Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review # 45: "Uncanny X-Force - Final Execution"

It's time for Rick Remender to kiss "Uncanny X-Force" goodbye as Marvel moves him over to their flagship title of Marvel NOW!, "Uncanny Avengers." "Final Execution" offers a satisfying conclusion to his run, ending on a high note after the misstep that was "Otherworld."

The team is on the verge of falling apart as Psylocke, Fantomex and Deadpool - fed up with killing - all appear to walk, leaving Wolverine alone with Age of Apocalypse Nightcrawler. Despite the only loose end at the time being Darkholme's quest to exact revenge on all AoA refugees, a brand spankin' new Brotherhood adds a whole bunch of new ones. This incarnation - with Sabretooth, Mystique, Shadow King, Skinless Man, three modified clones of Omega Red and their leader Daken, who is Wolverine's son - may be the best ever. There are some serious axes to grind among this bunch.

The new Brotherhood hatches a plan to kill all of X-Force and kidnap one of Wolverine's students, who they want to mold into a puppet supervillain. The plan goes well at first, as they poison Fantomex and leave him strung to a wall. This pulls Betsy back in and - during a rendezvous at X-Force's base - the entire team ends up being blown up in a cunning trap. However, thanks to some quick thinking, the team ends up being transported into the future. One they do not like.

See, what has happened is Betsy - who we find out gave up her ability to feel sorrow in exchange for Fantomex's life in "Otherworld" - has risen to power and rules the world under her own vision of "Minority Report." Anyone who thinks of committing a heinous crime is killed on the spot, administered by her crack team of questionable heroes. You have Cable, Hope, Logan himself... and, in a coup de grace, the Punisher. There's an awesome scene where Wade rips Frank apart, no doubt borrowed from criticisms Remender himself likely heard during another acclaimed run on "The Punisher" series.

The team gets shipped back for a final assault on the Brotherhood's centre of operations. From here, every member gets their moment in the sun leading up to the finale. Oddly, after focusing so much on Psylocke and Fantomex, Remender makes his ending arc very much about Wolverine and Deadpool, who for the most part had been shifted to the side. Logan's final actions in this story are very dark, though there is an excellent twist at the end when we find out who's really pulling the strings. Despite the dark descent of his teammates, Logan is the only one at the end who you feel is truly damned for his actions. And he knows it.

Meanwhile, I don't think there's a more emotional Deadpool story out there. Does "Final Execution" represent his finest hour? Maybe. It's hard to tell. In the closing issue, he's depicted - and rightfully so - as a hero. Not as a merc. Not as a clown. I would have loved to see him join up with the X-Men proper out of this, but that hasn't quite happened. Deadpool sells as a violent, unfeeling smart-ass and it's actually a little disappointing that he slotted himself right back into that in his Marvel NOW! solo series. "Final Execution" shows a different side of Wade, and there is no reason why he can't keep showing it in a team book while continuing to slice up US Presidents and mocking exploitation comics on his own. That said, none of the blame for that falls on the shoulders of Rick Remender. He did more for Deadpool than any author outside of Joe Kelly.

Finally, there's Fantomex and Psylocke who end up with a happy - if unusual - ending. If I have a criticism, it's that Betsy kinda gets the shaft and ends up in the "B" battle. It's actually kinda shocking because this comic has very much been about her. Still, the final panels focus on Psylocke - the way it should be.

So, there you have it: the finest run on any X-Book so far this decade. I'm anxious to see how Remender's storylines continue in the pages of "Uncanny Avengers." As for "Uncanny X-Force," you really have to hand it to him. He took A-listers like Wolverine and Deadpool, B-listers like Psylocke and Archangel, virtual unknowns like Fantomex and Deathlok, a few long-standing villains, a few new ones and an abstract conceptual setpiece and made them ALL better. ALL of them. You can't ask for anything more.

I wholeheartedly recommend this series to any comics fan. New or old, you get a hell of a lot out of it.

Rating: 9/10

Up next: Back to outer space as Thanos returns from the dead.

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