March 21, 2011
All I have to say is "Rob Liefeld" and I bet you could predict what's coming from this comic. But you'd be wrong, for this comic ALSO has a trading card!
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. People often ask for recommendations about where to start out in comics, and yes, I am planning on putting together a blog post giving recommendations. But there's a bit of a problem for me when people ask where to start with the X-Men.
(Shots of the X-Men are shown)
Linkara (v/o): There are two things holding me back, the first being that I don't know all that much about the X-Men. "Really?" cried out the people who saw my "Uncanny X-Men" videos back in 2009 and corrected me about Angelo being a longtime member of the team and how dare I not know that. Sure, I know a lot of the history, I know a lot of the major events, but I'm not exactly a fan, beyond the '90s animated series. There have just been so many characters, so many stories that it's almost completely unwieldy. I admire the people who can keep a lot of the convoluted stories and history straight. The second is part of that. When you say "X-Men", it also kind of incorporates all the X-Men spin-off titles...
(Cut to a montage of such titles...)
Linkara (v/o): "X-Factor", "New Mutants", "Excalibur", "Exiles", "X-Staix", "Young X-Men", "Alpha Flight", "District X". And that's not even getting into the X-Men books that just add another word to the book title: "Astonishing X-Men", "Uncanny X-Men", "New X-Men", "X-Men Unlimited", "Ultimate X-Men", "Xtreme X-Men". And what about the titles for individual characters?
Linkara: (recoiling, holding up hands) Okay, okay, okay! That's enough! The point is, there's a lot of freakin' "X-Men" books! We're going to talk about one particular title today: "X-Force".
(Cut to some shots of "The New Mutants")
Linkara (v/o): Shortly after Rob Liefeld took over art duties for the book "New Mutants" in the tail end of its run, his popularity led him to taking over the writing duties as well. At number 100 in the series, the group renamed itself "X-Force", allowing them to create a whole new book for the series and launch a new number-one issue. Subsequently, the ensuing popularity meant the book sold around five million copies, making it the second most sold comic book of all time, right behind "X-Men #1", which we've already looked at.
Linkara: And hey, that book was fairly okay. Maybe this one won't be so bad. (smiles hopefully, then expression turns sour) Let's just dig into (holds up today's comic) "X-Force #1".
(AT4W title sequence plays; title card has "I Drove All Night" by Cyndi Lauper playing in the background; cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): The first thing I should note is that, aside from Liefeld's popularity, the other reason why this comic book sold so well was that it was a polybag comic. Polybags, for non-comic readers, are those plastic bags you'll sometimes see comics in, often with a white board in the back to keep it straight.
(Cut to a shot of polybags)
Linkara (v/o): People who collect comic books or want to preserve the quality of the comic tend to keep them sealed in them under the theory that it will help stop the decay of the comic. It's also used by some store owners to prevent people from reading the comic in the store, which is fine. I prefer a store to keep it so people can read what they want to buy, but a store should be allowed to set its own policies.
(A montage of comics in polybags are shown, including "Hardware" and "Superman #75")
Linkara (v/o): During the '90s, comics polybagged by the publishers were often done so for specific reasons, primarily if there was something that was sold with the comic. For example, "Superman #75", when he died, was polybagged with this special black polybag with a red, bleeding Superman emblem. Inside, it contained the comic, of course, but also a black armband, an obituary, a poster, and a few other items.
(Cut to 90s Kid)
90s Kid: Duuuuude! Polybags are the most awesome thing EVER! All I have to do is, like, buy fifteen of the same comic, save them all, and then, in a few years, I'll be the richest dude EVER! (makes an ILY sign with both hands)
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, this is that part of that "collector's edition" and speculator craze, where people believe that comic featuring Gun-Toting Hero #409 would be worth a million dollars in a few years. Hence, why people bought multiple copies. Now, in a hundred years, a polybag edition of "The Death of Superman" with all the trimmings intact might be worth a little bit of money, but certainly not much these days. Why am I bringing this all up?
(Cut back to the cover of "X-Force")
Linkara (v/o): Well, as it happens, one copy of "X-Force #1" that I own is a polybag copy, boasting not only of it being the first collector's item, but also a "FREE official Marvel super hero trading card ENCLOSED" and "available only with this collector's edition!"
(Cut to a shot of a trading card, showing Cable)
Linkara (v/o): Mine had Cable on it, and I'm pretending to be excited, even though it's really stupid!
(The card turns around, revealing stats on the back)
Linkara (v/o): Also, get this: it has stats on the back. Cable weighs 350 pounds, according to this thing. I'm sure someone would say it's all his muscle, but that can't be healthy...
(Cut to Cable on the cover)
Linkara (v/o): ...especially when he carries all that weight in his shoulder pads.
(Cut to a shot of additional trading cards, and a plain white T-shirt, with a card over it)
Linkara (v/o): It comes with a second card, this one giving us a "super-powerful offer": we can take one of those X-Force cards that were available and have them printed on a T-shirt!
Linkara: (holding up his trading cards) Even if it did have Mr. T on it, like all good trading cards do, who looks at (holds up card of Cable in front of camera) this picture and says, "Yeah, I want this on a T-shirt!" I don't mean just a picture. I mean, the example they show is just a white T-shirt (holds this card up in front of camera) with the entire trading card on it?? With the border and everything!
Linkara (v/o): Maybe they didn't exist in the '90s, but I'm almost dead certain you could go to a store and have someone do that for you. You didn't need to send away for it. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong. Let's just look at the comic itself.
(Cut back to the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Like "Cable: Blood and Metal", this cover is a wraparound, showing the members of X-Force just standing there, Cable, of course, taking up most of it. And there are nice clouds of smoke on the bottom, because Liefeld has this aversion to feet, so he refuses to draw them if he doesn't have to. On the left is Shatterstar and his single shoulder pad, which would be fine if not for the fact that he's carrying two swords. What's better, one of the swords actually has two blades on it. I don't know how accurate a weapon that is, but I'm pretty sure the handle is too small.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open to Antarctica.
Narrator: Seven silent figures stand motionless...
Linkara: (impatiently) Yeah, yeah, we saw the cover; move on with the story!
Narrator: ...brooding, alone with their thoughts... and the weight of the road they have chosen to follow...
Linkara: (holding up index finger) Uh, pardon me for nitpicking, but generally, don't people walk on the road? Why the hell would the road itself be heavy unless they were carrying it? AND WHY WOULD THEY BE CARRYING THE ROAD?!
Narrator: Some would call them heroes, some would call them rebels.
Linkara: (as narrator) I call them (holds up index finger) "Rebeloes".
Linkara (v/o): So, on this two-page spread, we see our heroes and their names. Up on top is Cannonball, who is no doubt yelling because he can't stop and is going to collide into a nearby wall. Next down is Domino, who I really don't know anything about other than her being mildly popular; Warpath on the left here, who is so immense that he towers over the goons they're fighting – or that's actually everybody, because all of the goons look unusually tiny compared to our heroes. Below him is Feral, also huge, not only in general size, but also having hair three times bigger than her head. To the right is Boom Boom, who is wearing '80s sunglasses and the same as half the characters Liefeld draws. To the far right is Shatterstar, who we've already made fun of for his massive shoulder pads and goofy swords. And finally, Cable, who looks like he's trying to splash down all 350 pounds into a pool.
Linkara: (as Cable) Everybody out of the deep end!
Linkara (v/o): They comment to each other that they're just dealing with goons, and they'll be too tired to deal with the main honchos if this keeps up. Four more villains crowd out of a single doorway, and Shatterstar says they're coming from "Mark 32". Cable berates him for not using Earth's method of time, since apparently Shatterstar is from another planet, and of course, despite the fact that the four are clearly only five feet away and moving towards them, they're able to talk to each other for several sentences before they finally attack. Shatterstar takes on a guy named Reaper, whose only claim to that name is a scythe weapon; otherwise, he once again has that bizarre hairdo and big painted black circles around his eyes. Also, the high disco collar is so what I think of when I think a reaper. And then Shatterstar cuts off his hand, with remarkably little blood on the blade, which you may recognize from the "top 40 worst Rob Liefeld drawings" blog post. And yes, I've seen that. And it very well deserves to be on that list because I'm still not sure which hand was supposed to have been cut off in this image. Let's not even get into the fact that his hand has rocket boosters in it or something, since the thing goes flying away from the two, despite the fact that cutting off a hand would make it drop to the ground.
Linkara: Or maybe Shatterstar, playing an extreme version of "keep away", cut off the hand with one sword and then smacked it away with the other, just as a cruel joke.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, yeah, fight scene. Fight scenes are hard to make fun of unless the dialogue is stupid or if it's handled incompetently. This is not all that bad, though it does have a lot of quirks here and there. For example, why did Domino decide to start doing splits here? Also, in the previous panel, this villain, Forearms [sic] – subtle – is holding Cable in a bear hug, while Warpath closes in from behind. Now, in this panel, Warpath is punching downwards from the front, and Cable's on the ground in front of him. How did they get in that position?! We cut to– Oh, Lord in heaven, two pages that I have to turn on their side to read! This is ridiculous! Liefeld, if you hate drawing feet so much, then don't bother doing a full body shot of a character, especially one that looks as goofy as Stryfe! I mean, I didn't think it was possible to make Stryfe look any stupider than he did in "Cable: Blood and Metal", but now we add Liefeldian proportions to the mix! His calf and thigh muscles are disturbingly huge, compared to the tiny knee! Also, look at the other leg. It should not be possible to raise his leg like that! And what is he even putting his foot on, the next panel? Then there's this character, Thumbelina. The only thing I'm gonna ask of her is, what the hell is up with her hair? Seriously, this is the fifth person I've seen in this comic who has this hairstyle. Why does Liefeld think this hairstyle looks good?!
Linkara: It's not just here, either. I think every Liefeld book I've reviewed has featured this hairstyle! I know he can draw other hairstyles! Why is this one the default one he keeps falling back on?!
Linkara (v/o): What's up with Stryfe's computer display? Is his screensaver set on Mondrian Squares? If you can't be bothered to draw what something looks like on a computer screen, then don't draw one this friggin' huge or have so many screens! What does Stryfe even need this many screens for?! Is he afraid he'll miss the action two inches to the right so he set up another camera?! Oh, I suppose you want to know what the story is associated with this. Stryfe realizes that Cable is too close and orders all the personnel to teleport out and to let the base self-destruct. Yeah, I can see what that necessitated all this garbage. More fight scene ensues, with Pharaoh fighting Wildside. They're evenly matched, you see; they both have the same huge, ridiculous hairstyle. She beats him, of course, causing Cable to question whether she plans on killing him. She says she could if she wanted to, but Cable tells her, only in self-defense.
Pharaoh: I walk away today and that's one more person who could nail me tomorrow!
Linkara (v/o): And Shatterstar, earlier in the fight, commented that normally he'd kill his opponents, too.
Linkara: Did Cable hire these people out of prison? Why the hell did he put together a team that wants to kill everybody, if he himself hates it?!
Linkara (v/o): Zero, the Mutant Liberation Front's teleporter, beams him out, and X-Force runs further into the base to confront Stryfe.
Cable: You're dead. End of story.
Linkara (v/o): Just two pages ago, you were lecturing Pharaoh about killing people. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen: a big friggin' hypocrite!
Stryfe: I think not, Nathan-- or whatever it is you're calling yourself this time... I think not.
Linkara (v/o): Somehow, despite Cable shooting before he says that, he has enough time to spout off that dialogue and then walk into a portal out of the base. What, are those two horizontal bars supposed to be Cable's blasts? If so, he can't aim for crap, which is pretty surprising, considering how friggin' large a target Stryfe is!
Cable: Stab his eyes! He got away again!!
Linkara: What point would stabbing his eyes serve? He already suffers from Youngblood's Disease. His vision is awful!
Linkara (v/o): The group realizes that the structure is blowing up, and they bid a hasty retreat, thanks to Cable's own teleporter, known as a Body Slide. Oh, and check out Domino here. All right, people, you want to argue with me about to single shoulder pads? Fine. But can someone explain why one arm has a single shoulder pad while the other arm has a double shoulder pad?! As X-Force makes its departure, their vehicles' lighting is bright red, which is exactly the kind of color you want to have on a ship when you're going into high-stress combat situations. Most of the group comments that they can file this one as a victory.
Linkara: Yeah, the terrorists got away, the base was destroyed, leaving nothing for you to investigate, trace or use. Clearly, this was a job well done!
Boom Boom: Ain't there a little more to it than winnin' or losin'? What about the kinda fashion statement we make?
Linkara: (sighs) Boom Boom, just shut up and go back to pretending you're Cyndi Lauper.
Linkara (v/o): We cut to Manhattan and the (reads text) "majestic penthouse of a very mysterious man named Gideon." Yes, see? Look at how mysterious he is in his skintight tank top and yellow armor rings on his arms. He's so mysterious! I'm sure this is character development for the other guy with our man of mystery, but really, it's just dull. They mention something about the guy's father being proud of him; Gideon makes a smirk like he's evil, and...
Gideon: Three o'clock. World Trade Center. Bring several tourniquets.
(Linkara stares at the comic, horrified)
Roberto da Costa: They're going to need some when we bleed them to death!
(Linkara is even more horrified; cut to a clip of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
Spock: (to Kirk) Are you sure it isn't time for a colorful metaphor?
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Okie-dokie, moving on! Back at the smoldering crater in Antarctica, a military unit is examining the remains of the MLF base. Then we have these two characters, one of whom has massive knee pads, because I guess he's afraid of falling off his skateboard. By the by, I'm sure the lack of proper protection against the cold, especially for your heads, will do wonders for you guys in flippin' Antarctica! They discover one of Cable's discarded weapons at the remains and decide that, with this latest incident, they need to take Cable and his group down. And now we cut to the Adirondack Mountains, where X-Force has set up its base.
Cannonball: (narrating) It's got everythin' we need. Computer set-up's great. Rec-room and the facilities're okay, too.
Linkara: (as Cannonball) I personally inspected every toilet.
Linkara (v/o): Cannonball asks Cable why they let the MLF go.
Linkara: Because you're ineffectual and can't do the job right? (shrugs)
Cable: We severely crippled both their operations and their manpower. To have tried to go beyond that would have jeopardized our unit more than I would have preferred.
Linkara: So the mission of X-Force is to inconvenience the enemy, but not actually stop them? (shrugs in confusion)
Linkara (v/o): Cannonball wonders if Cable is worried about Stryfe killing the team like he killed Cable's son. Cable clarifies that the boy, Tyler, was not actually his son; he just treated him as such. Tyler eventually joined up with the MLF. He explains that Stryfe put Tyler in a position that got him killed, but frankly, I'm distracted by the bizarre cross hatchings in the wall. What the hell are these supposed to be, exactly? Tic-tac-toe games that got way out of hand? Cannonball heads out as Domino shows up, Cable asking her how much of his secrets did she disclosed to the rest of the team. Cable suddenly starts floating around tools with his telekinetic abilities.
Cable: Simplifying my grunt work. Don't worry--I wouldn't have done it if anyone else was around.
Domino: Well, if you're going to hold back on telling these kids everything there is to know about you-- you'd better be prepared to sing like a canary if they catch you pulling stunts like that!
Linkara: (exaggerating) A mutant displaying mutant powers?! (slaps himself on the head) That would just be such a shock!
Linkara (v/o): We cut to the World Trade Center, where Gideon and his assistant are heading towards a meeting. On the way, they almost bump into Spider-Man and Daredevil discussing the Surgeon General in the next room over. This is a business meeting, involving a buyout of Gideon's and a few other businessmen's companies, with the aid of a supervillain named Black Tom. He says that the group is going to extort money from their own bosses by becoming hostages for him and the woman named Ariana. Aaaand cut away before we learn anything more, of course. The guy from Antarctica gets in contact with Nick Fury, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., the international law enforcement and espionage agency within the Marvel Universe. The guy confirms to him that Cable is responsible for taking out the MLF base, and Nick Fury orders him to bring Cable in. And so, our comic ends with the guy saying it's time to bring in... WEAPON X! (a dramatic sting is heard)
Linkara: WOW! (stops, confused) Wait, "wow" wasn't the word I was looking for. (tries to think) It was, uh... (holds up index finger) Oh, yeah... YAWN! (closes comic and holds it up) This comic sucks.
Linkara (v/o): It is boring and badly-drawn. Most of it is badly-rendered action sequences or just stilted dialogue, talking either about stuff we already knew about or backstory that we don't care about. As a number-one issue, it fails to draw new readers in, and the only reason it sold as much as it did was for the crappy trading card, which is really sad when you think about it.
Linkara: Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go print that Mr. T trading card on a t-shirt. (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
For those of you who don't know what "Weapon X" is and why it's significant... well, let me put it this way – the continuity alarm would be going off constantly if I tried to explain it. More or less – spooky government project that gave Wolverine his adamantium skeleton and claws.
Also, some of my fans were quick to alert me that the first three pages of this comic are actually a rip-off of the first three pages of an issue of New Teen Titans and that Rob has a track record of sometimes outright tracing other people's artwork. Nice.
(Stinger: 90s Kid is seen again)
90s Kid: When I die, I want to be put inside of a polybag, along with a HOLOGRAPHIC TRADING CARD! Hey, I'm 90s Kid, (shucks his jacket to reveal his "WYSIWYG" shirt underneath) and what you see is what you get. (beat) Or is it?