The Washington Times - September 26, 2008, 07:19PM

By Joseph Szadkowski

X-Force, Nos. 1 to 5 (Marvel Comics, $3.99 each). The latest incarnation of X-Force delivers a heavy-handed, stifling experience for readers as the current line-up of misfits respond to humanity’s intolerance of the mutant population with incredible, unapologetic violence.

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What’s the story? A covert, black ops, group of X-Men — Warpath, Wolfsbane and assassin X-23 — led by Wolverine go into berserker mode to hunt down the Purifers, a group of religious fanatics led by a resurrected cyborg Bastion and Reverend Matthew Risman who wants to exterminate all mutants in the universe. The pair unleashed a new version of the techno creature Magus and the Apocalypse horseman Archangel.

X-Force from Marvel Comics

Writing strength. Craig Kyle and Chris Yost concoct a somber, angst-ridden tale of revenge and sacrifice that highlights the brutality of the war between Homo Sapien and Homo Superior while fitting perfectly in the current, desperate world of the X-Men.

Artist’s style.Clayton Crain brought Garth Ennis’ vicious Ghost Rider to life and helped give visual birth to Venom and Carnage’s offspring Toxin. His muted, digitally illustrated style is well suited for the graphic intensity of the writer’s prose in X-Force. Mr. Crain’s fight scenes are an almost too life-like journey into the nastier side of the X-Men.

Pop-art moments. Mr. Crain’s vision demands printers pull out their inventory of red ink to handle the enormous amount of violent acts delivered by the heroes. A splash page of Wolfsbane on the rampage needs to hang next to a Hieronymus Bosch in an art museum.

Read it or leave it? Mike Allred and Peter Milligan’s irreverent version of this team is long gone folks. The X-Force’ radical relaunch is a brutal story that pulls no punches and is highly relegated to mature reader status.