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X-Force - Volume 1: Angels and Demons (v. 1) Hardcover – November 5, 2008
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There are lots of rewards for long-time fans, as many old enemies and themes are touched upon. That said, the mythology shouldn't preclude new readers from enjoying the book. In fact, this is probably the most accessible of the X books, because the plot is fast-paced, there is lots of action, and minimal time spent in expository recapping of earlier plot-lines. The artwork is excellent. I had previously been turned off by the darkness and density of Clayton Crain's artwork in Ghost Rider, but somehow it works here. The art is especially effective in the first several issues, before the conflict gets a bit absurd and bloated.
In fact, if the book had one flaw, it was that the story seemed to get away, by the final chapters, from the gritty and intimate feel established at the beginning. A gigantic battle at the end stretched the bounds of credibility.
All in all, far more satisfying than the recent "Young X-men", another new splinter from the "New Mutants/X-Academy/New X-Men" tree.
Following the events of Messiah Complex, in which a religious anti-mutant group called The Purifiers engaged in a mutant massacre, X-Men leader Cyclops came to a decision. Some threats to mutantkind needed to be dealt with....permanently. Due to the X-Men's no killing policy, his only choice was to put together a separate team of assassins: X-Force. And who better to lead the team than the man who's the best at what he does? Wolverine is actually against the idea from the start, but Cyke is way ahead of him. He's already enlisted Warpath, who has a brother to avenge, and X-23 -Logan's hot female clone bred specifically for cold calculated murder. This sets the Canadina berserker off as the X-Men and him in particular have spent so much time trying to humanize X-23. To utilize her as a weapon would peg them as no better than the Weapon X folks. But the biggest kicker is yet to be announced. Former New Mutant werewolf Rahne Sinclair (aka Wolfsbane) has signed on as well, her father Reverend Craig having joined The Purifiers and making it personal for her as well. Though Wolverine forbids her involvement, it's a decision he will come to regret.
"X-Force" is the most violent mainstream comic I've ever seen. Pools of blood, dismemberments, disembowelments, piles of bodies, and beheadings fill the action sequences with no punches pulled. Additional horror elements are present as well to crank up the disturbing factor. And the team looks positively demonic in their dark uniforms and red-eyed masks. Too cool. This is all helped by the fact that the art is absolutely amazing. It borders on photo-realism. These pages are filled with some images that will drop your jaw when you see them and stay with you long after you're done reading. The religious aspect also adds to the discomforting vibe. You will see a beloved character perform two of the most brutal, violent, and disturbing acts in X-Men history within these pages. Other characters enter the fray as well including mutant healer Elixir (he's needed A LOT) and a certain ex-Horseman of Death makes an exciting comeback with brutal ends. Much of the story is told from The Purifiers' point of view and while this takes away from the main characters, it is essential to understanding just what the hell is going on. It also helps if you know your X-history because there is a lot of formerly-finished business from the past that X-Force is going to have to deal with, be it a Sentinel from the future, a techno-organic monstrosity, or mass murders back from the grave. Yup, there's enough killing here to go around. There's some admirable characterization, be it X-23's Terminator-like personality coldly assessing every situation, Wolverine's gruff protectiveness, or the madness and fervor of the villains as they fight amongst themselves for dominance. Isn't that always the way with organized religion?
Considering it's uncompromising nature, I'd have expected this iteration of "X-Force" to be a short, sweet mini-series affair, but Marvel is going all in and appears to be setting up for the long haul on this title. Thank God. This is one of my favorite things going on in comics right now. Artist Clayton Crain was sadly replaced for the next run, Old Ghosts, but I need to check out some of his other work because he really wowed me with his art in this book. X-Men fans looking for something decidedly adult and harsh will have a gaping hole in their life until they partake of "X-Force: Angels and Demons". Buy it for all your bada$z friends too, because they'll love you for it and I really want to see more comics of this variety.