Wednesday, May 8, 2013

New Comics Wednesday: Uncanny X-Force (Marvel NOW!)


The 1st issue, signed by the author and the inker.
My daughter, Joy, handed a "special rock" to Sam
Humphries, which she said would make him "a good
writer." And then she told him that she liked to write also.
Intro: As many of you know, Wednesday is New Comic Book Day, the day when new comics go on-sale at comics shops around the country, and also the day when most publishers also release the digital versions of their comics to platforms like Comixology or their own internal digital platforms. Each comic featured on Daddy Rolled a 1's New Comic Wednesday posts is one that I personally get at my local shop. 

Please note also that every Wednesday, I tweet out which issues I picked up that week, and then over the course of the week I send out individual tweets with 140-character reviews of each issue. You can follow me on Twitter here.

Today's subject of New Comics Wednesday is one of Marvel NOW!'s (still not sure why that's capitalized) new stable of X-related books, Uncanny X-Force. Issue #4 came out today.

As with all of my comic book overviews, I will attempt to explain what makes this comic interesting without giving away any spoilers.

Full Disclosure: As regular readers of the blog know, I'm really much more of a fan of D.C.'s characters, having grown up with them via the old Superfriends cartoons and reruns of the Adam West "Batman" show. However, lately, I've been collecting a few more Marvel titles, partly based on recommendations from my local comic shop. This title in particular I picked up solely because my shop had a signing featuring the writer and inker on the title (more about them below), and they were so cool to both my 3 year-old daughter and to me, I decided to give the title more than just a cursory look. I've been pleased with what I've read so far.

What's It About?
This particular X-book combines Storm, Psylocke, and a guy I remember way back from reading Alpha Flight in the 1980s, Puck. So far, they seem to be "working together" in only the loosest sense of the phrase. In the aftermath of the big A vs. X cross-over from 2012, Storm and Psylocke are sent on a mission to Los Angeles by Wolverine to essentially get them away from a lot of mutant-related drama happening back on the East Coast. In L.A., Storm and Psylocke meet up with Puck and the story takes off.

I also have to confess that I haven't read any of the issue of the title that preceded this one, Rick Remender's somewhat famous run on the pre-Marvel NOW! Uncanny X-Force, so I can't speak to whether Humphries' run is based on any pre-existing storylines. It does involve some characters with whom I'm not very familiar but that, as far as I can tell, are fan-favorites or at least well-known among readers who regularly follow the X-titles.

Who Is the Creative Team?
Sam Humphries has writing duties on the title. In addition to Uncanny X-Force, his writing credits for Marvel include Ultimates and the upcoming Avengers: A.I. He's also got a stable of creator-owned titles include Sacrifice (a mash-up of Joy Division and... ancient Aztecs?!), Our Love is Real, and Higher Earth. Of special note to Daddy Rolled a 1 readers who are parents, Humphries also wrote some Fraggle Rock comics for publisher Archaia.

Humphries writing on the series has been reviewed favorably, mainly in the context of how he's kept the series fresh and yet weaved in some threads sewn by Remender in his run on the series. I can't speak to that, not having read the previous series, but I love the way Humphries handles the characters - Puck, in particular. I remember Puck from the 80s and I also thought he was just kind of a "gimmick" character without much to add to a team that included some pretty heavy-weight mutants. Humphries has effectively turned Puck into my second-favorite "little person" character (Tyrion from the Song of Ice & Fire series is still #1).

I also really enjoy how Humphries inserts little nods to Los Angeles culture and its residents. L.A. is a city that's too often overlooked in comics, taking a very far back-seat to New York (especially in the Marvel Universe). As a resident of L.A. (well, Pasadena, actually), I appreciate that the city has some character and is more than just a name. Some little gems that locals would appreciate include things like mentioning In-N-Out burger and my personal favorite, a character questioning, "L.A. has a subway?"

Art is provided by Ron Garney, who is able to do some real detailed layouts despite the aggressive publishing schedule for Marvel. I really like his work in crafting the various figures - the draftsmanship is really well-done. Unfortunately, after the first issue, the book gets bogged down by a rotating cast of inkers and colorists (five total for issue #2) - it seems a bit excessive and definitely creates some disconnects in the otherwise well-done pencil work by Garney. This trend continues in issue #3. I'm curious to see issue #4 later today.

Who Will Like It?
As always, this part is intended to help folks who don't normally read comics decide if this is something that they'd want to pick up. My assumption is, if you're a regular comic reader, you're probably already at least partially aware of this title.

I'm reading a total of three X-related titles right now (or technically four is you count Uncanny Avengers), and of the four, Uncanny X-Force really seems to be one that can be read without needing to sucked into the miasma of the over-arching story-arcs that are running throughout the other X-books. Storm, Psylocke, and Puck seem to be operating, as least so far, independently from the rest of the X-teams (although Storm does show up periodically in the last few issues of Uncanny X-Men and All-New X-Men). So, given that, this might be a good title to check-out if you're not following the "main" X-men storylines and if you're looking to explore some of the world of Marvel's mutants without getting bogged down in a lot of the stuff that's taking place in the other titles.

Unlike some of the other titles I've reviewed, this isn't one that has a "hook" (like historical Japan or 1930s pulp adventure) - it's a pretty much straight-up mutant/superhero type of book, so if that style doesn't appeal to you, you might want to look elsewhere for you comics fix.

Any Good Fodder Here for My Role-Playing Games?
As usual, there's a lot of great character development that both players and GMs can use as models for their characters and NPCs. Puck, in particular, would be a great model for fantasy dwarf character with a chip on his shoulder.

Of course, there's also good ideas for running a superhero RPG, and the initial story-arc for the first few issues is somewhat akin to a modern-setting "mystery" involving drugs and other street-level details that could be used in any modern of near-future RPG setting.

Is It Good for Kids?
Pretty much, no. It's rated as "Parental Advisory" and with good reason - there is a lot of heavy swearing (albeit blocked out with black boxes), drugs, lots of violence, and a pretty heavy dose of sex (including some... let's just say "weird" stuff and leave it at that, so as not to spoil anything).


UNCANNY X-FORCE
  • Format: Monthly 28-page full-color series
  • Where to Buy: Try to buy it at your local comics shop. If you don't have one, try a bookstore or convenience store. You can also buy the digital version on Comixology. That link leads to the page on the series; issue #4 came out today.
  • Price: $3.99 per issue, including a digital download code for a different free Marvel comic
  • Rated: Parental Advisory
  • More Information: The official Marvel site for Uncanny X-Force
   
Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Had a Speakeasy Double Daddy Imperial IPA with lunch when I started writing this.
Listening: "Words That I Manifest (Remix)" by Gang Starr

5 comments:

  1. Haven't read this X-Force. Probably the only time I was really into X-Force was in the Milligan/Allred days.

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  2. I've heard good things about Remender's run, but it came out at a time when I was losing interest in Marvel and I've never been a reader of the mutant comics; that said, I did get every issue of the Milligan and Allred X-Force back in the day.

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  3. So funny - I never read the Milligan/Allred run, but just looked it up based on what you two said. Looks interesting.

    I bought the very first issue of X-Force #1 (Volume 1) back in the early 90s when it came out and that was one of the very last monthly comics I bought until a short-lived resurgence of Dark Horse Star Wars comics in the mid 90s, and then when I got started collecting monthlies again about 8-10 months ago.

    Honestly, the only reason I picked this title up at all was due to the in-store signing at my local shop. If it hadn't been for that, I wouldn't have bought it. But, now that I'm reading it, it's fun and I'm willing to stick with it for awhile.

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    Replies
    1. I haven't gone back to read it, but I suspect Milligan's run was very much of its time and might even seem a bit dated now. On the other hand, perhaps not; it might have the same sort of timeless quality as the 60's Batman series.

      On that subject, I'm rather looking forward to the new comic based on the TV show; it may be the first DC comic I've collected since Seven Soldiers.

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    2. I've very excited about the new Batman TV show comic as well Everything I've read about sounds really fun and different. I'm trying to decide if I'm going to read it digitally or wait for the print version to come out. I'm starting to seriously re-think the space issue of monthly comics. I've got 9 small boxes in my office and am ready to add a 10th in the next few weeks. Three of those I added after I resumed collecting less than a year ago.

      I've never read Seven Soldiers but I've heard great things about it. That's the one featuring Frankenstein, right? I've also heard his solo title in the New 52 was good, but it got canceled and they moved him over to Justice League Dark. Interesting character.

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