Best Shots Review: X-FORCE #1 'the Best Ambassador' for Long-Time X-MEN Fans

X-Force #1 cover 2019
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

X-Force #1
Written by Benjamin Percy
Art by Joshua Cassara and Dean White
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Credit: Marvel Comics

With its grand-scale relaunch of the Children of the Atom, Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men has largely been about big concepts and big ideas - but what happens when you have to saddle up and fight for a brave new world? That’s the beauty of Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara’s X-Force - perhaps the strongest of the non-Hickman X-titles, this series combines the sharp worldbuilding of House of X with some truly striking superhero action, creating something that both new and diehard X-fans will enjoy.

If you’ve been enjoying the geopolitical bent of the new X-Men line, you’ll find lots to love about Percy’s script, which bounces between international espionage and the inner workings of Krakoa with equal aplomb. While Hickman’s House of X took the top-down view of things, Percy gives us a gritty, lived-in look at life on the ground, bringing just enough of Charles Xavier to bridge the gap but giving extra focus to characters like Wolverine, Beast, Jean Grey, and early team standout Black Tom Cassidy - because while Charles might be the big idea man of the X-Men franchise, there’s something so much more tense and engaging watching the men and women who have to lay their lives on the line to see these dreams fulfilled.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Additionally - and this bodes well for his upcoming Wolverine solo series - Percy also does some great work pacing his action sequences for this debut. While the final cliffhanger loses a little bit of its punch simply because it arrives so early in the overall narrative, Percy is able to weave multiple viewpoints seamlessly, which makes these big fights feel much more expansive and sweeping. (Not to mention the villains of this piece being exceedingly badass with their infiltration of a key protected site.) Launching from Hickman’s previous setup, the X-Men don’t just fight like a military unit, but as an actual homeland - whether it’s delving into Wolverine’s uneasiness on the island or Black Tom Cassidy’s fungal radar, the character work weaves into the action nicely, with every character feeling deliberate and well-utilized.

Credit: Marvel Comics

X-Force also feels like some career-best artwork from Joshua Cassara, who teams up with seminal X-Force colorist Dean White to deliver some choice visuals. Thanks to the way that White brings added texture to the inks, the comparison to Jerome Opena feels inevitable, but I think Cassara really does live up to that loft standard, with little bits of Dave Johnson, Leinil Francis Yu, and Steve McNiven for good measure. While some of Cassara’s expression work could still use some fine-tuning, that isn’t really the book he’s been asked to draw, and in general, his character design and compositions are spot-on - some masked villains in the book’s intro feel instantly menacing and sinister, while his take on the metamorphic Black Tom is beautifully detailed and craggy. The action here looks terrific as well, and that has just as much to do with the moodiness of White’s colors - there’s a deliberateness and drama to the work here that elevates X-Force beyond the standard superhero fare.

While this book might not be as cerebral or far-reaching as the flagship X-Men title, I might posit that X-Force is the best ambassador to a fanbase that oftentimes fears and hates change. Even though there’s plenty of ideas to go around, Percy and Cassara wed the X-Men’s new status quo with some stylish action and engaging character work that adds to the already formidable foundation we’ve already seen established. If this first issue is any indication, X-Force should absolutely be on the front lines of your pull list.

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