Thursday, October 20, 2011
Uncanny X-Force #16 - A Saga of Awesome
I know I've made an ass of myself on a routine basis on this blog. Sometimes I write shit when I'm drunk that wouldn't make sense to a nuclear physicist on LSD, let alone comic fans. But that's not nearly as egregious as having to put off something that I've usually been so good about. When a comic series comes along that sets new standards in awesome, I'll forgo food, sleep, and sex (not beer, never beer) to praise it. Uncanny X-Force has been one of those books that just gut checks you with consistent awesome so much that by the time the Dark Angel Saga began your stomach was already behind your spine. Then when the Dark Angel Saga actually began, your spine was more mangled than the Elephant Man's dick. It's been by far the best story to come out of Uncanny X-Force to date and given all the high marks I've dished out with this series, that's saying a lot. Under normal circumstances, Uncanny X-Force #16 would have been at the top of my review list. However, the circumstances last week weren't normal. We had shit like Regenesis and Schism to deal with. That and I had to squeeze X-23 into the mix. Now since God was too cheap to make the weeks a day longer, I had to put the Uncanny X-Force #16 on hold. I know it's an affront to the comic gods, but I've already sacrificed three goats and six chickens so I assume they're pleased for the moment. Now I'm ready to give my review and hopefully I'm not too hung over from Regenesis (figuratively speaking).
In the midst of vengeful gods dishing out holy hammers and the X-men going through a Van Halen style split, it's not completely outrageous that a story like the Dark Angel Saga would slip under the radar. Hell, this thing started before either of those excessivly hyped events began and this one didn't need to buy commercial time during late-night reruns of South Park on Comedy Central to generate buzz. The story has been so awesome that it hasn't needed that shit. Rick Remender has spent the last few issues taking this story from just another arc in an already awesome series into a full fledged saga. I'm guessing that's partly because Dark Angel Arc just sounded stupid.
Dark Angel definitely made his presence known in the last issue. He not only confronted X-Force after they returned from their little romp in the Age of Apocalypse. He took the very reason why they went there in the first place (well, aside from giving Wolverine a chance to bone an alternate version of Jean Grey). He stole the Celestial life seed, burned half of Wolverine's body off, and abducted Psylocke while the rest of the team got away. Overall, I would call that a pretty nice haul. A piece of Celestial technology and a hot Asian chick that likes purple thongs? Hell, that's like coming back from Las Vegas with a million bucks, a private jet, and a porn star without herpes!
Uncanny X-Force #16 picks up with X-Force trying to play the role of herpes for the new Apocalypse. Arcangel is large and in charge with Clan Akkaba. They have the World in their possession along with Psylocke. So it really isn't all that surprising when X-Force shows up to confront them. They escaped in the last issue. They didn't stay away for long with this issue. The World is kind of Fantomex's home and the way Arcangel is using it is sort of akin to breaking into someone's house, burning all the furniture, piling up the ashes, and then taking a bit shit on them. So yeah, he's going to fight for it.
While the bullets start flying, Arcangel confronts his prisoner/girlfriend. He's almost like Rick James minus the burns from crack pipes. Unlike Rick James, Arcangel doesn't just use her imprisonment to boast about how awesome he is. In fact, Arcangel really doen't sound much like Apocalypse. He looks like him and is basically taking over for him, but he's not a carbon copy and that's refreshing because Rick Remender could have easily just made him Apocalypse and it would have worked. This works too, it's just more awesome. Arcangel talks to Psylocke about how he's become something greater, not unlike Wolverine did in Age of Apocalypse. Psylocke, like AOA Jean Grey, refuses to believe that the man she loves is gone. It makes for a powerful moment.
At the same time, X-Force is preparing their assault. They have both the World and Arcangel's palace to deal with. That's like the 405 at rush hour before standing in line at the DMV. They are insurmountable obstacles, but that's what X-Force does best! Well that and shoot creepy Apocalypse-looking kids in the head, but that's besides the point.
Deadpool and Fantomex lead the charge, but they quickly wish they hadn't. As they're clawing their way towards Arcangel's love nest, Age of Apocalypse Blob shows up. It's not as random as it sounds. He showed up in the last issue to indicate that he followed Dark Beast back because apparently the food just sucks that much in a world ruled by Apocalypse. He looks like he has genital warts all over his body, but he quickly shows that he's pretty badass when he does jumps and lands on Fantomex. I'll repeat that just so the readers know what this implies. Blob sat his fat ass down on Fantomex, leaving Deadpool to crack all sorts of wonderful butt and poop jokes that I think Uncanny X-Force has sorely been lacking. Blob, being big as a house and just as slow, is just the butt of Deadpool's joke (not mean to be a pun, but oh well). He's eventually shut up when Deadpool drive a sword into his mouth. It shuts him up, but it doesn't remove Fantomex from his ass. It's not nearly as gay as it sounds.
While Fantomex is giving Blob a prostate exam, Wolverine wakes up back in the ship. Keep in mind he had half his fucking body burned off a few issues ago. They also have Famine (the creepy Civil War boy that half of all Country music is based off) as a prisoner, who manages to break free from captivity. He leaves Wolverine to rot while he joins the battle. As a result, he pulls a Stephen King's "Thinner" on Age of Apocalypse Blob. As a result he withers into the worst case of man boobs ever. Again, Deadpool can't resist making a joke of this. But as for Famine, he doesn't turn Blob into one of the Olson twins. Wolverine apparently wasn't wounded enough after having half his body blown off. He returns to Famine and while he couldn't be blamed for killing him, he did make Blob thin again so for that he only gets his arms chopped off. By Wolverine's standards, that's akin to a slap on the wrist.
So X-Force is advancing and lopping off limbs along the way. They're insatiable desire to cock-block Arcangel hasn't been thwarted just yet. He still has Psylocke by his side. He shows somewhat more hospitality than Rick James by letting her out and leading her to the heart of his palace where he's keeping the life seed. Along the way, they share a moment of sorts. Arcangel is still clearly influenced by Apocalype's douche-bag mindset. He believes evolution will make everybody's dick that much bigger and he's the badly advertised penis pills that will make it happen. Psylocke is still intent on saving the man she loves and the odd thing is that Arcangel doesn't deny that the love is still there. He's just beyond it and not in the way Charlie Sheen claims during his last divorce.
Yet as powerful as this moment is, Arcangel is still a tyranical bastard. When Genocide's mother comes screaming at him for turning her son into a monster, he doesn't hesitate to slide her in half. He does it with the same casualness as most people have when they order a pizza. It's bloody as hell, but it sends a powerful message. Arcangel is still a powerful, sadistic son-of-a-bitch and like Ron Jeremy in a locker room he's not afraid to flaunt it.
Back with X-Force, they end up dealing with another Age of Apocalypse escapee who apparently didn't think living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland was as awesome as it sounded. AOA Iceman, who rarely gets a chance to act badass in 616, shows off how much more endowed he is by growing into a fucking titan. This comes after Fantomex escapes from AOA Blob's bowels and dives for the nearest water source. I'm pretty sure he still considers facing a giant Iceman an upgrade. Deadpool once again ends up having to fight him, cracking more jokes along the way. In fact, this issue has more Deadpool jokes than any previous Uncanny X-Force issue before it. It's hard to believe that Rick Remender would wait this long to exploit them, but the timing is perfect! Deadpool just shut up Blob while throwing some butt jokes into the mix. Why not do the same with Iceman?
All these over-the-top battles laced with ass and poop jokes continue to unfold while the World continues to play the part of Arcangel's personal greenhouse. Dark Beast and Genocide are still inside, watching and trying hard not to masturbate at the sight of millions of years of evolution going by before their eyes. In addition, there's another shot of a very particular lab area that was revealed in a previous arc. Remember that kid Apocalypse that Fantomex shot in the head? Well, apparently he felt like such an asshole about it that he strated making another Apocalypse clone in the World. This clone is being guarded by Weapon Ultimate, which Dark Beast and Genocide don't seem to notice. Nothing happens with it just yet, but it serves as a nice reminder that the whole Apocalypse legacy shit may be more fucked up than it already is.
At the same time, just showing it and not doing anything with it is kind of annoying. That seems to be the theme of this book. In between the awesome action sequences, there are hints of moments but they're just preludes. I'm sorry, but that's like watching the trailer of a movie and claiming you've seen it. I love trailers too, but a sneak peak is better! Please, Mr. Remender? Waiting month to month for this series is painful enough!
While we don't get any progress on that conflict, the battles against Iceman and Arcangel are getting progressively worse. In the battle against AOA Iceman, Deadpool continues to make wisecracks that piss off Iceman. As a result, Iceman does what no one in Marvel has done before. He shuts him up. That's right, someone actually shut Deadpool up. Sure, he had to freeze him and break him into countless pieces, but that's besides the point. Fantomex thinks he's dead, but come on. It's Deadpool. He's harder to kill than Wolverine and there's no way Marvel would off their comic relief! It's just bad business tactics. Plus, he's on the cover of future issues so that kind of spoils it.
As for Psylocke, after she sees Arcangel dice Genocide's mother to pieces she finally stops nagging and starts fighting. Usually, this is the point where a man's scrotum starts collapsing, but Arcangel has the power of Apocalypse on his side. That means for once, hardcore woman is just not enough. He knocks her out in a way that date rapists can only dream of and takes him to the heart of his temple. I can just see all the adult fanfiction writers having fun with this!
With Psylocke out for the count, pretty much everyone starts to fall apart. After seeing Deadpool shattered, Fantomex does something that I could make so many awesome French jokes from. He runs away. That's right, he fucking runs! Meanwhile, Deathlok (the unofficial member of the team) tried to infiltrate the World and take on Genocide. That was more lopsided than the last Manny Paccio fight. Deathlok gets a hard lesson in why it sucks to be part machine. Like every iphone, his hardware is basically jail-broken and he's back to being a killer cyborg again. There's a Terminator joke somewhere in here, but I'll hold off out of respect for the passing of Steve Jobs.
So X-Force is failing. Fantomex has turned into a big pussy and done a diservice to pussy Frenchmen everywhere. All the while Deadpool is in pieces physically for a change and not just mentally. Wolverine is still clawing his way up, but it's not in time to stop Arcangel from making his mark on the unconscious Psylocke. And no, that's not another date rape reference. Using the same life seed he showed her earlier, he starts giving her an Apocalypse style make over. And it isn't just because he wants Psylocke to see how awesome it is to have Apocalypse style power. He wants to make her his bride. That's right. This whole stunt with Arcangel taking Psylocke was an elaborate wedding proposal. It's romantic in an insanely creepy way. Not creepy in the Stephanie Meyer tradition. More like just creepy in tattooing your girlfriend's head on the tip of your dick. Not sure if that's the best analogy, but I hope it gets my point across.
I've never been one for weddings, but this is one that might be worth staying sober for! It's one of the many ways this is more saga than arc. It's not enough to just pit X-Force against Arcangel after Apocalypse has made him his bitch. Rick Remender has to add more dramatic elements to the mix. The Psylocke/Angel relationship was basically ignored until Uncanny X-Force began. Now it's taking on the kind of epic struggle that gives Twilight fans pussy boners. Arcangel doesn't just want his girlfriend to understand how awesome he is as the new Apocalypse. He wants her to join him as his bride. The sad part is it still isn't the most outrageous marriage proposal ever done. I'm pretty sure Larry King has pulled far more elaborate stunts. Even so, making Psylocke a part of this ego trip for Arcangel adds that special emotional element that further entrenches this saga as one of the best to come along that doesn't involve a fiery cosmic parrot.
It's still incredible that a story this awesome can thrive in the midst of big events like Schism, Fear Itself, and DC's new 52. I admit these overly hyped stories did somewhat drown the Dark Angel Saga because hype or no hype, they were all awesome in their own right. It's one thing to be a diamond amidst a pile of shit. It's quite another to be the same diamond on a necklace worn by your typical rap star. It's much harder to stand out and I guess the biggest criticism you can levy against Uncanny X-Force #16 is that it really didn't stand out. This saga is at it's mid point and it definitely shows. None of the battles shown are a full blowns showdown at the OK Corral. They're awesome, but they come off as preludes. In addition the transition from this issue and the previous issue was a little shaky. It didn't feel as smooth as the previous issues, but it still moved the story forward with the same nut-busting impact that has made this saga so incredible. For that, Rick Remender deserves both credit and a free line of blow.
Uncanny X-Force #16 maintains the same quality as the previous issues, but it doesn't exceed it. Sure, the extra dose of Deadpool helps and the butt jokes definitely add to it. However, it doesn't raise the bar because so much of it is built towards the next issue. Everything from Fantomex retreating like a pussy to Psylocke getting stabbed by the life seed was just preparation. I'm all for it and I'll be waiting outside a comic shop for the next issue like a groupie at Kid Rock's house. I just think a little more meat on the bone would have helped. In the end I give this issue a 4.5 out of 5. It's still the same caliber of awesome you would expect from this saga and this series. It just doesn't move forward all that much, but at least you get to see Blob sit on Fantomex. That's worth the $3.99 price right there! Nuff said!