Uncanny X-Force #4

"Uncanny X-Force" has had some big shoes to fill since its inception, as the book that formerly held the title was hugely celebrated and critically acclaimed. I doubt many thought that this new incarnation would eclipse what Rick Remender, Jerome Opena and Esad Ribic did, but it's with "Uncanny X-Force" #4 that I realize this new book is not even going to come close. Sam Humphries and Ron Garney are clearly enthusiastic about their characters and story, but in "Uncanny X-Force" #4 the book drifts from their control, the tone taking an overly dramatic turn.

Humphries writing is pitched really high in this issue. Everything has an exclamation point, everything is screamed -- or alternately, overly earnest. It's hard to take seriously. While I could feel the tendency for the book to go this direction in the first three issues, I still find myself surprised and disappointed with this issue, as I hoped Humphries was going to be able to rein it in. Characters scream "NO!" repeatedly (and there's even a "Noooo!"). Whatever is possessing Bishop apparently has only one level -- one that sounds like "GROAAAWR!!!" all the time. Of course, once that thing is in Ginny, it has a whole other voice and personality, so I don't know what that's about either. But all these little writing blunders add up to an unfortunate misfire.

Additionally, very little has happened plot wise or on the character development front in four issues, bringing serious problems to the forefront. Sure, Spiral is not the Spiral fans have come to know, but readers have no idea what spurned this change. Psylocke has been booted from the school so she can work out her anger, but we've mostly just seen her cuss. Bishop has been a possessed animal, Storm the useless figurehead and voice of reason, and Puck the plucky comic relief (used far too sparingly, unfortunately). The most interesting thing going on in the whole book is whatever is happening with the three Fantomexes (Fantomeii?), but the bits of their story have added up to barely a tease at this point. For nearly $16, that is just not enough story, emotion or general satisfaction.

The art is more on track, and very pretty, but there are little things that feel sloppy -- like Psylocke's silly purple earrings -- which she picked up somewhere between issues #1 and #3 with no explanation -- and Spiral is occasionally short at least one arm. It's nothing tragic, and in general the art is strong with great character work, interesting layouts and good action scenes, but it's the kind of thing that once I noticed it, became hard to ignore. The mindscape pages by Adrian Alphona and Christina Strain continue to be very cool, but the section here is the least interesting in the series thus far.

Not unlike "Justice League Dark," I love the potential of these characters mashed together in one book, but issue #4 of "Uncanny X-Force" is by far the worst issue yet, and it's frankly, a huge bummer. The art is pretty enough and I like the characters to the point that I may give this a few more chances, but after this issue I feel highly skeptical.

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