Uncanny X-Force #14 - 'The Dark Angel Saga, Chapter Four: Thunder For The Next World' - Remender, Opena and White
Story - Look, it was a surprise to me too. I never expected to like Uncanny X-Force. I mean, it was X-Force, it's a lame concept. The X-Men, but we kill! EXTREME HARDCORE ROCK! It looks dumb. It even has Deadpool in it, who sucks.
But then it turned out to actually be good, and to actually be trying to do something new with several hoary old X-Concepts. And it was surprising! And Deadpool wasn't even annoying! He was actually funny and had a personality! Against the wishes of seemingly the entire comics-reading world, Uncanny X-Force is actually one of the best comics Marvel is putting out. It may not get mentioned out of embarrassment, but trust me, it's damn good.
And this chapter, #14 is no exception. Of course I'm only saying this because I've read all 13 (and the point.one story) previous issues, and know what's going on. I imagine any readers who are new to the book will be mightily confused. But the short story is this, after killing Apocalypse in the first arc, X-Force now have to deal with the fact that 'Poccy has been sort of reborn in the body of Archangel. In order to save him they needed a Celestial Seed. After a brief but bloody journey into the Age Of Apocalypse continuity, the team returned to the 'real world' but came face to face with Apocalypse-Archangel and his Horsemen. It all sounds insanely complicated, but it's good fun.
This issue is divided into 3 segments, the first brings us up to speed with what Archangel has been doing whilst X-Force were in the AoA Universe. He travels with Dark Beast to a secret underground city and unleashes the 616 version of Holocaust, who is now called Genocide, because calling a character Holocaust is in bad-taste but Genocide is OK. What fascinates me about these scenes is how reasonable Archangel seems, being possessed by Apocalypse has not made him a snarling villain, he is kind to his subordinates and has a strange, sad smile on his face. He is even fairly reasonable to X-Force when he fights them. It's fucking creepy, and much more effective than it would be to have him monologuing and mwahahahahaing.
The second segment is a fight between X-Force and Archangel's gang. It's pretty damn bad-ass, and thankfully Remender subverts Fantomex's illusion powers. I've mentioned before how it seemed like Remender has over-used this trick, but perhaps this over-use was all building to this point, where it's up against a foe it has no chance of beating. You also have Wolverine immediately being taken out in a shocking way by Genocide, he has half his fucking body burned off. It's basically all down to Psylocke to take down the bad-guys, but she fails and is kidnapped.
The third segment is the aftermath of this fight, and it is goddamn bleak stuff for X-Force. Wolverine is out of action, and in a fantastic scene, Deadpool explains how they can't go to anyone else for help. Probably the best thing about this book is how Remender writes Deadpool, under RR's pen he's an actual character, and his humour doesn't override every single scene. The fact that he actually thinks in this issue is refreshing, and makes me almost like Wade Wilson for the first time ever. And when something comes from Deadpool's mouth with a straight face, you know the straits are dire indeed. I have no idea how X-Force are going to defeat Archangel, and that's a refreshing thing indeed in comics.
I also have no idea how Warren Worthington is going to come back from this as a hero, because at the end of this issue, he orders Genocide to blow up a whole town. It was just a disturbing scene, the way he talks to the little boy who is about to be reduced to mere atoms, the way the boy says 'it's OK, they're superheroes', ugh, shudder. It was an amazing ending to a great issue, and one that means I can't wait for #15 to come out.
This was quite simply another strong instalment of a great series. As I said, new readers may be a bit lost, but I'm not a new reader so I don't want to speak for them. If they are lost, they should try and catch up, because this book is worth their while. This book may come with a cache of lame 90s expectations, but it's actually a fantastic example of all that's good with modern superhero comics, it's edgy, it's funny, and it's approaching old ideas in new ways. Plus it has Fantomex in it, and that guy is awesome.
Art - Jerome Opena is back! He drew the excellent first arc of the series, but then left. He's a great fit for X-Force I think, his style is pretty unique, it's angular and kinetic, and the characters have unique facial expressions you've never seen from other artists. It separates the book from normal superhero fare, and grounds it somewhat, despite the incredibly ridiculous stuff that's going on. He is ably assisted by the colours of Dean White, who is probably, after Remender the most important member of the X-Force team, his colours unite all the different artists who have worked on the book and make it a unified whole. Great work.
Best Line - 'I haven't used any incendiary language. Why escalate things?' 'It's what I do best'