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
Charles Xavier is dead. Long live Charles Xavier.
With their leader assassinated by the Reavers, the X-Men snap into action in X-Force #2, as writer Benjamin Percy and artist Joshua Cassara continue to inject fast-paced action into Jonathan Hickman’s cerebral, high-concept universe. But while the previous issue was more of a bird’s-eye view of the assembled forces of Krakoa, Percy uses this sophomore issue to zero in his focus on characters like Wolverine, Kid Omega, and Jean Grey, leaning into a more traditional take on the X-Men line.
Despite the Reavers being defeated, they still managed to get their prize - namely, murdering Charles Xavier and destroying his Cerebro helmet. That said, all hope is not lost - the X-Men’s new stock and trade is that of psychically-induced resurrection, but said process involved Xavier as the lynchpin. There are backup plans in place, but Percy deftly reminds us that these plans were mostly hypothetical until now - keen-eyed readers of the original House of X series might recall that Xavier has performed mental backups on himself before, but Percy plays his cards close to the vest as he teases we might get to see one of these backups for ourselves.
Yet there’s also a sense of mourning here - while Xavier’s fate is cautiously optimistic, seeing the reaction of characters like Wolverine and Kid Omega reinforce the emotional stakes, even if the overall body count is still to be determined. I might argue that Percy’s spotlight on these two characters might be a little overdone - evoking shades of Jason Aaron’s superlative Wolverine and the X-Men - but one could also respond that this is the perfect kind of runway to Percy’s ongoing Wolverine solo series in February. But one gets the sense that even Percy knows this bit of action is a bit obligatory, as he shows Jean Grey’s psychic interrogation as a counterpoint to Wolverine solving everything with his fists - if anything, I wish Percy had leaned more into Jean’s mental detective work rather than Wolverine’s by-the-numbers punching.
Anchored by colorist Dean White, the artwork on this book still looks strong, although artist Joshua Cassara does slip a few times as he tries to keep up with this sprawling team book. Cassara’s take on Wolverine, of course, is the show-stealer - a page of Logan popping and sheathing his claws in irritation is one of the dramatic highlights of the book - while his take on Quentin Quire has the perfect amount of face-punchability. That said, he struggles a bit with Jean Grey’s Marvel Girl-era design, with her mask giving her a weirdly square jawline, while some of the action choreography feels a bit overexaggerated versus iconic. Still, his style meshes well with White’s, who gives everything additional texture to play up the level of moral compromise inherent to building a new nation.
But the biggest victory of X-Force #2 is that it continues to bridge the gap between Hickman’s more forward-thinking high concepts with the action and adventure that has come to define traditional superhero books of the modern era. Percy has shown he can juggle a wide cast of characters nicely, while Cassara is still punching way out of his weight class with the oftentimes clashing X-Men designs. If you’re looking for a fast-paced X-Men book with plenty of brains behind the excitement, you should definitely pick up X-Force.