I’ve mentioned before how much I’ve enjoyed the many deaths of Quentin Quire. X-Force #17 asks me to consider what it might be like if he lived.
VC’s Joe Caramagna (Letterer), Joshua Cassara (Artist), Guru-eFX (Color Artist), Tom Muller (Design), Benjamin Percy (Writer)
February 10, 2021
Look, I’m not going to dither about it: X-Force has been spinning its wheels for a couple of issues, and I get it! It’s coming out of an event, it’s gearing up for multiple plot arcs, and as impatient as I can be, I understand the drawing taut of plot threads when I see it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Quentin Quire (thanks…so much for that, Mr. Percy), and about the nature of death as a narrative punishment. It was argued once that the reason for the ending to The Dark Phoenix Saga was that Jean had to pay, narratively, for the crime of destroying an entire inhabited planet. I talked in an earlier review of a similar thing happening with Quire here; he’s reckless and arrogant on missions without the requisite skill to back those things up, and he pays a price for it each time. It’s a good gag, but it’s even better here that Percy is starting to pick it apart: because of the way the mental backup process works for mutants, Quire doesn’t get to remember any of those lessons. Because he does not remember, he does not learn, and because he does not learn, well…you know.
X-Force #17 threads a needle. It’s a spotlight issue on Quentin, wherein he begins to ask these questions, as he and Sophie investigate the cause of his latest death. There’s yet another mystery afoot, as it appears several people have been attacked by him—or at least bear the psionic marks of it. It would seem, at first, like a case of just too many divergent threads, but it all comes together in the end, tying back not only to Domino’s arc through the series so far, but to Quentin’s most prominent death pre-X of Swords. Percy’s plotting remains meticulous, and it’s fun to see these bread crumbs lead somewhere.
When he’s not advancing the main story, Quire spends a good bit of time talking about feelings with Sophie, and for all that I find him an insufferable little shithead, it’s nice to see some depth added to that. It doesn’t make me regard him any more generously, mind you, but it’s nice to see! Truth be told, I’m still not convinced, even after her impassioned speeches here, that Sophie is in Quentin’s corner; she may be pushing him toward something better, or she may simply be exploiting his fondness of her for revenge on behalf of her sister. It could even be both! Either way, it’s the kind of dishy drama I love, and what I’ve always associated with the X-Men.
I’ve talked at length about Cassara’s art, but it still manages to be refreshing in each issue; even here, where the majority of pages are devoted to ostensibly civilian things (such as the hot dog vendor’s “my cabbages!” moment), Cassara finds ways to splice panels inventively, giving us a dose of that body horror he’s so good at, be it a framing of half of a Quentin corpse alongside a panel of him quite alive, or even the cartoonishly widened eye on one panel, as Quire takes a page out of Locke and Key and inserts a telekinetic key into his own pupil in order to unlock repressed memories.
Overall, the issue does a lot with a character I’m not particularly fond of, and I think that’s commendable. There’s a significant divergence between his portrayals under Grant Morrison’s run in the early 00’s and the quirky cool kid he ended up later, in Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men. Percy and crew seem to be working on settling him between those two extremes, allowing him to keep some of his most narratively endearing flaws while still rehabilitating him as someone more than just a teenage shithead.