don’t love that part of this scene is told via a datapage; there’s been some debate about the efficacy of data pages in general on Twitter, and how difficult they can be for neuroatypical readers especially, in terms of accessibility. This particular one feels a like a shade beyond that; it’s not ancillary data, it’s the meat of a scene removed from comics form to be laid out as a chunk of black text on a white page. We find out, via this page, that Jean hits Beast with the full force of every life he’s taken, the human cost of his committing a literal genocide. She quits the team after this, and I cannot blame her; she was already feeling doubts about the moral direction of it, and the fact that she has unwittingly been made to feel a part of Beast’s crimes is more than enough reason to actually quit.
This is of course what I meant when I said I felt a connection to Jean at the start of this. She has been given a sense of focus and clarity, of purpose, by finding out what Hank has done. I only wish that I had been able to see some of this in the art; as Cassara has proven in prior issues, he’s an incredibly expressive artist, with a flair for capturing emotion at a primal level. Even the panel above, a fearful Beast with a determined, grim Jean reflected in his glasses, captures some of the weight of this scene, but I really wish that he had been allowed to capture it all. The story deserves it, and the issue suffers for its lack.
As a coda, we’re given a scene of Jean and Logan getting down in a hot tub. It’s a cute nod to things hinted at back when the current run of X-Men started – the polyamorous nature of Jean, Logan, and Scott – and I enjoyed it, but given the choice between it and what I’ve described prior? I would have taken the former; especially because actual queer representation is still so thunderously lacking in this line as a whole. While it’s nice to see ethical non-monogamy have its day in the light, it’s also telling that it does when we still haven’t seen a proper romance between queer women. Ah well. Maybe next time.