The mutant team tasked with taking on the darker, less savory missions continues into its third year, having been one of the few titles not cancelled and rebooted following the Trials of X era. Volume 5 (reprinting issues #27-33) is a cornucopia of action and violence, showing why this title continues to churn along. It’s a solid book with a well-defined identity, a distinct cast of characters, and some appropriately gruesome art to complement the narrative.
In this volume, X-Force confronts Cerebrax, which absorbs the consciousness and powers of the stored mutant data on Krakoa. Kraven the Hunter, looking to test his title as the most competent hunter on the planet, makes an appearance, giving the capable mutant fighting force a run for their money. Deadpool is thrown into the mix, more revelations of Beast’s questionable moral turn emerge, and the X-Force engages in ample battles against dinosaurs and beasts. It’s a fun, energetic book.
The art, competently provided by Robert Gill, is a high point of this book. Gill perfectly captures the tone and energy of this title, drawing more than a few grisly murders all while giving the fight scenes vitality. Gill’s no slouch in drawing expressive character designs either, with each member of the cast feeling distinct with subtle nods to their inner thoughts present in the line work.
This isn’t my favorite arc; in fact, it seems like it is keeping its powder dry for future events yet to unfold in the X-Universe. But Benjamin Percy has been adept at finding character-driven narratives to navigate his cast through while major events are permeating elsewhere. In fact, this book is a textbook case of how to give meaningful action to the story without moving the plot in gigantic directions. You simply don’t need to know the ins-and-outs of every piece of Krakoan intrigue, as the story on the page is gratifyingly contained.
It may not be a major marketing point, but this trade is longer than the standard 4-5 issues collections that dominate comic storytelling these days. I’ve long felt that the move towards having every comic story fit the trade format has resulted in a loss of short, one or two issue tales. Each story is either enlarged or truncated, giving less freedom to the writers to construct an appropriately paced plot. I imagine most comic fans would prefer to just have an off-issue side story buttressing two longer storylines. Thankfully, this trade is intrinsically two different storylines collected (the Cerebrax and Kraven arcs) and doesn’t feel overly padded to meet page requirements.
The slew of variant covers is reprinted as full-page spreads and feature a slew of recognizable talent working at Marvel these days. Overall, this is a fine book with great comic liveliness, even if the Cerebrax story feels a beat too long. X-Force continues to be the gory, superhero lynchpin in the X-lineup, and one hopes that the creative team behind it has a long future ahead.
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