Two things: First, I’ve been holding off writing this review until the release of issue #18 (the conclusion to the Dark Angel Saga). And second, this is the first “Comics You Should Be Reading” that I’ve done in a while! So older readers, welcome back to the old format! New readers, here’s a friendly breakdown about how I work these things.
These segments are broken into five categories
- WHO writes/draws it?
- WHAT is it about?
- WHEN was it published?
- WHERE can I find it?
- WHY should I read it?
- HOW much will it cost?
So read on to see why you should be reading Uncanny X-Force and my review of the first 18 epic issues!
Rick Remender writes, and artists are Jerome Opena (1-4, 14-18), Esad Ribic (covers, 5-7), Rafael Albuquerque (5.1), Billy Tan (8-10), and Mark Brooks (11-13).
In the fallout of the Second Coming event the former X-Force team was disbanded, but Wolverine had plans to reassemble his own black-ops team that would operate in secrecy under him. That team would consist of himself, Psylocke, Angel, Fantomex, and Deadpool. Though the team seemed to be made of some odd picks at first, everyone was quickly able to see why Logan made the choices he did.
The first 18 issues of this series takes the team on several missions, that all wind up linking together in the end to the epic “Dark Angel Saga”, which ended with issue #18 (an aftermath in #19). The first arc, The Apocalypse Solution, would have the team taking down a newly birthed Apocalypse who is currently in the form of a child. The boy, though harmless now, would certainly grow into a threat, which is foreseeable by the fact that he’s being raised by the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The team must make the hard decision of whether to kill a child, or leave him alive to potentially become the god-like enemy the X-Men have known for years.
The second arc, Dethlok nation, takes the team to “The World”, which is a living environment introduced back in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. Within the world is a team of Dethlok’s who are intent on “securing” it, and destroying Fantomex. Not only does the arc implement The World from Morrison’s run, (as well as Fantomex being a Morrison creation as well), but it also reintroduces Weapon XV, Ultimaton, and it follows up on dangling plots from Jason Aaron’s Wolverine: Weapon X series as well as his Dark Reign: The List - Wolverine one-shot. Story and character elements are introduced in this arc that would come back into play later.
After a series of single-issue stories, the big arc that the series has been leading to starts. The Dark Angel saga is an eight-part storyline that tells of the corruption of Warren Worthington as he takes on the role that he has apparently been intended by Apocalypse himself, to become his successor after his death. So of course, it’s the team’s mission to stop him from becoming the next Apocalypse, and in turn to stop him from wreaking havoc upon the world, turning it into one similar to the alternate dimension world seen in the Age of Apocalypse (which is visited by the team in the first half of the arc). We see plenty of intense action in this arc, and many familiar faces are present alongside the X-Force such as the Age of Apocalypse versions of Jean Grey, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Iceman, Sunfire, and many more. I’d go into more detail about what happens… but I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun of reading this comic.
The first 18 issues of this series string together a single story that should really be read as one epic from beginning to end. Everything from the first two arcs has ramifications that lead to the Dark Angel Saga, and it all makes for an epic conclusion that shouldn’t be missed by any comic fan, period.
The first issue of the series was published in October of 2010, and the 18th issue was published December of 2011.
The collections that are available can be found at your local comic shop or online. For those of you interested in tracking down the single issues, you can find them at your local comic shops, but the earlier issues might be difficult to track down, as it DOES sell out. However, you can probably find those early issues somewhere online for a nice price.
There are so many reasons that I could list as to WHY one should read this comic. Let’s see…
During a time when Marvel was over-saturated with Deadpool titles that were waning in quality, this title appeared and showed a bit of a glimmer light. Deadpool CAN still be written well, and in fact, he can be written as part of the best team book, and best book PERIOD at Marvel. Yeah, I said it. This is the best book at Marvel.
But that’s just one small reason. Aside from being drawn to this as a fan of Deadpool that was tired of him being written badly and way too often, I was also drawn to the inclusion of the character Fantomex, who had been a bit MIA since his inception in New X-Men. He’d jumped around to various series here and there, but never really had a place in the Marvel Universe. To top that off, the team was rounded out with Wolverine, Psylocke, and Angel. A group of awesome characters all put in one place, and though it didn’t seem to make complete sense at first, it all seemed to come together masterfully under the hands of Rick Remender.
And talking about the writer, Rick Remender, this was also the book that really put his name on my radar. Before UXF, the only Remender title I can remember having read was his Franken-Castle arc of Punisher. I loved the hell out of it, but that was because it was a fun idea that lead to a fun, and awesome series. It was well written, but not on the same level that some of my other favorite writers were doing at the time.
Once Remender had released this title, though, he really hit gold in the superhero comic medium. Now I’m aware of all the dust he’s kicked up elsewhere with all his indie books at Image (Fear Agent being a very notable one), and I have a new list of books I need to check out! And him doing this really did put his name on a lot of people’s lists, because he’s since gone on to start a great new Venom ongoing series, and he has an upcoming run on the Secret Avengers starting soon. Marvel has their five architects (Bendis, Brubaker, Aaron, Hickman, and Fraction), but if there was to be a sixth, or if there were a group of important writers right under them, Remender (along with Kieron Gillen, Dan Slott, and Jeff Parker) would be on top.
Aside from the praise for the writing, the art of the series is also top notch. The covers by Esad Ribic effectively set a tone going in that’s matched, and often surpassed, but the intensely awesome interior pencil work by Jerome Opena (and colorist Dean White certainly deserves credit for his moody, dark palette). Opena, though, is only one of the amazing group of artists that graced the pages of Uncanny X-Force within it’s first 18 issues.
Aside from him, Esad Ribic tears up the interiors of a few issues before Billy Tan takes over, and then it goes to Mark Brooks who shows us a really amazing version of the Age of Apocalypse universe before we head back to Opena to close us off. Each artist has a distinct style that is truly notable and head-turning, and they’ll leave you craving more. Especially Opena and Ribic. The environments, the characters, the action, and everything else is always expertly shown within this series.
Now back on the writing. There IS a reason that Remender’s name is now on my radar. Remender took a franchise that has gone all over the place over the years, and turns it into something more than it’s ever been. The X-Force retain the black-ops status and violent ways that they had in their previous series (Chris Yost and Craig Kyle’s ongoing series), but he adds an intense level of character work to it. He doesn’t do this for a single character though, but rather the entire team. Each arc and each issue lends focus to another character, establishing some sort of sacrifice or hard decision that they must make for “the greater good”, and in the end it all leads to the team becoming closer to each other, and the reader becoming closer to the characters themselves.
Not even in Joe Kelly’s fantastic Deadpool run have I ever felt more attached to that character, and here Remender showed me that there can still be a well written Deadpool. I know I mention that fact a lot, but it’s extremely true. And like I said, not only for one character, but for all of them. I’ve come out of this series loving both Fantomex and Wolverine even more than I did before, and it sparked an appreciation for both Angel and Psylocke that I didn’t have prior.
Finally, it has to be mentioned that for fans of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, or Jason Aaron’s work with Wolverine, this title does pick up many dangling plot threads and elements and uses them to a degree that should make the original writers happy. Sometimes this makes me feel like Remender somehow got into my head and wrote the exact things I’m wanting to see. I mean, there couldn’t have been a more perfect team, and then he goes and writes about The World, Ultimaton, the Dethloks, and more? Stop spoiling me!
All in all, there’s very little, if anything, to complain about when it comes to Uncanny X-Force. I feel like everything is pitch perfect here between the art and the writing, and if there is one series from this year that should not be missed, especially from Marvel, then Uncanny X-Force would be it. It’s a great title not only for new readers, but established fans of the X-Men should find it to be one of the greatest X-books ever.
For me, it’s up there alongside Morrison’s New X-Men, Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, The Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past, and God Loves Man Kills.
GO Rating: 4.5/5
Uncanny X-Force has been collected, so far, across three volumes with a fourth coming soon. (HC means Hardcover, TPB means trade paperback)
- Uncanny X-Force: The Apocalypse Solution - HC $19.99, TPB $15.99
- Uncanny X-Force: Dethlok Nation - HC $19.99
- Uncanny X-Force: The Dark Angel Saga Book 1 - HC $24.99
- Uncanny X-Force: The Dark Angel Saga Book 2 (March 2012) - HC $19.99
As always, these are available for discounted prices on Amazon, which is where I tend to buy my collections. Seeing as to how Marvel typically does things, the run may in the future be collected into larger volumes, or into an omnibus collection this entire run (I hope for the latter).
For those who go out and but the first three volumes and get too impatient to wait until March for the fourth, volume four collects issues #14-18, which you may still be able to find at your local comic shop, so go ahead and grab those while you can.
Issue #19 will feature an aftermath of sorts to the Dark Angel Saga, and then the series will go into a new story arc with issue #20 entitled “The Trial of Fantomex”. Also of note, there will be an issue #19.1 which will act as a jumping on point to the new upcoming “Age of Apocalypse” ongoing series (written by David Lapham with pencils by Roberto De La Torre).
[All images via comicartcommunity]