Thursday, June 16, 2011

Spotlight: Uncanny X-Force

Writer: Rick Remender
Artists: Jerome Opena, Esad Ribic & Rafael Albuquerque
Company: Marvel Comics

I remember going on a vacation with my family the year the original X-Force came out.  You know, the one by Liefeld and Nicieza with the collectible cards featuring an individual character from the book.  I remember having to beg to buy multiple copies to get a whole set of the characters, because really, you just had to.  I loved that book growing up.  That's where my Deadpool love started (though the Casey and Simone runs cemented that and made the character much cooler).  Hell, I even had a birthday cake based off of the cover to issue #8.  Yes, to reiterate, I had a Liefeld inspired birthday cake.  Not many people can say that.  So in truth, I have a soft spot for the X-Force
name and while the incarnations of the series over the years have never been great, I can't help but read them.  To say that I was less than thrilled with the Chris Yost/Craig Kyle run would actually be an understatement, but the Clayton Crain artwork certainly didn't help the matter either.  Still, when I found out that Rick Remender was taking over, I was skeptical, but since I was a fan of his Fear Agent and Gigantic books, I yet again returned to the X-Force brand.

My expectations for the book were set fairly low, what with had come before, but the material that Remender and artist Jerome Opena set forth really blew my socks off.  It was slick, action oriented and while the notion of an X-Men team that is essentially a hit-squad still didn't sit well with me, the writing made me forget about said sticking point.  Perhaps that's Remender's mutant power.

But what makes the book good?  What sets it apart from the other iterations and makes you want to spend your hard earned coin on it?  Well, the first reason would be the characters.  This group of X-Force is a bizarre mixture of old and new school mutants:  Wolverine, Angel/Archangel, Psylocke, Deadpool, and Fantomex.  Never in a million years would I have thought to put those people together, especially Fantomex.  Hell, if you had asked me, I would have said that no one but Grant Morrison should mess with that character.  Again, Remender has not only made him cool, but he's also gone on to really delve into the character's history, things that Morrison first brought up in New X-Men.  Deathlok Nation, the name of the book's second arc is actually a huge exploration into the crazy and zany World of Fantomex, and it is a hell of a lot of fun.

Not ignoring a character's history is a great thing, and that's done with every single character here.  The time when the X-Men were in the Outback?  Referenced and a major plot point.  Lady Deathstrike and Wolverine's samurai background?  Got that too.  Archangel/Angel's past with Apocalypse?  Main point of the first arc.  Psylocke's relationship with Captain Britain?  That's a roger.  Bringing these things up and delving into them more, while adding his traditional Remender spin on it, is a great way to not only bring weight to the story, but it's also a great way to make you care even more about these characters.  So often we just see them blast and tear and crush their way through their opponents.  With Uncanny X-Force we get that as well, but there's more meat on the bone, allowing the reader to savor the proceedings a bit more.

The second thing that makes Uncanny X-Force so damn entertaining is the action and the humor.  Remender knows a thing or two about comedy and when you're using Deadpool as a main character, you need to bring said humor to the table.  Remender does.  The jokes for the Merc with a Mouth are completely stupid and something that you would expect a 10 year old to tell you, but in a way that makes sense and never the less I found myself cracking up despite the cheesiness.  There's also just great trash talk throughout, something that any team book worth its salt needs to have, especially and X-Men title.

Action is also something that needs to be a main focus, and here it is.  What sets it apart from the middle of the pack however is that it's smart action.  Remender puts thought into it and while a frontal assault on Apocalypse's base on the Moon is seven different kinds of awesome, we don't see that same sort of thing happen again and again.  Instead, these characters really run the gamut of action and tackle it in different ways, keeping it fresh.  With this book we see infiltration, assault by mind incursion, and once or twice these characters are just running for their lives.  The point is that all of it is made to be exciting and interesting and because of that, memorable.

Lastly, let's speak of art.  On the first arc, Jerome (Fear Agent/Moon Knight) Opena literally opens a can of "I am Awesome" and paints it on the page.  His backgrounds, especially his Apocalypse space-ship and base on the moon, are so vivid and detailed and crisp.  The characters are smooth and move on the page so realistically that it makes it seem like you're watching a big budget movie.  Rafael (American Vampire/Blue Beetle) Albuquerque handles the art for the Point One issue and it too is gorgeous.  His rendition of Wolverine is cool as hell, as it captures what Wolverine used to be:  A hairy runt with claws.  Other than that, Albuquerque's action is liquid smooth and his portrayal of the Australian Outback and the X-Men Base Utopia hits all the right points.  Esad (Loki) Ribic, goes to town too, his story focusing on Fantomex being hunted by a group of Superhero Deathloks in the snow.  The truth of the matter is that Uncanny X-Force tends to have brilliant artwork.  End of story.

This version of the book transcends any of the iterations that have come before, and at the end of the day, Uncanny X-Force truly is the best X-Book out there.  The level of detail and the interesting ideas that are put forth on an issue basis constantly amaze and surprise.  I highly recommend simply jumping into the current story arc (which sees the team revisit the Age of Apocalypse), or if you're really wanting to check it out from the ground floor, to snag the two hardcovers (The Apocalypse Solution & Deathlok Nation) from your local comic shop.

No comments:

Post a Comment