X-Men Review: Deadpool vs. X-Force #1 by Swierczynski and Larraz

Deadpool vs. X-Force #1 (of 4)

Written by: Duane Swierczynski
Art by: Pepe Larraz
Colored by: Nolan Woodard
Lettered by: Joe Sabino
Cover by: Shane Davis and Morry Hollowell
Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $3.99 US

The Cut: Billionaire pioneer of time travel Francis Talbot hired Deadpool to go back in time and prevent his grandson’s death during Operation Desert Storm. Deadpool instead goes back to the Revolutionary War and wreaks havoc on history. Cable and X-Force go back in time to stop him. This all happens before New Mutants #98, before X-Force was founded, where Cable and Domino (actually not Domino if my history works out) take Warpath, Cannonball, and Boom-Boom to go after him.

Should You Read It: No

I’m let down. I’m an X-Force fan. It was one of the books I picked up just as I was getting into X-Men in 1991, as a young and impressionable 4th grader. The guns, metal arms, femme fatales, and myriad conspiracies (Tolliver! Deadpool! Copycat! Gideon and X-Ternals!) were just the hooks I needed. I have the final issue of New Mutants signed by Rob Liefeld, a feat which took me until 2010 to accomplish. If anyone asks me about the various X-Force titles over the years, I am the guy who will brighten, adjust my posture, and talk about Boom-Boom, Feral, Siryn, and Adam-X (Yes, the Could Have Been Summers Brother) with a nostalgic glint and enthusiastic tone.

If any of the above makes you roll your eyes, sigh, or cringe, this book is not for you and you should move along. If you did not understand anything in The Cut or the opening paragraph, this book is not for you, and you’re better served reading anything else than the rest of this review. If you understood all of that, and stand here with me, proudly brandishing pouches, remembering Greg Capullo’s debut on X-Force #15, and wondering why Feral and Shatterstar aren’t in this issue – the recap page tells us they were getting their hair done – you’re still better off leaving.
Save your money and your time. Savour the schadenfreude that comes from knowing I read this and wrote this up while you read better books.

Still here? Okay. I warned you. Let’s do this. Hit ’em hard.

Duane Swierczynski has captured the writing style of the early nineties. Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld developed a terse, pulp style back in the X-Force build up and early days. There was just enough Chris Claremont narration and description to pull you in and establish the scene, weaved with melodrama. Swierczynski emulated the style to great effect, keeping the story moving at a breakneck pace that allows you little time to soak in the details. X-Force was all about the constant intrigue and payout cycle, and if you stopped to question the stories, you’d find they were ridiculous, even by X-Men standards. This story is no exception.

The difference is, the old stories had a mystique and soap operatic intrigue. There was history amongst the team and their foes, clear goals and wants and needs that always conflicted with the mission. The story in this issue is shallow, as are the characters. It jumps in at full speed, doesn’t help out new or readers, and presents a premise ridiculous by X-Force standards. The plotting and set pieces in this issue are like hastily scribbled X-Force fan fiction, with old Liefeld and Capullo pages cut and pasted to be rearranged for whited out and Bic penned in captions and dialogue. There’s nothing here of entertainment without Pepe Larraz’s art propping it up.

Pepe Larraz has a bold and exaggerated style that reminds me more of the mid to late 90s Marvel books, but feels right at home with X-Force. His character designs are wonderful. Everyone has a distinct silhouette, shape, and size. There’s a lot of body language at play in the action scenes. Boom-Boom looks like the Tabitha I had a crush on, all over the place and dangerous. Warpath looks like he has weight when he charges out of the page, and Cannonball looks as streamlined as a human jet should. Dom and Cable just stand around with guns, but I challenge any 90s Marvel reader to tell me that isn’t accurate.

Thought so. Moving on.

Nolan Woodard’s colors complement the linework beautifully. A bold, very 90s, very tacky palette is what the book demands. After all, Cannonball wore light purple and Boom-Boom was squeezed into bubblegum pink with garish green glasses. For me, the coloring is key, and captures the era just as well as the writing. There are some interesting choices for backgrounds and contrasts, and I like it. It’s bright and energetic.

There is loving attention to detail with Warpath and Boom-Boom’s old outfits, or the jokes about pouches, and Deadpool not speaking in yellow. That’s right, he didn’t always have that.
And then it all falls apart. Some of it is basic comic construction, and some of it is me being a nostalgic buzz kill, but it’s hard to imagine this book existing for anyone but people like me, so that’s where I feel justified nitpicking.

Deadpool was not always a happy prankster. He was a ruthless killer. He had one liners, in that bad action movie way, but he wasn’t silly. The Deadpool on display is still the madcap, non sequitor spouting madman we know, and it feels out of place. Why go to the trouble to roll back time and specifically visit this era if you’re going to fudge that detail?

It especially feels out of place because due to the wonky time travel mechanics which make the story possible, it all feels like a waste of time. The worst way to write time travel, in my opinion, is a story where it all happens in a bubble and doesn’t affect anything. It’s the first issue of four, so there’s time for that, yet the issue is quite heavy handed in explaining “not only must they repair the damage to the past…and survive…but their memories the very battle itself must be purged”.

We’re retconning in the first showdown between Cable’s squad and Deadpool on the basis of it not being remembered. That is infuriating. It’s a little lazy.

There’s quite a bit that’s lazy when you read the issue a second or third time. Deadpool is running around being crazy in the past right from the start, and even he doesn’t divulge his motivation. Cable picks up on this (back then we didn’t know he had psi powers, and he used future tech), assaulted a time travel creator, throws his team back there. One three page fight later, and we’re thrown to a cliffhanger. Why call it X-Force if we’re missing staples like Sunfire, Feral, Shatterstar, and even Rictor?

It’s fast, it’s ludicrous, and even with the nostalgia factor, there isn’t much here.

What made me even more annoyed was the recap page at the end, which tries cut you off by addressing some of these issues and even admits, sure, this technically isn’t X-Force, but it sort of is, right?

I would have preferred a classified Zero Mission that plays more with the story surrounding the founding of the team than a shameless time traveling deadpool story. X-Force may have been loud, violent, and fashionably utilitarian with their pouches and padding, but the whole issue and set up felt like the wrong style of over the top action and motivation.

As of this issue, I can’t recommend it, especially for a $3.99 US cover price. Should the story get some breathing room, and maybe make a little more sense in terms of respectfully nodding to that era for the team rather than seemingly cherry picking things about them, I’ll see if it’s worth your time. I will award some points if the Domino Is An Imposter bit comes up. Then take them away since time wimey stuff negates the reveal anyway.

For now, avoid it unless you’re like me and just want that X-Force splash page torn out and taped above your desk like it’s 1991.

3/10

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