Saturday, March 26, 2011

Uncanny X-Force #6 - Deathlok Nation of Awesome

It has been a long time since there was an X-men book that I looked forward to every week and never had to worry about crashing like Sarah Palin on a physics test. In the days before Ultimate X-men was horribly butchered by a shitty crossover event that will go unnamed (Ultimatum), I took comfort in having one book on my pull list that I felt would always deliver quality awesome. Now a new book has taken that role and it has a hot Asian chick in it as a bonus. That book is Uncanny X-Force. This book has been so awesome that it's actually made me give a damn about Fantomex. That says it all right there.

It's a book that takes the concept of X-Force that Craig Kyle and Chris Yost put together and adds a new twist. The X-men's secret proactive kill-squad was officially disbanded after Second Coming. Unofficially, Wolverine kept it going with help from Angel's deep pockets. So far it's been a testament to Wolverine's poor leadership skills. Their first mission was against their greatest enemy, Apocalypse. However, after they fought their way through to the big bad mutant who has lips like a Angelina Jolie having an allergic reaction, they discovered that their first killing assignment was a kid. The majority of the team agreed that killing a kid, even one as creepy as a kid Apocalypse, was a line that even a kill squad couldn't cost. But X-Force isn't a functioning democracy. Fantomex overruled that vote, putting one right between the eyes of the kid. Now he's sent X-Force into all kinds of chaos. They're now the Bundie family with more homicide and no adorable dog.

The last issue dealt with the aftermath. Fantomex was given a time out so like the snooty French man he pretends to be, he took his pocket dimension known as the World and traveled to the Alps to see his mother. It was all tea, crumpets, and unshaven arm pits until a cyborg version of the Avengers attacked. They killed Fantomex's mother and tried to take the World. They succeeded in taking the World. Now in this issue they want to kill Fantomex to finish the job. He gave them the slip at the end of the last issue. That lasted about as long as Lex Luthor in a barber shop. Just as Fantomex was trying to escape, the cyborg Spider-Man (who looks better than his counterpart that made a deal with the devil) catches him and tries to give him the Ike Turner treatment.

Fantomex is able to beat him. And by beat him, I mean he shoots him in the head. That seems to be Fantomex's new favorite past-time aside from visiting Amsterdam brothels. You want to be as shocked as you were when he did that to Kidpocalypse, but if you're a hater of One More Day you'll be jerking off to that scene for the next week or two. When your balls are drained, you'll come back to find that Fantomex is actually working with Deathlok. They both want the World and they need to shoot more people in the head to get it back.

Fantomex shooting people in the head is all well and good, but this isn't a solo book. I'm pretty sure Rick Remender is obligated to have a scene with Psylocke to cover the hot Asian chick demand that so many comics require. It appears she's having tea with her brother, Brian Braddock aka Captain Britain. It's the American equivalent to a beer and cigarette. She tells him about Kidpocalypse and how messed up she feels about it. Captain Britain reacts as if she choked his pet dog to death while neutering it with a meat cleaver. Killing kids just isn't cool in Britain anymore it seems.

What makes this scene even more powerful is that it isn't actually happening as you see it. No, I'm not high again (not completely). That whole conversation Betsy just had was just a hologram. It's not the first time Rick Remender did this. The first issue had something similar. Yet it still catches the reader by surprise and adds a new twist on everything. Psylocke didn't want to face her brother literally so she settled for a simulation. That's like making a blow-up doll of your girlfriend after she catches you jerking off to German fetish porn because you can't face her. When she ends it she meets up with Angel, who says they have a situation with Fantomex. She cares about as much as the IRS with a hangover.

So that means Fantomex only has Deathlok on his side when fighting off these Cyborg Avengers. It's not as unfair a fight as it seems. The Cyborg Avengers get their orders to take Fantomex out. They end up walking right into the line of fire with Fantomex and Deathlok. In true X-Force style it turns into a bloody shootout and the cyborg Avengers end up losing the World. Now you may not care for Deathlok and granted, he looks like he tried to fuck C3PO and lost. But he's pretty badass in this fight.

Badass only goes so far as they end up going on the run again. More gruesome head-shots are dished out, this time by Deathlok who keeps fighting despite an arrow going through his chest from Cyborg Hawkeye. It looks as though they're in a good position for a while. Then it looks even better when it appears that the rest of X-Force arrives. Fantomex must assume that they get over him killing a kid after a good night sleep and a few shots of tequila. Well he ends up being wrong on both counts because those aren't reinforcements that arrive. They're Cyborg X-Force, who look much more badass than any of the Cyborg Avengers.

More gunshots follow so they go back to running. This time they run out of room and have to jump of a cliff Wily Cayote style, but they have something better than an umbrella. They have Cyborg Captain America's shield. Somehow that's enough to cushion their fall? If that's the case then jumping out of a plane would be a legitimate form of commuting to downtown Manhattan. Well these guys are both durable so it works for them. They end up crashing through ice and getting a bath that only the passengers of the Titanic could appreciate. But it's still better than a gunshot wound even if they didn't get to draw Kate Winslet naked.

When they emerge, the REAL X-Force shows up. Not some lousy Cyborg knock-offs. They still make it clear that they have as much affection for Fantomex as they do snake nesting in their toilet, but they take him on board their personal UFO anyways where he gives them an overview of what's going on. Deathlok goes with them and isn't welcome either, but then again he didn't kill Kidpocalypse so you get the feeling that X-Force tolerates him a bit more than Fantomex.

He goes onto explain that the Cyborg heroes their fighting are from a divergent time-line. Yes, another X-book that involves time travel. Even if you're a huge Back to the Future fan and you named your dog Doc Brown, the sheer ubiquity of divergent time-lines should be more confounding than Michael Jackson's medicine cabinet. It's not too radically different. The only change is that cyborgs were made using Earth's mightiest heroes. Not a big change, but one that makes for more explosions and gunfights so it has that going for it.

To learn more about the time-line, they run a few USB cables into Cyborg Captain America. This acts like a defibrillator of sorts and jolts him back to the world of the conscious. He still looks like he just woke up from a night out with Jack Nicholson and Kieth Richards, but he adds more details to Fantomex and Deathlok's story. Apparently in their time-line, superhumans adopted Fantomex's recklessness and the guys in charge did the most logical thing any politician would do. They forcibly turned heroes into mindless cyborgs. It's probably the least crazy thing Congress has done in any reality.

Then Cyborg Cap drops another bomb on them. The sad truth is that turning superhumans into cyborgs actually worked. Humanity became a walking 50s sitcom minus the subtle racism and misogyny. They were sent to this time line because of one guy who undid it all, Apocalypse. Now this is a bit confusing because Apocalypse is already dead. So why would they need the World and why would killing Fantomex be necessary. Granted, the man's a douche-bag, but other than giving them something to boast about when they want to get laid what would it accomplish?

It's an interesting mystery that doesn't get solved because of a fresh round of explosions. This is an X-Force comic mind you. If something doesn't explode every other page then someone isn't doing their job. The same goes for shooting people in the head. That's just how X-Force rolls. The Cyborg Captain America is hacked like a Russian porn site and he ends up shooting himself in the head. Then their ship is attacked by more Deathlok baddies. But before Cyborg Steve gave himself the Kurt Cobain treatment, he revealed where the visionary behind the Cyborg Superhero initiative is hiding. He's deep within the World. So on the final page, Fantomex proclaims that this is where they'll go to put a stop to this. Even he seems to agree that the X-books have one too many alternate time-lines and this one needs to go.

It's not the most ground-breaking ending. It's not going to shock you. It's not going to surprise you. You're not going to fall flat on your ass as if you just took a hit from Bob Marley's secret stash. It's just a solid overall ending that gives you everything you need to follow the story. It doesn't have to be that stupifying. Contrary to popular belief, not every comic has to end with some crazy revelation that will change the whole time-line forever. Readers will be satisfied provided the end gives them enough reason to pick up the next issue. In this sense, Uncanny X-Force succeeds with flying colors.

There's nothing incoherent about this book. It ties together the events of the previous issue and helps give greater context to the overall story. If you were confused by the last issue, reading this issue will put everything into a nice little package that you can rap up and pack with shredded copies of One More Day and Ultimatum. It still plays on twisted perceptions like with Psylocke's conversation with Brian. It also carries on the theme of over-the-top gun fights and shots to the head. It's everything you want an Uncanny X-Force book to be. The art, the dialog, and the plot all fit. There's really nothing aside from Fantomex's douche-baggery to complain about.

I'm very comfortable giving Uncanny X-Force #6 a perfect 5 out of 5. This book continues to deliver. It's consistent, action packed, and all around awesome. Rick Remender has found a winning formula here. I'm not sure what all the ingredients are. I know it involves Asian chicks, gunshots to the head, holograms, cyborgs, and hidden pocket dimensions. It sounds like a bad Matrix knock-off, but the way Remender does it is simply too awesome for words. If you only get one X-book a month, Uncanny X-Force should be that X-book. It gives readers all the quality awesome they seek and blows shit up in the process. Nuff said!

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