Here we go! Rob Liefeld must have been focused on this issue for the past few months, because this book looks a ton better than issues 2 and 3. The horizontal layout challenge must have been a fun one, because Liefeld’s art hasn’t looked this good since issue 1. Sure, Cable is still wearing that absolutely atrocious metal armor with the prongs; and Cable’s thighs are still unbelievably huge, but almost everything else in this book looks better than the last two books.
Liefeld’s Spider-Man is distinctly McFarlane-esque, which makes sense since this story crossed over with McFarlane’s title. There are almost no backgrounds throughout the entire issue, but that time seems to have been made up in details on the core characters. Juggernaut (sporting glowing red eyes in most panels) looks demonic and dangerous. The mutants battling him look great, with some nicely detailed panels for Siryn and the other ground-level fighters.
The storytelling suffers on the Cable-centric pages. Either Cable is walking or the hand holding his huge gun is just mysteriously switching for no reason. If there were backgrounds or more of a sense of motion, I’d probably know which it was, but as I said; no backgrounds. Cable also acts like a tough guy in his panels, blasting Black Tom as he dangles down an elevator shaft. Somehow missing at point blank range, Deadpool just pops on panel to rescue Mr. Cassidy before he buys the farm.
Unfortunately, the Tolliver sub-plot bleeds over into this story big time, with Deadpool porting out Juggernaut too. And after the heroes had just gotten his helmet off too! (Now, I’m not certain how much a difference that made. It sure doesn’t seem to me that even the entire X-Force team (plus Spidey) could stop Juggernaut. Juggs is no worse for wear after 30-plus minutes fighting the heroes. This is a well-choreographed boss fight that really feels big-time thanks to the horizontal page gimmick.
Spidey just doesn’t fit in that well with the X-folks here. (This is in the married Spider-Man era, so it was nice to see Spidey making references to Mary Jane.) There aren’t really any good “connections” for Spidey among the X-Force roster, so there aren’t any great bonding moments. It’s too bad; I know Fabian Nicieza could do more if there was a kindred spirit amongst Cable’s young troopers. Heck, I think the strongest bond for the web-slinger is Juggernaut due to their past conflicts.
Tomorrow I’ll be jumping ahead in the X-Force chronology, so this wraps up the initial “Liefeld era” of the title. I remember liking it, but not loving it. Reading it over 20 years later, it doesn’t hold up that great. The art is more uneven than I remembered, although the sense of kinetic action is still strong. I still think Liefeld’s greatest strengths are his character design and frenetic action sequences. When the story slows down, when I have time to really pore over the anatomy, I have a lot of questions. But dangit, I still like the overall energy of Liefeld comics!