Somewhere Charles Xavier is spinning around in his grave. Or to be more accurate, since the old prof is still breathin', he's spinning in his wheelchair. Or he would if he ever catches a whiff of what Cyclops has been up to, what with Scott Summers effing around with Xavier's big shiny dream of racial harmony between man and mutant. Things haven't gotten any rosier for mutants in the 616. There are threats to mutants out there that colorful superheroics simply won't fix, and so Cyclops adapts by re-establishing X-Force, and this is a meaner, deadlier incarnation. Tapping Wolverine as field commander, X-Force is Cyclops' black ops kill team, sent out to do the dirty work that the X-Men could never do. In fact, part of the mission statement is that the X-Men could never know about X-Force, not even Summers' telepathic girlfriend Emma Frost.
What does it say about me that I vastly prefer this darker and more savage bunch of mutants over the other X-Men teams? X-Force assembles the X-Men's most accomplished and relentless trackers and killers, and so you immediately think of Wolverine and X-23. But it's bloody brilliant of Kyle and Yost to throw in Warren Worthington in the mix, that goody-goody, wishy washy, wussy rich playboy. But the writers return Warren to his badasss ways, back to being the blue-skinned, metal razor-winged Archangel, the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse. Back in the day, Warren in this guise became my favorite X-Man, and it's a thrill seeing him like this again, driven psychotic with the need to test everyone to see if they're fit to survive (and, yes, this homicidal urge extends to his teammates). Warpath is another member, except that in this arc he's off on his own, visiting his brother's grave and fighting off the Demon Bear, and it's probably good (and awfully convenient) that the Ghost Rider stops by, because Warpath was en route to being walloped into bloody Apache pulp. Rahne Sinclair, a.k.a. Wolfsbane, is also in the picture, although she's a member more by virtue of just being around. No surprise that Wolfsbane doesn't really have the proper mindset for the violent wetworks stuff that X-Force gets into.
It's bemusing that Logan would end up being the steadiest voice of reason in this bunch. Everyone else is pretty much too messed up in the head. X-FORCE Vol. 2: OLD GHOSTS collects issues #7-11, and we get an early sense of the team dynamics as Wolfsbane (brainwashed) and Archangel (homicidal) are both triggered into a murderous rage and try to off each other. Brilliant. Meanwhile, Cyclops has a new mission for the team, and off they go hunting down a dodgy character called the Vanisher. The Vanisher is a teleporter who had just stolen a vial of the Legacy Virus, and it's a signpost of how bent this team is that the Vanisher soon becomes its newest member. Right after Domino becomes its newest member. But while Domino pretty much comfortably slips into membership, the Vanisher has to be blackmailed, to the tune of an inoperable tumor induced in his brain, thanks to Elixir. That is friggin' hard-core, yo.
Somewhere in the background, that mutant hating cyborg Bastion is working it, having revived some of the X-Men's dead enemies (Cameron Hodge, Graydon Creed, etc.). In issue #11, setting the stage for the then upcoming Necrosha saga, we get the dark origin of Eli Bard and we see just how far back he goes with Selene.
The action is brutal as our guys treat clones of the Marauders like veggies, chopping and slicing and dicing and pretty much reducing places into blood-soaked abattoirs. Writers Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost must have had a blast writing this series and playing with these hard mo-fos. It's fascinating to see X-Force performing with the safety off, and I get a kick out of Domino's being impressed with how deadly this new team is and her quick reflections on Warren and Laura (and, by the way, X-23 is all kinds of awesome). There are even moments of dark humor peppered in, and perhaps the most amusing bit is the integration of the painting of The Scream over Elixir's head as Laura casually tells him that Cyclop's next logical move is to waste him (because Elixir can't keep a secret). The art, by the way, is lovely, courtesy of Mike Choi, Alina Urusov, and Clayton Crain. Crain is still champion at crafting muddled but beautiful artwork. I don't know that X-FORCE is the best mutant comic book going around currently, but it surely presents the most irresistible premise. Off come the kid gloves, uptight morality can go hang.