Tuesday, August 7, 2012

X-FORCE #94 - September 1999

Artifacts & Apocrypha
Credits: John Francis Moore (writer), Jim Cheung (penciler), Morales/Stull/Ramos/Koblish (inks), Kevin Tinsley (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: X-Force arrives in war-torn Genosha, at the request of Peter Wisdom. Cannonball demands Wisdom reveal the origin of the “memory box” Wisdom mailed him. Wisdom introduces X-Force to Delphi, a native Genoshan who captures memories in boxes. In exchange for a memory from each member, Delphi gives them a box that contains information they need for their mission. Wisdom reveals that he’s called the team to retrieve a crashed Black Air satellite named the Faraway. After a brief confrontation with Quicksilver, Wisdom leads X-Force to its location. He picks up a sentient brain, which triggers an alarm. Meanwhile in Brazil, Sunspot rescues Selene from two Deviants.

Continuity Notes:
· The remnants of the Genoshan magistrates are still fighting with the Mutates as the story opens.
· Wisdom tells X-Force that following Excalibur’s disbanding, he’s worked with former Black Air members to make amends for their previous actions. This issue also marks the debut of his infamous eye patch. According to Wisdom: “I lost this eye trying to stop a reactionary KGB cell in Siberia from unleashing a viral bomb the Reagan Administration developed.” A year later, Warren Ellis will reveal in X-Force that the eye patch was a scam Wisdom used to pick up women.
· The concept of sentient, disembodied brains (this one is named Archie) showed up earlier during John Francis Moore’s Factor X run.
· The memory box Wisdom mailed to Cannonball belongs to someone from his hometown. Cannonball sees himself as a child running from a fight between two superbeings.
· The memory Meltdown gives Delphi is when she first used her powers as a teenage runaway to stop a street punk named Tiger. What happened to Tiger is left vague; if Moore’s idea is that Meltdown killed him, it’s possible this is the “dark secret” from her life as a runaway she’s always kept hidden.

Review: How much plot did John Francis Moore manage to cram into this issue? I’d say around four issues. If you’re feeling generous, you might say five. In this issue, we’re introduced to Delphi and the memory box concept, reintroduced to Peter Wisdom, dumped into Genosha’s latest civil war, witness to a Quicksilver/Cannonball fight, discover a (somewhat) dark secret from Meltdown’s past, discover another bizarre secret from the past of Cannonball’s small town, and catch up with Sunspot, who’s deportation subplot has branched out to include Selene and (of course) the Deviants. Insert your own Brian Michael Bendis joke here.

If you don’t remember what comics were like in those faraway days known as the “eh-tees,” this could easily be viewed as too much for anyone to grasp in one issue. It isn’t of course; anyone with the reading level of a nine-year-old and the honest motivation to read shouldn’t be lost by Moore’s dense plotting. None of this is confusing, there’s just a lot of it.

There is an argument to made, however, that the compressed plotting doesn’t do Jim Cheung any favors, since much of his work in covered in balloons and captions. That’s understandable, although people like Jack Kirby had larger chunks of text thrown on top of their work, often to elucidate stories much simpler than this one. Someone might also argue that the Delphi and the memory box concept is a distraction from the main story, but I think it works very well here. Moore isn’t shortchanging the reader on concepts; he could’ve had Wisdom hand out manila file folders with the needed information, but instead he’s introduced a new character and an intriguing new concept into the mythos. I doubt anyone’s actually used the memory boxes since he left, but clearly there’s a lot of potential there. If this story had been published during a healthier period of X-titles’ history, I think the idea wouldn’t have sunk into obscurity so quickly.

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