Set as the point-of-view character, Marrow takes center stage in “X-Force” #1 from writer Simon Spurrier and artist Rock-He Kim. The comic book tries to find new ground to tread for the “X-Force” brand, but clings to the requirement of including Cable without really having Cable do much beyond serving as a punching bag and the Bosley to X-Force’s Angels. The other pieces assembled around Cable in “X-Force” #1 come from the remnants of the two recently cancelled “X-Force” books and the carcasses of “X-Force” series gone past. Unfortunately, using so many of the components from previous incarnations of X-Force, coupled with a thin, re-run mission statement, just gives this first issue a leftover smell and appearance — and not in the good way.
Positioned as a black ops team for mutantkind, this X-Force is led by Cable and includes Psylocke, Fantomex, Doctor Nemesis and Marrow among the team. Marrow is the one character in this story that doesn’t feel like a retread from previous X-Force teams, but Spurrier plays her like a half-baked female clone of Deadpool. The narration from Marrow that runs parallel to the artwork goes on and on about music, but starts by saying it never seemed important. That line of thought, like so very much of “X-Force” #1, seems unnecessary and doesn’t add much to the character beyond the wacky dialog. It doesn’t make her complex or interesting, it just provides white noise around a character Spurrier makes quite clear is already experiencing a Crazy Mary moment. Marrow’s point of view is critical to the reader finding a gateway into “X-Force” #1, but instead of a welcome, readers will find a wall of impenetrable babble with little relevance to the story itself.
Beyond Marrow, Spurrier doesn’t do anything in this issue to convincingly deliver fresh or engaging takes on any of Marrow’s teammates. The other characters don’t do much to be more than decorations on the pages. Cable could easily be replaced by Cyclops, Forge or Captain Britain. Psylocke could tag out for Domino or Spiral. Marrow is the only character of note in this story, but only because Spurrier forces her into the readers’ eyes. Fantomex reads more like Batroc ze Leaper — or as Marrow labeled him in story, Pepe Le Pew. I don’t recall Fantomex being so unnecessarily French solely to differentiate himself from a cypher, but peppering his dialog with French seems like too much effort for not enough result. It comes across forced and adds a very large log to the pile of characters acting off-base from where they mere weeks ago under Dennis Hopeless and Sam Humphries. This Fantomex may as well be retrieved from the past “All-New X-Men” style and Cable may as well be a hologram of himself.
While Rock-He Kim’s art is certainly different from the modern “house style” at Marvel, it seems to be unnecessarily painterly, but not in a bright and shiny way. Brandishing a murky, mud-based palette, Kim’s paintings really only work with wide-open spaces, like the scene of Cable fighting the Chinese operative. Even in that scene, however, Kim’s style obscures the storytelling. A re-read was required to determine that Psylocke didn’t somehow survive her opponent’s head exploding while she was nearby — she left, but only her misshapen Liefeldian legs are dangling off the top corner of the panel, intimating action without telling the story. Furthermore, many of Kim’s characters suffer from same face and same body, with only costumes to distinguish them as they float in settings that are too wide and under-decorated. Kim’s work is fun to look at during the larger scenes of the fight between Cable and the Chinese operative, but once other characters get involved, such as when Marrow attacks a jet, storytelling gets lost in favor of flair and filthy color. Kim makes some other really weird story choices such as having Cable debrief two (TWO!) of his team in what appears to be a university or corporate lecture hall. Furthermore, those two seem to have brought in their own chairs for the lecture. Weird, unnecessary choices that add nothing to the story.
Stating the mission of the team multiple times (including the front text piece) doesn’t make “X-Force” #1 any more interesting. There’s a paper-thin, stale plot pushing the story, but it isn’t very compelling and the characters seem to be checking boxes in order to slog through another issue. The debut issue does little to distinguish itself from any other iteration of Rob Liefeld’s brainchild. In fact, “X-Force” #1 feels more like a mismanaged remix of the Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Clayton Crain title without any interesting characters. In addition to providing hollow characters and a complete lack of heart, “X-Force” #1 brings nothing to justify the cancellation of the two previous “X-Force” titles, instead giving readers flat, uninspired writing and art that is every bit as murky and uninspired.