I wouldn't have thought X-Force needed to have arch-nemeses, but I am loving the ones who're showing up. This new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants just won't fight fair, and it leads to some brutal and hilarious stuff. Most brutal: psychically attacking Betsy with the memories of both her lost love and the brother she killed at once. Most hilarious: Deadpool shouting, "Steve Holt!"
Rick Remender lets each of his main characters have at least one scene as narrator, with the exception of Deadpool who just gets the best line (see above), and it seems a fitting tactic for an issue that introduces a new threat to the team. The audience gets a chance to remember---or, if you're new to the title, learn---who the heroes of the series are before the villains fully arrive. And as always, Remender has a firm grasp on everyone's voices. But what I most admired about the scripting in this issue was the number of one-page scenes that were still full and significant and great. The opening with the skinless man (is his official name Barrister Skinless?), the conversation between the Shadow King and whoever else he's with, and my personal favorite, the portion of the fight with Nightcrawler's voice-over were all contained on a single page, yet all carried a definite weight nonetheless.
Phil Noto and Dean White bring a classic, rich, down-to-earth feel to the title, but at the same time they make things like a comically bloated Wolverine or Deadpool's attack robot, Alpha Achromic, fit in seamlessly. The only thing about the artwork that didn't totally jive for me was Noto's take on Psylocke, but I think that mostly has to do with him having a look for her that is distinct from what I'm used to, but not actually any worse. And he certainly captures her terrified sadness on the final page.
There's a lot of terrified sadness for X-Force this issue, and a fair deal of just plain terror and good, old-fashioned depression as well. This is a dark chapter in the history of a team that works in darkness, and Noto and White each do their part to capture that. Noto puts a lot of feeling into every character, even (or especially) the evil ones, and so we as the reader are just as bombarded with despair as anyone in the story. And White uses a muted palette, even when Fantomex is surrounded by neon lights, that dampens any hope and underlines all the horror.
Best of all was the false flashback of the Omega Clan (another excellent one-page scene). The fuzzy panel borders, stark black backgrounds, and in particular the red wash over everything really sold the all-encompassing fear and loss that might motivate someone to become a murderous, vengeful super-being. And, in terms of story, I deeply enjoy the idea that the fight is personal, but only for one side.
Just one more way in which this incarnation of the Brotherhood fights dirty, and I'm genuinely looking forward to discovering what other nasty tricks they have in store.