“Uncanny X-Force” #5 is a comic that takes a small chance when it comes to subject material; after four issues of the main characters on a large, extended chase (peppered with fight scenes), this one stops dead in its tracks to spend most of its pages wandering through Bishop’s mental landscape. And on the whole, I think Sam Humphries, Adrian Alphona, and Dexter Soy make it work.
The best part about “Uncanny X-Force” #5 is probably Alphona’s crazy drawings as Storm and Psylocke wander through the mind of Bishop. Lots of overlapping visual echoes all running into one another, strange intricate carvings that Storm and Psylocke walk along, and a deliberately muted color scheme. It’s creepy and atmospheric, and when Alphona starts drawing pieces of landscape snapping off and falling into the void, it feels like there’s some genuine danger in those scenes.
The scenes set in the future (also drawn by Alphona) work well, too. I like the fine lines that Alphona uses to draw Bishop’s hair and beard, and when Bishop and Ginny are attacked up in their tree nest, their initial attacker looks great because of the large hulking nature of the foe and how it towers up above them. It’s a slightly different take on an old villain, and while it’s in a brand-new style, there’s an immediate connection to its original shape. It’s the second attacker that I think works especially well, though. When the Queen of the Revenants appears, the way that her form bleeds into the pieces of Bishop’s mental landscape is subtle but immensely creepy once you notice it; it’s a fun little bit of visual storytelling that is told through the images, not expository dialogue.
This isn’t to take away from Humphries’s writing, of course. It’s nice to see him bridging the gap between the crazy, homicidal killer that Bishop became in the “Cable” series and where he is now in “Uncanny X-Force” rather than just hand-waving it away, and I give him credit for also not being afraid to spend all but four pages inside someone’s head rather than in the real world. I felt that we spend just enough time as needed to give Bishop’s role in “Uncanny X-Force” more of a purpose, and to make him a character that one would be excited about having around. The one downside is that with only four pages in the real world (drawn by Soy in a perfectly acceptable manner), it feels like the rest of the cast has been pushed to the side. Spiral and Puck’s interaction feels akin to a contractual-obligation appearance by characters in a television show for a thirty-second cameo, to the point that I’d have almost rather they didn’t show up at all. With the Fantomex storyline starting to pick up a little speed, though, those pages do serve as a good segue to the next issue.
“Uncanny X-Force” #5 handles a huge lump of exposition in a solid and clean manner; this is information that needed to be given to us sooner or later, both about Bishop as well as the foe that’s been coming after Ginny. Now that it’s over, though, I’m more looking forward to what’s still to come. All in all, a perfectly fine installment.