Review by Will Morgan
Spoilers in review
In 2001, Marvel decided to revamp its line of X-Men series, and X-Force, previously a ‘Junior mutants in training’ title, which assumed the ecological niche vacated by the New Mutants, was supplied with the most drastic makeover.
Gone were the angst-ridden teens we knew, and instead were a brand-new line-up of media-whore ‘heroes’ who were more interested in sex, booze, and celebrity perks than fighting crime or defending the innocent. We were introduced to Zeitgeist, La Nuit, Gin Genie, Battering Ram and Plazm – and then, in a few pages, bade them adieu, as only U-Go Girl and new recruit the Anarchist were left after the carnage of their latest mission. Writer Peter Milligan deftly juggled the swiftly-rotating line-up as wannabes joined and died, each roster change freshening the character interactions, as the larger-than-life narcissists squabble, preen, and occasionally even do a little good despite themselves. Mike Allred, having made his reputation with Madman, brought a clean, retro look, deceptively simple and static, quite unlike anything else being published at the time. In no time, the revised X-Force became a breakaway hit, attracting mainstream and indie attention alike.
This premier collection jumps in with the new X-Force having been a media phenomenon for long enough to establish lucrative merchandising franchises worldwide – and to have previously lost members in combat. Despite a legal tussle existing between the original X-Force and the new guys, it’s established that there are ‘boot camps’ where aspiring mutants train and audition for their shot with the a-list team, as well as a cadre of scouts on the search for promising talent. From these sources are drawn the rest of the new line-up; Bloke, Phat, the Vivisector, Saint Anna, and the Orphan. Don’t become too attached; though some become focal figures in the series, not all of them make it to the end of the paperback.
More violence and internecine struggle serve to define relationships within the new group, antagonisms encouraged by their omnipresent handler, know only as Coach. A sales-grabbing guest appearance manages not to be too obtrusive, and by the end of the volume Milligan has achieved the considerable feat of creating brand-new characters with whom the reader, despite themselves, becomes emotionally invested. Bonus pages include two alternate covers for the trade, and a selection of character sketches and alternate covers that in some cases were created as misleading preview material.
The saga of the ‘new’ X-Force continues – and in one sense concludes – with The Final Chapter.