X-Centric: 'Ain't' Ain't a Word, Bub

by the General

When most people see the letters "XXX," there are a number of things might jump into their head. Maybe they think of the Roman numeral for thirty. Or, perhaps, they think of the three letters scrawled on the side of a jug of moonshine. More likely, they think of Vin Diesel (though probably they probably try to forget Ice Cube). But, I'm guessing what you probably think about is the movie rating you find on the back of most films in Doug's DVD collection.

Me? I think "X-Men, X-Men, X-Men." But, then again, I'm a bit X-Centric.

And, being a bit X-Centric, I've realized that it falls upon my shoulders to talk about something that no one else is talking about. Namely, X-Men comics. Yes, folks, I shall shoulder the burden and be the sole person on the vast and varied interweb to tackle the subject of the X-Men. No where else will you find someone expressing their thoughts and opinions on the X-line. In fact, I challenge you to find another blog, message board or fan site dealing with the X-Men! I dare you!

AND, since I am the Lone Ranger of all things X, it also falls upon my heavy shoulders to discuss a distant corner of the X-Universe that rarely receives any attention: Wolverine. Namely, I'd like to point out how Marvel decided that X-Force's first one-shot was an excellent opportunity to showcase this little known mutant in X-Force Special: Ain't No Dog #1. Apparently appearing in three regular titles, being imprisoned by Commies in Uncanny X-Men, fighting skrulls with the Avengers and leading X-Force in their regular title wasn't quite enough for Marvel's crowd-pleasing wombat of self-regenerating fury. So, Marvel has dragged him kicking and screaming into what I believe is his third one-shot of the month. And, looking at the cover, I don't even think that Wolverine wants to be there...

Now, I feel it's worth mentioning that - as a struggling illustrator myself - I'm not one to generally be overly critical of another individual's artwork. But at the same time, after looking at this cover for a bit (which appears to be an uncredited Brian Hitch illustration), I was struggling to determine exactly how Wolverine would assume this position. But, then it hit me! Here's what obviously is going on: After having his left leg surgically removed, Wolverine has been kicked square in the back by Colossus with enough force to break his spine. In addition, the kick has thrown him forward with such velocity that, upon crashing into the X-Force logo, his right arm was snapped out of its socket, causing him to throw back his head in a howl of pain. Simple, really.

But, the question remains: What Wolverine storyline is so important that it warranted it's own X-Force Special? What story was so epic that it couldn't be told in a regular monthly? What major changes occur that shake the very foundation of Wolverine as a character? Well, ***here be spoiler warnings humble viewers*** I'm going to reveal them to you!

Ready for it!

Here it comes!

Wolverine kills a bunch of Purifiers.

Yup. Y'know, like he does in X-Force every month. But, the difference here is that while the monthly X-Force has some actual sense of plot line, here they've replaced it with Logan and Scott calling each other "dicks" for a page or two. (At least, I think they are calling each other "dicks," since calling someone "pound pound pound pound" doesn't quite have the same ring.)

I will say the whole thing is quite nicely illustrated. Though, even as a proud owner of Dead Alive, I'm sort of inclined to think that a half-page panel of Wolverine sawing a man's head in half with his claws might warrant a little more than a "parental advisory" in 9-point condensed font tucked in next to the cover's bar code. But, maybe being T-minus four months away from fatherhood has made me crazy in the head like that.

Also, it bears mentioning that there is also a back-up story featuring Proudstar, Wolverine ... and a bear. This story was primarily memorable for reminding me of Frank Miller and Chris Claremont's first issue of the original Wolverine mini-series, which starts with a nice Wolverine-versus-a-bear sequence. Oh, simpler days.

Oh yeah, there is also a five page preview of Ultimate Origins that is easily the most interesting part of the book.

Honestly, though, I don't want to come off like I'm pooping on the X-Force balloon. In fact, as I've mentioned somewhere else on this blog, X-Force is the series that I genuinely enjoy despite myself. Really, the title has every right to be tedious and completely uninteresting, but somehow it manages to be fascinating ... to me at least.

I think that the key lies in the fact that Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost have figured out how to get a considerable amount of emotional wiggle room out of what could have been a cliched concept of Liefeldian proportions. On paper, the idea of grouping together all the X-titles' various trackers and killers together into a black ops team ("X-Force: Now with 150% more claws­™") seems disastrous. But, Kyle and Yost realize that there's actually some interesting inter-character dynamics to be found here.

Sure, Wolverine is a killer. But, at the same time, he hates that he is a killer (well, despite what you might read in the X-Force Special), and has never been a natural leader. Furthermore, he's trying to help his cloned "daughter" X-23 reform and move away from a life he's already trapped in. And, he hates the idea of two "innocents," Proudstar and especially Wolfsbane, being sucked into his blood drenched world.

Its like he's your uncle telling you to never start smoking, while lighting up himself. And X-23, Proudstar, and Wolfsbane, the cocky youth, have indignantly replied: "Screw you, old man, I'm going to smoke if I want to!" To which Wolverine replies by bumming them a smoke. "Your choice, your funeral."

It's actually a cool angle to take for the team, and there is emotional meat to gnaw on there by focusing on Wolverine's position for once. It also helps that the storyline is also harnessing past continuity in a unique way that tickles my geek button while not (presumably) being too inaccessible to the the passing fan. Even Clayton Crain's art has grown on me with each issue. The coloring errs on the side of murky, and there is an awkward frame here and there, but at other times there is an undeniable sense of atmosphere and drama.

Which is why the X-Force Special probably frustrates me so. Why muddy what is the start to a great franchise with such a forgettable and redundant one-shot? In Marvel's attempt to dry-hump Wolverine's money-bleeding corpse, they only make themselves look cheap and dirty. But, then again, I bought the thing. So, while Wolverine apparently "ain't no dog," the X-fans who bought this apparently are... or at least we are being lead around on a leash like one. Our choice, our funeral, I guess.

Grades: X-Force Special: Ain't Not Dog #1 is a disposable D+. While X-Force #1-#4 have been a brooding and bloody B+.

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