Uncanny X-Force #2

Sam Humphries and Ron Garney's "Uncanny X-Force" #2 finds the team divided, fighting Spiral and an army of "mind-controlled" protectors as she tries to flea with a young mutant child. However, Spiral's escape is thwarted when a longtime friend (who may no longer be one) appears in the cliffhanger ending.

It's hard to think of a cast I'm more intrigued by than the one Humphries has assembled with "Uncanny X-Force." Beyond just being a huge fan of a few of the characters included, it's such a bizarre mix that I can't help but find myself curious. So far, that bizarre mix has paid off, because I'm both entranced and I have no idea where he's going -- but not necessarily in a bad way. The story feels like it could go in any number of directions. With heroes (Psylocke) acting out of blind vengeance, villains (Spiral) appearing to act as heroes and old friends (Bishop) seemingly out of their damn minds. The combination adds up to a book that jags just when I think it's going to jig -- which is good. Add a hilarious bit that gives us an inside look at Psylocke's power in a way I have never seen before and I admit that I'm hooked.

That said, it's hard to imagine a way that this book works for anyone not already heavily invested in these characters (or intrigued by the combination). Whatever is going on with Fantomex/Cluster is extremely confusing (and more than a little icky), Psylocke is in a very weird place as a character, Spiral is a virtual unknown, and so far we've gotten very little character development or plot in these first two issues. Humphries both assumes and asks a lot and while I personally am willing to come along, I'm not sure how well that will work on a broader scale. Even though the book seems to be plot heavy in these first two issues, almost nothing has actually happened upon further examination. Decompression doesn't bother me too much as a reader when done well, but when you're paying $3.99 for 22-pages of story, you really better have something significant there on either the plot or character front and so far I'm not sure "Uncanny X-Force" has managed that.

The number of inkers and colorists on this book (five!) considering it's only issue #2 is a bit alarming, but in truth, I found the art to be surprisingly strong overall. Garney's figures are gorgeous, feeling strong and powerful, graceful and consistent. He also used very simple shapes a few times -- figures in silhouette being blown across the page from an explosion, Spiral's hands using her power, and Psylocke fighting partially in silhouette -- that were just stunning as he captured the essence and the action he needed but with such spare line work. In general, the storytelling is strong and the acting is good, although occasionally Garney is opting for shallow bells and whistles over solid action -- like on a page where Puck and Spiral fight each other in ten miniscule panels sandwiched by two unnecessarily large panels and a lot of wasted black space. He does it again on the following page, but the payoff panel at the bottom is so brilliant and perfectly conceived that it works better the second time around.

The colors, by Marte Gracia, Israel Gonzalez and Wil Quintana are lovely, with an almost monochromatic feeling that bounces from scene to scene. Alternating red and green-lit panels in Psylocke's action sequence pop beautifully, while an exterior scene bathed in brown and gold for Storm and Puck is lovely, and by the time crazy man Bishop arrives toward the end, everyone is covered in his angry orange power signature.

On the whole, "Uncanny X-Force" has proved a surprising entry into the NOW! Line. Its predecessor was of course extremely beloved and so it has some big shoes to fill, but I'm happy to see it going its own way and doing it full out, rather than trying to do a pale imitation of what had come before. Here's to the next issue, I'm in.

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