Comics on the Can – X-Force #8 (2014)

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x force 8Comics on the can – Explained in haiku
A box of comics
I read them while I expel
I Crack wise after

X –FORCE # 8
Written by – Simon Spurrier
Art by – Rock-He Kim

It occurs to me that in my last review (HammerLocke) I may have given the impression that I don’t like the English. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact I consider myself an anglophile, to the extent that doesn’t sound stupid. England is one of the places I’m dying to visit. Granted, most of the reasons I’d like to visit there consist of items or places related to Doctor Who, Monty Python, the Warren Zevon song “Werewolves of London”, and/or beer, but that doesn’t mean I won’t like everything else the UK has to offer (I’ll pass on the spotted dick, though, thank you). (Spotted dick is much better than the name implies – Editor)

But essentially the things I dig about the UK are cultural, which I’ll demonstrate by comparing British to American in a totally biased and unfair way… UK TV shows – Doctor Who, Sherlock. US TV shows – Duck Dynasty, Under the Dome. (UK – WIN!) UK actors – Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy. US actors – Jessica Alba, Fluffy. (UK WIN!) UK food – Blood sausage, Black pudding. US food – BBQ baby back ribs, Buffalo wings. (US WIN!) UK comic writers – Grant Morrison, Simon Spurrier. US comic writers – post 90’s Frank Miller and whoever wrote this…


So much for “Pray the gay away”.

3 – 1 in favor of the UK in my totally un-scientific, completely skewed example making.


So don’t think just because I called the English bad guys in the last review I hate the English. I, like most mature geeks of the world, understand that every imperial officer in Star Wars was English because of where the movie was shot and not some subtle anti-brit sentiment on George Lucas’ part (Lucas has no subtlety whatsoever).

Long story short; I like English stuff. Especially comic writers (the guys that wrote Hammerlocke being the exception that proves the rule) Mike Carey, Paul Cornell, and Tony Lee all do amazing and imaginative work. I’ll give something written by any of them above fair shake because pretty much all of it is damn good and worth my time. But, really my love of Brit writers goes back to the 90’s – Ellis, Morrison, and Ennis’ 90’s work pulled me back into comics after a long period of separation. Some reasons why; Morrison has the big ideas writ large, Ennis is bloody minded but never loses his sense of fun or the absurd, and Ellis is the Verbally-savage, working-class wordsmith. All influenced my return to comics not only in my writing but how I appreciate the medium and what it can do.

Odds are Simon Spurrier had a lot of Vertigo in his 90’s comic pull list. To me, their influence on him is obvious because Spurrier’s work, especially X-Force, has all the elements I mentioned above. X-Force is clever, imaginative, brutal, smart, breathtakingly paced, funny, witty and can toggle between large and small scale storytelling with confidence and style (how ‘bout that for a bundle of adjectives).

Cable has rebooted X-Force as a hardcore black ops outfit with the agenda of ensuring that mutantkind not only has a continued place in the world, but also a stake in it. A bit more pro-active than “…protecting a world that hates and fears them.” Of course Cable is a Pro-active kinda guy. He’s assembled the nut jobs and misfits, outcasts by even mutant standards, into a team with a dysfunctional dynamic but lethal competence when it comes to the job. These guys’ kick-ass but are constantly teetering on the edge of imploding. Excitement and a big helping of the ‘ol ultra violence ensues.

Issue number 8 is a pretty good jumping on point since it kicks off a new story line – “War on Terror”. An American journalist is embedded with an MI6 operation in the desert of Wajiristan. Cold blooded professional killers, a gay ginger rookie, and an MI6 overseer make up the crew that calls themselves “The Pheasant Pluckers”. They are hunting mujahadeen called “The Quadees” with the intent of terminating with extreme prejudice. The thing is – there is another group hunting them! Striking unexpectedly from out of nowhere this shadowy force picks off weapons, drugs up their sergeant (forcing them to kill the guy), and basically wind up the mercs to a breaking point. The story is primarily told from the point of view of the journalist; an outsider observing a mystery unravel. The double blind trick is powerfully neato; the reader knows that the mysterious team attacking the Pheasant Pluckers is X-Force but keeping the perspective firmly anchored with the journalist amplifies their threat and mystery. It’s a rare thing to see super powered action from such a different perspective; highly effective. Spurrier and Kim keep nimble with pace and tension and even though you know what’s going on the way the story is told keeps you absorbed for the reveal to the characters.

Then everything twists.

Just when you, as a reader, are feeling clever because you know something the characters don’t the Pheasant Pluckers hit the reader with something you didn’t know; they are super powered also. Pushed to show their hand – the Pluckers power up when Psylocke pops in and starts cutting things up. It looks like a showdown between X-Force and the SAS bad-asses is inevitable.

Then it twists again. Peter Wisdom and two other agents of MI13, Excalibur and Gloriana, drop in and give the MI6 overseer a good talking to. It seems that MI6’s use of super powered soldiers is a bit outside of their charter. This may not sound very exciting but Spurrier’s dialogue is crackling with wit and attitude. Most of it funneled through MI13 agent and mutant super spy Peter Wisdom. He taunts the MI6 handler “…Don’t mean to WORRY you love… but you seem to’ve stumbled into an unusually dense patch of DANGEROUS SUPERHUMANS.” It’s a great scene watching Peter and his crew just toying with the Pluckers. Peter Wisdom was a character created by Warren Ellis; glib, snarky and not afraid to get dirty when necessary… practically an Ellis archetype (aka: a bastard resentfully doing the right thing). Spurrier must have a fondness for the character because this is the second time he’s used him (first was in X-Men Legacy) and both times Wisdom pretty much hijacks the story.

There is one more twist, which I won’t reveal, but the whole run of the issue demonstrates Spurrier’s firm grip on character, pace, humor, tension and just about anything else you could really want from a great comic book. He’s a talent alright. Rock-He Kim is no slouch either, delivering taut visual pacing for a story that could’ve been borked by the artist. The only complaint from the art side I could level is the color pallet is a bit dull. Sure this story takes place in the deep desert and the colors reflect that but the previous story had the same situation. A minor complaint.

X-Force is rapidly becoming one of my favorite titles and it makes my reading it on the bog (English for toilet… see only an anglophile would know that.) an enjoyable experience.

Random thoughts somewhat pertaining to the book but I couldn’t work in organically in the main review…

I dig English slang but I’m still not gonna refer to Z as ZED.
Oh yeah, that’s Wisdom on the cover. Simon – How ‘bout pitching a Peter Wisdom mini-series? I’m in!
The only real complaint I have with X-Force at large is the dearth of his slang word “Borked”. This word was so prevalent in Legacy that I added it to my personal lexicon (don’t believe me read my Cultural Junkdrawer on Guardians of the galaxy $94 million opening). Bring back the “borked”!
The flies everyone has been having problems with for the last few issues are part of Spurrier’s long game.
Other brit actors fooling us Yanks: Andrew Lincoln of Walking dead, Alfred Molina of Spiderman 2, and believe it or not The Darknight’s own Michael Caine… I know right!
It doesn’t look like Simon gives page and panel annotations for X-Force like he did with X-Men Legacy. Too bad, some real great insight there.
Just another shot at English food: BEHOLD BLOOD SAUSAGE!

black pudding

How the screw did they conquer the world eating crap like this?

I guess I’m funnier when I review a book I don’t like. Hopefully I still bear a grudge against J. Michael Straczynski for having me fired that one time. “The Twelve” issue #7 should be a riot.



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