Now let me do something counter-intuitive and completely bash Marvel for just a moment.
Please admit that you have no idea on how to market this book. Your solicits are quite misleading. For starters, Issue 8 mentioned Puck liking jerky. Who cares? He’s not even in the issue! Also, the Love Pentagram? Who is the fifth member? Because pentagrams have five points, not four. (Count them: Psylocke, Fantomex, Cluster, and Weapon XIII. Are you counting the King Champagne?) And someone from the X-Past is playing chess across Los Angeles? We haven’t been in LA since Issue 6.
Also, you need to stop calling Uncanny X-Force a team right now. There is no team. Psylocke and Storm did a favor for Wolverine that resulted in a team-up with Puck. There has been neither a subjective nor objective decision by anyone anywhere to keep this group together as a team. Cluster and Spiral are shown as part of the “team,” but they have been side characters so far. So, this isn’t a team book and it makes things so confusing when you sell it as such.
Do, however, continue to release this book because it is fantastic.
One renegade champion (Renchamp)
*Spoilers may abound past this point. In fact, they most certainly will.*
Honestly, I bought the first issue of the latest Uncanny X-Force based on the cover alone. It was gorgeous. A new team of these sweet, mostly fringe characters was going to be fun because you could tell stories that didn’t have to conform to much of the main continuity (though I do love me some continuity).
The issue itself was a pleasant surprise. The art by Ron Garney was top notch. The colors popped. I expected a typical introductory story that explained backstories and whatnot, but Sam Humphries simply began telling a story. It was unapologetic. For me, I didn’t know why I liked it at first, but I think I ultimately decided that this approach was a breath of fresh air. My hand wasn’t held with too much background. I was thrust into the story. It was fun.
The following issues have all followed a similar format. Humphries just tells his dang story. The reader is rewarded for sticking with the series by huge reveals that never feel forced because Humphries takes his time and makes things known when they should be known. Some people call this series too slow and not forthcoming enough with answers. To them, I question whether they have ever read a novel by Charles Dickens. (Did I just compare Humphries to Dickens? I don’t even feel weird about that. I should. I don’t. Let’s continue.)
The series has already seen a few different pencilers but each has brought something special to the books they have touched. Of note, freaking Adrian Alphona. His mindscape scenes are gorgeous. Even more so, his depictions of Paris in Psylocke’s past. Alphona oozes sexy with his brash lines and devil-may-care attention to important details. (These are not real artistic phrases, but they seem to explain the allure of his work on recent issues.)
How to Read
One thing I have learned is that you really have to soak in each issue. The art should make you want to anyway. Most issues tell the story in episodes or vignettes. You get one or two pages of story here and one or two pages of story there and then another one or two pages of another story way over there. Then you bounce back and get some longer scenes and then yet another story for a page or two. You really need to keep the ducks in a row because Humphries is weaving together this very intricate tapestry of events. In sum, you must read slower than you want. The action and story move along at a decent pace but the structure takes some absorbing. (Issue 6 was really intense to follow. A story was being told about the past in the present with a scene from the future thrown in before the past's story is over in the present. Very cool approach, but you have to think it through.)
Now, allow me to show you a picture that I think personifies what Humphries is doing with this very cool yet puzzling series:
Take a look. There aren’t just girls dressed as lady heroes (every teenage boy's dream?) but male heroes. (I am personally offended that Domino is not represented.) It is explained that some guys like this sort of thing. Really? Because I see a female version of Legion and Juggernaut and both are kind of creepy. But hey, who am I to judge these fellows? (I will judge that Wolverine girl because I’d be afraid she would really have claws and just maul the crap out of me.)
Humphries seems to have an agenda about really getting into people’s minds. Things never appear normal and he takes his time showing interesting facets to each character. The mind delving is obvious early on when Storm and Psylocke go delving into Bishop’s mind. After a few issues, I can’t think this is the only mind on trial. Why did Psylocke let Demon Bear into her psyche? There has to be something going on with her to let something with the appellation “demon” to be allowed in her head.
Taking it further, Humphries seems to be enjoying the three-Fantomex paradox. Which one has Psylocke’s best interest at heart? Is Cluster really the part of Fantomex that feels? Is Psylocke being manipulated by Weapon XIII into wanting to kill Fantomex?
The big thing I sense with this incredible Fantomex web of emotion is that one doesn’t know if things are just being misdirected with the characters or if the misdirection is also happening with the reader. Are we seeing everything there is to see? We never see Fantomex with Psylocke without his mask - how can we know he is telling her the truth when she can't even read his mind to tell? I have a feeling that there must be more going on than we can know at this time. The best part, Humphries strings the reader out while reserving these revelations for the best possible time.
Even further into minds, Humphries gets into the reader’s mind by blasting them with revelations you never thought possible. In the very first issue, Fantomex kisses Cluster. What? This seemed like it could have just been a talking point for the water cooler. Why would the two possibly do this? Was it fanservice? Was it a cheap attempt to get readers interested? Turns out with Issue 8 that there was a lot more to it than any of this and it actually makes a bit of sense. (Not total sense. Humphries doesn’t work that way. I’m sure the next issue [or five issues down the line] will adequately answer this.)
Then came this bomb: Cluster and Psylocke locking lips. Really, Humphries? What is going on here!?! Was this an attempt to spark controversy? I don’t think so. I think this is where Humphries is playing his biggest mind game. Can you honestly accept the tale as told that Psylocke would spend two days in a hotel room with Cluster? As for me and my very, very conservative roots, the answer is yes. I can. It is very adequately explained through a few issues that Psylocke doesn’t quite know which Fantomex has actual feelings for her. Technically, they all do, as they all fell in love with her when they were one. But which houses the true love? The bigger question comes to light as each Fantomex makes their case: Could any ever truly have those feelings or was that misdirection too?
The beauty is that we don’t know. Humphries is doing too good of a job at dropping crumbs to be readily eaten up by readers.
As I mentioned before, this book should be read by everyone. It is complex. It is lovely to look at. It is vastly different. And it is not a team book. Yet. This is simply a book that has a fantastic niche. So, go get it.