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Issue 123 “Tick Tock”

x-force-123

Okay this one requires some back story.

In 2002 Bill Jemas, Marvel’s Publisher at the time, launched an initiative called ‘Nuff Said, a common phrase from Stan Lee’s old soapbox column. The idea was this; Jemas had been having an argument with a television producer about the power of comic book storytelling and specifically how comics can tell a story without using any words since the reader can pace the action at their own desire.

To prove this, and also to test the Marvel creators mettle, he came up with Nuff’ Said, an entire month of comics featuring no words at all, only pictures. The challenge was simple, you’re the best creators in comics, prove it by telling a story using only comic images, no words.

It was a dismal failure.

Most writers just submitted the same script they would have anyway and reading it without words left the entire thing a jumbled mess. Without exposition you can tell what a character is doing  and sometimes how but not why. Uncanny X-Men for example, started a storyline where long time X-Men member Banshee became a pseudo-villain but whilst we could tell he was doing villainous things it was incredibly frustrating to realise we didn’t know why. And many pages featured scenes of conversations between character we were not privy to, so you’re just looking at two guys looking at each other and trying to guess what on earth they’re doing.

Chris Claremont in X-Treme X-Men introduced an entirely new character which is a horrible idea because when you introduce a new character you need to know their name, powers, motivation, personality etc and you can’t do that without any words.

The only person who tried to tell a normal story and succeed was J. Michael Stracszynski who basically did a day in the life of Spider-Man. So it was boring but it was comprehensible.

Many writers instead avoiding trying to tell any real narrative and just did a series of surreal imagery intended to work as a character piece. Exiles, for example, did an issue of the character’s dreaming that worked to symbolically tell us about each character’s desire and dreams. N=W X-M=N did a psychedelic, psychic rescue mission into Professor Xavier’s head which was basically a showcase for Frank Quietly to show off with some trippy imagery.

Basically the event proved the exact opposite of what it was supposed to. It showed how necessary dialogue is to comics because without it you limit the stories you can tell to things that can be inferred symbolically and nothing else.

Milligan decided to go the symbolic dream sequence route and offers us a story where the plot is this.

Doop has a pimple, he pops it, and this causes the members of X-Force to be sucked into the hole in his head. Doop climbs in afterword and rescues them from a series of symbolic nightmares. When they escape nobody remembers a thing except Doop.

X-Force 123 Doop Inside Out

So it’s crap fluff but hey it can do two things at least. Firstly it lets us see Mike Allred draw some really inventive and strange things and secondly we might get a little bit of character insight.

We don’t get all that much though.

X-Force 123 U-Go Girl

Edie, Guy and Tike don’t really get much character work done here.  Edie gets her tongue ripped out which tells us that, Edie likes to talk? That she fears losing her voice? That her tongue is her identity? I think we all know that Edie puts on a sarcastic front so this doesn’t really reveal much about her.

X-Force 123 The Orphan

Guy is a head….I do not know why.

X-Force 123 The Anarchist

Tike is in a dessert and sweats a lot and then his acid sweat becomes the sea because…Tike is scared of sweating? Honestly I got nothing.

The Spike probably get the worst treatment since he doesn’t really appear, he’s not even on the cover. Instead there’s a magazine of him wearing women’s clothes. I don’t know if this is because Spike secretly wants to be a woman, or to wear womens’ clothes, or fears it. Spike doesn’t really have a personality anyway, he’s a plot device to discuss Tike’s character and they accomplished that in the previous issue.

X-Force 123 Phat

Vivisector and Phat get the best sequences. Phat is in a ghetto, being chased by thugs and Doop has to save him. I think we all know by now that Phat isn’t really a gangsta and it’s all an act but it’s nice to see how scared Phat is of the ghetto really. As much as he plays this role he doesn’t want to be a wigga and is genuinely scared of being found out.

X-Force 123 Vivisector

Vivisector is the only character we learn something new about. He has a sequence where he is chased by a spectre of his father as a giant covered in incomprehensible writing. The animosity between Miles and his father has been hinted at before but we didn’t realise he feared him, and even more he appears to consider himself intellectually inferior to him since he can’t read the books in his monster father’s library or understand the writing on him.

We also get a lot of Doop stuff including the first suggestion at just how weird Doop is. Doop can climb inside his own head, change size, suck up people, swim through acid, etc. He has pimples that cause dimensional portals and can travel in time. The Doop is incredibly powerful and secretly really weird joke is one Milligan will constantly return to (even bringing it into X-Men at one point) but this is the first time it appears and it’s kind of shocking and strange.

So X-Force 123. It’s crap but it’s the best they could do under the limitations placed upon them.

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