Saturday, September 3, 2011
Uncanny X-Force #14 - Arcangelic Awesome
How's this for a week in comic books? On the same day DC is turning themselves inside out from the asshole to the eye-socket, Marvel releases the second issue in a week of Uncanny X-Force. That's like banging Pamela Anderson one night and Carmen Electra the next. The whole comic world has their panties riding up their ass crack over DC's new material, but no matter how much noise they make the awesome of a series like Uncanny X-Force always finds a way through. It's a law of physics that I'm sure Stephen Hawkings would prove if he wasn't busy making computerized voices so awesome. No matter how much bullshit is swirling within the shit storm of the comic book world, an awesome series will find a way through and still smell like roses from Martha Stewart's garden.
Last week, Uncanny X-Force unleashed one of it's best issues yet. It had everything you could possibly want in a comic. It had action, drama, romance, heartbreak, gratuitous violence, death, and fake French accents. Short of wrapping it in bacon slapping a pair of tits on it, you couldn't ask for more. X-Force continued their search in the Age of Apocalypse for the life seed that would stop Arcangel from taking on Apocalypse's mantle. In the process they met up with AOA Wolverine, who had taken on Apocalypse's role in his world. He proved that doing so made him a complete asshole, so much so that AOA Jean Grey (you know, that redheaded green-eyed woman that Marvel loves to use as a gimmick every chance they get?) tried to kill him. It turned into an epic battle against Wolverine/Apocalypse that ended with AOA Jean sending X-Force back to their world with the life seed. Wolverine was understandably pissed, seeing as how in 616 he's dedicated much of his existence to tapping Jean Grey's ass. Now he's back in his own world and guess what? Finding the life seed didn't do jack shit because Arcangel is already Apocalypse and he was there waiting for them when they arrived.
Say what you will about crossovers in comics. Yes, they are gimmicks. But there's a fine line between a gimmick and a legitimate story. Rick Remender could have tattooed ads on his ass proclaiming that this was a crossover for the ages. It's X-men and Age of Apocalypse. It practically writes itself! Well until machines become smart enough to write our comics for us, these things don't write themselves and way too many writers act like they do. Thankfully, Rick Remender wasn't one of them. This story that has spanned and alternate universe still feels like it's progression logically, or at least as logical as a story involving guys with metal wings and women who wear purple thong uniforms in public. That in and of itself is a remarkable feat, but the story isn't over yet! Now that the team is back from the Age of Apocalypse, their battle takes a new twist.
Now to keep the story smooth, Remender does something that's usually annoying as hell for some stories. He does a flashback to show how that final page on Uncanny X-Force #13 came together. What the fuck happened with Arcangel? Did he just have all his horsemen goons on speed-dial, tell them to meet at X-Force's base, and promise there would be hookers and booze to ensure they would show up? That would probably work, but no. There's more to it. Remember, Dark Beast basically left X-Force hanging. When he came back to 616 he didn't just hit a strip joint and go on a bender. He met up with Arcangel, who has since become the new Apocalypse. With him they return to one of Apocalypse's many bases. Because when you're that powerful you can buy up property like Donald Trump. The sad part is he probably still gets a great tax write off for it. Thanks Bush Tax Cuts! You're helping Apocalypse!
Arcangel returns with all sorts of mindless minions waiting for him. In a sense he's like Steve Jobs, the brains behind the operation with countless blindly loyal devotees. But what's interesting here is Arcangel tries to set himself apart from Apocalypse. He doesn't demand the same blind praise. He doesn't care for the whole ritual shit that comes with being a mutant god. It sounds like fake humility and he still comes off as a douche-bag, but it's an important moment because it establishes that Arcangel isn't just a vessel for Apocalypse. He's something else entirely that now wields the power that Apocalypse once wielded. It would have been a lot easier to just make Arcangel a new Apocalypse 2.0, but that would have been boring as fuck so I applaud Rick Remender for showing a little creativity.
But he didn't just drop by his new crib to enjoy the bitches and the fine dining that comes with being the new Apocalypse. He comes to retrieve one of his many overly powerful weapons. He has the four horsemen that were revealed in the first arc of Uncanny X-Force. Now he has someone else to add to the mix. He looks like the cover of an 80s metal album. He's Genocide, the kind of villain that neo-Nazi's jerk off to. And he's the kind of guy that would make even the tougher superheroes at least partially shit their pants.
The flashback ends. We get right back to the present and move this shit along. Remember, Arcangel was there waiting for X-Force to return with the life seed. Since Celestial technology is like Warren Buffet's credit card in Marvel, he kind of wants it badly. X-Force isn't inclined to give it up, but they're a bit reluctant to attack the guy they went to a post-apocalyptic AU to save. They still end up attacking him when he proves that he's lost his fucking mind and blew the rest of it out with a shotgun, but Arcangel is about as relaxed as Bill Gates in a Wal Mart. Remember Genocide? His newest toy? Well he wastes no time in putting him to good use. By good use I mean he fucking burns half of Wolverine's body off. Seriously. Where else other than Uncanny X-Force can you see shit like that?
This time there's no Fantomex misdirection either. Remender has already used that trick to death. So there's no hiding when the rest of the horsemen attack. Famine moves in and takes out Deadpool and Fantomex. It's a nice moment for Deadpool to make a few quips about Kate Moss. Even gratuitous violence needs a little off-beat humor here and there. Not content with just making them feel like the Olson twins in an anorexia relapse, Arcangel proceeds to beat the shit out of Fantomex. Not only did this guy try to bone his girlfriend, but he also has the life seed. In other words, he really has no problem with making the guy suffer.
This leaves only Psylocke to take on her boyfriend. Fittingly enough, she actually kicks more ass than any woman with an ass like her should be able to kick. Obviously pissed that her boyfriend is now Apocalypse's meat puppet, she vents her frustration on some of Arcangel's horsemen. She takes down Wrath and Dark Beast with the same ease as the Afghan air force. Then to show her boyfriend that she's not pleased with his choice in career, she fucking stabs him with one of her swords. That's right. The wrath of a pissed off girlfriend is enough to wound fucking Apocalypse. If you're a man and your balls shrivel up upon reading this, don't worry. That just means you're normal. And most likely straight.
Now this is more than just Psylocke being awesome, which always makes for a great plot. Keep in mind, she was helping Warren deal with his Arcangel persona at the very beginning of this series. This plot didn't come from the ass of some random writer. Remender actually uses elements from older stories to tie into newer stories. That adds some much needed progression and salience to the story. That way when Psylocke fights Arcangel, it has a much greater impact because this is what she worked so hard to avoid. It's not unlike the emotional strain with Wolverine in the last issue over AOA Jean Grey. It worked wonderfully there and it works wonderfully here.
But for all her badassery, Psylocke's attack doesn't stop Arcangel from getting the life seed. He still wrestles it away from Fantomex and again, there's none of that misdirection bullshit. With Arcangel fucking them up that badly, the only reasonable option at this point is to get their sorry asses out of there. So with the help of a good old fashioned smoke grenade, X-Force makes a break for it. Even Deathlok joins the show (remember, he was crashing at X-Force's base and probably using their computers to download Japanese cybernetic porn, which is a growing market in the Marvel Universe I imagine). However, before they leave, Psylocke jumps out and stays behind. Again, she's not the kind of hot chick that leaves her man behind when he's gone into a tyrannical rage. The feminazis of the world will hate that, but then again they lost their credibility when they lobbied to have the word dictionary changed to pussycionary.
Even though Psylocke beat the shit out of the other horsemen, Arcangel orders that Psylocke isn't harmed. So yeah, her pussy is powerful enough to placate an Arcangel/Apocalypse. That kind of power is right up there with Cyclops's penis, which turned Emma Frost from a villain to the X-men's official barbie doll. Arcangel takes Psylocke with him back to his base while X-Force licks their wounds and presumably tries not to throw up while Wolverine is healing. Here, Arcangel gives her a similar speech that AOA Wolverine gave in the previous issue. He's evolved to some higher purpose or shit like that. But in this world, he explains that evolution was stunted thanks to Wanda Maximoff PMSing during House of M. In order to kick start it again, he has to reset it. Psylocke still doesn't like what that entails, but even her pussy has it's limits.
Again, this is a great moment because it shows that this isn't just Apocalypse acting through Arcangel. This is Arcangel doing his own thing. He has Apocalypse's mindset, but he chooses to go about it differently. It really helps set him apart as an entirely new badass. For a pampered rich man, that's saying something. It hurts Psylocke, but that only adds to the drama. Between this in the gratuitous violence it's enough to make you cry and throw up at the same time. It's a beautiful achievement! It's nothing a little bleach doesn't clean.
So Arcangel is unconvinced by Psylocke or her pussy. So she basically is imprisoned in Arcangel's base while he takes Genocide out to begin this new plan of his. For some reason, it involves showing up in some small town in the middle of nowhere. It's basically the kind of place where you would expect to find no fewer than three meth labs. The locals are understandably confused by their present. There's even this little boy who probably just stopped shitting his own pants a few years ago and asked if he was a superhero of sorts. Arcangel doesn't really answer. He just tells him to go to his mother and say he loves her. It sounds so sweet, but what he does next turns it into a dick move.
Without any boasting or taunting, he has Genocide blow up the whole freakin' town. There's no subtlety. There's no secrecy. He just blows up the whole fucking thing. Now how is this supposed to reset evolution? Well, Apocalypse has never been known for being all that efficient with his plans. So it makes sense that Arcangel wouldn't be that efficient either. It's like John Hinkley. He reasoned that if he killed the president, Jodie Foster would fall in love with him. It makes no sense, but it's sure to make the papers! It's a moment that puts X-Force in an uncomfortable position. Because being a secret black ops, it's pretty tough to keep that secret when a whole fucking town blows up. It shows just what Arcangel is capable of and what they'll have to overcome in the next issue. I'll be in crack withdraw waiting, but it's usually worth it!
It's a beautiful "Oh shit!" moment. Those are great moments with which to end a comic. This isn't some shadowy plot that X-Force solves under the radar. This is on the kind of scale that a black ops group would typically go out of their way to avoid unless they wanted Fox News jamming cameras up their asses like they were Michael Moore's personal personal business. Arcangel has become the new Apocalypse, but he's still Arcangel. He's not just Angel in Apocalypse's clothing. That offers a unique distinction, one that adds a compelling element to a book filled with explosive awesome. In many ways this whole issue was Arcangel setting himself up as a new kind of Apocalypse. If that was the goal I'd say it was accomplished with a cherry on top!
There were many similar elements with this issue that the previous issue did so well. It had the same dramatic elements to compliment the violence that led to Wolverine's body being partially blown off in graphic detail. However, some readers will be left wanting because there was no mention of what happened in the Age of Apocalypse universe. We see Jean Grey confronting Wolverocalypse and that's it? We don't see anything else? Granted, that's not X-Force's major concern anymore, but that feels like a story we would like to have resolved. Does Jean Grey save her Wolverine? Is her pussy really that powerful? Sadly, those questions go unanswered and unhinted at. But the story with Arcangel continues to go forward and like Wolverine and Jean in AOA, Psylocke is trying to reach the man she loves before he becomes too entrenched in Apocalypse's douche-baggery.
Never-the-less, I can't bitch about a story that wasn't told. Considering only the story within the pages of this book, I can safely say that it's awesome. It continues the Dark Angel Saga in a powerful, satisfying manner. We finally see the descent of Arcangel into this Apocalyptic power. The action, the drama, the dialog, and the art all work together in perfect harmony. It's Uncanny X-Force at it's best! That's why I give Uncanny X-Force #14 a perfect 5 out of 5. The Dark Angel Saga kicking every kind of ass you could ever want. Even with Schism and Fear Itself going on, this comic finds a way to be awesome in it's own right. That in many ways only supplements the awesome that's already there. Nuff said!