I began rereading the Mike Allred and Peter Milligan era of X-Force on a lark, and here's something that's true: these comics might be the crown jewel of NuMarvel, even above my beloved New X-Men. They feel like genuine classics, the sort of tales that should be reprinted forever and forced on new readers. They're remarkably consistent on just about every level, and they approach sensitive subjects -- race, identification, sexual orientation, and more -- with an absolutely fearless vigor. In X-Force, the X-Men formula of addressing things via obscured metaphor is ripped to shreds, as Milligan and Allred turn subtext to text and have some fun doing it.

I'm David, and I want to talk to you about some comics that are much, much better than I remembered them being.I own every X-Force/X-Statix trade, but I'm just halfway through the second X-Force trade at the moment. I vaguely remember the broad strokes of the series, but it's been long enough since I read it that I don't remember the specifics. It doesn't feel like a new comic, but it's just unfamiliar enough that I keep finding myself surprised by the twists and turns it takes. I don't mean that in the sense of plot twists, those big swerves that define so many cape comics, either.

I'm talking about Tike Alicar, alias The Anarchist, having a conversation with a reporter where he says that being a black mutant in America is like "being black with a little black added." Later, Alicar is afraid to let another black guy on the team, because the rules of the genre only allow for one black character on a team at once, and the old guy is always the one that gets the boot.

The X-Men have long served as a metaphor for a variety of oppressed groups. As metaphors, the X-Men often traffic in the trappings and culture of oppressed groups, but generally stop short of actually addressing the real-life oppression that inspires the stories. Storm, for example, is hated for being a mutant, but rarely deals with anti-black oppression. In the real world, she'd get it from both barrels. In comics? Just the one. You're a mutant first, and then you're black, gay, or something else entirely fourth or fifth. That always bothered me, like they got to have their cake and eat it, too. They got to triumph over all of the signifiers of oppression, but never actually got to the pain oppression causes.

In X-Force, Milligan and Allred turn subtext into text. Explicitly. Alicar is as conscious of his blackness, mutation, and the combination of the two as I am of my own blackness. It shows in his gallows humor, his reluctance to air certain sensitive grievances, and his own insecurity. His blackness matters in X-Force in a way that Storm's own blackness has rarely mattered.

"Who cares?" says some dude. "Why does this matter?"

It matters because characterization counts. Yes, X-Men characters were well done before Milligan and Allred. But Allred and Milligan just found a new, relatively unexplored facet of how X-Men characters are characterized and went all in. They understand that identity isn't just any one thing. You aren't just (race). You're (race), (religion), (orientation), (personality), and more, and all of that matters when it comes to you. When you flirt with a thing, but stop short of acknowledging everything around it, you're leaving a character incomplete.

This isn't just a black thing, either. We talk a lot about white being the default when it comes to storytelling in America, and that's true. But even that is needlessly simplified. There's a lot of different types of white people, even in small communities. The better fleshed out a person is -- this character is a white Texan who grew up poor, this one is old money and insecure about it -- the more believable they are and the easier it is to buy into their story.

Everyone in X-Force is wrestling with a lot of different things when it comes to their identity, instead of just their status as a mutant and whatever frustrating soap opera they're currently involved in. Edie Sawyer, U-Go Girl, is an addict and an absentee mother. Mr Sensitive is suicidal. Phat is hungry for fame, but secretly not who he says he is. Alicar is obsessed with being clean and, by extension and implication, white.

There's a lot to like about Allred and Milligan's X-Force. This is just something that came to mind today. These are comics that appear to be weird, but when you dig just a teeny tiny bit, they're not weird. They're just excellent.

brettpunk from tumblr asked: Does a single pair of shoes exist that will go with literally any outfit? If so, what is it?

Of course there is. It's the almighty low Air Force 1, created by Bruce Kilgore in 1982 for Nike. It is the prettiest sneaker you ever did see, and if you're smart about picking up several different colorways, you can rock it with anything. These are the only non-dress/non-running shoes I wear these days, and they range from casual to dress-y, depending on what colors you're rocking. Today they're tan, to go with my blue and tan shirt. A couple days ago, they were purple and grey, to match my polo. At Emerald City Comicon, they were blue on silver to match a shirt that was blue on white.

Air Forces are the greatest shoe of all time. They're all I wear now. They get dirty too easily for my tastes, but I can't deny that there's nothing like a clean pair of white-on-whites.

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