I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Uncanny X-Force #1

Now that the marriage between Storm and Black Panther has been annulled and the relationship between Psylocke and Fantomex appears to be over, the two X-women have a decent amount to talk about. Of course, in true superhero form, these conversations occur while the two are putting their lives on the line for the greater good. In this first issue, Ororo and Betsy accept a mission from the premiere Canadian superhero Puck.

The cover (Olivier Coipel) and interior (Ron Garney) art in this book is absolutely amazing. In a reverse of Schindler's List, black and white is used to distinguish characters from their colorful surroundings for narrative purposes. When it comes to illustration, sometimes it feels like you're looking at scribbles that anyone could have put together, but Uncanny X-Force reminds you that illustration is an art. The artist has just as much power, and possibly more, when compared to the writer in developing the characters and the narrative.

Writer Samuel Ryan Humphries shows that he knows what he's doing - and thank goodness, because I've never heard of him before Uncanny X-Force - by choosing some interesting characters, showing that he's done his homework when it comes to their past and their motivations, and showing that he cares about them by showcasing important parts of their lives. In addition to the interesting discussion of loves lost between Storm and Psylocke, it is interesting to see mostly forgotten characters like Puck and Spiral in this story, and it is especially interesting to note that Spiral is one of a couple characters responsible for Psylocke losing her eyes and having them replaced by bionic spy eyes. If you haven't recently read Uncanny X-Men from the mid- to late-80s, you might have completely passed over this rivalry. I have some hope that Humphries might give Puck a similar treatment. Let's not forget that Puck used to be a giant of a man. There is some interesting story there.

On the down side, I am a little skeptical of the future of this title. Part of me wishes that this were the new Alpha Flight, starring Storm, Psylocke and Puck, but sadly I'm not so lucky. Instead, I see Storm in a really weird position. She is a woman who has always valued life and balance, even when she got really mad about losing her powers and decided to show the world by growing a mohawk, but I'm suddenly supposed to believe that she has no scruples with joining an assassination squad? This is the single character who had the balls to point out the moral problems with Cyclops and his Extinction Team after the division between team Cyclops and team Wolverine. Furthermore, the characters who are teased at the end of the book don't interest me, and I have a hard time believing that interesting stories can be built around them.

The fact of the matter, however, is that the art, the story, and the character development that I've seen so far has been strong enough to keep me reading to the next issue. In some ways this book is phenomenal (and by that, I mean in terms of art), but in all ways it meets the minimum expectation for a comic: it makes you want to pick up the next issue.

I've syndicated this review at Examiner. You can read it here. If you click on it a few times, spend some time there, or navigate to a new page, I might get some money. But I'm only asking that of you if you liked reading the article here and want to show your appreciation.

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