Every Wednesday we take turns to delve into our trusty longboxes, pluck out a dusty back issue, and give you our thoughts. We’ll also try and place it in the context of the time it was originally published.
With the new series of X-Force riding high on the charts, it almost feels like the 1990s again. So, I figured, why not go and see what the 1990s actually felt like? Rob Liefeld plots and draws, Fabian Nicieza scripts, and as I recall, a lot of New Mutants fans get very, very upset and what’s being done to their characters.
Rising from the ashes of New Mutants, X-Force #1 features the former New Mutants as they strike out on their own under the guardianship of the still relatively new character, Cable. The idea behind X-Force is that Cable thinks the X-Men are too reactive, and he wants to train the new guys to go out there and fight the mutant threats before they cause trouble. It’s actually a pretty good idea, and one which applies (more or less) to the current incarnation of the team.
Now, with a solid idea, we then introduce Rob Liefeld into the equation. He’s a real divisive figure. You either love his work, or you hate it. And if you love it, you are objectively wrong. Nonetheless, something about his artwork appeals to some section of people, and he’s made a career out of being a severe unit shifter, so bafflement aside, he was justifying his appearance by making X-Force one of the biggest selling debuts of all time, as it hit the stands during what was already one of comics’ biggest sales periods ever, and shattered records.
The comic is partially redeemed by Nicieza’s script, though I’d hate to think how it felt plotting over Liefeld’s pencils. The story opens with a trademark incomprehensible fight scene, though it does actually show X-Force doing what they planned – taking the fight directly to the MLF in their own base. There’s some really painful dialogue going on, though this sort of thing was as stylistic in the 90s as Bendis-style naturalism and decompression are now, so it’s hard to blame it too much. Eventually, Stryfe and some of the MLF escape, and then there are a few disconnected scenes showing various parties reacting to the aftermath of the battle. Mixed in is a scene with Sunspot, who wasn’t in X-Force at this point, hanging out with Gideon, one of those long-forgotten 90s villains with no personality or motivation worth remembering. The book ends with Bridge calling in Department K and… WEAPON X! Unfortunately, next issue this turns out to be Deadpool, or Kane, or someone else who isn’t Wolverine. Ah well.
Truly, this comic doesn’t remotely compare with modern standards. It looks horrible, and even Nicieza’s dialogue can’t save it. The title makes the frankly odd pacing decision of opening with a massive fight scene and ending with a bunch of subplot advancements. The one thing I enjoyed about re-reading this was seeing Zero, Stryfe’s mute teleporter who was, back in the day, quite a cool character. Probably because he looked really badass, but never did anything. Unfortunately, he lived up to his name, and continued to never do anything before he died in an issue of Excalibur, of all the places to make your exit.
Truly, reading X-Force one was a horrible experience that I do not wish to re-visit. The modern incarnation is much better, probably because it’s got Wolverine in it, not a sprawling cast of under-developed nobodies. X-Force #1 is so abundantly available, you can probably find a copy for 25p. Try to save your money.