Uncanny X-Force #4
US: Jul 2013
Uncanny X-Force is one of my bigger disappointments of Marvel NOW!. Believe me, I wanted to like this book. I loved the cast, I was excited about the creative team of Sam Humphries and Ron Garney, and it was being sold as an action adventure series with emphasis on the action. There wasn’t really anything that could kill my enthusiasm for it… Those are the famous last words of a comicbook fan.
The fundamental flaws of this title come down to why starting your title with a decompressed six issue “getting the band together” story is usually a pretty bad idea. When this series started, Humphries had all of the cast members engaging in their own stories and slowly meeting up to form what would become the new X-Force by, supposedly, the end of the sixth issue. Psylocke is not dealing with the events of the previous Uncanny X-Force series very well so Wolverine sends her out of the Jean Grey School for Mutants to cool off. Storm (back with her classic mohawk look) joins her to aid her friend in her recovery. Meanwhile, Fantomex, Cluster, and Dark Fantomex (ugh) are all chasing after each other or something.
Psylocke and Storm are drawn into a conflict involving Puck (formerly of Alpha Flight) and Spiral (formerly of being a supervillain) and a mutant child and drug addicts and… and yeah, that’d be the problem. We’re four issues in and I cannot for the life of me, tell you what’s going on in this series with any conviction. I can tell you that in issue four, we have Psylocke fighting the Demon Bear that has possessed Bishop (former X-Man and former Cable adversary) and that Puck has lost his shirt.
Sam Humphries is a writer I’d heard a great many good things about. He came highly recommended for his independent work and Marvel has shown a great deal of faith in him by not only starting him off on the Ultimates but quickly moving him to this title (one of the original Marvel NOW! launches) along with Avengers A.I., post-Age of Ultron Avengers title. What’s unique here is that I really don’t have any true problems with Humphries’ writing per se. His grasp of these characters and their conflicts is clearly evident. Psylocke and Storm’s friendship is clear along with Psylocke’s hatred of Spiral and their history. Spiral’s motivation is also pretty clear in the book in terms of the mutant child she has chosen to protect that has brought her into conflict with X-Force. Where Humphries’ characterization falters is in the case of Puck and Fantomex/Cluster. Puck being the badass character of the book as a globe-trotting adventurer who can drink beers and charm ladies and fight like a bruiser is ham-fisted on every page he shows up in. What could have been a very charming take on the character seems to feel like a constant reminder that he’s our “Fonzie” of the book. The Fantomex storyline doesn’t seem to serve a purpose yet and knowing that Cluster is on the roster from promo materials for the title but Fantomex isn’t just serves as even more confusing. Add Dark Fantomex who has yet to truly show up and stand out, and it’s a subplot that is equal parts pointless and uninteresting.
This brings us back to the main plot of the book and its major issue: It’s just taking too long to get nowhere. By the end of issue four, we have a change in the story that finally necessitates Spiral joining X-Force (at least for the moment) but the cliffhanger seems lacking real stakes. If we had more backstory into why the Demon Bear was such a threat, maybe it would matter more that it has the upper hand at the end of the issue. Instead, we just know that it possessed Bishop for no reason and attacked the team. Also, there is no real exposition to explain Bishop to the reader. Even as a casual X-fan, I had no idea how he got his arm back or here from the last storyline that had him and Cable fighting over Hope in the timestream. A layman would have no clue who he was or why he was important if they just picked up this series with issue one.
All in all, I’m sure most of my problems with this title could be resolved with the end of the first storyarc but I think that’s where I am most disappointed: They’re very small problems that could easily have been handled with clearer plotting, exposition, and shuffling of some of the subplots in order to make for a more clear and concise adventure to introduce and assemble what could have, and could still be, a pretty interesting X-team.