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Comics You Should Know: Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force

A few weeks back I was editing the Weekly Nerd Chat in which Jason and Clave built their ideal Blue and Gold Teams.  While Jason was combing over the original Blue Team’s members and saying who was and wasn’t on the table for the upcoming iterations, he mentioned Psylocke with regards to Rick Remender’s excellent run on Uncanny X-Force.remender's uncanny x-force

It was at this time that I googled “nerds on earth Remender X-Force” to pull up the article we’d written covering the run.

Google gave me nothing back.

So I tried searching the website itself.

Still…nada…

Frustrated, I went right into the WordPress guts and searched our content for the post.  It was after this third query that I realized we had somehow – and to our great shame – managed to neglect covering a run in the comics that many of our staff gush about regularly.

So first: Apologies. You guys and gals deserve better than this from us. If our website required a paid subscription, we’d offer a refund. And in all honesty, we were just as stunned at this oversight as you probably are. We couldn’t believe it!

Remender’s Uncanny X-Force: The Saga Breakdowns

Remender’s run on Uncanny X-Force ran just over two years and brought us 37 amazing issues (35 regular issues and two .1 issues) where Wolverine, Psylocke, Archangel, Fantomex, Deadpool. Deathlok, and (later on) Age of Apocalypse Nightcrawler  and E.V.A. (Fantomex’s external nervous system that serves as a ship and later on takes on humanoid form – its complicated) operate under the radar and off the books.  They’re very much a black-ops team; they do the dirtiest of work and they have no backup.

The series breaks down into five sagas:

  1. The Apocalypse Solution.  Their first job is a doozy:  Assassinate a reborn Apocalypse who is currently just a child.
  2. Deathlok Nation.  A group of Deathlok Avengers and X-Force dopplegängers attempt to steal and infiltrate The World – a secret, pocket-sized Weapons Plus laboratory (again, its complicated) currently in the possession of Fantomex.  They’re after what lies within…remender's uncanny x-force
  3. The Dark Angel Saga.  In the absence of Apocalypse, his heir, the Archangel persona within Warren Worthington (Angel) rises to the surface.  The only way to save Angel from the growing darkness is to stab him with a life seed.  Only two problems:
    1. The life seeds are occasionally dispersed by the Celestials, but the next one isn’t due for hundreds of years.
    2. The only life seed X-Force has a lead on is in the Earth 295 reality…The Age of Apocalypse.
  4. Otherworld.  Fantomex is abducted and put on trial for murdering Apocalypse.  Wolverine, AoA Nightcrawler, and Deadpool attempt to rescue Jean-Phillipe (Fantomex), but their efforts are interrupted when demons lead by a mysterious Goat Mage lay siege to the Omniversal Tower.  Their goal:  Spread their evil influence across all universes.
  5. Final Execution.  A new lineup of the Brotherhood of Mutants (Dakken, Mystique, Sabertooth, Blob, The Shadow King, Skinless Man, and the Omega Clan) kidnap the child Apocalypse (codenamed Genesis; long story short: Fantomex cloned the child version and tried to raise him to be a hero in The World).  Their goal:  Turn him into the evil Apocalypse of old.

Remender’s Uncanny X-Force: Solid Gold

I made the joke in Slack yesterday that I had what felt like a monumental task ahead of me trying to pitch Remender’s run in less than 5000 words.  Heck, the notes I jotted down as I reread the issues over the last couple of weeks number in the hundreds of words!

So I thought I’d do a Top 5 Best Things About Remender’s Uncanny X-Force to keep it short and hit the brightest of highlights.

  1. Excellent characterization.  I cannot think of any other run in which each and every character within receives the kind of characterization attention that the X-Force members do in this one.  While I’d argue that Psylocke receives the lion’s share, every other team member (with the exception of E.V.A.) is superbly developed.  This is where my definitive versions of so many of these characters come from.  (Writer’s note: Especially Deadpool.  He’s effective, he’s funny, he canonically loves Dungeons and Dragons now – he even carries a d20 around in one of his pouches!  And he is legitimately and rightfully called a “hero” at the end for continuing the mission even after his healing factor is lost to him and being the one who finally convinces Evan/Genesis/Lil’ Apocalypse to keep from switching to the Dark Side.)rick remender's uncanny x-force
  2. The nature versus nurture theme.  It doesn’t take a deep reading of the run to see how absolutely pervasive this theme really is…and here’s the kicker that really sets this oft-tread theme off in the series:  It isn’t applied only to who you think it is…I won’t say anything more to avoid spoilers!
  3. The Minority Report cold water bath.  The team justifies the killing of the child Apocalypse on the grounds of what he would eventually become/do.  About halfway through the run they’re whisked off to an alternate future where they take that philosophy to its logical conclusion and begin killing people before any crimes or atrocities are committed.  This serves as one hell of a wakeup call…particularly for Betsy (Psylocke)…rick remender's uncanny x-force
  4. Playing with powers.  The staff of this series did a super fantastic and fun job of showcasing each mutant’s powers and leveraging them in unique ways.  Deadpool flays pieces of his arm (which will regenerate) to feed an ailing Archangel, Fantomex pulls off all kinds of cool misdirections, Wolverine literally spills his guts to stop the spread of an autoimmune disease, and Nightcrawler straight up BAMFS a shark into the Blob’s guts so it would eat him from the inside.  You know.  Cool stuff like that.
  5. The art.  I have a love/hate relationship with runs that rotate their artistic staff, but it really works for this title.  When the action is a bit more dark and violent, you get lots of dark colors and hard lines and crosshatching.  When it shifts to the more magic-y stuff centered around the Captain Britain Corps and the Omniversal tower, you get a more open-feeling, watercolor look.  The change in art didn’t feel like a shift change, it felt like an appropriate change in style dictated by the content.

Remender’s Uncanny X-Force: Homework

The run in its entirety is available on Marvel Unlimited or in two volumes from Amazon (Volume 1 here and Volume 2 here).  As far as we’re concerned, this is required reading for Marvel comic fans, so get to it!