Sunday, February 01, 2009

X-Force #11

"Who the Hell is Eli Bard?"
Writers: Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Artists: Alina Uyusov & Clayton Crain
Letterer: Cory Petit
Editor: John Barber

X-Force #11 is something you don't get so often these days: a whole issue devoted to explaining the origin story of a new villain. Now, I'm all for this sort of thing. The X-books could do with some new villains, and it's good to see Kyle and Yost eschewing the tired old mystery-man approach, in favour of giving their new bad guy a clear agenda straight off the bat.

It also means that Clayton Crain - apparently back on duty as regular artist - gets relegated to a framing sequence while Alina Urusov does some much more attractive and graceful work on the flashback. The colouring is a bit washed out for my tastes, but I'll still take that over oppressive darkness any day.

So far so good... but it's not a wholly successful origin story. The basic idea is that Eli was a minor-league Roman Empire politician, whom Selene tried to use as a pawn. Unfortunately he messed up the scheme and she wasn't terribly pleased with him. She cursed him with eternal life (the story actually seems to suggest he's a vampire, but it all gets a bit confused on this point) and he's trying to get back in her good graces.

Basically, he seems to be a smaller-scale version of Thanos, whose early stories largely involved him trying to impress Death by killing loads of people. Eli is set up in a similar relationship with Selene. It's not a bad premise; Selene is an underused character, and enough time has passed since the seventies to make the Thanos/Death set-up fair game to be re-used.

It falls down, though, in two ways. Despite Urusov's best efforts on the art, Eli's relationship with Selene feels cursory and doesn't convince me. And the story spends way too much time telling us that Eli's a weak and pathetic man - which rather undermines his credibility as a villain.

Still, the basic idea's okay, and the art's really rather good.

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