Krakoa's black ops team comes out the other side of 'X of Swords' fighting an infection in X-Force #16. Reuniting the launch team of Benjamin Percy, Joshua Cassara, and Guru-eFX, this sixteenth installment finds the island of Krakoa under attack from another weaponized force of nature. But this time instead of plant zombies or ancient monsters from mutantkind's past, it's the cast-off pieces of an ancient god, settling into the oceanic trenches underneath Krakoa, threatening to spread from below and across the new nation-state.
Written by Benjamin Percy
Art by Joshua Cassara and Guru-eFX
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Though X-Force #16 loses a little of the serialized punch the series enjoyed in it's opening arc and during the 'X of Swords' tournament, Percy still finds wonderfully dark humor with his line-up. By throwing them into yet another meat-grinder only to be rescued by Namor the Sub-Mariner (another tremendously snarky element and character that settles in well with the lineup), the script restates the title's commitment to over-the-top visuals and problems for the team to tackle. Couple that snark and black humor with the consistently stylish and more-than-a-little gross artwork of Cassara and Guru-eFX and X-Force #16 stands as a fun, if a bit frivolous, return to the 'main' action of mutantkind's Expendables.
Having survived Opal Luna Saturnyne's antics in the 'X of Swords' crossover, X-Force is getting back to the business of protecting Krakoa from all manner of threats that demand deadly force. And this time the threat is coming from the very waters that surround them! Under occasional siege with noxious "metastatic offshoots of the island itself", all the arms of X-Force are on alert and trying to work the problem in their own ways. Hank McCoy, of course, is looking to study the phenomenon while Dr. Reyes, Black Tom Cassidy, Wolverine, Forge, Domino, and Quentin Quire are looking to rip-and-tear the threat away from the island, thus living up to their station and finally allowing the team a little time to breathe in the wake of the constant threats.
A lot of this stuff works overall. Percy resets a lot of the already established characterizations for the team just in case new readers are coming in and even gives us longer timer readers fun check-ins on the elements still carried over from the opening arcs, like Hank's increased mad sciencing, Quentin's relationship with Stepford Cuckoo Phoebe, and Logan's transition into field leader in the wake of Jean Grey's departure.
But that said, the issue's story comes across a bit basic at the outset of so much tightly serialized stuff in the opening arcs and 'X of Swords' crossover. Not that the appearance of Namor and Wolverine facing a "god" isn't fun, but it reads a bit flatly episodic after so many intentional issues of the series before now. While that might have been the best move for the title post-crossover event, I am not sure how well it will stand up to readers who have been pulling X-Force from the launch. It fits into the title's tone and concept, for sure, but I am not sure how well it will hold up just as a single issue of the series.
One thing I can say for sure however is that X-Force #16 certainly looks like the gross, hyper-violent team title people have come to expect. Once again under the sketchy, but emotive pencils of Joshua Cassara and the roiling, particular colors of Guru-eFX, X-Force #16 faces the team with one of their most stylish enemies yet; negative space. Plunged into the depths of the sea and surrounded by domineering shadows and inks, the team takes a much more focused approach to the post-crossover issue than one would expect.
But the feint is a good one, setting it apart instantly from the more cinematic, splashy issues from the crossover and getting the title back into the darker, kinetic visuals the title made it's bones on. The results are oppressive sequences like the team's descent into the waters below Krakoa, pinpointing the characters amid crushingly dark pages of inky black water held in sketchy panel boxes and a show-stopping reveal of Namor and the creature they face, literally too big to be seen completely on panel (driving Logan into sleepless nights dreaming of being the one that killed the thing that made him feel so small).
While that may be a far cry from the high fantasy antics of X of Swords, X-Force #16 gets the team back into the dirty business of protecting Krakoa from the threats that can't be talked down. While the story this time around feels a little disconnected from the line, Benjamin Percy, Joshua Cassara, Guru-eFX, and their merry band of mutant murderers work to find their feet again in the wake of the latest X-event. Let's hope they survive the experience (except for Quentin Quire, of course).