X-Force #1 (August, 1991)
“A Force to be Reckoned With”
By Rob Liefeld, except for…
Words – Fabian Nicieza
Letters – Chris Elipoulos
Colors – Brad Vancata
Editor – Bob Harras
Chief – Tom DeFalco
Cover Price: $1.50
Alrighty, two things before we start today. First, Blogger still sucks… but, I suppose that’s not really “news”. Second, and most important, as of yesterday we’re officially back in the studio putting together the third episode of From Claremont to Claremont: An X-Men Podcast.
From the feel of it, this episode could easily be fifteen-hours long… lots of conversation, a few “side books” are part of this go-round, and I think I’ve come up with a pretty fun “hook” for the co-hosts to have a good time with. I’m hoping to have it done by the first Saturday of July… but, really, it won’t be the end of the world if it doesn’t quite hit that target.
That said, since a) Blogger sucks and won’t let me upload images, and b) I’m in an FCTC kind of mood… I’m going to revisit something I put together for the first episode of the show… a look into the first issue of X-Force.
You’re welcome… and I’m sorry.
We open in Antarctica, where our new team is in hot pursuit of the Mutant Liberation Front. Upon realization that the MLF base is right underfoot,
the New Teen Titans X-Force bursts in to proactively take the fight to the baddies. Ya see, that’s what X-Force is all about: being proactive… at least this early on. The team has a real “take no prisoners” approach, and we look on while Cable, Cannonball, Warpath, Boom Boom, Domino, Shatterstar, and Feral beat up some generic bad guys. Before long, some… er, “name” (or, at the very least “named”) villains show up. It’s Forearm, Kamikaze, Wildside, and Reaper. Woof.
It’s established pretty quickly here that X-Force ain’t nothin’ to mess around with. Shatterstar squares off with Reaper… and, get this… cuts his left-hand clean off!
Cable (somehow) gets attacked from behind by Forearm. I thought X-Force were being attacked from the front… but, whattayagonnado? Maybe the characters in the book were just as bamboozled by the bad perspective and anatomy as the readers are? Whatever the case, Forearm’s got Cable in a bear-hug, which gives Warpath the opportunity to make the save.
As all this is going on, we check in with Cable’s target… the man called Stryfe. We also have to turn the book sideways to fully appreciate this two-page spread. Stryfe informs… Thumbelina that it’s time for them to bug out, and instructs his diminutive assistant to contact the one called Zero.
Back at the battle, Feral faces off with Wildside… probably because they have the same hairstylist. I mean, seriously, they have the exact same haircut… even down to the weird curly bang-whisps! Feral reaches into Wildside’s mouth and snaps his jaw. Ya see? Ya see? X-Force doesn’t screw around!
Cable calls Feral off before she can kill the MLFer (X-Forcers can only kill in self-defense… not for sport!)… to which, she suggests… if they let him get away, he might just be the one who nails them in the end. Ya know, that’s not the worst argument.
Just then, Zero pops onto the scene… soon joined by Stryfe. Cable empties his laser blaster pistol thingie in the bad guy’s direction… which makes me wonder why (and when) he put down his over-sized Liefeldian super-rifle. Zero opens a portal and Stryfe slips through… however, not before setting the entire joint to self-destruct.
Cable orders a “Bodyslide by Six”, which blinks the the X-Forcers out to their escape craft. On the flight home, they discuss the skirmish they had just survived… Tabitha seems more preoccupied with how fashionable their outfits are.
We shift scenes to some office building… probably in New York City. Here, Sunspot and friggin’ Gideon are “training” for their next corporate raid. I don’t think they fully grasp how corporate raids go, but whatever. Gideon appears to have taken a mentor role in Roberto’s life… hopefully, that doesn’t include hairstyling tips, because… yeesh, Gideon’s hair has mystified me for thirty-years now! It never looks the same! Sometimes there’s this weird mullet below his weird ponytail… sometimes it’s gone… it’s just all-around unpleasant to look at. Which, I suppose, makes it a pretty good fit for this book! Anyhoo, they’ve got a meeting at the World Trade Center… which we’ll be getting to in a bit.
Back in Antarctica we meet… oh boy, G.W. Bridge. He’s a S.H.I.E.L.D. guy (or at least S.H.I.E.L.D.-adjacent) and he’s trying to track down… and bring down Cable. He looks kind of like when you twist an action-figure at it’s torso, so it’s butt is in the front? I mean, he’s just a complete mess of a visual. He informs an underdressed-underling to contact Nick Fury about the Cable sitch.
Speaking of Cable, we rejoin him at X-Force’s base in the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. He’s performing some maintenance on their jet when he’s approached by Cannonball. Sam chats him up a bit, trying to pry out any information about his past. Cable is a bit hesitant, but shares the story of a friend he’d lost to Stryfe and the Mutant Liberation Front. A man called Tyler… who was almost like a son to our man. Artwise, we get a very weird visual of Cable sitting on air while shooting his over-sized gun. The chat is interrupted by Domino, who informs Sam that he’s late for some training.
Once Sam’s out of sight, Cable starts using his telekinesis to quickly grab some tools and complete the repairs on the jet. Domino questions how much longer Nate’s going to keep his powers a secret. Cable basically tells her not to worry about it.
We next shift scenes to the World Trade Center, where Sunspot and friggin’ Gideon are about to pop in for a meeting. Once seated, they’re introduced to another interested party in the corporate hoo-ha, a man by the name of Black Tom Cassidy! Lemme tell ya, Cassidy knows how to dress for success! Anyhoo, Berto instantly recognizes Tom as Banshee’s evil cousin.
Tom sits at the conference table and informs everyone present that they are now his hostages. Hmm… maybe it’s me that doesn’t understand how corporate raids are done?
We wrap up back with ol’ front-butt, who just cleared his Cable-quest with Colonel Nick Fury. After being given the “a-okay”, Bridge suggests that it’s time to call in… Weapon X!
Sometimes you just want a popcorn movie, right? I mean, this is a book that gets a lot of flack for being among the vaunted “worst comics evaaaaar”, but… I gotta say, it’s really not that bad. When I think of “worst ever” comics, those are stories I would never want to read no matter what my mood. Things like Superman: Grounded or Heroes in Crisis. There isn’t a frame of mind I could possibly be in to make me want to read that garbage again.
But, this? Yeah… I could totally see myself sitting down and having a good time with it. I read the first few issues of Youngblood every year (which, I suppose might say more about me than anything), so I can definitely appreciate “extreme” early 90’s comics cheese. I think there are a lot of people who can… whether they’d actually admit to it online or not (gotta keep up appearances as a “comics scholar” on the Twitter, right?), is another story altogether.
So, whatta we got here? It’s sorta like the “Patient Zero” of Marvel Mutantdom in the 1990’s. We’ve got angst, we’ve got violence, we’ve got horrendous hairstyles, weird armor, and odd articulation, we’ve got secrets… and a whole bunch of threats coming from all angles.
Now some of the things that stand out to me from this issue (not including the New Teen Titans swipe that opened the issue) were the mysteries surrounding Cable, and the “mission statement” of X-Force (as compared to the rest of the X-Family).
Cable being shrouded in mystery from… well, just about every angle… really spoke to me as a fan of 90’s comics. We didn’t know Cable’s origin, where he came from, who he was… heck, we didn’t even know his powers at this point. This was like the “bread and butter” of 90’s comics. These mysteries would bubble along, dropping a breadcrumb here and there to keep the readers interested and motivated to continue following along.
Sure, this sort of thing quickly became overdone and incredibly “tropey”. There were only so many times we could meet a brand-new character, who somehow had this elaborate history hanging out with all the coolest mutants. It’s like, in order to legitimize the new characters, the writers had to slide in this bit about “Yeah, [new character] and Wolverine went on such-and-such a mission together that had a profound impact on both of their lives… only Wolverine never bothered to mention it to anybody yet.” Still though, in small doses, I really dig it.
Might be a case of “rose-colored glasses”… I dunno. The sort of speculation that would surround new characters was so much “richer” before the internet was mainstream. There were some crazy theories about new characters… I mean, Cable himself was assumed to be connected to Magneto, due to a) his hair color, and b) the fact that he TKed a wrench in this issue. Today, if there were any questions (well, if there were any new non-derivative characters introduced in mainstream comics anymore), some goofball would just relentlessly “tweet” at the writer… who would then give some chuckleheaded reply ruining the mystery for everyone.
The X-Force “mission statement” was… nice while it lasted, I guess? Their whole gimmick was that they’d be the “proactive” X-Team… they wouldn’t wait around for the bad guys to strike, and instead hit ’em head on. This doesn’t last long… not far into the run, X-Force is rendered into “just another X-Team”, reacting to the bad guys (usually while lamenting the fact that they’re supposed to be the proactive team).
Overall… this issue, well… it is what it is. You probably already know whether or not you like this one… it’s Rob Liefeld at his Rob Liefeldiest, which for some might be a pro or con. It also might be a “private pro” and “public con”… remember, we gotta keep up appearances as sophisticated fans of serialized sequential art!
I’d say, if it’s been awhile since you last looked at this… maybe give it a peek… and, while it’s cool to poke fun at it, maybe don’t try so hard to hate it.