Sunday, February 5, 2012

Uncanny X-Force #21 - Wonderland of Awesome

Few things that aren't laced with blow or weed make me happier than seeing a douche-bag get punished. It's the kind of justice that you just don't see in the real world because said douche-bags are CEOs of bangs and reality TV stars. Uncanny X-Force has done a lot of amazing things since Rick Remender birthed it from the entrails of Second Coming. One of those things involve demonstrated just how big a douche-bag Fantomex can be when he's put on a team of killers, one of which is a hot Asian chick that likes to run around in thongs. He's shot a kid in the head, forced a kiss from a woman trying to save her boyfriend, and has generally acted like a snooty French stereotype that could very well cut off all imports of wine and fancy cheese. That's not to say he hasn't had his moments. Despite shooting a kid in the head, he was also behind the creation of Genesis and he was instrumental in stopping Arcangel. But still, some of this douche-baggery can't go unchecked.

This is the story Rick Remender is telling in wake of the Dark Angel Saga. Fantomex has had questionable ethics, even for a team of secret assassins, since the series began. This is what led Psylocke's brother, Brian Braddock, to abduct her and Fantomex into his exotic domain known as Otherworld. I'm sure Charlie Sheen calls the inside of his pants the same thing. But in addition to having an overdue family reunion to discuss the ethics of Psylocke joining a kill squad, Captain Britain puts Fantomex on trial for his crimes. Since Fantomex has the legal skills of stoned rabbit, he gets convicted and doesn't even apologize for his crimes. Hell, he even says he would do it again. As someone who is on a first name basis with a number of district judges, I can say without reservation that being a douche and not apologizing will not make you any less vulnerable to prison rape.

Uncanny X-Force #21 picks up right after this sentence has been handed down. Fantomex is in a cell where he's about to get a series of injections into his brain that will render him more brain dead than a Sarah Palin miscarriage. He's still a defiant douche, showing no remorse even as he narrates how the injections start damaging his brains (yes, he has more than one). He gets to a point where he has the mental capacity of that kid in first grade that ate paint chips and snorted paste. He could be reduced to bed-wetting, but luckily for him Psylocke still has a sense of compassion and/or a pussy boner for him. At the end of the last issue she was given a choice to either see this justice through or go against her own family. Since her family is being a bigger douche than Fantomex at the moment, she chooses the lesser of two douches.

While Psylocke has to choose between the worst of two worlds, the rest of X-Force is stuck fighting their way through an army of Lord of the Rings rejects trying to rescue her. They're making less progress than Newt Gingrich did in Florida. Wolverine ends up clashing with a mage-like creature with a goat head armed with something called the orb of Metallum. It may sound like a shitty name for an 80s hair metal band, but it's actually a potent piece of hardware in the sense that it controls metal (ie: Wolverine's adamantium skeleton). This puts him a world of hurt that Uncanny X-Force always tends to make extra gruesome.

Since Deadpool is currently dealing with his latest bout of Severed Head Syndrome, it's up to AOA Nightcrawler to save his sorry ass. That's not as simple a choice as it sounds because if you'll recall, AOA Nightcrawler comes from a world where his Wolverine took on the mantel of Apocalypse and started sodomizing the world with his douche-baggery. So seeing another version of Wolverine suffer is satisfying in the same way it is to see someone from the Jersey Shore get arrested. But he doesn't take too much pleasure from it. He still plays the part of a hero and saves Wolverine, looking pretty damn badass while doing it. He may not be the same Nightcrawler, but fuck if he isn't awesome in his own right.

AOA Nightcrawler's exploits ensure that X-Force remains intact, but they're still on the run. That means they're not in a position to help Psylocke, who is still trying to escape her brother's domain with a brain damaged Fantomex in her grasp. She makes her way towards the dimensional door back to good old 616 Marvel, but then her other douche-bag brother, Jamie Braddock, catches up with her and uses his reality warping powers to stop her. He's understandably confused why she would choose to save this confessed child killer rather than rub elbows with her own family. It's not an unreasonable question even for a comic book, but Psylocke makes clear that they don't know Fantomex and aren't in a position to judge him. Because isn't that what the X-men are about? Not judging people? That and spandex uniforms? Apparently, Jamie doesn't agree and Psylocke has to make a run for it again. All the while Fantomex is still dribbling on like a little boy that just had his sippy cup taken away from him. It's somewhat pathetic, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I enjoyed seeing Fantomex like this after some of the shit he's done.

The situation is worse for the Braddocks than just having a rebellious sister that can't keep her legs closed around dangerous men. Their entire Otherworld realm is still under siege and Psylocke isn't providing the added muscle they hoped. Not only could they not carry out Fantomex's punishment, but they lost Psylocke and the Lord of the Ring reject forces are hot on their trail. Whatever they did to piss them off is so bad that they're willing to cause a reality-warping storm to get back at them. I can be as vindictive as the next drunk, but even I have my limits. If that weren't bad enough, this enemy of theirs has more orbs like the one that sent Wolverine's insides through a blender. It's like giving Kim Jong Ill's son an entire country and nuclear weapons. Wait...okay, bad example.

While the Captain Britain Corps are busy shitting their pants, X-Force continues their trek through this deranged world in search of Psylocke and Fantomex. Plus, they have to keep carrying a headless Deadpool that still won't shut up. I'm pretty sure that qualifies Otherworld as a new circle of Hell. But they actually luck out along the way. They run into Meggan, another one of Captain Britain's cohorts who used to run around with Nightcrawler in her Excalibur days. They must have done plenty of running because she kisses him when she sees him. I'm not sure how AOA Nightcrawler feels about taking advantage of pretty girls that kiss him, but I get the sense he's all for it. She also is in a position to give X-Force some badly needed answers and someone other than Deadpool to listen to.

So let's review for a second. AOA Nightcrawler not only saved Wolverine's sorry ass, but also got a quick smooch from a hot British woman. Regardless of how you feel about using an AU version of a character, it's hard to deny that he's making quite a mark in this issue. He spent most of last issue making it clear he wasn't the same Nightcrawler that Wolverine was friends with. He came off as a bit of a douche at times. But here, still a douche yet still distinctly Nightcrawler. Since he's still new to the team, I'd say this is a damn good first impression.

While they're getting answers, other parts of the story are getting more fucked up. Psylocke escaped with Fantomex, but is in no position to do much since her way home has been cut off by Jamie. So in a somewhat spotty transition she makes her way to some odd temple. How she knows about this place is beyond me and not really explained, but it contains some creature named Krockwel. Now maybe I'm just high right now, but I don't know who the hell Krockwel is or how he can be of much help to Psylocke. She reveals that he was once a servant of Otherworld and she wants his help in healing Fantomex. He doesn't really have much incentive to do so since her family threw his ass out of the Captain Britain Corps. He refuses to help, but Psylocke insists as if failing means she can never wear a thong again. So he makes her a deal. She has to do something big in return if he's to help her. Because nothing bad has ever happened when someone makes a deal with an all powerful creature. Just ask Spider-Man and Mary Jane.

If this sounds a little fucked up, it is. Rick Remender usually doesn't slap random shit together without there being some rhyme to the rhythm. He's not making British punk music here. But while he does make an effort to explain Krockwel, it still feels like it's pieced together with scotch tape at the last second. Between this and the less than smooth transitions between scenes, it's easy to get a little lost at this point in the book. It's one book where you kind of have to lay off the weed in order to follow what's going on. For some, that may defeat the purpose of reading comics, but for Uncanny X-Force it's usually worth it.

We don't even get to see what sort of horrible trade Psylocke has to make in order to save Fantomex. She doesn't have a marriage with Peter Parker to sacrifice so what could it be? Well while she figures that out, more random shit happens back at Captain Britain's stronghold. That same Goat-headed creature that X-Force faced earlier has arrived and brought an army of the undead along with him. Where did the army come from? How is this shit happening so quickly? Probably for the same reason that Psylocke caught up with Krockwel. There is an effort to explain it with Captain Britain identifying the creature as Horoam'ce, but it still feels like Remender is using too much duct tape. Plus, he's using an army of undead warriors to attack. I think we have enough zombie movies to cover shit like that. They seem pretty screwed, but as this is happening Meggan is leading X-Force into the battle. So there's still a chance it won't be completely lopsided.

Cue another spotty transition and we meet up with this Horoam'ce. He's essentially a less ugly form of Jabba the Hut, living it up in a palace/harem of sorts. As this battle is going on, he gets an update about his attack and Psylock's dealings with Krockwel. He seems to be taking it seriously, which makes him slightly smarter than Jabba the Hut. He figures he needs help from someone who has enough burning hatred of the X-men to want to tear reality a few new assholes to hurt them. So he finds it in the form of someone who looks like a much less badass version of Hellboy. I honestly can't determine who it is at the moment. It's another one of those details that was overlooked in this issue. While I'm sure it'll be explained in the next issue as is often the case with Remender, it still leaves this issue feeling incomplete.

As someone who has taken many an acid trip to many exotic locations, I find this world that X-Force has found themselves in to be no worse than the fourth most exotic locale short of the isles of strippers that I visited when I mixed mushrooms with imported Turkish weed. It's so exotic it's easy to get lost at times. That more than anything is the flaw in this issue. It has all the usual Uncanny X-Force elements. There's a big ass fight, some heartfelt drama, and a few severed heads within a dangerous world you won't find outside of Tim Burton's imagination. It just doesn't fit together as well as it usually does. It lacks the usual coherence that Rick Remender adds to most of his quality books. It's hard to follow the plot with Psylocke saving Fantomex from her brother and the rest of X-Force fighting against Mr. Goat Head. There's still a good chance that it'll fit together in the next issue, but as it stands this issue still lacks that feel.

It's still a quality book. This issue had some nice moments on top of the usual high-caliber awesome that Rick Remender has so frequently provided on this title. Most notable is AOA Nightcrawler's contribution to the carnage. In the last issue he made clear that he was not the same holy-man-in-a-demon's-body Nightcrawler that the X-men know and love. In this issue he made clear that despite the differences, he's still every bit the skilled fighter his 616 counterpart was if not more so. He's really establishing himself as a new presence in X-Force, not just relegated to carrying around Deadpool's severed head. Plus, he even got a kiss from a hot chick out of it. I'd call that a win on any level.

Overall, this book is incoherent as a whole, but still solid on all the usual levels. You may be confused by the politics of Otherworld and the subtext of Fantomex's juvenile musings, but you'll still get to enjoy plenty of action and bloodshed. There's magic, talking heads, and family fueds. It's like a family reunion if someone spiked the punch with peyote. It's not filler, but it doesn't feel complete. So while by most standards it's still awesome, by the lofty Uncanny X-Force standards it's a bit sub-par. So with that in mind I give Uncanny X-Force #21 a 4 out of 5. We're right in the middle of that acid trip I mentioned earlier. All the pretty images and talking ink blots are overwhelming at the moment, but eventually they usually mesh together before you start throwing up. If you have a weak stomach, I encourage you to tough it out! Uncanny X-Force is usually worth it. Nuff said!


  1. So is Psylocke British Betsy now?

  2. I don't know. Sure doesn't look like it, but given how future solicitations show now change I don't think it'll stick. Asian Betsy is just too popular. Thanks for the comment.


  3. From the first time Revanche showed up Betsy's old and new body have been depicted as nearly identical anyway. One has straight hair, one has curly hair.