X-Force Vol 1: Angels and Demons - Review

Following the devastating decimation of Mutantkind at the hands of an insane Scarlet Witch at the end of House of M, the mutant population had been reduced to 198 but they still live in a world which hates and fears them. Now they are outgunned and outmanned and are still caught up in a war that reduces their scarce numbers daily. The following X-saga, Messiah Complex, took the X-Men to a small Alaskan town following the birth of a single mutant child. In this saga Scott Summers - AKA Cyclops - decides it is time for the mutants to go back to basics and have a team that is capable of taking out the more extreme of their villians. X-Force is designed to take the fight right to the villian's doorstep. Led by Wolverine, X-Force was compossed of the X-Men's best hunters and trackers and they are set loose to do what they do best, but what they do best isn't very nice...

Following Messiah Complex it fell to writers, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost to explore several timely themes through those new pages as X-Force is pitted against one of the X-Men's more terrifying villians in the form of the Purifiers. The Purifiers are so terrifying because of their sheer number and they are extreme right-wing facists who have committed brutal acts of terrorism. One act they perform over the course of this X-Force series is taking ill mutants and giving them shots of an even more lethal virus that causes their powers to overload and explodes the mutant in the process.

In their exploration of these themes, the writers succeeded in taking a look at one of the darker threads of the X-Men universe in a much more mature way that is very different from a traditional X-Men book. For a very long time, the X-Men have been the most socially relevant book put out from Marvel as they offer parables on topics like civil rights and equality movements. They have also been one of only a few books to successfully adapt to the shift in the real world tone in the post - 9/11 landscape, commenting on and critiquing the political landscape. Rather than responding to a threat, X-Force is strictly on the offensive, hunting down and destroying their villians before they can pose a threat. And in the wake of Messiah Complex, the X-Men find themselves locked in a war with extremists and they have to adapt and respond to those types of threats in their own drastic ways. This is much darker shift in tone and maturity, not only for the members of X-Force but also the franchise itself.

Throughout the whole run of the book, the art changed hands between Clayton Crain and Mike Choi. It is Crain's work that best captures the tone the writers are going for as he uses bleak blues and dark blacks. This series is a very bloody affair and his computer painted images capture that graphicness, sometimes a little too nicely. Choi's future work on the series with his penciling and colouring from Sonia Oback is equally as exquisite. He will do a masterful job with the detailing on his characters, particularly when they introduce Domino.

Unfortunately this was a relatively short-lived series with only twenty-eight issues in total being published. But it quickly became a significant back bone for the X-Men franchise. It also laid some considerable groundwork for future X-Men events, most notably Second Coming.

But with this incarnation of X-Force, writers Kyle and Yost cleverly use its characters, obviously favourites of theirs because of the fantastic dialogue and moments each one gets in these pages. But more importantly, X-Force pushed the X-Men in the much need direction of the slightly darker corner of the Marvel Universe thanks to its reflection of modern sociopolitical climate and it created a moody, adult series that succesfully split it away from the traditional confines that come with the X-Men...