Krakoa’s an idyllic nation that clearly has some problems it’s got to work out, but is generally viewed as a paradise for mutants. And the books tend to reflect this — most of them focus on mutants dealing with threats from outside of Krakoa. Marauders has Verendi, Excalibur has Otherworld, New Mutants has space empires and Central American cartels, and on its surface X-Force does too. But once you’ve read the book it’s clear that this one is about the problems on Krakoa, and this volume really digs into that premise.
We open on an arc about Domino getting her luck back. And I don’t just mean it like Stella getting her groove back, I mean Domino’s luck powers were stolen and getting misused, and the arc focuses on her getting them back. It’s fun enough, and Jan Bazaldua’s art lends itself really well to the more cartoony yet still hyper-violent action on display. It starts with a montage of whoever’s using Domino’s luck carrying out ridiculously absurd assassinations that I found really delightful, but soon after gets really gory and gross — in a good way, I swear! Bazaldua does a great job bridging the two tones, keeping X-Force from feeling too grimdark while also making it clear that some pretty messed up stuff is happening.
Joshua Cassara draws the middle arc, focusing on Wolverine, Domino, and Kid Omega going to Terra Verde and fighting a bunch of plants. Cassara works in a similar space as Bazaldua here, drawing grisly violence while also making it funny. A big part of that on both counts is the coloring, too — Guru-eFX does most of the colors in the trade with Dean White doing the first of Cassara’s two issues. There are some great bits in here, like a massive double page spread in the Green Lagoon (the new tiki bar on Krakoa) that features pretty much every mutant I can think of hanging out with their friends. There’s Logan playing a modified version of Russian Roulette with Daken and Gabby, which is gruesome yet endearing. And there’s tons of really cool action that Cassara’s been handling incredibly well since the book started. Seriously, he’s fantastic.
Bazaldua is back on the last two issues, the first of which is genuinely one of the most enjoyable single issues of the series to date. It’s everything I’ve mentioned about the humor and violence dialed up to 11 — it’s slapstick gore, but it never feels immature or crass. There’s a scene where a tiny soldier jumps out of the dead body of another soldier like a Russian nesting doll and Beast chases it around like a Scooby-Doo cartoon. It’s something that made me laugh out loud and then double back and say “wait, that tiny little man just murdered someone.” I can’t praise this book’s handling of its tone enough — the creators’ comedy never gets in the way of the serious stakes of the conflict.
But Percy’s writing as a whole is… inconsistent. His actual dialogue varies from cool action movie dialogue to snappy wit to what I can only assume is some attempt to be both that fails. There are some lines that feel like they’re supposed to be poetic or lyrical and instead just read really awkwardly. It doesn’t ruin the book by any means, but this and other unfortunate quirks of Percy’s writing style stick out constantly, clipping the momentum of each scene.
Another problem with the writing is the data pages, which feel more like prose pages than the infographics we’d get in Hickman’s books. They don’t have the personality of Wells’ or Duggan’s info pages, either, making them end up feeling really dry a lot of the time. The worst offender here is a scene where Jean confronts Beast, a scene that would normally be incredibly cathartic, but rather than seeing it depicted in the comic the entire scene is relegated to a data page. It’s frustrating because Percy easily could have this scene depicted in all its satisfying glory, but we instead rush through a description of it and move on. I wish the data pages were better because there’s some serious promise in some of them — the data page about creating a new social space on Krakoa has one of the funniest bits in the entirety of Dawn of X. It feels like X-Force‘s greatest weakness is Ben Percy getting in his own way.
Ultimately though, this book is still good. I have nitpicks and things I wish were better about Percy’s writing, but the art is incredible every issue and does a fantastic job making up for any flaws in the writing. And honestly, even with some flaws, the writing is damn good. X-Force isn’t always the most satisfying book, and it frequently gets more and more frustrating seeing Beast commit war crimes and get away with them, but it tells its story so well that I can’t help but enjoy it regardless.
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