Retro Review: X-Force #1 by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza

Retro Review #2:  X-Force 1

Published by Marvel Comics

“Rob Liefeld – Everything but…

Fabian Nicieza – Words”

This is the one comic that I hoped I wasn’t going to pick for this column.  But rules are rules and I said that I would cover whatever I randomly pulled out of the long box.  This column shows that I’m a man of my word.

The Plot

This issue opens in Antartica where X-Force (Cable, Domino, Shatterstar, Boom Boom, Warpath, Cannonball…and Feral) have tracked down the MLF (Mutant Liberation Front).  They take the cronies down with ease and that’s when Forearm (the mutant with four arms…yes, really, I’m not lying…Google it), Kamikaze, Wildside, and Reaper move in to battle.  There’s a lot of banter amongst X-Force throughout the issue thus far during the battle.  Shatterstar moves in quickly to face the MLF members and slices off Reaper’s hand.  Forearm has Cable trapped until Warpath is able to make the save.  The remaining MLF members are teleported away by Thumbelina while Stryfe decides that the four currently fighting X-Force are expendable and activates the self-destruct sequence.  Feral then breaks Wildside’s mouth, but Zero quickly teleports Wildside away much to the surprise of Cable.  Stryfe makes his escape, which angers Cable as he activates the bodyslide (teleporter).  In the meantime, Sunspot is training with Gideon, which is making him become more aggressive.  Commander Bridge is now at the scene of the battle and is determined to take down Cable.  Back in Upstate New York, Cable tells Cannonball about Tyler who was like a son to him.  However, Tyler was killed by Stryfe , which explains Cable’s grudge towards him.  Domino interrupts and sends Cannonball to meet the rest of the team after which Cable reveals his telekinetic abilities.  Back with Sunspot and Gideon, they attend a meeting, which turns into a hostage taking by Black Tom Cassidy.  While this is happening, Commander Bridge decides to utilize Weapon X to bring Cable in.

The Breakdown

So this was the one of the comics that the majority of people might think about with relation to the ‘90s.  I’m not as rabid as others when it comes to bashing Liefeld’s work, but in saying that I’m not a huge fan either.  I remember having fun with friends reading books back then and I even purchased last year’s The Infinite (by Image) just for the sake of nostalgia.  Anyone can find flaws with his work so I’m going to focus more on any positives that I can find.  I recall this coming bagged and with a trading card, but I cannot recall which card I had.  The wraparound cover was still a neat effect during this time as it was not yet used and abused.  This title had built up quite a bit of steam as New Mutants became more popular during the Cable run.  The confrontation with MLF was intense at the time as two of the members were severely injured by X-Force and it was effective at showing how the team had moved beyond being the New Mutants.  The decision to expand (or retcon) Cable’s abilities to include telekinesis turned out to be a very good one.  It eventually led to him becoming the Askani Son and becoming a lot less one-dimensional (which even as a kid I found to be a problem).  The introduction of the Tyler character also helped to give Cable and Stryfe more of a backstory.  Having Sunspot still being in the title was important for me as a reader because he and Cannonball were the only original members that were in the book at this point (I was a huge fan of the earlier New Mutants).  I’m not really a fan of Liefeld’s art, but it did seem as though he was having a lot of fun with this issue.  Some might have quips with how he draws horizontal lines in Shatterstar’s hair that cross over with the lines that make up the hair strands creating the checkered Archie hair effect, but on long hair (and I honestly can’t blame them).  However, when re-reading this comic I see enthusiasm as it is obvious that he does have a true love for the medium.  This comic sold 5 million copies at the time so why the hell would he change up his style if it wasn’t so popular at the time? The numbers for X-Force 1 and the issues of New Mutants from issues 86-100 showed him that many people loved what he was doing.  At the time of first reading this book, I may not have liked it a lot, but it was entertaining.  Even today I found it entertaining to read.

BUT…

If this book was published today it would have been a “meh” for me.  At the conclusion of New Mutants 100, it was revealed that Stryfe looked like Cable.  This wasn’t really touched upon in X-Force 1.  The reveal with Cable’s telekinesis had me immediately thinking back in the day “why didn’t he use it against Hodge during the X-tinction Agenda?” I just wish they would’ve taken a few panels to attempt to explain it somehow rather than have Cable just being mysterious about it.  Also, he used it to “simplify his grunt work?” He has a drill, a crescent wrench, and a mallet/hammer floating in the air while he’s working on his ship.  So how is exerting himself mentally (even before the techno-virus revelation) easier than reaching 1 foot towards the ground to grab his tools? Also, Cable is shocked when Zero teleports Wildside away (“Zero ported Wildside away! What’s their game?”), but reading this today it just seemed like a good battle strategy.  Why not use teleport a wounded member out of harm’s way? I could go on and on about the problems with the art (big legs, skinny legs, no legs, huge chests with little heads, the awkward appearance of Thumbelina, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.).  However, I’ll just mention three things I noticed this time around.  One was on the initial splash page where Warpath and Feral have the exact same lines and facial features.  A few pages later when Forearm has Cable in a clinch, Warpath is moving in and this is where I noticed two things.  One is that Warpath appears to be wearing lipstick.  Second is that his arms appear to be positioned to club Forearm, but on the following page he’s laying him out with a left punch.  I don’t care how strong someone is, but those are just poor mechanics for fighting.  I could say more about characters like Feral, but I have more X-Force issues so there’s a chance I might have to review one of them in the future and I don’t want to get too redundant with my criticisms.  One more thing, I loathed Cannonball’s goggles.  He wears them when he’s blasting, but he’s almost invulnerable when he does so…so why does he need the goggles? If anything they would probably obscure his vision during battle.  One more thing more (?), I don’t know why, but when I read MLF I always see it as MILF.  Seriously.  I don’t even use the term; therefore, it must be a visual illusion of some sort?

Rating: 5/10 (rating when originally read 7.5/10)

This book is mostly enjoyable on a nostalgic level.  I remember my cousin getting psyched over the reveal that Cable had mutant powers.  Once again, the ads were enjoyable (damn Battletoads took a few rentals to finish the game though) and brought back a lot of memories.  Looking at the characters I can see that this was the dawn of the armor costumes, which became so prevalent during the ‘90s.  One of the things that bumps up the rating for the comic up is that it served as the genesis of the evolution of Cable’s character.  Also, they removed two longstanding characters (Richter and Wolfsbane) and replaced them with new characters (Shatterstar and Feral).  The team had quite a different look to it, which was a gutsy move at the time as it no longer looked like the New Mutants at all.  This team had a much different approach (willing to kill if necessary) than the X-Men, which did make for an interesting contrast.  I did say that I would try and focus more on the positives for this book, but make no mistake, I wouldn’t exactly call it a masterpiece.

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