Sunday, October 10, 2010
Uncanny X-Force #1 - The Start of Awesome
A few months ago Craig Kyle and Chris Yost ended their landmark run on X-Force and thus countless fans of wanton, comic book blood lust cried themselves to sleep and several angels lost their wings. Sure they didn't completely abandon us. They did offer X-Force: Sex and Violence as a sort of break up sex. It was great and all, the kind that celebrities make homemade porno about. But it still ended and the hole was left to be filled (I know that's a blatant sexual pun, but it still fits).
Now here we are. A few months later and that hole is being filled again in ways that are a shit ton better than break up sex. While Craig Kyle and Chris Yost have moved onto to other projects that probably pay a lot more, X-Force has returned under the pen of Rick Remender. Only this isn't the same X-Force that Kyle and Yost wrote. This is Uncanny X-Force. It's the first title of it's kind. There have been all sorts of adjectives thrown together for an X-men series, but never in the history of comics has Marvel thrown the words Uncanny and X-Force into the same title. It may seem like a simple cut and paste, but it still has with it an excitement that can only be equaled by shoebox full of blow and a Skinemax marathon.
The players in this series are different than the first X-Force. Wolverine and Archangel are still on the team, but now they have Deadpool, Psylocke, and Fantomex as part of the mix. In addition, this is not a team that Cyclops has sanctioned. As far as he's concerned, he disbanded X-Force at the end of Second Coming. It's Wolverine who wanted it to continue and Angel is the one paying the bills. So now they don't have the luxury of being supported by the top echelons of mutant leadership. That makes their job a lot harder and the potential for blood a lot higher.
The conflict starts off with Deadpool, as many conflicts are prone to do. Deadpool, despite having several comics to his name, is a great fit for this series and a welcome comic relief. He still shows that he's entertainment and violence mixed harmoniously as he practically narrates the first parts of his mission, which involve him breaking into what may be a sewer complex, a toxic waste dump, or Lindsey Lohan's septic tank.
It seems like a lousy place for some ominous temple, the kind that have shown up in every medium since Indiana Jones was new. Like Indiana Jones, Deadpool finds himself in an area that involves ancient architecture and human sacrifice. Someone is trying to literally wake the dead here and for once it isn't part of a Brenden Fraiser movie about Egypt. There are some blatant hints as to who this is, but I'm assuming if you're reading this you know how to use Google so I'll save myself the keystrokes.
Now we get a chance to meet the newest addition to X-Force, Betsy Braddock. You would think that getting a hot ninja telepathic Asian girl involved in a kill squad would be a no-brainer. The description alone is enough to give hentai fans boners. But Psylocke is still carrying some baggage heading into this new world.
She's been a killer before, but not like this. She's not like X-23 or Domino, who have fairly coarse personalities. She's a bit more balanced and that may or may not be a good thing because since Angel is involved, that means issues about their old relationship will come out. Now their relationship wasn't like that of Wolverine and Dominos, which was just sex. They actually had something that was more meaningful and for whatever reason, it's been practically written off since Betsy came back over five fucking years ago! This is the first time it's ever really come out and already there are problems. Betsy, like any woman involved with a drunk, has to contend with two sides of Warren's persona, Angel and Arcangel.
This little issue manifests itself in a nightmare that Betsy wakes up from. It helps that she's clearly naked after a night of presumed overdue reunion sex. It's nice that Rick Remender actually takes some time to have them talk a bit. This is the first major interaction these two have had since Betsy's return (how sad is that?). They talk about Warren's struggle between Angel and Arcangel. Betsy says she could remove Arcangel, but doing so would cause enormous damage. Plus, Warren still wants to use Arcangel for the greater good despite it being a product of Apocalypse. This requires Betsy to trust him in ways she hasn't since they broke up. So far it looks like they're working. However, there's definitely room for conflict here.
It's a nice way to get the Betsy/Warren relationship back on track. For me personally, this was a relationship I always thought was well-developed. These two both have to deal with being in bodies they're not used to (Kwannon for Betsy and Arcangel for Warren). They both come from a similar background and they compliment each other very well. It seems pretty fucked up that Marvel waited this long to even get them in the same panel again, but I suppose better late than never works in this regard. It makes for a nice moment that is of course ruined by fresh X-Force duties. So they're already on their way to being a typical Marvel relationship.
The love story may help get a few pussy boners going, but this is still an X-Force book. That means Wolverine is going to take center stage (who has a knack for evoking pussy boners as well). He shows up welcoming X-Force's other new member, Fantomex. While he does come off as a slightly douchier version of Beast who happens to enjoy guns and being French, he's still a nice fit for the team and Wolverine shows that all his sophistication won't always get the job done in this line of work. It's a fitting first lesson with X-Force and one that has some nice remarks about Google and booze, showing Rick Remender does have some wit to offer.
Once they get the call as well, they disembark on their first mission. There's more wit here as well including a nice comment from Fantomex that shows he really wants to bone Psylocke in the same way Namor wants to bone Emma Frost. This is completely understandable, but utterly stupid given that Arcangel (not the more polite Warren Worthington III) is sitting right next to him. Betsy reminds him she's already with someone. That does little to dissuade him. It offers a hint that this may be another love triangle in the spirit of Cyclops/Jean/Wolverine. If that's the case, it's not going to end well for either of them.
The sex jokes wane and they get their target. Again, there's a very Indiana Jones feeling to this mess because their target is under a mountain. It still seems less unsavory than Lindsey Lohan's septic tank, but it provides an excellent setting for X-Force to make their big entrance. Along the way there are some nice reminders to the readers that this is not the X-men. This is not about heroics and what not. This is X-Force and as such it's going to get bloody, violent, and maybe a little sexy. As a reader I'm tempted to ask "And the problem is?"
The battle begins with your standard Gargoyle knock-offs. Basically, these aren't things X-men mind killing. It gets pretty bloody, but it gets more complicated fast. Some spooky shit takes over and both Wolverine and Psylocke for a moment. This gives Fantomex an excuse to cop a feel, but a quick dose of telepathy helps finish the job. It can't be good for team chemistry though. Their first mission and already they're allowing themselves to be mind-controlled. In the world of comics that would earn you a D- and detention that involves being the personal butler to Joe Quesada.
They go onto meet up with Deadpool, who managed to get himself tied up in a ways that doesn't involve strippers or arms dealers (shocking I know). They rescue him from what looks like a fucked up version of an alien abduction, although they clearly haven't gotten to the rectal probing part. They also find out that this Indiana Jones temple is actually a celestial space ship, which happens to be prepared to blow. This basically prevents any further action, but it does make for an awesome scape scene. It slightly raises their grade of their first mission from a D- to a C+. They won't have to be Quesada's butler, but they'll probably still have to shine Brian Bendis's head.
So X-Force's first mission is somewhat of a bust. Once they escape and watch the mountain burn, Arcangel reveals the purpose of this daring raid. Some very nasty people are looking to revive Apocalypse, a guy who sucks more at staying dead than Jean Grey. Remember that human sacrifice from earlier? Well that was for old fish lip himself. Deadpool's investigation only confirmed what they feared. Apocalypse is back in town!
But here's where Remender throws a disturbing twist into the mix. While Apocalypse is back, he's not his usual badass self. He's actually in a form that's much more disturbing. He's a kid, who is in the process of being tutored into becoming the tyrannical asshole he's meant to be. It makes for a final panel that is so cute yet disturbing it will haunt the dreams of innocent children forever.
So Uncanny X-Force has officially begun! One issue is down and depending on the sales, there are plenty to go. The team is off to a rocky start. There's romantic tension within the team and one of their greatest enemies is back into the fold, albeit in a form more fitting to a Wes Craven movie. It offers plenty of plots to follow and plenty of reasons to continue to the next issue. For any comic, you can't ask for much more.
Rick Remender has a lot to live up to with the high bar set by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost. So far, he's doing a respectable job. He's able to throw in plenty of witty dialogue and capture the proper characterization of each character. He has a great feel for Fantomex's snootiness, Wolverine's bravado, Deadpool's insanity, Arcangel's duel personality, and Psylocke's sexiness. It was like he was making a statement proclaiming "I am worthy!" and he backs it up in ways that should make his balls swell with pride.
There aren't a lot of things wrong with this book. If there is a downgrade compared to Kyle and Yost's run, it's that Remender doesn't have Mark Choi doing the art. Choi was a master at making the dark ambiance of the book work. Jerome Opena is respectable, but he's no Mark Choi. Some scenes are simply dark in too literal a sense, making the characters almost seem like silhouettes. It still works and doesn't completely destroy the feel of the book, but it won't make X-Force fans miss Choi any less.
As far as first issues go, Uncanny X-Force #1 did everything right. It's a great book for any comic fan to pick up and enjoy. It offers a gritty X-Force book to the X-book library and for that it is officially awesome. I give this first issue a 5 out of 5 and a must buy for any X-fan. While Craig Kyle and Chris Yost will always have a special place in my heart, Rick Remender is moving in and I welcome it! Nuff said.