With the planet in the grip of a global fear outbreak, Wolverine’s team of black-ops X-Men find themselves attempting to rescue a captured superhuman from The Purifiers, who have decided to go after all superhumans, not just mutants.
It’s a worrying prospect to imagine the current incarnation of X-Force being written by anyone other than Rick Remender, but writer Rob Williams quickly proves himself a capable deputy, retaining a similar density of ideas to that seen the team’s parent title. The character work is also well-pitched. Deadpool’s introductory monologue is a neat way of explaining the group’s premise and attitudes, and the shock of any tonal shift towards more sober storytelling is nicely absorbed when Archangel and Wolverine are left looking on completely bemused. Psylocke and Fantomex are similarly well-handled, with neat uses of both of their powers. It’s the same kind of fun you’d find in a typical issue of “Uncanny X-Force,” though pleasingly it still reads like Williams’ own work, rather than an attempt to ape Remender’s.
The links to “Fear Itself” are slightly tighter than in some of the other tie-in miniseries, but as usual, the story as a whole suffers from being an almost unrelated tale squashed beneath the banner of the crossover. Certainly, it makes complete sense for X-Force to fight the Purifiers in terms of the latter’s position as X-Men villains and the former’s modus operandi, but (so far) the plot’s resonance with “Fear Itself” is limited.
One rather more pressing concern is that it’s not entirely clear who the “unknown superhero” in danger actually is, and thus it’s a tough sell on why we should worry if he dies or not. Hopefully, future issues will elaborate on why we’re supposed to care about this as-yet unnamed individual, and given the ending, I half-suspect that Williams was playing things intentionally coy to set up the wider story. After all, without giving too much away, X-Force doesn’t succeed in its objective this issue; the consequences here are bound to be a little more than “we failed and now we’re doubly upset.”
Bianchi’s work seems looser than it was during his “Astonishing X-Men” run, although given the delays on that series, it’s probably a good thing. Here, we still get the full benefit of his unusual layouts and intricate visuals without much over-rendering, though his tendency to consider backgrounds optional hasn’t gone away.
Despite the criticisms, this is one of the strongest “Fear Itself” minis yet, and a good X-Force story to boot. It would have worked just as well in the regular title as in this miniseries, and when the main series is as strong as it is, that’s a lot of praise. “Uncanny X-Force” fans should certainly pick it up. If you’re looking for something with strong ties to the plot of “Fear Itself,” you won’t find those here, so be careful. As long as you know what you’re in for, there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy it.