Out this week is the latest X-Men trade paperback everyone will want: X-Force. This latest volume is extra-thick at 192 pages and features X-Force #15-20 and Wolverine #13. Wolverine is collected here as it’s part of a two-part Hellfire Gala story, but there are also exploits with Beast (the evil jerk), Black Tom, Sage, Forge, and more.
When you start reading this book, it feels almost immediately like Beast’s story. He’s certainly not fighting in every battle or the central character in every issue, but he’s the one meddling and screwing things up. In some cases, he’s the reason why there’s a conflict at all. The collection opens with Beast nervously waiting for Jean Grey to finish probing Colosuss’s mind. They’re making sure he can be trusted after Beast questioned him, and Wolverine is not pleased. Throughout the book, Beast is doing things that are unconventional for a hero, or unethical, and from little interactions like with Forge, we get the impression other mutants don’t love how Beast usually acts.
This book is also good at big action set pieces. The first involves a threat on the Krakoan shores. This leads to Wolverine, Domino, and Quentin Quire going into the deep to fix things. Later, there’s a nightmare terrorizing mutants on Krakoa that needs fixing. Writer Ben Percy is very good at coming up with complicated trials for the mutants to tackle which suits a book like X-Force. There are also touching moments for Quire, and Percy that never let you forget there’s a larger cast of characters on Krakoa.
The last two issues in the collection are from X-Force #20 and Wolverine #13, which are the big Hellfire Gala tie-in comics. X-Force kicks things off for the Hellfire Gala featuring multiple entrances. Joshua Cassara knocks each one of these entrances out of the park. Iron Man gets a super slick cool-guy entrance, while Deadpool…not so much. They are splashy entrances that suit this big fashion party event. Those entrances help establish the pomp of the event, while much of the book zips around the party as we check in with each character. Overall the art and story give us a sense of the chaos in being the security for a party like this while showing how dedicated and professional its heroes are. Oh, and I didn’t even mention yet another great multi-character page by Cassara to show off all the mutants in attendance.
This issue also has two interesting battles: one of the mind and ego between Kid Omega and Iron Man, and another between Wolverine and Deadpool. It’s fun to see Percy write such a kooky character like Deadpool since so many of the characters in this series are darker in tone and deadly serious. He sticks out well, especially with the professionalism of Domino and Wolverine’s inability to smile. In general, this issue blends fun action and serious situations well.
Then in Wolverine #13, security is on high alert after discovering a terrorist cell has started to attack the Hellfire Gala. Percy does a good job making this an exciting chapter while not requiring you to read X-Force, but you probably just did. It is helpful to know what (the generally awful) Beast did to create this terrorist attack, but we basically get a recap of his horrible act here. What makes this issue stand on its own is how Percy introduces an old man ready to dance with his wife and having him come back later on. It adds a nice arc to a character, however unimportant they may be to the X-Men.
Art by Scot Eaton with inks by Oren Junior and colors by Matthew Wilson capture the unnerving choice of Beast quite well through deep shadows in key moments. The plant creatures are cool looking, too, and different enough from Man-Thing to look like their own type of monster. Little details like Krakoan urinals, the dance floor, and Sage’s desk are well rendered. Fans looking for real-world celebrities can find Marvel’s Editor in Chief C.B. Cebulski and a few others too.
This book basically has two stories for the price of one. It opens with a five-issue story arc and then caps it off with a two-issue Hellfire Gala experience. It may be called X-Force, but Beast and his choices continue to be the most intriguing element as he’s a “good guy” yet clearly lacks the ethical and moral fortitude a hero should have. He’s a character to watch and he makes this book even better for it.
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