Benjamin Percy has gotten X-Force off to a strong start. I was not familiar with Percy’s writing and was not expecting much from X-Force #1. I was pleasantly surprised as X-Force has become one of the better X-Men franchise titles spinning out of House of X/Powers of X. We here at the Revolution have enjoyed both X-Force #1 and X-Force #2, I fully expect that trend to continue with X-Force #3. Let’s go ahead and hit this review!
Words: Benjamin Percy
Art: Joshua Cassara
Colors: Dean White
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with a flashback scene of Domino having her skin flayed off and then grafted onto the bodies of the scientifically engineered soldiers that we saw attack Krakoa in X-Force #1. The mysterious leader of Xeno says that humans will use science to compensate for their weaknesses. That science will allow them to defeat the mutants.
We shift to the present. We are outside Seoul at the facility where Xeno was creating physically enhanced humans. Wolverine and Kid Omega have killed all of the scientifically created human soldiers. They then rescue Domino. The right half of Domino’s body has had her skin stripped off. Domino is also missing her right eye. (Damn. This is gross.)
Suddenly, a giant scientifically created human appears on the scene and attacks our mutants. Wolverine picks up Domino and our heroes run for their lives.
We hop over to Krakoa. Jean and Beast debate the ethics of Xavier’s resurrection program. Hank thinks that a fear of death is good for living beings. Jean disagrees. Jean has died many times and thinks that death and rebirth have made her a better person and hero. That the reincarnation program is the long game of mutantkind.
Jean and Best stand next to the pod where Xavier’s new body has been grown. We see Xavier break out of the pod.
We zip back to Wolverine and Kid Omega being chased by the giant genetically enhanced human. Kid Omega cannot use his powers because they are still too close to the psionic dampener in the facility. Domino tells Wolverine to destroy her power inhibitor on her neck. Wolverine destroys the power inhibitor and comments that their luck is about to change. Suddenly, Kid Omega’s powers return and he blasts the giant genetically enhanced human and kills it.
We fight back to the Healing Gardens on Krakoa. The Healer is doing his best to keep one of the Xeno soldiers from X-Force #1 alive. The mutants want the soldier alive so they can question him about the attack on Krakoa and who he works for and how they pulled off their mission.
The Healer leaves the room. A person comes out of the shadows and smothers the gravely injured soldier and kills him. (Ooooh, mystery and intrigue!)
We get a one-page informational insert about “The Fifth Assassin.” We learn that none of the mutants questioned the death of the fifth assassin since he was nearly on the brink of death and so physically damaged.
We learn that these soldiers had reinforced bones, an abundance of fast-twitch muscle fibers, oversized adrenal glands, and hidden weapons like explosive putty, garroting wires, and calcium daggers nested in their forearms.
However, when the Healer conducted a comprehensive autopsy, the bodies of the soldiers detonated. The blast tore apart the Healer. The Healer has now been fast-tracked for resurrection.
We zip over to Magneto meeting with Black Tom. Black Tom says that reporters and people have gathered at the Washington Square Park in Manhattan to find out if Xavier has died. Black Tom says that if Magneto does not deal with the situation then Black Tom will handle it. And not in the fashion that Magneto will like.
We see Magneto sterling out of the Krakoan gateway in Manhattan. The reporters ask Magneto about Xavier being dead. Before Magneto can answer, Professor X, walks through the Krakoan gate.
Xavier tells the reporters that he is alive. The reporters ask how do they know it is really Xavier. Xavier replies that such a question has no more relevance now than before. The answer is always going to be the same. That if this new geopolitical alliance between Krakoa and the world is going to work then they will have to trust that Xavier is always going to be here for them.
We get a one-page informational insert about the Cerebro Sword. We learn that when Xavier was resurrected that some people bowed before him, others shook his hand, others hugged him, and others cheered and cried. However, Magneto did none of those things. That in a private moment, Magneto gave Xavier a gift. It was the remains of Cerebro fashioned into a sword. Magneto told Xavier to keep the sword close.
Xavier hung the Cerebro sword on the wall above his bed. It served as a reminder that a man at war cannot be a man at peace.
We slide back to outside of Seoul. Kid Omega uses his powers to take away Domino’s pain, but cannot do anything to heal her. Domino says that her memories are all scrambled. That all she can remember is a man with a peacock tattoo. Wolverine suggests that they go back inside of the facility and scour it for clues. Domino says that is a bad idea. Suddenly, the facility blows up.
We zip back to Krakoa where Professor X is meeting with Magneto, Wolverine, Beast, Jean Grey, Kid Omega, Sage, and Domino. Domino has Krakoan wood covering the part of her body where her skin was flayed off. They are meeting in a secret location behind a waterfall.
Wolverine asks why they are having to meet in a secret location. Xavier said that he had hoped that they were beyond this. But, they are facing an enemy who is operating from the shadows. Therefore, they have to respond in kind. Xavier says that their enemy is bioengineering themselves into weapons. Their enemies are using science to give them an advantage that nature did not.
Xavier says that the left-hand turns the page while the right-hand makes a fist. Xavier says that this feels right to him. That this feels like a force of good. Xavier then says, “To me, my X-Force.”
We hop over to a secret meeting of Xeno. The man with the peacock tattoo tells the assembled members that they will continue to create disruption. That they will continue to hunt down mutants for their experiments. That Xavier made every country defunct and disband their shadow agencies like Weapon X.
The leader says that while the mutants have gathered at Krakoa that Xeno now gathers in the shadows. That Xeno is many. End of issue.
The Good: X-Force #3 is another quality read. Benjamin Percy continues to impress me with his work on this title. Percy is a literary Swiss Army knife. Percy is able to construct an issue that delivers action and adventure, mystery and suspense, quality character work, strong plotting, and an intelligent story with plenty of depth and substance. That is impressive. Few writers are able to deliver such a multi-faceted read like what Percy treats the reader to with X-Force #3.
X-Force #3 is well-paced and plotted. Percy delivers this issue at a controlled pace. To be sure, this is not a slow read. Percy knows when to pick up the pace at the right time for dramatic effect. However, Percy is not going to rush this story and takes his time to flesh out what is a detailed and immersive story. X-Force #3 has an excellent flow and each scene rolls naturally into the following scene.
Percy also does a good job with the character work and dialogue. The various characters have nicely developed external voices. While X-Force #3 is not a character-driven story, Percy delivers well-developed characters in this issue. Percy does a nice job with all of the characters in X-Force #3, but it is Percy’s Xavier that steals the show.
I found Percy’s Xavier to be fantastic. Percy treats the reader to a delightfully creepy Xavier that is reminiscent of how Hickman wrote Xavier during House of X and Powers of X. Percy continues with Hickman’s theme of Xavier as a cult leader. Percy has Xavier come across as a bit of a zealot who uses the kind of language that one would expect from a fanatical cult leader. It works perfectly with the direction of the Hickman era of the X-Men franchise.
The scenes involving Wolverine, Kid Omega, and Domino provided for all of the action in X-Force #3. These are all well-crafted scenes. These are fast-paced scenes that contain lots of energy. These scenes provide an excellent contrast to the more calm and cerebral scenes in Krakoa.
The hideous-looking bioengineered soldiers, as well as Domino’s gruesome injuries, made these scenes the most visceral and raw scenes in X-Force #3. To be sure, Percy delivers some no-holds-barred moments in these scenes that are not for the meek. I dig that Percy is willing to get dirty and deliver some more unfiltered and gruesome scenes. This approach is certainly in keeping with the spirit of the X-Force franchise. X-Force has always been the more violent and grittier title in the X-Men franchise. This approach by Percy also helps to separate X-Force from all of the other X-Men franchise titles and give X-Force its own unique personality.
On the other hand, the Krakoa scenes with Jean, Beast, Healer, and Magneto are slower paced scenes that focus more on intelligent plot progression and character work. These scenes have more thought-provoking moments about the ethical questions surrounding the Resurrection Program on Krakoa as well as the ethical questions of Xavier creating a shadow organization in X-Force and keeping them hidden from the rest of the mutants on Krakoa. This is even more interesting given that Xavier had all the shadow organizations in the other countries on the globe dismantled and disbanded. These scenes also unveil the newest mystery surrounding the unknown person who killed the fifth assassin. This is a great mystery that immediately got me excited to learn more.
These scenes on Krakoa give the reader plenty to think about. This is where the bulk of the content is delivered. Percy continues to flesh out the threat of Xeno and their bioengineered soldiers. Percy also continues to examine the geopolitical relationship between Krakoa and the rest of the world and the pivotal role that Xavier plays in it. It is clear that Percy packed as much detail as possible into these scenes. These scenes all help to make the setting for X-Force delightfully immersive and give this story plenty of depth and richness.
The two informational pages that we get in X-Force #3 about the fifth assassin and the Cerebro Sword were both well-timed and well crafted. This is an excellent way for Percy to deliver tons of condensed plot progression and content without burning up precious panel space. The content covered by these two pages are not important enough to warrant panel time, but certainly, help to further flesh out the story and give it more depth. Therefore, delivering this content in the form of two informational pages is a brilliant idea. The reader gets more content, the story gets richer, and Percy does not have to waste any precious panel time. This also helps to keep the issue from being too decompressed.
Percy ends X-Force #1 in excellent fashion. The final four pages put a proper bow on the first three issues and effectively set the stage for this title moving forward. This was such a satisfying ending and technically well crafted. The reader feels ready and excited for whatever Percy has in store for us on X-Force in the upcoming issues.
Percy delivers a strong two-page scene of Xavier and his newly assembled X-Force in their secret meeting place. This scene effectively lays out the mission statement for this new version of X-Force. Percy clearly sets out X-Force’s role and their place in the world that Hickman has created for the X-Men franchise. I love when writers clearly define the motivation and purpose behind a superhero team’s existence.
Percy follows this with the two-page scene with the man with the peacock tattoo and the members of Xeno. This scene clearly sets out the mission statement of Xeno. The reader gets a good sense of Xeno’s philosophy, their goals, and the manner in which they are going to attempt to achieve their goals. Percy understands that a superhero comic never rises above the quality of the villain in the story. I am intrigued by Xeno and I think that Percy has created a strong and quite interesting antagonist for our heroes.
Joshua Cassara delivers plenty of nice artwork. Normally, I am not a fan at all of the styles of inking that looks like colored pencils. However, Cassara’s style of inking works with the general mood of Percy’s story.
Cassara is equally adept at delivering action scenes as he is more dramatic dialogue-heavy scenes. Cassara does a fine job drawing the various character’s facial expressions. Cassara also does a great job with the panel layouts and varying the point of view between panels.
The Bad: I have no criticisms of this issue. I do wish that Percy had fully assembled X-Force’s roster earlier than the very end of the third issue. But, I understand why Percy chose this route. Still, some readers may not like this approach. Also, some readers may find Percy’s pacing, in general, to be a bit too much on the slow side.
Overall: X-Force #3 is another excellent read. Benjamin Percy crafts a story that should appeal to a broad range of readers. Do you like action? Percy has you covered. Do you prefer complex stories with some depth? Percy has you covered, too. Do you prefer smartly written stories with good characters? Yup. Percy takes care of you, too. I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of X-Force #3. This title is worth the cover price.
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