Feb 5, 2009

X-Force 19

Alright boys and girls. This week I'm arming myself with a gun atop of a gun, that is attached to a bigger gun, to blast my way through X-Force (vol. 1) 19, from 1993. Written by Fabian Nicieza and penciled by Greg Capullo.

In the late 1980's, Rob Liefeld started writing and drawing the X-Men spin-off book New Mutants. With the introduction of Cable, the book became so popular that New Mutants was renamed X-Force. Liefeld soon left Marvel, along with other top name artists, to form Image. This issue is a few months after Liefeld's departure. Walking into this issue is much like entering the restroom after someone just finished… you can still smell the shit.

X-Force 19
Like most early 90's comics covers, the left-hand corner has headshots of the stars of the book. Which is fine, it's a quick way to know who is in the comic while shopping. The problem is that Domino and Cable's are there, when they DON'T appear in the comic at ALL. In fact Cable is suppose to be "dead".

Professor Xavier, Storm, and Cannonball, the only actual member of X-Force, appear on the main part of the cover. The action here is the most intense part of this book; at no point does anyone fight. Storm on this cover is a joke, she’s only in two pages, never wears her uniform, and has nothing to do with the main story. The cover title "The Dream... Divided!" is unfitting. And everyone looks like they are trying to take a collective shit… just saying.

We begin the story with an almost full body shot, minus the feet, of Boomer. She is admiring herself in her knew uniform. I won't say anything about the glasses…it was the early 90's. Comics were still in 80's withdrawal. But look at that… chest belt… thing? She has a pocket belt strapped across the top part of her chest, with another strip of pockets going between her breasts. How can this be comfortable at ALL… and who needs THAT many pockets? She seems to be wearing something that looks like a microphone headset or that thing that John Popper wears to play the harmonica. I'm not sure?

We are given ANOTHER title for this story, "The Open Hand, The Closed Fist" It seems one title isn't enough. It isn't great but it works better.

As Boomer is making come-fuck-me poses and talking to herself, Lila Cheney tells her Sam (Cannonball) is back. Boomer makes a backhanded comment about Cannonball wanting Lila. When Lila says they need to talk, Boomer says she can't cause she has a broken jaw.

SO that's what that thing is… her mouth is wired shut. Most people with broken jaws can't speak very well. I mean, I noticed that Boomer's lettering was smaller than everyone else's… I figured she was just slow or something.

Boomer is jumping for joy at the news that Lila doesn’t want Cannonball. But is cut short when Lila says it will be hard to get him if X-Force ends up doing time in jail. Wait… what did they do? I guess they'll explain that later.

We cut to Sunspot sitting in the grass talking about how he and the other New Mutants use to come out there for privacy. Cause Xavier's wheelchair couldn't go out onto the wet grass. I guess being a mutant doesn't mean your smart. Professor Xavier is the world's most POWERFUL psychic. We cut to Sunspot sitting in the grass talking about how he and the other New Mutants use to come out there for privacy. Cause Xavier's wheelchair couldn't go out onto the wet grass. I guess being a mutant doesn't He doesn't need to wheel out on the grass… he can go INSIDE your head and find out what you're THINKING.

Sunspot cries about how he doesn't know who he is anymore. To deal with his pain Sunspot shoots a solar-ray and burns some grass. It's very emo before emo was emo.

Meanwhile, Shatterstar, Feral, and Rictor are playing around in the danger room. The voice of the narrator tells us how they never had a chance to train under Xavier. As the workout ends, Beast thinks to himself in full sentences…because that's how nerds with PH D's think? Beast then questions what should be done with X-Force… again I’m sure they tell us what the moose in the room is.

As the three cool down after their workout, they talk about potentially going to jail… okay, so we know for sure that The Vault is a prison. At least that's something. During this Feral is cleaning herself… ewww! When did this become a furry comic? Rictor comments "Hard to believe even I miss these sessions."… huh? Didn't the man in the caption boxes JUST say how they had never been taught at the school? HOW can he miss them, if he NEVER had THEM!

All this takes place on a very badly laid out page. At some point an editor felt the need to place an arrow between panel one and two to show us where to go. This is "helpful" given that Feral's head from panel four is overlapped with panel one. Leading us from panel one to four. The editor should have made the artist redraw the damn page.

Down by the main computer, Siryn and Warpath are copying programs, cause, as Warpath puts it "Everyone does that." Being pre-Napster, X-Force is ahead of their time.

We now cut to a scene where Cannonball bitches to Xavier about his team being held in the mansion under house arrest. Storm intervenes, with her only part in the story, telling Cannonball that he is lucky that they are not in jail. Cannonball points out that they haven't been charged yet, and that they didn't do anything the X-Men haven't done already. Still, NOT telling us what they DID.

Cannonball goes on a rant about how Xavier had brought him into the New Mutants, only to hand the team over to Magneto. Which is true, Magneto ended up abandoning them with no place to go. Going from one crazy adventure to another, until Cable found them and took them in. Or as Cannonball puts it "a new driver comes along, maybe not the safest driver around". He makes it sound like Cable molested them at a rest stop.

From here we cut to a bunch of seemingly unimportant crap, that doesn't really forward the plot in this book. Probably, part of the running plot that isn't important enough to tell us about.

Back at the mansion, Boomer has Warpath and Cannonball walk into a HUGE (and I mean Liefeld huge) machine then walk out with their new uniforms—gratuitous number of pocket belts included. Seriously? Cannonball tells them that they are leaving. Everyone agrees. Because using someone's crap before leaving shows independence.

Outside Xavier talks to Siryn. (Who seems to be having a…"moment" with nature) She explains that not long ago, she felt dead inside and by joining X-Force she found others that were also dead inside… someone cue Nirvana, please. But together as a team, they stopped feeling dead and felt alive again. Sigh… cue Smashing Pumpkins.

X-Force confronts Xavier about leaving. Telling him that his dream is as simple as Magneto's separatist theory. Xavier tells them that they needs to pick between the path of violence and salvation. Cannonball says they will use both. Cause the closed fist can be used to hurt, or to protect, which Cannonball demonstrates by opening his fist to reveal a mouse… that Feral then eats…again, eww! Then says the open hand can be used to slap. Understanding his point Xavier lets them leave.

Not bad overall… but what the HELL! We are never told what they did that got them put under house arrest. There isn't even an asterisk to tell us where it happened. I know, I know… "I would know what happened if I had read... blah blah blah." But if I'm only reading THIS comic, I need to know; it only needs a sentence, or a "Previously" page at the beginning. It's kind of important. It is the only thing going on in the comic. You don't have any action to grapple your attention on.

The artwork in this comic is typical of the time, with Liefeld inspirations, pointless, over-the-top melodrama, and LOTS of pockets. The writing is a bit unfocused, but unlike most X-Force comics at the time, there is a weight of meaning. It talks about the grey area that is walking the path between two extremes, and using violence for the right reasons. Whereas Xavier and Magneto are metaphors for Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. X-Force would be the Black Panther Party of the mutant world.

A lot of the early 90's was filled with lackluster work that flooded the market. But it is an important part of the history of comics. It is when many greedy people tried to take advantage of a booming market only to cause a crash. Artists broke away from the big two for reasons that had more to do with greed then creative freedom. But among the rough there is some diamonds of importance.

Comics in the early 90's are kind of like middle school, or a long-term relationship that ends… we aren't willing to write off a huge part of our lives as "trash" no matter how bad it was. We need to look back at this time in comics and figure out what WAS good, what we learned from it, and not simply throw the baby out with the bath water.

1 comment:

J. Thomas McAlister said...

This was the first issue of X-Force that I ever read. It was one of the very first comics that I ever read. For me, at my age at the time, this was such an impactful and thought-provoking story. Cannonball's speech resonated for me for some reason, and I still love it to this day. I'm sad that X-Force became some kind of farce a few years after I stopped reading it. These classic issues from the first volume were enjoyable and interesting to read.