Writer Rick Remender grabs the reins on X-Force, to relaunch the series from square one and hits the ground running.
X-Force is a black-ops squad led by Wolverine that operates in secret from the X-Men. Officially disbanded, the small band of killers tackles the dirty assignments that the main X-squadrons cannot handle. The X-Men do not kill; X-Force does, and quite willingly.
Apocalypse, the first mutant has been reborn. A cult led by the Four Horsemen has resurrected their fallen leader. When X-Force learns of Apocalypse’s rebirth, they set out on a mission that’s equal parts necessity and vengeance, traveling from secret caverns of Egypt to a hidden-base on the moon. Their plan is simple they have to kill Apocalypse. Except their ancient foe is not quite how they remember he has been resurrected as a young boy.
The brilliance of the X-Force series is that it inherently makes sense given the altered landscape for Marvel’s mutant heroes in the aftermath of House of M, which saw the vast majority of mutantkind wiped out. The landscape in which the various X-teams operate has been irrevocably altered in the wake of M-Day, and there has been a necessary shift in their perspective of a world that hates and fears them.
Remender is far less political in his storytelling, focusing on the relationships between his core characters and cranking out a self-contained story that is by turns shocking and exciting, and delivering an action-heavy tale with some thick meat on its bones. Uncanny X-Force charges full steam ahead with its take-no-prisoners attitude, crafting an exciting black-ops book that rises above the standard blood-and-guts fare. Character is key to this book’s success, and the cast he has assembled here works well, with each of the title’s five main leads having significant relevance not only to the plot, but to each other as well. There is a shared sense of camaraderie amongst the team, building off at least a decade’s worth of history, and each character gets their moment to shine.
There is a beautiful dynamic at work between Archangel and his lover Psylocke, who has been helping him learn to control the more violent impulses of his nature. Wolverine forms an interesting point in this triangular relationship by training Psylocke to murder Archangel, should the need ever arise. The team is rounded out with Deadpool, a mouthy mercenary who is, thankfully, used sparingly as comic relief, and Fantomex, who also provides some comedy and proves to be a very fun foil to Wolverine.
Their struggles against the Four Horsemen are consistently convoluted and twisted, and the war occurring within Archangel’s soul provides some terrific emotional arcs for both him and Psylocke. In casting their most dangerous adversary as a child, a blank slate who has no understanding of his place in history or his role amongst the mutants, Remender makes a bold complication for his rugged band of killers forced to square off against a youthful innocent.
Jerome Opeña provides clear, detailed artwork that nicely executes Remender’s script. His panel layouts are fluid, creating an easily readable graphic story that flows quickly. His action scenes are energetic, and nicely grotesque where required, such as when Wolverine squares off against Death, a mutant who conducts a host of diseases and plagues through metal. As such, Opeña makes it wickedly gruesome as Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton riddles his body with tumors and boils.
Remender wisely strips Uncanny X-Force of the loaded history and continuity of the central X-Men universe, providing readers with a fresh start, in much the same way Joss Whedon did with Astonishing X-Men. For those who are interested or need a quick refresher, there is four-page appendix detailing the history of X-Force since M-Day. But, ultimately, the aim of the book is to tell a fun, exciting story that is not burdened with loads of backstory and history that would take a wide expanse of flow-charts to unravel. It easily fits the bill for both longtime fans looking for a good action yarn and new readers looking to hop onboard the X-Men bandwagon without needing Google handy to help decipher what’s happening and why. Remender quickly fills in the blanks, tells readers what they need to know, and sets off in grand, violent fashion.
JQ gives this book a 8/10.