By Steve Morris
This is the issue where Beast monologues the entire time about how clever and unstoppable he is, which leads to a final page where his overthinking sets up inevitable disaster down the line. You know this one – it’s a standout issue of X-Force to date because the narration is so overbearing, and so smug.
I know that I was an early cheerleader for the whole “Beast sucks!” movement, but after reading this issue even I came away thinking “…you know, this seems like it’s going to far”. He’s actively trying to be Machiavelli, complete with the required lack of empathy that entails. He seems so self-assured in how masterful his chess moves are that it’s impossible to step away from this issue and like him. It’s like reading my old Livejournal.
I think he’s so overbearing as a voice in the comic that it serves the secret purpose of allowing the other characters to get away with things that readers might otherwise question, but fear not! I have just such a question to raise with you all right now. See, whilst it might be intended for Beast to be the central focus of this issue, a smaller moment was the one which caught my attention and has stuck with me since. And by the end of the issue it became clear to me: Jean Grey’s presence on X-Force is super weird.
In previous writing about this series, I mentioned the idea that X-Force was a concept which only worked because Jean wasn’t around to knock Scott/Logan round the head and tell them to never try that nonsense again. She’s not a character who would have allowed something like X-Force to operate, which is why it was so convenient that she died for such a long time. Now she’s back, and the decision to not only have her be fine with X-Force but to join it seems really off-character and strange. It feels like the series is trying to justify the team by pushing the least likely team member onto it: if Jean is fine with X-Force, then readers shouldn’t question it either, right?
There’s a moment near the end of the issue where Jean is on a mission, and Beast tells her that she needs to kill the villains she’s just incapacitated with her powers. He tells her “don’t get caught up in a worthless moral quandary” and says she needs to kill them because they aren’t human anymore (possibly fair) and therefore she has no reason to feel any moral unease about murdering them (definitely not true). The thing is, though, that she does it – she uses her powers to dissolve them all into dust. Is that what Jean would actually do?
The sequence is capped with her saying to Beast “don’t ~&%@$ patronise me” before flying off, which was also something that rang false for me. Just because the scene finished with a moment of faux-feminist power from a Strong Female Character doesn’t mean this is something we should see as independent-minded or empowering. Jean is on a black-ops strike team and she’s murdering people because the voice in her ear told her to. That’s not a progressive move, especially for a character who has always been shown as having a rigid and powerful moral core. That’s the whole point of the Phoenix!
Everything about Jean’s presence in X-Force feels wrong, somehow. Her reason to be in the book is to justify Krakoa’s move towards darker-and-edgier storytelling, as though she’s giving us as readers an approval that it’s okay for us to read the series. I can see that from Quentin, Domino, Sage, and all the other characters – but Jean doesn’t seem to have a reason to want to be in this team. It’s an unnecessary corruption of the character, done to back up the existence of this series. Nobody disagrees with the existence of X-Force, and it feels absolutely bonkers.
Nightcrawler is happy with it, Jean is happy with it, and Beast is absolutely thriving on it. Why is everybody so happy that this is the way the world works now? Without resistance, we all have to fall in line with a single way of thinking about things, and X-Force seems keen to have us think just one thing: it’s absolutely great that X-Force exists.
I’m not having it!
X-Force #6: Intelligence
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Stephen Segovia
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Designer: Tom Muller
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.
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