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Mar 21

X-Force #1-4: “Sins of the Past”

Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

The latest relaunch of X-Force seems suspiciously like a last-minute decision, considering that Weapon X was already covering very much the same territory, and got cut very abruptly short.  But this iteration, which spins out of the Extermination miniseries, is unexpectedly strong.

Some versions of X-Force have been ponderously gritty, and this one is certainly happy enough for them to be the paramilitary wing of the X-Men again.  But the overall style of the thing strikes a much more appealing tone.  A lot of that is due to Dylan Burnett’s art (and Jesus Aburtov’s colouring), which gives the book an appealingly loose, cartooning feel.  The exaggeration takes the edge off some of the grimmer bits, but at the same time it brings a lot of personality to the characters. I always like art that doesn’t try to make Cannonball look traditionally heroic, but this story even manages to bring some life to Ahab, patiently trying to explain a slightly saner version of anti-mutant hatred to the raving lunatics that he’s currently aligned with.

The art alone makes this series worth a look, but Ed Brisson’s story is also off to an encouraging start.  The gimmick of rebooting Cable in Extermination came across in that series as rather forced – a younger Cable from a different point in the timeline comes along and kills off the older one – but it plays out more persuasively here.  The trick is that this kid has to be both recognisably Cable, but also different enough to make the whole thing worthwhile.  And I think the story gets that balance right; he doesn’t act much like Cable, but he’s manipulative and self-righteous in a way that you can see mellowing over time into the normal character.  He’s kind of awful, and clearly doesn’t really appreciate how much further he has to grow, but that plays as unexpectedly interesting.

There’s a lot going on in this story, and it’s well balanced.  It’s really a four issue opening act, since it continues directly into the next storyline, but it still plays quite satisfyingly on its own terms.  X-Force – Domino, Warpath, Cannonball, Shatterstar and Boom-Boom – have got back together in order to track down this suspicious new “Cable” and avenge the “real” one.  Or at least most of them have.  Boom-Boom has slept in.  The rest of the team track Cable to the generic eastern European country of Transia.  Transia is supposed to be a safe haven for mutants thanks to a deal with someone mysterious from the future, who is outfitting them with future tech.  But the rabidly anti-mutant head of the military stages a coup, and also has an alliance of his own with Ahab (who only came to this backwater place in the hope of stealing the time machine and going home).

Ostensibly the main plot is about Transia, the government being overthrown, the mystery about who their futuristic ally is, the private schemes of Ahab to betray his captors, and a stray mutant soldier called Andrei who may or may not be serving the government against his will.  And for Cable, this is indeed the main plot – though even he’s mainly interested in Ahab, for reasons that seem at first glance to be handwaved away, but turn out to be quite important in issue #4 after all.  He’s here to deal with the bad guys and expects X-Force to fall into line and help, now that they’ve shown up.  This would be a perfectly serviceable story in its own right.  And Cable’s already got Deathlok lined up to help him, so at least somebody else is on the same page as him.

But for the most part, X-Force themselves are much more interested in murderous kid Cable than they are in Transia.  They’ll stop and help, of course, but for them it’s really a distraction from the main event.  Attitudes vary within the team.  Shatterstar refuses to accept the new Cable at all, and seems to be mainly waiting for an opportunity to do him in.  Cannonball is much more open to believing in the new kid, and keeps trying to rein in the excesses of his teammates.  Domino mainly seems determined to get answers.  And Warpath probably cares more than the rest about the whole Transia plot, but he’s also rather keen to batter the anti-mutant soldiers in a way that Cannonball’s not especially comfortable about. Oh, and Boom-Boom has slept in.  There’s enough variation among the X-Force members to create a lot of little subplots about their individual reactions, without it ever feeling too busy or confused.

I liked this a lot.  It’s very readable, and it’s managing to sell me on a plot that initially had me entirely unconvinced.  Even the more generic aspects of the Transian plot seem to be laying groundwork for something in the next arc.  Definitely worth your time.

Bring on the comments

  1. wwk5d says:

    I’m not as sold on the art. While it isn’t as bad as others seem to think it is, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of it. It gets the job done, I suppose.

    The story itself I enjoyed much more. The pacing was good, and I felt the characters were written well. I did enjoy the various dynamics between them. And nobody really felt too out of character. So I’m definitely interested to see where things go with the next arc, especially in light of the 2 cliffhangers we got at the end.

    This series has definitely been a pleasant surprise so far.

  2. Ben says:

    Yeah it’s been pretty decent so far.

    I’m still not really sold on the idea of Kid Cable.

    If for no other reason than that he did murder Cable and kidnap/mutilate the 05 and Mimic.

    It’s a pretty hard pill to swallow that he’s going to be hanging out with them, even if it is complicated.

  3. Michael says:

    Just wait until an older version of Kid Cable decides that he was wrong to kill off Old Cable and goes back to prevent it…

    Or maybe a time-traveling Old Cable happens to learn about his own murder before/after it happens to his slightly older self…

    Before you know it, you have an endless loop of Cables of varying ages trying to murder/save each other throughout the timestream, in a gloriously bonkers manner.

    Give that to the right writers and it would be pure gold.

  4. PersonofCon says:

    @Michael: There was a Deadpool arc last year that played with that idea a little bit–Stryfe demanded Deadpool kill Cable as part of a favour, but he didn’t specify high old Cable was at the time. Time travel shenanigans follow.
    I kind of prefer my Deadpool stories with Deadpool wallowing in guilt and making bad decisions, so I liked it.

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