X-Force #30 by Benjamin Percy and Robert Gill presents X-Force (both the team and the book) in a bit of an awkward transitional period. Kid Omega is seemingly gone for good after sacrificing himself to defeat Cerebrax and seemingly being wiped from Cerebro’s psychic backups. Wolverine isn’t taking Quentin’s demise well (it’s good to see he isn’t immediately moving on from losing the kid he’s reluctantly bonded with since his Jean Grey School days), and he’s lost faith in Krakoa, going as far as to leave the team. With X-Force short two members, it’s time for Omega Red and (exasperated sigh) Deadpool to step up and take their places.
I don’t necessarily hold the same kind of default hatred for Deadpool that some other readers do, but I feel like a writer has to be exceptionally clever to actually make him work. Otherwise, Deadpool just ends up spewing a vile brew of pop culture references, non-sequiturs, stale memes, and middle-school-level innuendos that reeks of desperation. There’s an art to making this character charmingly immature, and I can’t say that Benjamin Percy successfully pulls that balancing act off. I was willing to give him another chance after being unimpressed by the “Deadpool crashes the Hellfire Gala” mini-arc in issues 20 and 21 last year. However, reading Deadpool claiming “Black ops doesn’t need to be all sad face emoji” while Omega Red tosses him off a cliff for putting a whoopee cushion under his chair made me cringe so hard that my face is now stuck in a disgusted grimace, and I’ll need reconstructive surgery to get it back to normal.
I get what Percy is trying to do with the “odd couple” pairing of Omega Red and Deadpool, but… it’s been one issue and it’s already exhausting. I don’t even have the patience to go back and check out the last issue of Wolverine, which supposedly explains why Deadpool, a non-mutant who had previously been denied access to Krakoa, is on the mutant nation’s super secret spy team. I don’t want to read any more of this guy than I absolutely have to.
Bizarrely, this issue is designated as an A.X.E.: Judgment Day tie-in, though it’s not yet clear why (presumably this will be explored in the next issue). At the moment, Kraven the Hunter (the son/clone of the original Spider-Man villain) is being set up as the central antagonist of these next few issues. He overhears some Russians saying something about mutants being the “apex predators of the galaxy, and I guess that’s enough to make him a multi-issue X-villain. The B-plot sees Domino and Black Tom face off against a group of humans who are mutilating Angel because the secret of mutant resurrection is now public. One’s dressed as Elvis and another is in a Gandalf costume, and I wish I could say this plays out as fun as it sounds, but it doesn’t.
Robert Gill continues to provide solid art, but the script doesn’t really give him many big flashy scenes to flex his creative abilities. He draws a grizzled old polar bear pretty well, but there’s nothing visually breathtaking going on here, and it’s not really Gill’s fault. It just feels like the story is trudging through familiar scenarios and settings with barely anything new to offer.
Ultimately, it feels like that’s what’s holding this title back the most. No matter how much the team roster is shuffled up, it still feels like they’re constantly dealing with a never-ending cycle of Russians and plant monsters. Moments with Beast and Sage provide welcome little breaks from these repetitive field missions, and sometimes even interesting explorations of how morally revolting Beast is, but those beats don’t feel as frequent as you’d want them to. X-Force needs to evolve.