Monday, May 9, 2011
Uncanny X-Force #9 - Awesome That Worth Killing For
Sometimes you have a bad week and the only way to unwind is with a bottle of whiskey and a line of blow. Sometimes your wisky is watered down because your brother keeps stealing sips and sometimes the blow you got from a guy dealing behind a Starbucks is cut with concrete dust. Not that I'm making this personal or anything, but my point is that sometimes you need something that reminds you that life is still awesome. Uncanny X-Force has been the equivalent of fifty lines of pure cut Peruvian marching powder. It's quality storytelling and brutal action has made it the best X-men book on the racks. Where else can you get a book that has Deadpool feeding pieces of himself to an angel or a cyborg from the future fighting against a hot Asian chick with ninja skills? You couldn't have a better premise if you plagiarized every Sylvester Stallone movie ever made.
It's been an embarrassment of riches with Uncanny X-Force. Not only has it been awesome for the first eight issues, but it's come out on more than monthly basis. This for comic book fans is like getting a blowjob from Megan Fox while feeling up Olivia Wilde. Usually a book that comes out often runs the risk of the quality getting stretched too thin. That hasn't happened with Rick Remender in Uncanny X-Force! I've yet to find any reasons to go on a negative rant like I do with every Ultimate book I've come across. When a book is good all around, it's just not possible to be a bitter drunk. Although sometimes you an try just for the hell of it.
The riches keep coming like child support from Tiger Woods. Uncanny X-men #9 is another issue that isn't billed as a major arc. It's another one-shot story, condensing the full scale awesome that this title has to offer in a single collection of twenty something pages for $3.99. Now I still feel pine for the old $2.99 days, but I could do a whole blog post on that bullshit issue and I don't have enough blow to get me through. So I'll stick to reviewing this issue!
Uncanny X-men #9 starts with a scene that doesn't actually focus on X-Force at all. Instead, we're taken to Utopia where X-Force no longer operates. Magneto also lives on this island. Somehow having a kill squad on the island doesn't seem as bad as having a guy like Magneto, but he's mellowed out recently (that or his ego is biding it's time). He's basically sitting around, enjoying a quiet evening in front of a roaring fire as any reformed sociopath is prone to do. Then Dr. Nemesis enters and hands him a folder. What's in this folder is so disturbing that the Master of Magnetism needs a stiff drink. It's sort of like me whenever I get a call from my landlord about the mess I left with my last house party. I know it's not going to be good.
While Magneto is getting his drink on, X-Force is returning from their latest mission. This is basically a recap of the end of the previous issue so you may get a sense of deja vu and for once it's not because you blacked out on a two-day alcohol bender. Angel recounts how he killed a man who Shadowking was trying to use to launch nukes. It's debatable how much control the man had over himself, but Angel still killed him in the end. Psylocke, Deadpool, Fantomex, and Wolverine don't make too big a deal of it. They give him the old "it had to be done" excuse. It sounds a lot like that "it's not your fault" speech from Good Will Hunting, minus Matt Damon crying like a baby.
They return to their base where Wolverine reminds everybody that what they do isn't pretty. They do the kind of shit that regular X-men would rather leave to psycho-killers. They also have to do it with the knowledge that Cyclops officially disbanded X-Force. As far as everyone else knows, they don't exist. That's how it's supposed to stay. However, as soon as they return from their mission they find out that they haven't been keeping their secret as well as they thought. Waiting for them like a guy who just found his son's porno collection is Magneto. If you start to smell something rank, that's usually a good sign that the shit is hitting the fan.
It's not shown how he knows about X-Force. He just says he's Magneto. He knows shit. Not a very clear explanation, which is disappointing for a book like Uncanny X-Force. However he knows, he's not there to basically blow the lid of X-Force so he can make Cyclops look like a bigger dick than he already is. He shows up because he wants to have a word with Wolverine. He just wanted to show himself to X-Force because he likes fucking with others. It's common among semi-reformed sociopaths.
He gives Wolverine the same envelope that Dr. Nemesis gave him. Inside is the picture of a Nazi. There isn't much explanation given. It's usually obvious that when someone shows a picture of a Nazi, that means someone is working on a new World War II game or someone wants the guy in the picture killed. Wolverine doesn't play video games so it's pretty clear what Wolverine wants done. For some reason this isn't something Magneto wants to handle personally. You would think he would jump at any chance to horribly maim a Nazi. But he just says he wants Wolverine to do it. Okay, I'm a little confused in addition to being a little high.
Wolverine is reluctant at first, but then Magneto gives him the same puppy dog eyes that a spoiled teenager gives their rich daddy when they see a three-thousand dollar pair of shoes and a diamond encrusted vibrator on sale. Somehow this is all it takes for Wolverine to accept the job. He doesn't argue. He doesn't ask questions. He just says he'll do it. Magneto then leaves, dropping Deathlok in the process. That officially emasculates him for the second time since he's shown up in Uncanny X-Force. At this rate he'll be wearing a dress by the end of the year.
Wolverine tells everyone to go back to their lives as a secret kill squad. He's going to take care of this one. He's not going to just do it with his claws either. He's going to use a fucking samaurai sword. Why? Well why not? He's Wolverine. He can kill a man with chopsticks if he wants. Armed with his new sword, he takes X-Force's shiney UFO thingy to his destination. Fantomex offers some advice beforehand, but who wants advice from a child-killing faux Frenchman? This is Wolverine's mission and he refuses to let X-Force play a part. It's not really a dick move. It's personal and there's some nice emotion drawn into the scene. It's still a little ambiguous though. Readers could craft any number of excuses. I'm pretty sure there are fanfiction writers out there that will make gay porn of these moments.
Wolverine flies X-Force's official UFO to Rio De Jinero in Brazil, home of world class soccer teams and shaved pussy. Doesn't seem too appropriate for a mission, but then again X-Force has been traveling to some pretty shitty locations lately. They've earned a pit-stop in the land of thongs and topless sunbathers.
There's no major action sequence. There's no army of Nazi super-soldiers waiting for him. Wolverine just casually makes his way through the countryside until he arrives at an old house. In that house is an old man who looks like he could be anybody's grumpy old grandfather that never shuts up about his last bout with kidney stones. Nobody says a word. He doesn't even fight or curse out Wolverine. He just walks back into his house and Wolverine follows him.
What comes next looks like something out of a Lifetime movie. The old man spends a page recalling his life. It's a story that would be heavily censored in Israel. A Nazi officer flees Germany and sets up shop in Brazil. He pretends to be a farmer who never touched a gun, meets a nice girl, gets married, has kids, and basically lives a happy life after being part of a regime that slaughtered six million innocent people. Not very good for the world when a Nazi can get away with shit like that. He then reveals that his wife died recently, never knowing that she was married to an asshole Nazi. You would think a guy couldn't keep a secret like that for over half a century. But he did. It shows that in addition to being racists and anti-semites, Nazis are damn good liars. Go figure.
There's no fighting. Wolverine doesn't even argue with the guy. He just takes out his sword and the old racist asshole just sits there. He doesn't take it like a total bitch though. He just wouldn't be a Nazi if he did. He gives Wolverine one final warning. Sooner or later his victims will come after him and Odin knows Wolverine has a fuck ton of victims. That warning is his last word. Wolverine proceeds to chop his head of with a swords. It sounds unceremonious for something that should be so badass. It's not the kind of scene that will blow readers away, but it's a scene with a dead Nazi. Can't go wrong with dead Nazis.
That's pretty much all there is to it. Wolverine doesn't say another word. He doesn't muse over this warning. He just leaves the dead body there to rot, puts his sword back, and walks away. I'm not sure if there's a hidden message here. Is it something about the past always coming to bite you in the ass? Or that old people are still grumpy even when you try to kill them? If there is a message, it's left so ambiguous that it's hard to really embrace. If Rick Remender was trying to be subtle about it, he overshot it. It's still a powerful moment, but one that still underwhelms.
To date, this is probably the least powerful issue of Uncanny X-Force. For a series that's billed as a secret team of X-men that operate as a kill squad, this story seems out of place. It doesn't involve most of X-Force. It could easily be an issue of Wolverine's many solo books. Not a lot is said. There aren't many hints about what this could mean for future issues. The biggest moment was when Magneto revealed that he knew about X-Force. Beyond that, not much is made of it. He just shows up to get a favor from Wolverine. He doesn't make anything else of it. There's just so much potential in this plot and so little is really fleshed out. For a series as awesome as Uncanny X-Force, it's a major disappointment.
That's not the say the issue isn't worth reading. There's a nice touch of drama with this issue that counters all the bloody action and over-the-top destruction of the previous issue. You could make the argument that it counters too much. All Wolverine does is find an old Nazi and kill him. But there's a deeper story behind it. This is where the art really shines as well as the overall intensity of the scenes. It's a touch of realism in a series that has aliens, psychic entities, and hot Asian chicks with swords. That's not a bad thing, but it certainly could have been done better.
For once, I finish reading an Uncanny X-Force book with my brains intact. Uncanny X-Force #9 is by no means a bad comic. However, it leaves a lot of potential on the table. It's great that it got Magneto involved and that it focused on a more grounded story. But in the end, the book is subtle for the sake of being subtle. I can't end this review with comparisons of X-Force and a weekend in Tijuana. I can't relegate this book to the quarter bin either. If your an Uncanny X-Force fan, you'll probably still enjoy it. If not, you aren't missing much. That's why I give Uncanny X-Force #9 a 3.5 out of 5. No one should expect there to be too many issues like this. Not with an Age of Apocalypse story coming up. Between this and all the hype surrounding Fear Itself, it's a nice reprieve of sorts. You won't get your mind blown. You'll just get a good book to read when you're taking a shit. Nuff said!