X-Force, No. 76
Marvel Comics, 1998
John Francis Moore & Mike S. Miller
We could talk about Mike Miller’s art in this comic book, billed as “THE BATTLE YOU NEVER EXPECTED TO SEE– DOMINO(TM) VS SHATTERSTAR(TM)!” We’re not going to talk about Mike Miller’s art because that’s the least of what goes wrong in this tremendous disasterpiece.
First of all, when this comic came out, I was long gone as a reader of X-Force. The cover billing is pretty funny because while it is true that Domino vs Shatterstar is a battle nobody ever expected to see, the reason is that it was 1998 and nobody gave a beautiful fuck about Domino and Shatterstar at this period in time. Straight up, neither character was even a cast member of X-Force at this time. Both had been priorly written out of the series along with Cable and other signifiers of the early 90s era. Instead, X-Force was really more like X-Friends at this point. The primary story arc of the series at this point is a road trip featuring the New Mutants characters just driving a beat up American car and having experiences. Not adventures. Experiences. Like going to Burning Man and sleeping in cheap Motels, eight to a room. And it should have been retitled “X-Friends” because Sammy walked in on Bobby kissing Tabitha and BOY was he ever miffed! (spoiler)
Wow, 1998. At that period in time, Marvel was struggling in every sense. Chapter 11 bankruptcy, recovering from the speculation market crash, recovering from changes in culture which threatened to render their product (monthly superhero comic books) obsolete. This comic wears all of these crisis on its sleeve.
There is a fold-out cover flap which provides the new reader with a full compliment of background information and storyline recap which allows a person to presumably dive into a comic even if they haven’t read it before. Funny fact, the villain of this particular issue is supposed to be a secret but is identified in the helpful study materials up front. Arcade is the villain. A scrawny guy who makes people fight. When they kill him, haha sucker, that was just a robot copy, the real Arcade never exposes himself to danger, the princess is in another castle.
So the entire action plot of this comic book involves a non-secret villain, a more-secret villain (spoiler, Mojo is the guy who hires Arcade to make dudes fight) and two characters who aren’t part of the X-Force comic’s main story doing all of the work as action heroes for the month. X-Force: a comic about teenagers. Lazy teenagers with their bowling alleys and Burning Man and makeouts and roadtrips and no gladiator fights.
The structure here adheres to my basic needs of a superhero comic. It’s a story about the people, not the powers. There is fighting promised and delivered. That the comic adheres to the structure and still fails as a readable work of fiction is no fault of the game, just the player. The comic receives extra credit for including a flashback to the better days when Feral was still a character.