x-Force, Vol. 1-3
written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost
illustrated by Clayton Crain
The total mutant population numbers just under two hundred. They live in a world that hates and fears them. Outnumbered and outgunned, they are caught up in a war that reduces the survivors of their race every day. Following an attack on a small Alaskan town in X-Men: Messiah CompleX, Scott Summers, leader of the X-Men, organizes a black-ops squadron that will take the fight directly to the doorsteps of their enemies. Led by Wolverine, X-Force is composed of mutantkind’s best hunters and killers, set loose to do what they do best—and what they do best isn't very nice.
Writers Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost are able to explore several timely themes throughout the X-Force series as their characters are pitted against the Purifiers, a group of far-right-wing religious fascists, and brutal acts of terrorism. One particularly memorable segment of the series involves the Purifiers obtaining a virus that amplifies the powers of infected mutants, turning them into incredibly powerful bombs.
In examining these themes, the writers have produced a more adult vision of the X-Men universe, tackling the subjects and its characters in a mature way that's decidedly different from a traditional X-Men comic. The X-Men books have long been the most socially relevant comic-book franchise, offering parables to the civil rights and equality movements, and have been able to successfully adapt to a post-9/11 world, offering and critiquing the current political landscape. Rather than responding to a threat, X-Force is strictly on the offensive, hunting down and efficiently and brutally killing their enemies. In the wake of Messiah CompleX, the X-Men find themselves locked in a war with extremists and must adapt to and confront these radical elements with their own extremes. It's a darker, more violent perspective that shows maturation not only for the book's characters, who are forced to confront difficult choices and the fallout of those decisions, but for the franchise as a whole.
The art duties alternate between story arcs, with Clayton Crain and Mike Choi handing the responsibility back and forth. Crain's work best captures the gritty premise of the series, using deep blacks and dark blues and reds. The series is a bloody affair, and his digital paintings capture the mood suitably, oftentimes beautifully. Choi's pencil work, with digital coloring by Sonia Oback, is exquisite. He does a masterful job detailing the characters, particularly with Domino, a female assassin. When she first appears in the book, you can get a read on her personality in one look, simply from Choi's depiction of her. Her posture, the smirk on her face—Choi clues you in on how much spark and personality this character has before she even has any line of dialogue.
While the series was short-lived during its publication run as a monthly comic, spanning 28 issues in total, it was a significant backbone to the X-franchise, constantly laying the groundwork for larger stories following the aftermath of Messiah CompleX (particularly Second Coming, as the central antagonists of that volume were introduced here). The majority of its issues have been collected across three volumes, although several issues were part of crossover events and were included in the trade collections for X-Force/Cable: Messiah War, Necrosha X, and X-Men: Second Coming (where this series also concludes).
With X-Force, Kyle and Yost have assembled a team of bloody killers, most notably Domino and X-23, who are clearly favorites of the writers and receive some terrifically fun, memorable moments. More important, they've pushed the X-franchise and its themes into the darker realms of today's sociopolitical climate, creating a moody, adult series that breaks away from the traditional confines of typical X-Men books.