Uncanny X-Force: The Apocalypse Solution
written by Rick Remender
illustrated by Jerome Opeña
X-Force is a black-ops squad led by Wolverine that operates in secret from the X-Men. Officially disbanded, the small band of killers tackles the dirty assignments that the main X-squadrons cannot handle. The X-Men do not kill; X-Force does, and quite willingly. It's that simple. Or at least it should be, until an age-old foe rears his ugly head once again.
Apocalypse, the first mutant, as old as civilization, has been reborn. A cult led by the Four Horsemen has resurrected their fallen leader, aiming to install mutantkind at their rightful place at the top of the food chain. When X-Force learns of Apocalypse's rebirth, they set out on a mission that's equal parts necessity and vengeance, traveling from secret caverns of Egypt to a hidden-base on the moon. Their plan is simple—kill Apocalypse and anything standing between them. Except their ancient foe is not quite how they remember—the demigod has been resurrected as a young boy.
Writer Rick Remender grabs the reins from Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, previous X-Force scribes, to relaunch the series from square one and hits the ground running. The brilliance of the X-Force series is that it inherently makes sense given the altered landscape for Marvel's mutant heroes in the aftermath of House of M, which saw the vast majority of mutantkind wiped out. The landscape in which the various X-teams operate has been irrevocably altered in the wake of M-Day, and there has been a necessary shift in their perspective of a world that hates and fears them. A black-ops squad whose core mission is to eliminate their enemies is a natural evolution of the main mission statement of the X-Men and it make sense that a group on the brink of extermination would do whatever it deems necessary in order to protect itself from further, greater harm.
Kyle and Yost, in their X-Force title, set up the political landscape wonderfully, contrasting post-9/11 sensibilities against the apocalyptic ramifications of M-Day, which has since reverberated its way through X-Men lore as a constant focal point for change and has provided some of the best X-stories in decades.
Remender is far less political in his storytelling, focusing instead on the relationships between his core characters and cranking out a self-contained story that is by turns shocking and exciting, delivering an action-heavy tale with some thick meat on its bones. X-Force set up the rules and established the team's place within the X-Men universe, while Uncanny X-Force charges full steam ahead with its take-no-prisoners attitude, crafting an exciting black-ops book that rises above the standard blood-and-guts fare. Character is key to this book's success, and the cast he has assembled here works well, with each of the title's five main leads having significant relevance not only to the plot, but to each other as well. There is a shared sense of camaraderie amongst the team, building off at least a decade's worth of history, and each character gets their moment to shine.
The truly wonderful thing Remender does is in creating various wrinkles to an otherwise simple story. There is a beautiful dynamic at work between Archangel, a former Horseman of Apocalypse, and his lover Psylocke, who has been helping him learn to control the more violent impulses of his nature. Wolverine forms an interesting point in this triangular relationship by training Psylocke to murder Archangel, should the need ever arise. The team is rounded out with Deadpool, a mouthy mercenary who is, thankfully, used sparingly as comic relief, and Fantomex, who also provides some comedy and proves to be a very fun foil to Wolverine.
Their struggles against the Four Horsemen are consistently convoluted and twisted, and the war occurring within Archangel's soul provides some terrific emotional arcs for both him and Psylocke. In casting their most dangerous adversary as a child, a blank slate who has no understanding of his place in history or his role amongst the mutants, Remender makes a bold complication for his rugged band of killers forced to square off against a youthful innocent. There's a remarkable morality play at work here, akin to the question of “If you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you?” The more pertinent question, of course, is could you?
Jerome Opeña provides clear, detailed artwork that nicely executes Remender's script. His panel layouts are fluid and concise, creating an easily readable graphic story that flows quickly. His action scenes are energetic, and nicely grotesque where required, such as when Wolverine squares off against Death, a mutant who conducts a host of diseases and plagues through metal. As such, Opeña makes it wickedly gruesome as Wolverine's adamantium skeleton riddles his body with tumors and boils. The coloring is appropriately subdued and captures the tone of the book well, helping to craft a dark atmosphere suitable to the at-times questionable morality of the X-Force team and their occasional off-kilter sense of humor. It is not oppressively bleak and dark, as some chapters of the previous X-Force title were under artist Clayton Crain, but neither is it warm and inviting.
Remender wisely strips Uncanny X-Force of the loaded history and continuity of the central X-Men universe, providing readers with a fresh start, in much the same way Joss Whedon did with Astonishing X-Men. For those who are interested or need a quick refresher, there is four-page appendix detailing the history of X-Force since M-Day. But, ultimately, the aim of the book is to tell a fun, exciting story that is not burdened with loads of backstory and history that would take a wide expanse of flow-charts to unravel. This is a title for discerning fans of X-Men, but one that readily welcomes new readers who may not be overly familiar with the extensive history of Marvel's central X-titles. It easily fits the bill for both longtime fans looking for a good action yarn and new readers looking to hop onboard the X-Men bandwagon without needing Google handy to help decipher what's happening and why. Remender quickly fills in the blanks, tells readers what they need to know, and sets off in grand, violent fashion.