X-Force is a book that I’ve changed my mind about quite a bit throughout its run. It’s a book that serves an important purpose in the Krakoan status quo, but it’s also basically the same book that X-Force has historically been. Some of its cast has been highlighted well, but others remain underutilized (why isn’t Juggernaut part of it????). Each of its plots have had high highs; likewise, each of its plots have had low lows. X-Force is a book that has been largely defined by inconsistency, possibly this volume most of all.
There are concepts in this book that really work for me. The volume opens with two issues about “Man-Slaughter,” which pull together the major plot lines involving telefloronic technology, and Xeno. Both plots haven’t been perfectly executed throughout the series, but here they work together really well, highlighting the murkiness of X-Force as a team, along with broader Krakoan themes of environmental cohabitation and the flaws of authoritarian leadership.
The volume has more than just that, though — highlights being an adamantium surfboard, Quentin finding meaning as a babysitter, and an adamantium surfboard for Logan. It also has a reveal in “The Chronicler” that does good work in linking the Russian plot and Beast’s whole deal, but I’m afraid that’s the end of the good parts of the Russian plot.
I think all the Russia stuff works on the surface, and is an actually interesting way to use Colossus, but it ultimately comes off like Russiagate fanfic at best, and as anti-Communist or even Red Scare-y at worst. I can tell the intent is at least in part to compare and contrast X-Force to something recognizably authoritarian, but it kind of just serves to fear monger in lazy ways. It’s not like I want or need Russians to be depicted in a different way, but the series fails to stick the landing, and I think it makes the overall tone more awkward than intended.
That aside, there are some other questionable choices in this volume. It continues one of my biggest problems of overly focusing on Logan, even while he has a (very good!) solo series. It also makes a fairly bizarre choice of setting up a plot line that only pays off in Inferno, which then only really matters for one page, at least so far. And I could never forget one of my least favorite half issue plots of the Krakoa era: There’s a Russian Nesting Doll Inside Beast and he Needs Black Tom’s Help to Remove it! It was boring, somehow.
Ultimately, I enjoy X-Force despite its stumbles. It gets to point at the Krakoan experiment in-universe and expose its flaws. Where most X-books shy away from criticizing it, X-Force actively pulls back the curtain and names Xavier’s corruption. The team breaks Krakoa’s laws, and is ethically rotten more often than not, all in the name of national security.
X-Force is inconsistent. At times it feels fun but unimportant; others it’s important but boring. Its cynicism is necessary to balance out the utopian view some writers have of the burgeoning mutant nation, but it can feel trite given Beast‘s gradual ethical decline and X-Force’s general depiction. Even with all of that, though, I’ll keep following along. Hopefully there’ll be more Cassara next volume.
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