Uncanny X-Force #1

In "Uncanny X-Force #1," Sam Humphries and Ron Garney are given the unenviable task of following Rick Remender's critically-acclaimed (and fan-favorite) run. In one issue, they come up with something that blows away any doubts readers might have about the series' future.

It's too early to call this a seamless transition, of course, but at the moment it certainly looks like one. By way of introduction, Humphries dispenses with the grimly inevitable "assembling the team" format in favor of showing the book's cast doing what they do best: being superheroes, thieves and barflies. Forming the team isn't something that precedes the story. The story is the team forming.

After achieving a certain level of prominence in the previous series, it appears that Psylocke has effectively been promoted to protagonist. She was the cornerstone of the previous series, which was in many ways the story of her doomed love affair -- but now she's up front and on her own. Humphries writes a fantastic version of the character, one whose recent experiences have left her full of anger and impulsiveness. An action junkie, if you will. One criticism is that her blacked-out swearing is a little overused, but the fact that it's noticeable gives some insight into her state of mind.

Anyone worried that the book might lose its anything-goes mentality under Humphries can rest easy. The final page is as surprising as anything Remender ever cooked up, but for entirely different reasons. Meanwhile, the appearance of the book's villains shows that Humphries is similarly capable of playing with continuity while retaining the title's accessibility. The gaps are filled in for new readers, but not in a way that'll bore old ones -- and as a longtime X-Men fan, it's hard not to appreciate those nods.

The writing might be good, but Garney's art has come in similarly strong. It's been a while since he drew an ongoing series, but his work hasn't gotten rusty. Indeed, it's looking better than ever: his lines are finer and more detailed than previously, while the layouts are ambitious and interesting. Even the coloring has been taken up a notch, with an inventive black, white and pink section offering an unusual tone, far from what you might expect of a book called "X-Force".

Admittedly, there are things about the book that feel a little shaky. The narrative captions are a little too expository at times. The cut-away scenes at the end of the issue don't really gel with the rest. The mission Psylocke is on feels far more mundane than anything she faced in her time with the previous X-Force -- but on the whole, it works despite those flaws. This is a comic that grabs you on the first page and speeds towards its conclusion. The only big complaint, frankly, is that it's over too soon.

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