REVIEW: Psyching Out The Competition in X-Force #18

Quentin Quire screams, with pink psychic power coming from his eyes

Y’know, for a mutant with a name like Kid Omega, it’s kind of surprising how Quentin Quire’s story in X-Force seems to never end.

X-Force #18

Garry Brown (Artist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (Letterer), Guru-eFX (Color Artist), Tom Muller (Design), Benjamin Percy (Writer)
Marvel Comics
March 17, 2021

This issue sees a fill-in from Garry Brown, taking the reins from our usual Joshua Cassara, and it, at times, is a very jarring difference. That it’s not more of one is credit to Guru-eFX, who infuses Brown’s work with the same moody, overly lurid colors. Brown’s art may take a little adjusting to this issue; there’s a cartoony nature to the way he renders faces that is fun, but doesn’t always match the tone of the writing. Where he really shines is in the way he renders the body horror aspects of the book—the bony, distended Slender-Man-esque nature of the issue’s antagonist, or the ways characters are made to see each other in various shocking moments. Like what’s going on in X-Factor, and even New Mutants, this feels like a horror story, and the beats evoke the same sort of thrill one gets from old appearances of the Shadow King, while embodying a very different concept at its core. It’s a lot of fun to take in, and I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing more of Brown’s work! Just, perhaps an arc unto its own, rather than a mid-story fill-in.

Evocation is the game of the month, it seems, as I found myself considering the way Percy’s writing also evokes some of those classic stories. It’s not that his characterization is similar; his voices for characters have a style all his own. It’s more the skill he has with juggling a multitude of plot threads for each cast member. That was something that really made those old Claremont issues special! Everyone always had something going on, and I get that feeling from X-Force too. It’s wonderful to enjoy the X-Men as a franchise in that way again.

Beast begs Quentin to kill him. From X-Force 18, by Percy, Brown, Guru-eFX, Caramagna.
Quentin, I promise you, this is a net gain. Do it.

Of course, when everyone has something going on, sometimes you end up having to spend time with a character you’re not fond of. Enter Kid Omega. I’ve made no bones about my dislike of him in the past, but I can divorce that from my understanding of the good work being done with him here, especially as it also appears to be the beginning of the payoff for one of his deaths just prior to X of Swords. Then, Mikhail Rasputin, brother of Colossus and Magik, slew him just on the other side of a gate, taking possession of the Cerebro Sword at the same time (a delightful red herring, to give us a blade named the Cerebro Sword just prior to an event about swords, and then take it off the board). We know, as of last issue, that the Man With the Peacock Tattoo is involved, and as we can recall from the first arc of X-Force, harvesting mutant genetics and using them to unleash twisted versions of heroes upon themselves is kind of his organization’s whole deal.

On the whole, it’s a ramping level of excitement, seeing these plot threads weave themselves together. There’s a balance to it, a way that you can sort of see the shape of what’s coming, but not well enough to ruin the surprise. I think it’s the fun of that feeling that keeps me coming back, and I can’t wait for 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.