REVIEW: Uncanny X-Force #1

Uncanny X-Force #1

Uncanny X-Force #1

Uncanny X-Force #1

Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Ron Garney
Inks by Danny Miki
Color by Marte Gracia with Israel Gonzalez
Letters by Cory Petit

$3.99 / 32 pages / Color

Published by Marvel Comics

It’s a testament to the critical and commercial success of Uncanny X-Force that the ever-expanding Marvel NOW! lineup offers not one but two X-Force titles. While both concepts play to the core of their predecessor’s motif, chronicling broken and desperate diasporas within the already troubled mutant race, only one of these islands of misfit toys claims both the banner and fulcrum of the Uncanny X-Force name.

At the start of all this, maybe we expected little more than some gnarly black ops, courtesy of Chuck’s most maladjusted students. All the pointy things were in place. It all spoke to action and intrigue, but also to disposability. What we got? More than a few ideas this particular reader wanted to hold onto. A black ops soap opera that should never, ever be redacted.

See, sneaky bastard that he is, Rick Remender actually presented a serrated love triangle in the guise of a down and dirty wet works saga. It’s often the case that such triangles culminate in heartache for the odd one out and a bittersweet solace for the two walking off arm-in-arm. Of course, this is the X-Men we’re talking about. Their geometry problems end a little more cruelly, in fires that thrive in the vacuum. In minds shattered. It’s proved a torturous cycle for the characters by definition, and for readers by execution. Certainly, the romantic plight of Jean, Scott and Logan has evolved in recent years, only after decades of stagnation. But this new tale of Betsy, Warren and Jean-Phillipe’s is only beginning to define itself. It lingers on into this new volume and just might be the kernel of the Uncanny X-Force legacy.

From Uncanny X-Force #1

From Uncanny X-Force #1

Wayward Betsy Braddock is the last true holdover from the first volume. She survived while those two men who loved her suffered what could only be described as an aggressive reformatting. Not editorially rebooted as if often the case, but as part of the narrative. An Angel fell and a cunning mind was split three ways. In this opening issue, Betsy is also summarily terminated from her uneasy role at the Jean Grey School by former X-Force teammate Wolverine. Incoming writer Sam Humphries wisely  seizes upon this time of doubt and displacement and compounds it by surrounding Psylocke with a cast of equally frustrated castoffs like Storm (recently divorced from Black Panther and even more recently linked with Logan) and Puck (back from Hell and ready to mingle). Their first collaboration involves an underground drug called TAO, an acronym for “Together As One.” The compound is said to instill the chemical illusion of unity, a perceived hive mentality. It’s the perfect metaphor for this opening arc, which sees an unlikely commiseration between directionless heroes and anti-heroes. The cover suggests that Spiral, the supposed antagonist of this first issue, will eventually join the team. Along with Bishop and Cluster, the lady third of Fantomex.

If there are any missteps here, it’s the cutaways to these last two. In an issue that already flaunts some temporal shuffling, the Bishop and Fantomex vignettes cry out for a little more context. Awkward as the transitions might be, the cameos bode well for the series overall. Bishop has served as a Disney villain in recent story lines and his placement on the cover seems especially ominous, but his depiction here plays into that ongoing theme of displacement and a valiant struggle to regain equilibrium. Bishop registers as lost, which actually inspires more confidence than if he were determined. More notes to play with. As for Fantomex making out with himself, it seems like the most appropriate act of impropriety since, well, Deadpool’s absence isn’t so acute anymore. Did I just type that?

Ron Garney delivers the goods, especially with a badass mohawked Storm. That said, his style’s a little more severe than is probably necessary. He stops short of that David Finch teeth grit, but these characters might need to lighten up a bit lest this descend too far into melodrama. He says, after celebrating sublime pathos for multiple paragraphs. Still.

Fans of Remender’s inspired run on Uncanny X-Force can expect a solid rebound with Humphries and Garney. It’s too soon to say whether it will grow into something more, but right now it’s the shakeup these characters, especially Betsy, need. It might not always be pretty, but it’s a measure toward healing.

Story: 4 / Art: 3.5 / Overall: 4

(Out of 5 Stars)



  1. Remender really redeemed Fantomex for me. Hopefully Humphries can do the same for Bishop

  2. Goddamn, Paul. You wrote the FUCK out of that review. I give it a 5 out 5 for for geometry problems.

    I’m excited. It sounds like Humphries knows what makes Uncanny X-Force special, and is keeping to that. That said, it don’t look like these characters will ever get a break, and that’s a good thing. I’m a big fan of Garney too, so this is right down my valley… up my alley…? I’ll leave the writing to Paul.

  3. This review is insanely well written. Quite frankly at this point I’m more interested in reading something by Paul (perhaps a crime novella) than this comic (though I’m still giving it a shot).

  4. Agree, man.

    Y’know, I don’t WANT to be reading an X-Force book. It was a testament to Remender and Opeña that I read the last volume of this book.

    But I dig Sam Humphries style, and I had to give this a shot. And, you know, this book has moxie. I can’t quite place the vibe, but it seems to exist in a slight hyper-reality… this is Los Angeles, yes, but it’s almost a Blade Runner LA, where a hover-car can pull up to a club and sword-wielding ninjas can hop out.

    I also love the cast — I’m a sucker for books that pull together offbeat characters that appear to have no reason to be together, and then find a way to make them all work.

  5. Love that cover! Still on the fence as to whether or not I’m going to pick this up, perhaps I’ll pick it up in a month when the price drops on comixology.

    Either way, nice review!

  6. @Paul: Even after reading your wonderful review, I’m still on the fence. Only one thing will push me into the yard of Mr. and Mrs. Purchase, and that thing is the answer to this question:

    Do we see Storm actively make the choice to bring back the mohawk in this issue?

    • No. Storm discusses her marital status and the unspoken assumption is that she got a post-breakup haircut. But the Mohawk is not noticed or discussed in the issue even though she is fin-headed throughout.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      What @tripleneck said.

      Please, please tell me this isn’t a a game-changing factor in your purchasing decision.

    • Haha. I’m only kidding.

      I just got back from my store and it was in my bin anyway (never took the title off my list after Remender’s run ended). I’m gonna give it a shot. I’m a big Garney fan, but an even bigger fan of the mohawk. Thanks for the response. Rest easy knowing my pulling decisions don’t revolve around hair styles.

    • @Wheelhands

      if you’re still curious, the haircut is actually shown in Wolverine and the X-Men this week.

    • Haha. I saw that. Thanks.

  7. I bought this purely based on this review………..glad I did. I was pleasantly surprised.

  8. That is some fine writing Mr. Montgomery.