Classic Runs: Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force

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Posted May 12, 2015 by Justin Micallef in Comic Books

Please note this feature contains major spoilers

Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force is one of the best, if not the crown jewel, of the post Bill Jemas years of Marvel Comics. Few writers have had the simultaneous luxury and talent to be able to explore the central ideas of Remender’s mutant opera centered on the thesis of Nature versus Nurture. The crux of our story is a very simple one; Wolverine brings together an underground hit-squad (unbeknownst to the rest of the X-Men) consisting of himself, Fantomex, Deadpool, Angel, and Psylocke. The crucial thing to grasp that unites all of these characters is that, in one sense or another, they are all murderers. All of them have taken lives, albeit most for the benefit of man/mutant-kind, but the fact still remains.

One of the Remender’s greatest strengths lies in the seeds that are sown for the rest of the run as early as the first issue. The first arc, The Apocalypse Solution, introduces the threat of a reborn Apocalypse, practitioner of genocide against any and all who oppose him (mainly mutants). However, Remender chooses to take the term “reborn” literally and depicts Apocalypse as reincarnated in a young, prepubescent boy later named Evan. In Evan (also known as Genesis) lies the heart and crux of the story, the idea of nature versus nurture. The innocence of childhood versus the destructive capabilities of super powered destruction clash throughout the pages of this run.

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Evan presents the greatest moral quandary the X-Force have faced yet as murdering him would mean thousands of lives saved but would also bluntly mean killing an innocent(?) child. Evan is being raised to be the ruler/destroyer of the world and yet barely has enough years under his belt to develop past his own childhood innocence. The decision to kill or not to kill Evan brings about choice reactions from each of the X-Force as all of their decisions play into their greater, deeper future character arcs. Psylocke, when learning of Evan’s age, pledges to defend him, brandishing a sword against all the other members.Psylocke_uxf3_0024

Wolverine, while morally destroyed over the pretense of the future act, is determined to extinguish Evan’s life. Deadpool, while being a morally-gray mercenary, states that he didn’t sign up to kill kids. Angel, dealing with a product of Apocalypse’s evil living inside him in the form of Archangel, is morally torn as well. However, as all the other members debate on how to handle Evan, it is Fantomex that shoots the reborn Apocalypse in the head, killing him.

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This shocking conclusion to the arc Apocalypse Solution, again, sets the stage for the rest of the run and determines how deep these characters will fall down the proverbial rabbit hole, and whether or not they will be redeemed or atone for their sins.

Instead of exploring the future arcs at great length, honing in on the characters as a whole leads to a more interesting discussion at the central beating, bloody heart of the book. However, the future arcs which have nuances that aren’t as integral to the greater story as whole are still incredible, including Deathklok Nation and Otherworld.

Fantomex:

Fantomex, the genetically engineered product of the Weapon Plus program, goes through an interesting set of developments throughout the course of the series. Even though he was the one who killed Evan, he does not deter him from exploring the potential that Evan had. Fantomex decides to clone Evan and raise him as his own in a man-made utopia-like pocket universe, the same one Fantomex himself was raised in. Fantomex treats this cloned version of Evan as control variable in the experiment of life, testing his capabilities for the capacity to commit evil while simultaneously exposing him to fatherly love and affection, which he lacked when his late-self was raised to become apocalypse. Fantomex’s developments explore a determinism present in the debate of Nature versus Nurture while simultaneously revealing a beating heart lying underneath all of the bloodshed and pain.

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Angel:

Angel is in a state of constant internal struggle throughout the course this series. He and his girlfriend Psylocke try desperately to keep the evil present inside him (Archangel) at bay, but his mental barriers are shattered throughout the events of the Dark Angel Saga. He, too, while morally forthright devolves into a practitioner of mass-murder when the title of Apocalypse is bestowed upon his shadow-self, leaving him unable to keep Archangel at bay and becoming the new Apocalypse. These leaves X-Force and sadly, Psylocke, with the task of taking him down. The most interesting development in Angel’s arc, however, remains in the finality of his time as Apocalypse. In order to strip the darkness of Apocalypse from his core and save the world, Betsy is forced to neuter all of Angel’s memories, including those involving their love and time together. She is forced to sacrifice their shared love in order to save the world. However, in one of the most gut-wrenching sequences in modern comics, Psylocke and Angel share a future glimpse of what their life together might be if this tragedy hadn’t befallen upon them. The new Angel, the one stripped of memories, remains a mirror to Alex DeLarge in  A Clockwork Orange, exploring many of the same ideas involving the stripping of “evil” and the removal of the ego.

Uncanny_X-Force_001_0007Wolverine:

Wolverine is forced to deal with the sins of his past and his nature as a predator and a killer. All of these traits come to fruition when he is forced to battle, and ultimately murder his son, Daken, for the fate of the world. Wolverine is torn throughout this part of his arc and even though he valiantly tries to give his son a chance, he cannot see any other way to change/reform him and eventually resorts to drowning him. This last kill under Wolverines belt in this series is important for it can be looked at in two different ways. Either their wasn’t any way to curb Daken’s evil without killing him or Wolverine’s nature is to only end his problem in the finality of death. Remender does not give us a clear answer but leaves us with the harrowing aftermath of the deed. Death is ugly, and Remender reminds throughout every arc in this title.

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Psylocke: 

Psylocke is forced to confront the nature of her “heroics” and the precedence established by her last name of Braddock (she is the sister to Captain Britain). Throughout the arc of Otherworld, Psylocke is chastised and put on trial for her actions of murder and her allegiance to the X-Force. It is in this arc that we, as the reader, are asked to decide whether or not the X-Force is necessary, moral, and most importantly, ethical. Psylocke also develops a blossoming romance with Fantomex, one that she punishes herself for due to his role as an assassin, but ultimately succumbs to when he reveals how deep his heart really emotes with his care-taking of the cloned Evan.

2141412-picture_4Deadpool:

Deadpool is handled masterfully by Remender in the pages of this book and it is his moral compass that proves to the cloned Evan that it is his choice to be moral, not the path set before him by others. Deadpool is usually portrayed as a one-dimensional Looney-Toon but Remender handles his complexity with grace and beauty (a rarity in the realm of Deadpool). His last conversation with Evan in the book, one that handles the concept of who we are versus what we do, is a masterstroke and tugs at my heartstrings without fail, every time.

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In conclusion, Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force  is a time traveling, space-adventuring, mutant-hunting, psycho-drama, and also a masterpiece. All of these wonderful facets listed prior make it a must-read, combined with the beautiful art (which I don’t have enough time to praise, but trust me they’re the best in the biz) by the likes of Jerome Opeña, Greg Tocchini, Philip Tan, and other greats. All arcs are a must read and characters that I didn’t mention but deserve praise include the likes of Age of Apocalypse-Nightcrawler, Dark Beast, and EVA. While Uncanny X-Force may be seen as a Marvel superhero/X-Men book first, it soars past it’s contemporaries by delivering one of the most gut-wrenching and ultimately beautiful tales to grace the pages of a comic book.

 


About the Author

Justin Micallef

College Student from Farmington Hills, Michigan. Love comic books and literature, fan of all things eclectic, strange, and paranormal! Probably the nicest guy you'll meet.