X-Force # 12

“Traitors to the Cause”

Plot: Rob Liefeld
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Mark Pacella
Inker: Dan Panosian
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: John Cebollero
Editor: Bob Harras

Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover date: July 1992
Cover price: $1.25

There’s nothing good about this issue, and there certainly isn’t anything special about it. But it’s a good a representative as any of a very bad time in Marvel’s history, when they let the inmates run the asylum. A group of flashy, flamboyant artists, more concerned with speed lines than proper anatomy, became fan favorites. Some were very good, some, like Rob Liefeld, were very bad, and some thought it was a good idea to imitate people like Liefeld. Some editors at Marvel thought that it was these artists who were selling the books, so they gave the artists carte blanche, first letting them ignore deadlines, then veto plot elements they didn’t like, then letting them plot the books themselves. They ran off writers who had decades of experience and popularity in favor of some artists who were barely out of high school. And then when the most popular of those artists left for greener pastures like Image Comics, Marvel was left with a line of comics created by a bunch of imitative and inexperienced hacks. An industry collapse and Chapter 11 were not far behind.

While all this was going on, I penned the following review for an APA (a peculiar sort of fanzine) I was a member of at the time. You’ll note my triumphant disdain for this book, but I feel obligated to point out that I still continued to buy this title for another year. Such is the curse of the completist fanboy, one I shook off by ending my comics purchases altogether a couple years later. And I eventually figured out the obvious: Marvel kept selling crap like this because dorks like me kept buying it.

Other than a few typos, not a word of this piece of my juvenilia has been changed. I think the writing and the humor still stand up a bit, though conversely I hope that doesn’t mean I haven’t improved my writing in the last decade. The cover of this book screamed “When Externals Clash!” so I give you…

“When Proportions Clash!”

Curiously enough, X-Force is one of the books I look forward to the most each month. At the same time, it is certainly the worst book I currently read. The motley crew of the good ship X-Force has managed to create a comic book so stupid and inept that you can’t help but love it. Liefeld and friends have unknowingly resurrected the campy spirit of the old Batman TV show. The scary part is that they’re not doing it intentionally.

The latest offering starts out with a noir-esque monologue by Gideon spouting about he is ‘married’ to the purple thing with a ball and chain growing out of his forehead. The purple thing is named Crule (remember the bad guy gunslinger from Batman named Shame?) and is engaged in destroying a Madripoor bar. Apparently, the citizens of Lowtown are so jaded that they don’t find a purple guy with a medieval weapon sprouting from his head unusual. In fact, before he destroyed the bar he was engaged in a friendly game of cards with a gent with one eye and a hook for a hand. Where’s Peter Pan when you need him?

When Gideon enters the bar, Crule attacks him immediately (this is Marvel, remember?), launching such clever dialogue as “Crule rules!” Apparently, Crule learned such witty repartee while employed at the Nazi concentration camps. I’m sure a purple guy with weaponry for headgear had no problem passing as an upstanding member of the Aryan race. Anyway, it turns out that Crule is a member of the X-Ternals (where do they get these clever names?), a group of super-powered immortals. Maybe these guys will take a cue from the Highlander and start chopping each other’s heads off. Unfortunately, they don’t, and we’re forced to suffer on.

Cut to everyone’s favorite anti-heroes, X-Force. The grimacing group stands surrounding a seated Domino. Then we see a face shot of Cable looking up (???), demanding to know why she betrayed them. Feral (someone kill this furball, please) spouts dialogue worthy of Crule, volunteering to “slice open a major artery or two”. Shatterstar prances around the room with his swords drawn, demanding Domino’s execution. I wouldn’t want these guys at my party.

Then we see a group who grimace even more than X-Force does, Weapon Prime, led by Bridge, dressed in a tacky yellow outfit with red trim. I don’t think Bridge would make a good military recruitment officer, because one of the members he has enlisted is the Wendigo?! The group stands with their backs to it, who is proportionally the size of a building. Hasn’t anyone told these guys not to turn their backs on someone who eats human flesh?

Back to the immortal version of Abbott and Costello, Gideon and Crule. (Come to think of it, I’m surprised they didn’t spell Crule with a K.) Gideon’s green ponytail is flapping in the air, no doubt caused by a fierce gust of wind from the air conditioner. Gideon, not the picture of patience, becomes upset with his young ward, Roberto DaCosta, and proceeds to beat his face to a pulp. Then we see poor Roberto sprawled out on the stairs without a mark on his face, looking like he had just fallen asleep instead of being pummled nearly to death.

The second to last page is a full page spread of Weapon Prime charging and the stiff figure of Bridge shouting “CABLE IS OURS!” in letters nearly an inch high. These guys are really eager, because they’re charging inside of their own ship, still miles away from the X-Force HQ. They did find time to stop by and visit the Avengers to pick up some of Hank Pym’s enlarging gas, though. Grizzly and the Wendigo are so big here that they look like the twin towers of the World Trade Center compared to the other guys.

The last shot is yet another full page pic of Cable’s face. The guy has been so busy he hasn’t had time to replace his fake skin. His skull is tilted at a 45 degree angle and the grimacing, disembodied heads of X-Force are reflected in his metal face as he exclaims “Nothing is going to stop us!” Except for cancellation, but I suppose that’s too much to hope for.

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