Monday, April 25, 2011
Uncanny X-Force #8 - Double Awesome
Not all of us are lucky enough to be spoiled as kids. Some of us don't have last names like Trump, Rockfeller, or Sheen. We don't grow up with a diamond encrusted spoon in our mouth or the spiked dildo of fate jammed in our ass. There are times being spoiled makes you a douche-bag. Then there are times where being spoiled makes life worth living. It usually isn't something like a million-dollar car or a six-thousand dollar toilet that warms your ass while shooting water at you. It's the little things like a hit of weed, a bottle of Jack Daniels, or a five second orgasm. Well now you can add two issues of Uncanny X-Force to that list between the orgasm and the weed.
Less than a month ago, Uncanny X-Force finished off the Deathlok nation arc. It was a short yet delicious story that involved cyborgs, time travel, bizarre pocket dimensions, and decapitations. Basically your typical Tuesday for Uncanny X-Force. It's this unique blend of comic book awesome that has made Uncanny X-Force arguably the best overall X-book on the racks. Now after only a few weeks, the next arc of Uncanny X-Force begins. This in a month already filled with ass-blasting blockbusters like Fear Itself. If Marvel and Rick Remender is trying to spoil it's fans, then they deserve a pat on the back and a blow job from Natalie Portman.
Uncanny X-Force #8 doesn't miss a beat from the last issue. There's no sitting around with a group therapist, discussing all the crazy shit that happened in the World with the cyborg heroes from the future. Therapy is for pussies, not X-Force. That means they get right back to work doing what they do, finding out who needs to be killed and coming up with creative ways to kill them. The next potential victims for X-Force come in the form of a bunch of faceless shadows that Deadpool is spying on. There's no clue as to who they are. Deadpool makes a few jokes about dropping a piano on them while revealing that they're looking into this because Psylock detected some psychic disturbances. That or Charlie Sheen was projecting his thoughts again, but in either case it's worth investigating.
At the same time, Deathlok is still hanging around X-Force. Seeing as how he helped them against the cyborg Avengers from the future, X-Force is letting him stick around. That or he has some kick-ass weed. It's actually a nice moment for Deathlok. Even though his cyborg surgery looks more botched than Michael Jackson's last nose job, he does have some personality and Rick Remender is finally giving him some props.
While Deathlok debates the merits of keeping the World intact with only a light glass box to contain it, one member of X-Force is actually getting some therapy from the recent shit that they've encountered. Since the first issue of this series, Angel has shown that balancing his Angel and Arcangel persona is like trying to kick heroine while having bipolar disorder and an anger management problem. He's been getting help from his girlfriend, Psylock, who aside from looking great in skin-tight outfits is quite possibly the ultimate therapist. Then again, Angel is rich so it's no different than a billionaire hiring a supermodel to wash his balls.
It also provides insight into the Angel/Psylock relationship. It's easy to forget that before this series, these two were barely in the same room with one another. In only eight issues their relationship has taken center stage in a way that hasn't been done since Monica Lewinksy was teaching kids new ways on how to use cigars. In another scene that twists the perceptions of the readers, it shows Angel trying to be a good person by helping the poor in a setting that looks like an old Christmas special that turns into a slasher movie. It's the kind of combination that can only be pulled off in Uncanny X-Force.
Psylock demonstrates here that in addition to being a hot Asian chick who wears hot Asian uniforms, she's also a damn good telepath. She's able to guide Angel through the pampered yet fucked up network of brain matter that is his mind and find Arcangel. Once they do, she shows that Emma Frost isn't the only one that can do psychic acrobatics and cages him. It could have set the stage for a nice post-traumatic psychic sex session. Then Wolverine has to show up and reveal that Deadpool's mission went to shit. I still don't see how that justifies being such a buzz-kill, but then again Wolverine was never known for his manners.
The team jumps in their fancy UFO style jet and travels to a top secret nuke facility that was developing stealth nukes during the Cold War. Fantomex describes it perfectly as a cross between Tom Clancy and Stephen King. In comic terms, it's as general as the two pieces of bread that make a sandwich. It's not the most mind-blowing setting Rick Remender has put together with this series, but it's still a chance for X-Force to kick some ass so I'll take it.
They don't just storm in like Rambo on a crack binge though. They do attempt to use a little stealth. They take out the chain-smoking Russian stereotypes lingering outside while Psylock shows off her psychic talents yet again to scout ahead. At this point readers might feel that Remender is going out of his way to make Psylock too awesome as if that's even necessary for a hot Asian ninja chick. But it's hard to complain when it's done in such a deliciously awesome way.
It does go to shit pretty damn quickly. Remember that psychic disturbance that was mentioned on the first page? Well it came courtesy of Ahmul Faroke, which sounds like the name of a moody cab driver. But he also happens to be Shadowking, a psychic criminal who loves to fuck over his enemies ALMOST as worse as the IRS. He actually sent those disturbances to lure Psylock Into his lair. And she fell for it like Pamela Anderson falls for abusive rock stars half-covered in tattoos.
Not content to mess with a hot ninja telepath, Farouk uses his powers to take control of Deadpool, Wolverine, and Arcangel. The only one who is spared this mind-fuck is Fantomex, but that's not necessarily a good thing. Under Shadowking's guidance, they beat the living shit out of his faux French ass. For a moment it looks like Psylock is screwed, but once again Remender does a little mind-fucking with the readers and Psylock disappears. Once again, it shows that a comic book can screw with your mind almost as well as a hit of LSD and being strapped to a chair to watch the last two Matrix movies.
This deception leaves Psylock open to battling Shadowking. She's just fine with this as she takes a page out of the classic X-men books by dawning her old Psylock uniform. Anyone who has followed Psylock's character back to the beginning when she was just an up and coming ninja assassin will either shit themselves or run naked through the streets (or both). In this classic form, she takes on Shadowking who takes on a more novel form. By novel I mean it looks like a rhinoceros fucked a knight from the Lord of the Rings movie. It sounds goofy, but it looks pretty badass.
Shadowking appears to have a pretty solid plan. He traps the telepath, takes control of X-Force, and guides Arcangel to launch the nukes from the facility at Utopia. Oh yeah, they're still in an old nuclear weapons facility. That's easy to forget amidst all the psychic ass-kicking, but that's not a bad thing.
Shadowking also starts fighting dirty. It isn't enough to look like a badass monster that World of Warcraft fanboys would love to have in their guild. He starts using his powers to fuck with Psylock's mind even more. That means manifesting her brother and people from her past, taunting her about being on a team that employs cyborgs from the future and kills kids. It's a dick move, but it works and throws Psylock off guard.
After a while, Psylock comes to a "Fuck this!" conclusion. While she battled Shadowking, Fantomex tried to protect her from the mind-controlled Wolverine and Deadpool. He was able to fend off Deadpool despite getting a few katanas in the gut. In X-Force that's like a shaving cut. Then Wolverine finds her and is about to give her the ultimate body piercing with his claws. She manages to break out of Shadowking's psychic grasp and fight him off. Apparently she would rather stop a nuke that fight a giant psychic orc. It's surprisingly reasonable in a comic about a mutant kill squad.
She does find Arcangel and manages to tuck him into bed with a little psychic nudging. However, she's not the only one that went looking for him. Shadowking picked up on him as well and as soon as Psylock enters his mind, Mr. Orc is there waiting for her. They're right back in that crazy twist of "It's a Wonderful Life" that was playing out in Angel's head earlier. Shadowking goes right in and tries to undo all that therapy Psylock put him through. It's another dick move, but damn if it isn't clever.
Unfortunately, this is one dick move that backfires and that's not a masturbation joke. By freeing Arcangel, he doesn't take control over him. He seems to forget that freeing a mentally unstable guy with metal wings is like covering yourself in the blood of baby seals and waving your dick in the face of a hungry polar bear. So it isn't Psylock who stops Shadowkings psychic shenanigans. It's Arcangel and he does it in the classic X-Force way, which is bloody and grotesque. X-Force fans should feel a slight twinge of ecstasy from seeing Billy Tan's graphic depictions.
So first Fantomex got to kill someone. Then Deadpool got to kill Father in the last arc. Now Arcangel gets to bust some heads and he does it in a way that's not only very badass, but it saves the day. However, it doesn't quite end with stopping Shadowking.
Once everybody has their brains in working order again, Arcangel finds that there's still someone at the nuke controls. It's not Shadowking. It's just some random guy in a uniform that you would expect James Bond to shoot on sight. Well unlike those other random guys, he looks as confused as everyone else. He doesn't threaten to launch the nukes. He doesn't raise his gun. But he doesn't step away from the launcher so Arcangel overreacts in a way that only Deadpool could appreciate. He kills the guy. This time, he's the one who made the dick move. It's not clear if it was necessary, just as was the case with Kidpocalypse in the first arc. This guy may not have been a threat to anybody, but in X-Force they couldn't take the chance. It's a tough moment for Arcangel, even when the others catch up. Could this be because Shadowking released Arcangel from his cage? Or are his problems deeper than anything a hot ninja telepath can solve? It's an open question that caps the issue off with mystery to go along with the awesome.
So in the same month, Uncanny X-Force delivers a solid conclusion to one arc while providing a delicious one-shot. Going back to my rant about being spoiled, this is a wonderful time to be a fan of X-Force. Great comics are hard to come by. Comic series that consistently deliver solid issues month in and month out are like finding a Playboy playmate who's into Warcraft and runs a comic shop in her spare time. A comic series that delivers said issues more than once a month...well, that's like finding a mermaid going down on a unicorn. It's so rare and so awesome that it makes you proud to be a comic book fan. Uncanny X-Force has been so awesome that X-fans are getting spoiled and it feels so good.
Even though this issue was a one-shot, it didn't feel terribly rushed. It worked beautifully. It was a simple, self-contained story that involved nuclear weapons, psychic psychopaths, and a few needless murders. It's an issue that really helps sum up what makes Uncanny X-Force an awesome book. It gets right into the next round of action while still keeping a sense of continuity form the previous issue. There are elements of drama as well, especially with Arcangel as he struggles with his homicidal persona. Plus, Psylock got to shine in a way that she hasn't done since Mel Gibson was still relevant. There's so much packed into one issue that it's hard to believe it's just one issue.
If there is any flaw in this comic, it's that some elements from the previous arc weren't really used even if they were acknowledged. Deathlok is still with X-Force, but he wasn't even with the team when they went on the mission. Did they just leave him behind with all that valuable hardware back at their base? This is a guy who has the cyborg equivalent of a botched boob job. Nothing really comes of him and it feels like too big a loose end.
Even so, it's not a big enough loose end to bring down the awesome of this book. Uncanny X-Force #8 is still top notch in so many different ways that it more than makes up for any little flaw. That's why I give this issue a perfect 5 out of 5. I don't just give Uncanny X-Force these scores because I'm in a generous mood or had a few too many shots of tequila. This book earns every bit of praise it gets and seeing it deliver twice in a month shows just how special this series is. If all books delivered like this I would need ten blogs to properly describe it. But with this issue, I feel plenty spoiled and am content to wait for the calendar to turn for the next issue. Nuff said!