REVIEW: X-Force #16: Unleash The Crack-On

Now that it’s solidly into its second year, can X-Force maintain its momentum with a new arc in the briny deep, or is it doomed to sink to the bottom?

X-Force #16

VC’s Joe Caramagna (Letterer), Joshua Cassara (Artist), Guru-eFX (Color Artist), Tom Muller (Design), Benjamin Percy (Writer)
Marvel Comics
January 20, 2021

I’ll admit, having a comic you created drop on Inauguration Day after one of the most protracted and fractious election transitions in history is a hell of an uphill climb, as far as garnering attention goes. So I’m not sure if the last week’s events have me distracted or what, but I definitely struggled with this issue of X-Force.

It’s not that it’s a bad issue: Can an issue in which Namor, King of Abs-lantis appears and fights giant sea monsters really be a bad issue? It’s just that it’s focused on a lot of things I’m not particularly invested in. It’s kind of funny; I talked about this last issue, the way that this plot regarding an undersea threat to Krakoa is placed in the forefront whilst all the dangling plot threads of previous arcs are waiting in the wings. Then, I admired the deliberate tease of it, but I find here that I’m tired of being teased. Chalk that up to whim and impatience as you will.

Instead, this issue spends a large portion of time focused on Beast and Cecilia Reyes performing an autopsy, which isn’t a bad thing but feels a little overly reminiscent of the events of issue #11, an issue that itself was reminiscent of the first X-Force arc. I appreciate the through-line here of enemy forces attempting to assault Krakoa repeatedly, only to fail and be rebuffed, just as I appreciate the procedural nature of the team’s adventures, but at the same time…perhaps there is a better framing device to be employed? I think I’d prefer that, at least if we’re going to continue holding off the pursuit of existing plot threads for now.

When the action isn’t focused there, it’s on the forward team’s assault on the source of the latest threat; an undersea monster, a kind of Krakoan cancer that inevitably attracts the attention of the ruler of the seas. This was the second issue I had here; it’s not that I don’t like seeing Namor, it’s that something about him felt flippant in a way that he isn’t generally portrayed; his voice as a character didn’t read quite true. We haven’t seen a lot of Namor since he rebuffed Krakoa’s offer back in House of X #5, but the tonal difference here is still striking; then, he was dismissive of Xavier because he felt he was being patronized; he specifically invited Xavier to come back when he meant it. Here though, he’s dismissive of mutants as a concept, despite being one himself.

Namor reminds everyone he's King. Again. By Percy, Cassara, Guru-eFX, and Caramagna.
The hubris and arrogance are right here, the dismissiveness toward mutants is what feels wrong.

Now, we don’t know specifically what the plans are for Krakoa and Atlantis going forward, so perhaps there is a reason for this that makes sense! Still, it stands out in this reading, as does a panel of Wolverine being awed by the size of the undersea monster they’re fighting. It’s not that I don’t believe such a thing is awesome to witness, it’s that…well, I question Wolverine in particular being so affected when he’s literally been around space whales hosting alien infections.

These are on the whole small concerns, just little things that read strangely to me. But those, combined with earlier story beats that felt like they’d been recycled (to the point where Reyes specifically mentioned one of them), made the whole of this issue feel like it took a bit of a stumble. That’s fine; no creative team can maintain an uninterrupted parade of hits. I’m just invested in these delightfully terrible characters, and I want, as ever, more.

Nola Pfau

Nola Pfau

Nola is a bad influence. She can be found on twitter at @nolapfau, where she's usually making bad (really, absolutely terrible) jokes and occasionally sharing adorable pictures of her dog.

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