With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artists: Clayton Crain, Mike Choi, Sonia Oback, Gabriele Dell’Otto
Issues: X-Force (2008) #17-25, X-Necrosha, X-Necrosha: The Gathering, X-Force: Sex & Violence #1-3*
*I also included X-Necrosha tie-ins New Mutants #6-8 and X-Men: Legacy #231-234
Remember when I was just discussing Uncanny X-Men and bemoaning the emphasis on big crossover events? Well pretty much right after the events of Utopia we swing right into X-Necrosha, an X-Force event involving the vampire Selene and an army of resurrected mutants.
Thankfully the story-telling is much more structured, taking place entirely within X-Force while X-Men: Legacy and New Mutants take over some tangentially related story arcs with different teams. X-Necrosha is an interesting idea but ultimately the weakest arc out of an otherwise continued great run of X-Force.
The Complete Collection Volume 2 opens with a four-issue arc centered on X-23, writers Kyle and Yost’s best creation. “Not Forgotten” (#17-20) acts as a psuedo-sequel to X-23’s storyline in New X-Men as well as her two previous solo mini-series. X-23 has been one of my favorite characters, and that makes her capture and brutal, bloody torture in this story all the more horrific.
The story is a bit of a rehash, as an organization is attempting to create an army of X-23’s using her chemical trigger that turns her into a walking murder machine. With the help of a former SHIELD agent she escapes the facility, though we’re left with the depressing end that they’ll never stop trying to exploit her.
I liked Mike Choi’s work on the first arc. Unfortunately Clayton Crain returns for the big X-Necrosha event (#21-25). His style is much darker and more stylized – to the point where it’s actually quite difficult to tell what’s going on in a scene and who’s who. If Logan’s not wearing his mask, it was hard for me to tell the difference between him and fellow raven-haired warrior Warpath. Given the amount of battles and characters, I found this style to be a detriment to the story.
X-Necrosha follows an incredibly long plot thread that Kyle and Yost teased years ago in New X-Men. The ancient vampire Selene has finally returned, along with her new love, former New X-Man Wither and a host of newly resurrected X-Men.
Despite a ton of space given to Selene’s backstory within New X-Men and X-Force I still found her an incredibly lame, one-dimensional villain. She’s a badly stereotyped sexy seductress vampire that struts around in lingerie. Her plan is to raise all the dead mutants on Genosha using the Technorganic virus and absorb their essence (despite being recently dead) to ascend to godhood. It’s not terribly compelling and mostly leads to a lot of fighting on Utopia against formerly dead friends and foes.
Eventually the X-Men figure out what’s going on, and Cyclops sends X-Force to Genosha to take on Selene and her cohorts. It ends up being surprisingly easy, as the team fights their way through the zombies, defeats Selene’s lackeys, and stabs her with the McGuffin knife. Warpath goes through a brief crisis of conscious with his zombie brother Thunderbird, otherwise the drama and emotion plays second-fiddle to the action. I’ve no problem with an action-packed story but resurrecting dead characters isn’t exactly a fresh idea in comics.
Meanwhile former X-Factor member Wolfsbane continues going through her incredibly dumb subplot with Asgardian wolf Hrimhari. Rahne was pulled out of X-Factor to join X-Force, and as far as I know as never actually been with the damn team.
She ends up pregnant with Hrimhari’s half-god baby, making her stronger. It doesn’t really amount to anything, though she does finally join up with the team by the climax of X-Necrosha. I assume the writers are going somewhere with this, though making team member pregnant is also a pretty lame plot device.
Although not technically included within the X-Force Complete Collection Volume 2, I also read the other X-Necrosha tie-ins. Since Uncanny X-Men is still bogged down with its Nation X/Utopia arcs, side series X-Men: Legacy (which mostly features Rogue now) and new series New Mutants take over tie-in duties.
New Mutants is a revitalization of the old 80s series, and one of the first to create a 2nd, wholly different mutant team. The first story arc, “Return of Legion” (#1-5) was a decent jumping off point for the team of Sunspot, Magma, Moonstar, Karma, Magik, and team leader Cannonball. Legion is a really neat villain here, and I love the way we saw the various personalities fighting each other for control of his body. The team is also impressively diverse, with only one white dude and over half the team women.
The X-Necrosha tie-in (#6-8) is okay. It involves probably the biggest event to come out of X-Necrosha, the resurrection of former dead team member Cypher. Cypher gets a big power upgrade, though his ability to read all languages remains nebulous and weird. The team fights off the resurrected Hellion team, regains Cypher as well as, somewhat randomly, space alien Warlock – presumably fresh off his important adventures in Annihilation: Conquest. New Mutants would continue to run for another 40+ issues, so I’ll definitely keep my eye on it.
I’ve enjoyed X-Men: Legacy quite a bit since we transitioned from Professor Xavier’s post-Messiah Complex story into Rogue’s journey post-power fixing.
The four-issue X-Necrosha arc (#231-234) has the best art and the worst story of the bunch. It’s a needlessly complicated, ultimately pointless tale of Rogue leading a team consisting of Colossus, Nightcrawler, Trance, Psylocke, Blindfold, and Magneto to Muir Island based on a random warning from the resurrected Destiny.
There they stumble into a trap involving the resurrected Proteus. Yeah, I’m tired of all these characters coming back too. Proteus invades everyone’s bodies until Rogue can use Psylocke’s powers to cut him out, then Magneto just pushes an I win button and destroys him. It’s super dumb but does feature some pretty great art by Mike Carey, and I particularly like the emphasis on Rogue being completely in control of her powers, her emotions, and being awesome in general.
X-Force Complete Collection Volume 2 does include the incredibly awesome mini-series X-Force: Sex & Violence. I loved everything about this story, from its tight focus on Wolverine and Domino to their smoldering relationship and incredible artwork by Gabriele Dell’Otto. The three issue mini-series elevated the entire collection and is nearly worth the purchase alone – it’s that damn fun.
X-Necrosha could’ve been better served by either making it an X-Force-only story arc, or a grander tale with higher stakes and consequences. Instead it falls somewhere in the middle. It’s mostly disappointing and forgettable – a shame since this writing team had clearly been building it up for years. However, I really enjoyed the other stories that are included, and all the non-Crain art is really fantastic. A worthwhile collected volume, though it further solidifies my general annoyance with the overabundance of mega-events.