Uncanny X-Force #8

It's hard to articulate how much I wanted to like this new "Uncanny X-Force," and how disappointed I am in what's been presented. Initially I hoped it was just the tough road that comes with having to live up to some brilliant stories that came before you (and under the same title block), but as we continue forward, this is just proving to be a bad book, regardless of what it's compared to. "Uncanny X-Force" #8 by Sam Humphries, Adrian Alphona and Dalibor Talajic hits new heights of bizarre, and not in a good way.

While I want to appreciate the bold and risky story that Humphries is going for in the very concept of Psylocke's love triangle with Fantomex (now split into Fantomex, Cluster, and Weapon VIII), in execution it feels like the worst and most banal of what soap opera romances offer. Worse, it takes what was a stunningly beautiful love story between Psylocke and Fantomex, executed with near perfection by Rick Remember and turns it into a grotesque joke. Reading "Uncanny X-Force" feels like all my fears realized that Psylocke, despite glimmers of brilliance (like Remender's run), is destined for the most schlocky and ill-conceived of trajectories thanks to her screwed up "new origin" so many years ago.

This issue bounces back and forth between Psylocke and Cluster flashbacks and in the present day as they search for Weapon VIII, who is holding Fantomex hostage. The Paris scenes show Psylocke and Cluster in love (or lust, or sex, or something) and brutally rejecting Fantomex, as Psylocke and Fantomex rejected Cluster in the previous issue. It's trite at best. It tries to be daring and maybe even risque but it just feels preposterous and incest-y. In the present, unable to escape their prisons, Psylocke is wooed by Weapon VIII with his sexy power of -- misdirection? Yeah, whatever.

The idea behind the art split in this issue (and the last one) is solid -- with Alphona on the dreamy romantic memories Psylocke has of her confusing days alternately sexing and thieving it up in Paris with Fantomex and Cluster; while Talajic is on the more realistic real time attempt by Psylocke and Cluster to rescue Fantomex from Weapon VIII -- but none of the pages look that good. The divisions are well chosen and smart, but the pages in both sections look rushed and unfinished. Almost sketchy as if nobody could afford an inker, or maybe just the time to let the pages be inked. The result is a good idea, botched in execution. There's no power to the drawings, nothing to anchor them and give them weight. Instead, like the story, they feel like they could be blown away in a light breeze. I kind of wish they would be.

In the end "Uncanny X-Force" does suffer in comparison to Remender's wonderful run on the book, if only because in his hands Psylocke once again became a fascinating and complex character, one you couldn't help but root for and mourn for as tragic events spun out of control. In Humphries hands Psylocke is as thinly drawn as possible, she is written as shallow and cruel, whiny and confused -- and ultimately impossible to like or enjoy. As a fan of the character I had hoped renewed creator interest in her would nicely rehabilitate her, now I'm wishing she would just get put back in the toy box so that things don't get worse.

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