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Apr 9

X-Force Annual #1 annotations

Posted on Saturday, April 9, 2022 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

X-FORCE ANNUAL vol 3 #1
“Lab Work”
Writer: Nadia Shammas
Artist: Rafael Pimentel
Colourist: Carlos Lopez
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Editor: Mark Basso

X-FORCE ANNUAL. This is the third X-Force Annual #1. The others were in 1992 and 2010. There was also an unnumbered annual in 1999.

This issue seems to take place between X-Force #26-27.

COVER / PAGE 1. Wolverine, Domino and Kid Omega versus Orchis’s Sentinels.

PAGE 2. Sage has doubts about the Beast, and calls Emma Frost.

As we’ll find out later, the Beast has sent the X-Force field team (Wolverine, Domino and Kid Omega) on a mission to retrieve a shipment stolen by Orchis from Hellfire Trading. For reasons which will become apparent as the story goes on, Sage is rightly sceptical about this whole thing, and suspects a trap, but the Beast is insistent. This story doubtless contributes to the breakdown in Sage and Beast’s relationship seen in X-Force #27.

Erta Ale is a volcano in Ethiopia. It’s a rare example of a volcano which actually has a lake of lava; not only that, it’s had one since 1906.

PAGES 3-4. Emma Frost comes to speak to the Beast.

Emma Frost makes it pretty clear right from the outset that as far as she’s aware there is no stolen shipment of Krakoan flowers. As the Beast points out, she’s no longer directly involved in Hellfire Trading’s operations following the end of Marauders vol 1, so she wouldn’t necessarily know, but we’re clearly invited to be sceptical of Hank here.

“Our little heart-at-heart at the Gala”. In Wolverine vol 7 #13. Emma took the Beast to task over his mind-controlling the whole nation of Terra Verde.

PAGES 5-7. X-Force approach the volcano.

The Beast has told X-Force that Orchis are reverse engineering Krakoan flowers here, which is supposed to be the real issue. Supposedly, Beast claims to have intelligence to this effect. It’s pretty obvious from the rest of the story that this is a lie.

PAGE 8. Recap and credits.

PAGES 9-14. X-Force get stuck in customised traps.

Gosh, this is a classic trope we haven’t seen in a while, and certainly not in the grim and gritty world of X-Force. This is practically Arcade’s wheelhouse. Anyway, X-Force have been suckered into a trap so that Orchis can test their abilities.

PAGE 15. Emma and Beast continue to talk.

Emma spells out even more explicitly that there is no stolen shipment of flowers. Moreover, Beast could easily have found this out for himself, making it clear that he hasn’t been duped. Beast, meanwhile, is more concerned about the fact that Sage must have tipped off Emma.

PAGE 16. Data page. Albert Carey, the Orchis scientist running this observation, is a new power. Most of this is just explaining the plot, but Kid Omega is apparently of particular importance because he’s “the key to understanding Cerebro and the plans for [redacted]”. Since Kid Omega has rarely had anything to do with Cerebro, I assume the idea here is that Orchis have a plan to exploit Cerebro to take out Krakoa’s psychics, and they want to test their anti-psychic technology on him as an example of the type. But who knows, maybe it’ll turn out that he specifically has some significance.

PAGE 17. Kid Omega hallucinates about his past.

The pacing is a bit weird here, with a single panel of this scene continuing onto the next page.

Orchis’s device triggers memories, apparently painful ones. Page 17 panel 4 is a panel of young Quentin after he accidentally killed his parents. We were told about this in issue #17, but the actual scene is new. Page 17 panel 6 is just a generic image of his ex-girlfriend Phoebe, who dumped him in issue #25.

“Usually, I would have been killed by now.” Issue #17 laid great stress on how often Quentin gets killed on X-Force missions.

PAGE 18. Wolverine is experimented upon.

Wolverine shouldn’t really be that surprised that magnets are effective against him. He lost his adamantium skeleton when Magneto tore it out. He was obsessed with it for years.

PAGES 19-21. Domino’s powers free Wolverine.

Orchis made two mistakes here: they didn’t realise just how unlikely Domino’s luck-manipulation can get when it needs to, but more to the point, it didn’t occur to them that her luck could manifest by freeing one of her teammates, so that they in turn could rescue her.

PAGES 22-23. Emma challenges the Beast.

Beast continues to make excuses, but Emma is presumably correct in saying that Beast’s only motivation in sending X-Force on this mission was to find out the result of Orchis’s experiments. Emma raises directly the question of whether Beast’s agenda with X-Force is about protecting Krakoa or simply protecting his own position, which he rationalises as being about the protection of Krakoa. A possible reading would be that, having compromised himself to this degree in his fervour to protect Krakoa, the Beast is now desperate to preserve his position rather than have to face the consequences of what he has done; psychologically, he has an awful lot invested in the idea that he’s been doing necessary things that worked.

PAGES 24-31. X-Force make their escape with the core of the Orchis computer.

PAGE 32. Emma spells out the point one more time.

PAGE 33. X-Force report back to Beast.

Kid Omega obviously suspects that the Beast isn’t just pleased that they stopped Orchis’s anti-psychic research – he’s pleased that he’s got their work to build on for himself. Given what he’s just been through, Kid Omega’s obviously not very pleased about that. It’s hard to tell whether he’s genuinely uncertain about what Beast meant or simply smart enough to keep his mouth shut and not show his hand. Of course, as a psychic, Kid Omega could simply read Beast’s mind – Hank suggested to Emma at the start of the issue that he wouldn’t be able to detect her reading his mind, although she’s a rather more subtle and skilled psychic that Kid Omega.

PAGE 34. Trailers.

Bring on the comments

  1. Trevor says:

    I thought this was excellent. If not only felt like Shammas (not familiar with her) had a better handle on presenting the characters than Percy does, but also seemed like she was auditioning for taking over the book by providing a better rationale for Beast’s insane behavior. I usually loathe Annuals not written by the regular writer but this was the unusual example of calling in a rookie fill-in who immediately highlights the main writer’s shortcomings but also ably adapts their own story into the ongoing narrative. I hope to see more from her, hopefully in an X-Book. Maybe she can salvage Excalibur/Knights of X…

  2. Trevor says:

    Paul – curious if we will get a review for this on its own or as part of a collection of standard X-Force issues (or none at all?). Either way, thanks for all the entertainment you have provided me for literal decades now.

  3. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I just assumed this was Percy so I didn’t bother.

  4. Chris V says:

    Nadia Shammas was an odd choice to write X-Force as the majority of her comic work has been aimed at young adult readers.

  5. Jon L says:

    @x-ben

    Lol…samesies

  6. NS says:

    @Trevor: I thought the same as you. Percy usually has major pacing issues and his stories seem repetitive to me. It feels like all the characters and plots are still in the same place they were when the book started. This annual had great pacing, a more detailed look at the characters, and took the time to show the characters addressing (and doing it well) Beast’s corruption (that Percy has thus far ignored outside of the gala). I even liked how Orchis misread Domino’s powers. Also, the book didn’t feel as hollow and gritty as I often find Percy.

    Also, it didn’t have that dumb open relationship with Jean that Percy is still pushing. It has no narrative arc or necessity, it creates no drama, and worst of all it’s boring. This is the one old x-relationship/plot that writers have been trying to make happen unsuccessfully like every 5 years since the 80’s (?) I think.

  7. Mike Loughlin says:

    There was Rube Goldberg energy in the escape from the Orchis traps that I loved.

    I’m sure Beast will develop the anti-psi tech further. When his full heel-turn comes, he’ll need a way to protect himself from telepaths.

    Fun issue!

  8. Ben says:

    Paul, I appreciate your meticulous details and that’s one reason why I follow your blog, but is there a single person in the world who benefits by knowing there have been 4 X-Force Annual #1s and one of them was X-Force ’99? Don’t let yourself turn into Wikipedia, buddy! Surely you have more important hammers to nail

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