Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review # 40: "Uncanny X-Force - The Apocalypse Solution"

Marvel was on to something when it re-introduced X-Force as a hit squad during "Messiah Complex." While Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost did an admirable job putting together a team that was very much a callback to the Cable era, only under Wolverine, what Rick Remender did in the pages of "Uncanny X-Force" took it to the next level.

Gone were kids like X-23 and Elixer. Gone were original team members Warpath and Domino. In their place, an elite team of X-universe assassins. As Cyclops puts his personal kill team to bed, Wolverine reassembles it with the ever-popular Deadpool, X-couple Psylocke and Archangel and the Grant Morrison-created Fantomex. Greg Land's two-page spread in the final issue of "Second Coming" couldn't help but generate feelings of excitement. Remender delivered.

"The Apocalypse Solution" is the setup for his entire run. While the previous team had also dealt with threats to mutantkind, this is the biggest target they've tackled. Get in, kill Apocalypse, get out. Of course, things aren't that easy.

First, they have to deal with the new Four Horsemen. Crafted entirely of new characters, this may be the best set of Apocalypse cronies yet. Their powers are devastating and - in some cases - disgusting. War is minotaur lookalike who can corrupt anyone he slashes with his massive ax; Famine is a US Civil War drummer who can beat you to death in an entirely different manner; Pestilence is a geisha whose mouth reveals a plague of locusts. The worst, though, is Death who can implant any disease in any person. He gives Wolverine a lot and it's beautifully disgusting.

Looming over the mission is the concern that Warren's conditioning at the hands of Apocalypse - who turned him into Archangel in the first place - may cause problems. Enough of a concern that his girlfriend Psylocke runs sims where she's forced to kill him. This dilemma pales in comparison to what they eventually run into when confronted with Apocalypse himself. Their decision comes back to haunt them.

I remember reading this the first time and feeling that - while it was a good story - it had what I believed to be a lot of artificial depth. Reflecting, though, I couldn't be more wrong. What seemed like a plastic twist for a team of killers ended up being far more organic as the series moved on. I could say the same thing about the character relationships.

Make no mistake: this is a very character-driven series disguised as an action epic. A lot of what's presented here seems basic at the time, though as the narrative continues the complications begin to pile up. Deadpool, for instance, seems disconnected and off in his own world. At first, it's par for the course - Deadpool IS in his own world when it comes to the rest of the Marvel Universe. As things go on in the series, he's drawn closer and grows as a character. EVERYone ends up having their moment, though I'll wait to elaborate on that and save it for later reviews. What I will say is that when it boils down to it, "Uncanny X-Force" is about Psylocke and Fantomex. Psylocke in particular. Rick Remender makes her a star.

This entire run is worth owning, and "The Apocalypse Solution" is a hell of a kick-start. It mixes darkness with light, and in a world where we see mutant superheroes surviving everything with a few scrapes, the often brutal violence is - dare I say it - refreshing. Not a comic for kids, folks. For anyone else, it's a thrill ride.

Rating: 9/10

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