Thursday, December 15, 2011
Uncanny X-Force #18 - A Saga of True Awesome
What can I say about Uncanny X-Force and the Dark Angel Saga that I haven't already equated to a weekend in Las Vegas with a pound of cocaine, six tabs of ecstasy, and Warren Buffet's credit card? Well I've had to smoke more weed than usual to sufficiently expand my mind in order to articulate just how ball-bustingly awesome this series has been. Rick Remender has taken the concept of a covert kill squad composed of X-men and made it one of the most compelling X-books in a long time. I know the cynical assholes out there may scoff and argue "How could it not? X-men? Kill Squads? Deadpool making wise-cracks? How could it NOT be awesome?" This is a legitimate point, but as the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles have proven, it's not enough to just have the players. You need to have a vision to put it all together. That and a coach that doesn't choke int he NFC championship or the Superbowl.
Every issue of Uncanny X-Force has been building to this one issue and it has me so excited that going into crack withdraw would actually qualify as relaxation. From the beginning of this series, the story about the heir to Apocalypse and Angel's growing descent into his asshole Arcangel persona was a major story. Then the Dark Angel Saga arrived and all that psychic coddling and make-up sex from Psylocke had finally reached it's limit. He became the new Apocalypse. X-Force did their best to save him, venturing into the Age of Apocalypse where they got to meet a non-dead Jean Grey and ended up getting screwed over by Dark Beast. Then they began an epic struggle against Arcangel and his forces at his base at the North Pole. Arcangel used the Life Seed, a tiny bit of Celestial technology so advanced that Apple would hire an army of assassins to obtain it if only to keep Google from using it, to essentially begin a new line of evolution. The X-men and creationists were horrified by the extent of his madness and sought to stop him.
The last few issues have been a non-stop brawl complete with drama, death, and a scene with Arcangel in bed with an old woman. Somehow I'm sure that's some kind of genre porn in Japan, but that's besides the point. After being freed from his control, Psylocke and Fantomex now stand alone against Arcangel. With the life seed still in hand, he's prepared to hit the control alt delete on the entire planet in favor of his new brand of evolution. It's the kind of mission that forces X-Force to employ all their assets because let's face it. It's just not possible to play good, upstanding heroes at a time like this. They need a badass kill squad to end this shit.
Uncanny X-Force #18 gets the ball rolling in a hurry. Sunfire and Age of Apocalypse Iceman do an oversized Fire vs. Ice experiment that would probably make Bill Nye jizz his pants. Meanwhile, Arcangel's horsemen are cleaning up the rest of X-Force. AOA Nightcrawler is down for the count. Deadpool is in pieces. Wolverine had a few too many beers. So that leaves only Deathlok, a guy who has been about as friendly to the X-men as Iran has been to American hikers. War tries to make him deliver the final blow, but then Deathlok uses a little inner philosophy to figure out that listening to these assholes isn't a good idea. There's some subtlety to this struggle, which is rare for Deathlok. But Rick Remender pulls it off as he so often does. He's like Tim Tebow without the incessant Jesus talk.
Then like Newt Gingrich's poll numbers, Dark Beast does an about face. He goes from loyal minion of Archangel to this-shit's-boring-I'm-outta-here. So leaving War behind to handle Deathlok, he takes off with Pestilence. This leaves Psylocke and Fantomex to take on Arcangel. It's a much fairer fight than it sounds. As he has shown in numerous issues already, Arcangel has no problem with wounding his teammate and former fuck buddy. Fantomex tries to get under his skin by boasting that Psylocke kissed him and he gets her panties wetter than he ever will. That earned him a stab in the eye. I'm not sure if that sort of punishment is in the Old Testament, but it damn well should be!
Shit's going bad for X-Force and Arcangel doesn't sound like he's getting off his evil tyrant pedestal anytime soon. He's intent on using the Celestial Life Seed, which is like giving a nuclear bomb to the Jackass crew. Something's gonna go horribly wrong and Dark Beast doesn't want to be there for it. So with the Horsemen and a very flabby Blob in tow, he flees in one of the Celestial's ship. He also reveals something startling that may have major implications for future stories. He says Arcangel already planted a seed in a very important place. And by seed I mean his dick. And by important place I mean Pestilence's pussy. You would think that having all that power would make a simple condom easy to utilize, but I guess even the power of Apocalypse doesn't understand the concept of wrapping your tool.
Now this is an important revelation because as Rick Remender has shown since the beginning of this series, he often plants the seeds of future plots within current stories and unlike so many other writers he doesn't fucking forget about them. So while this may be the last issue of the Dark Phoenix Saga, he's already set in motion another story that could continue down the line. I know it's hard to get excited when one story isn't even over, but I'm pretty sure that Pestilence's womb is now incubating the next important stage in Uncanny X-Force.
As for the current arc of Uncanny X-Force, it's getting bloodier. Seriously, what did you expect? A Mr. Clean commercial? Fantomex shows that he's not going to psyche Arcangel out by joking about Psylocke's ass. Psylocke is the kind of woman that can justify her own ass. So after some colorful theatrics that would give any wannabe French guy a boner, she's able to stun Arcangel into submission. Then she takes the life seed from him and prepares to stab him with it. That would be a very fitting way to end it. Of course Arcangel isn't going to let that shit fly.
Since it's apparent that Psylocke can't deliver the final blow and Fantomex is losing one too many eyes in this fights, he breaks out his secret weapon. And no, it's not his penis. Again, Rick Remender uses plots he developed beforehand as a factor in current plots. Back during X-Force's last visit to the World, Fantomex revealed that he had been growing a new Apocalypse baby with the help of the Ultimaton. This after he shot the last kid Apocalypse in the fucking head. Well by guilt trip or cunning, he's grown that kid and raised him by using a Matrix style dreamworld where he's basically the equivalent of Clark Kent with fucked up lips. Then when the time comes to go Jor-El on his ass, the Ultimaton pulls the teenage Apocalypse out of his dream world and says it's time to play hero. But unlike Superman, he can wear his underwear on the inside.
Apocalypse, now bearing a dashing new look, embraces his new role. He straps on his Apocalypse suit and unloads several different kinds of whoop-ass on Arcangel. Only now he doesn't even call himself Apocalypse anymore. He calls himself Genesis. He's basically Apocalypse if he hadn't had such a fucked up childhood. It's not nearly as intimidating or imposing as Apocalypse. So even though he's able to demonstrate some pretty impressive displays of power, it's really not too surprising when he gets his ass kicked in the end. But hey. He's technically a teenager. Every teenager needs to get their ass kicked at some point. Those that don't are usually the bullies that turn out to be douche-bags.
But Apocalypse/Genesis did do something that helped finish this battle. He roughed Arcangel enough for him to let his guard down so that he doesn't notice that Psylocke sneaked up on him and still has the life seed. Now how did Psylocke just happen to be in the right place at the right time? That's never shown. In fact, it's a little random, which is something Rick Remender usually avoids. But then again, Psylocke is still a ninja. I guess we can assume that being a ninja allows her to get to where she needs to be to stab her lover in the back with the life seed. It's a lot more dramatic than it sounds. This is still the man she loves and she finally works up the nerve to stab him. It's not quite as romantic as what my ex-girlfriends have tried to do for me, but Rick Remender gives it meaning here.
What isn't quite as dramatic is the little matter of Arcangel's world about to go up in flames thanks to Sunfire's battle with AOA Iceman. Remember that little affair? Well apparently Sunfire thought overkill was the only proper way to dispose of an evil Iceman. So in a fashion that pretty much exemplifies everything Uncanny X-Force stands for, Sunfire is about to go nuclear. But rather than let him burn out, Fantomex makes a conscious effort to not be a douche-bag and goes to help him out. He knows this is a problem. So with help from the Ultimaton, he rescues a rather burned out Sunfire. I guess that makes him a walking metaphor for Brett Favre's final year with the Vikings.
But who the fuck cares about a massive explosion that consumes an entire perverse world created by a madman? What about the stabbing? Well it doesn't end like an overplayed scene on CSI. After being stabbed by the life seed, the Arcangel is essentially bled out of Warren Worthington III. In the process and presumably with a little help from Psylocke, he essentially lives a charmed life in a dreamworld. In that world he and Psylocke are together, they get married, they have children, they see those children get married, and they grow old together. They eventually die together in a moment that unless you strangle puppies on a daily basis will grab you by the heart strings and choke you with them.
It plays up the tragic element of Psylocke and Angel's relationship in a very powerful way. It shows the depths of what these characters feel for each other. It's greater than what you would see with other comic couples, who have the emotional depth of a porno plot. This walk down dreamland shows the kind of potential that Psylocke and Angel have. They are a couple that can and sincerely want to grow old together. You won't get that kind of depth with most comic couples. At least not with anyone that won't be retconned because of a deal with Mephisto.
Once the dream is over, Psylocke is left with a lifeless body of Arcangel and a crumbling world. She could stay and die with him, but that would just be stupid. So after having picked up Sunfire, Fantomex drops by and picks up Psylocke. Despite her kicking and screaming in a way you can't jerk off to every step of the way, Fantomex does manage to get her out in time before the whole world that Arcangel created crumbles. While Psylocke is left to process it all, they meet up with the rest of X-Force. Yes, most of them didn't play a role, but they're still there. Jean Grey actually survived this time. Wolverine is beat to a pulp. Deathlok even managed to collect Deadpool's dismembered body. It's kind of glossing over them, but at least they weren't completely ignored.
Then in a dramatic final scene, Rick Remender throws in one last twist. Rather than simply make this a tragic moment where the team reflects on the friend they lost, it turns out that Warren Worthington III is alive. He emerges from the snow, naked as the day he was born and presumably dealing with a serious case of shrinkage. Psylocke is understandably elated, but when she goes to kiss him and tell him to put on some pants before his junk falls off he reveals something startling. He doesn't remember her. He doesn't remember anything. He's Warren Worthington III, but he has no memory. It's an ending that opens the door to a great many possibilities. It also offers a plausible explanation for why he's not featured in the X-men Regenesis books. It fits so perfectly and it leaves just the right impact. It's not too tragic and it's not too cliched. Like Steve Jobs's motto, may he rest in peace, it just works.
Give me a moment while I take a hit from my bong and contemplate what I've just witnessed. The Dark Angel Saga is over. Everything that Rick Remender set up eventually came together. And the results were sweater than chocolate sauce licked off of Jessica Alba's ass. It was a very different kind of saga in that it was incredibly epic, yet unlike other certain sagas that shall go unnamed it didn't require that the lead character die in the end. It only required that there be a great change. And isn't that what the concept of Apocalypse is all about? Change on a massive scale? Well I don't know how massive the change will be as a result of this story, but the ride along the way has been so incredible that I'll gladly stop for a moment to puke in a trash can before getting on another ride.
Pretty much everything worked in this issue. I say pretty much because there were a few omissions that I can't quite call flaws. For one, the AOA crew that joined the fight was pretty much MIA. Jean Grey did show up at the end, but Nightcrawler, Sabretooth, and pretty much everyone else besides Iceman and Sunfire didn't play much of a role. But it's not like they were ignored. They were still clearly part of the struggle. But this issue focused primarily on Arcangel, Psylocke, and Fantomex. And why shouldn't it? They are the ones that played the biggest role. And in the end, they beat the odds. Aside from Psylocke showing up at just the right time to stab her boy toy with the life seed, it all flowed perfectly. If you're too much of a douche to overlook these minor points, then you have no business reading comics and are probably in need of in need of therapy. That or you're Donald Trump.
Unlike other recent Marvel events (looking at YOU Fear Itself), the Dark Angel Saga was compelling from start to finish. It didn't just tell an awesome story that had a satisfying end. It told an awesome story, had a satisfying ending, and set the stage for a wealth of new stories both in 616 and Age of Apocalypse. And wouldn't you know it? Marvel is proving once again that they will greedily exploit every single event by creating a new Age of Apocalypse series that spins right out of this story. So long as it brings us stories as awesome as the Dark Angel Saga, Marvel can exploit me like a Cambodian garment factory for all I care. I give Uncanny X-Force #18 and the Dark Angel Saga as a whole a gleefully drunk 5 out of 5. If you only read one X-men arc in all of 2011, make it this! It's the best Christmas, Hanukkah, Tet, Qwanza, and Ramadan gift you could ask for? Happy fucking holidays people. Nuff said!