Wednesday, June 8, 2011

#12 UNCANNY X-FORCE: The Apocalypse Solution

Welcome back to another thrilling, blood soaked edition of Comic Book Clash. This time, we are setting up matches between two groups of assassins who are out . . . well, to kill people. Yet, both of these groups are very different, with different motivations and different targets. Ladies and Gentlemen, it's Marvel's Uncanny X-Force vs. DC's Secret Six.


Issues # 1- 4
Story (arc) Name: The Apocalypse Solution
Written by Rick Remender with art by Jerome Opena with colors by Dean White.


        X-Force originally started way back in the 90s under the control of the Rob Liefield when he transformed the New Mutants into X-Force, introducing many of the characters that are popular today such as Domino, Cable and Deadpool. The group that formed X-Force were Cable, Domino, Shatterstar (remember him on my X-Factor review), Warpath, Feral, Siryn, Boom Boom and Cannonball. Through its adventures, the group shuffled its ranks, including Rictor, Sunspot, the real Domino(another story for another time) and Dani Moonstar. As members came and gone, X-Force had changed so much that it had become an entirely new team . . . who later became the X-Statix. Later, X-Force had reformed with Cable in a small mini series then not seen again for years.
    Fast forward to a few years ago during the X-Men crossover even known as Messiah Complex. The crossover not only raped the character of Bishop from time lost hero to ruthless traitor and brought us the new Mutant Messiah in the form of Hope Summers; it reformed X-Force. But this X-Force was entirely different. Brought together by Cyclops and led by Wolverine, this new X-Force was made up of the best mutant trackers and killers: X-23, Wolfsbane, Hepzabah (from the Starjammers) and X-Force alumni Caliban and Warpath.The team was able to fight off the Purifiers, a religious mutant hating organization and find Cable and Hope. Unfortnately, Caliban died during the crossover.
     At the end of the crossover, X-Force had returned with a whole new series and mission: to take out the enemies of mutantkind since there were so few of them left since the whole Scarlet Witch -House of M thing years ago. And what do you know, it was a bunch of villains that were dead or missing that had come back, thanks to a technorganic virus. X-Force had come back, but with out Hepzabah. Angel had his wings ripped and bitten off by a brainwashed Wolfsbane only to find that Archangel  can emerge as a separate identity. Yes, after all these years of Warren healing, his wings are ripped off again but now they grew back and Angel can now go between being Angel and Archangel. Domino, Elixer and Vanisher all join X-Force for a while. After a few crossovers and storylines, X-Force had taken out most of the people on Cyclops's list and were found out, as Cyclops kept X-Force a secret from almost everyone. Cyclops disbands X-Force after Steve Rogers came back and took over Nick Fury's old spot from the then in charge and insane Norman Osborn. Crazy huh?
     So Cable and Nightcrawler died right before X-Force was disbanded. A little time has passed. And now, Wolverine has decided that they need X-Force. Just not the X-Force that was there before. And Archangel agrees with him. So, we get a new X-Force in the form of  Wolverine, Archangel, Fantomex, Psylocke & Deadpool. Yes . . . the Merc with a Mouth is an offical member of an X-team. WOW. And let's see how the first storyline handles as we look at the beginning of the series . . . Uncanny X-Force!


  Our first issue of the new series opens with our favorite Merc with a Mouth inside what seems to be a temple. He passes a statue that suddenly starts having glowing eyes. Deadpool stops at a ledge and looks over some kind of ritual. A bunch of people are stand around an Egyptian style coffin with wires and all sorts of weird tech around it. We see one of those people hacked up and smoke around them.  Deadpool seemingly does contact. Yet in middle of communications, said statue from earlier is coming down at him with some kind of BIG AXE.
    We cut to Psylocke walking down a corridor that had dead bodies on the ground. Seemingly a tunnel in a sewer from the looks of it. She passes a doorway to find Angel  . . . and Archangel . . . in separate bodies, talking to each other. Archangel is stating that he will fix Angel and that he will fix Psylocke too. She wakes up with a gasp, sleeping next to Angel. Angel asks what happened while Psylocke tries to ignore it. Psylocke says that Angel's mind is split with the personas and that just removing Archangel could fracture Warren's mind permanently. They go on about their relationship and X-Force then about how Angel feels that he knows he can trust Betsy to stop him from going too far. Angel feels bad to be so dependent on Betsy but Besty reassures him that she trust her feelings for him. And before they could get into their relationship more, Angel gets beeped and Angel gets worried. He tries to hid if from Psylocke and she just shrugs it off and says to get ready for work.
   Fantomex is in London and breaks into the vault of the Queen's Crown Jewels. He misdirects guards with his powers only to find . . . Wolverine. The two talk for a moment as Wolverine mentions a mission and that Fantomex lost a bet. Then we move over sometime later to E.V.A. (no, not the Evangelions), but the living ship that looks like a marble with rings around it. Wolverine, Psylocke, Archangel and Fantomex are chatting about the upcoming mission and their missing member while Fantomex gives us narrative. Fantomex flirts with Betsy openly who proclaims she's involved yet he does not care; his narrative revealing that he considers Archangel schizophrenic. Wolverine and Archangel discuss how close Warren is to everything and how they are co-captains of the team in order to have checks and balances.
   They reach their destination, going into the chambers that Deadpool was in as Fantomex muses how this group are NOT the X-Men. They are about to spread out to search as Wolverine picks up Deadpool's stench near the Statue as it stands there plainly.Yet, Wolverine does not fall for the ruse, attacking it right away. As they fight, Wolverine gets cut and then is possessed by the statue. Archangel orders Psylocke and Fantomex deal with the Statue while he will fight Wolverine. Psylocke flips onto the Statues head and gives him some Psychic Knife. She becomes possesed while linked to the Statue and talks about War and how War is Life. Fantomex tackles her off, smelling her and getting aroused while she is recovering from the link. The Statue comes at him but uses his powers of misdirection to state that Psylocke is the woman of his dreams . . . and the Statue explodes. Archangel is downed by Wolverine, who threatens to kill him while Wolverine is talking gibberish. Another psychic knife releases Wolverine from the spell and they continue.
   Deadpool, with his mask riped open on the top are being examined by two scientist till they are killed. The team breaks Deadpool loose as EVA reports to Fantomex that they are in a space ship and it is about to blow. The group hopes on EVA and retreats.
    Archangel informs Wolverine that he's had Deadpool tracking down Apocalypse for some time now and that the Statue was actually a member of the Last Horsemen of Apocalypse. Apocalypse has been reborn and they were going to kill him. Yet, the final page of the first issue reveals Apocalypse new host . . . a little boy.
   The next issue of X-Force opens with a training exercise in a special Danger Room Warren had set up for X-Force. During the exercise, Betsy narrates as they face off against Apocalypse and she is forced to kill Archangel . . . just as Angel walks into the exercise. In her mind, she prepares herself yet also feels pain over the exercise of killing the man she loves. Warren asks why are she training to kill him when Wolverine takes responsibility and that the exercise is to make Betsy comfortable with it should it come down to it.Warren walks away depressed. Meanwhile, the new host of Apocalypse is getting privately tutored on who he is and what he is to do with Ozamydias watching. Back in X-Force's new base, Cavern X, Wolverine and Warren go over why they are there and what is new. Meanwhile, Deadpool and Fantomex trade pleasantries as they find they are in X-Force for the money.  We find out that Apocalypse and his ship are now on the Moon. Warren goes over to get Betsy for the mission when they have a talk and she reveals that ever since Nightcrawler died, she hasn't felt alive . . .human. She answers that Warren makes her feel human and that she is with him til the end.
    They head out into space with spacesuits inside EVA as they get ready. They are heading to the Blue Area of the moon when War jumps up at them on the moon and slices through EVA. Fantomex orders EVA to seal the breach but EVA is infected like Wolverine was. The team goes outside after EVA crashes down on the moon's surface. Wolverine orders Deadpool to hold off War when a man in a uniform and a drum stands above them on a small hit. Archangel goes after him and crashes. When we see Archangel again, it looks as if he decided to look like Christian Bale did at the end of the Machinist. War kicks away Deadpool and he lands some distance away at the feet of another new Horsemen, who is a geisha. She opens her mouth and a swarm of bees leave her maw to attack Deadpool. Wolverine and Fantomex deal with War when the final Horseman is a guy flying in on a magic carpet. He seems the two men with Psylocke and instantly gives them several different disease all at the same time. The Final Horsemen regroup with them standing over the three members of X-Force.
    Issue # 3 opens with small one page flash backs on each of the Final Horsemen. Each of these Horsemen are from a different period of time; War from Ancient Rome, Famine, aka  the guy with Drums is from Civil War era Gettysburg. The geisha, Pestilence, is from 19th Century Japan while Death, or magic carpet man, is from Persia  during the 2nd Century. We go back to the present where the Final Horsemen are standing over Psylocke, Wolverine and Fantomex, awaiting word from Ozymandias to give the order to either capture or kill them.Ozymandias asks the child Apocalypse host what he wishes, offering that they should kill them. The boy says he does not want to kill anyone. He then asks ship, who uses the old teacher as a guise to prepare to lift off. Ozymandias contacts the Final Horsemen, ordering the death of X-Force. Death takes a minute to gloat over how powerful he is and how vain it is to struggle only to get a hard claw from Wolverine. Meanwhile, Psylocke communicates with Fantomex telepathically, shutting down their ears so Famine's drums would have no effect. Before Psylocke can communicate much else, War taps her head, knocking her out; causing Fantomex to call out. Death and Wolverine continue to fight Before anything else happens, War drags away Psylocke and Fantomex uses his powers on Pestilence.
    Deadpool is crawling back and finds Archangel, all skeletonally thin. Deadpool jokes while he gives Warren a soda.War is about to enter the ship with Psylocke. Death continues to kick around Wolverine with his powers till after a while it is revealed that he was now using his powers on Pestilence. The Horsemen enter Ship, with Fantomex carrying Wolverine in. Psylocke wakes up in War's room where he states that he is in love with her. Psylocke curses Fantomex in her head then flirts with War. War welcomes her only to get a psychic blade for his trouble. As Fantomex and Wolverine work their way around ship, Deadpool set up a tent with Warren. Back on ship, the host of Apocalypse is playing with toys; the ship announcing that it will teleport in seconds as Psylocke walks into his room with her katana drawn.
    Wolverine and Fantomex crawl out of being buried. Then Wolverine orders Fantomex to use his powers of misdirection on the ship before it teleports away. It works, making the Ship think it teleported. Deadpool in the meantime feeds Warren to get his strength as we get . . . OH MY GOD . . .Deadpool is feeling Warren his own skin. NEXT.
     Ozymandias is angry when he finds that the Ship thinks it had teleported away, only to find that it just teleported itself to the same location. He orders the guards to get ready for X-Force when Wolverine and Fantomex begin to kill them all. Three of the Final Horsemen come into to deal with them only to get caught up by another illusion by Fantomex. Ozymandias is just angry when he finds that X-Force hasn't been taken down and that Psylocke is in the room with the boy when he is met by Deadpool and Archangel. The four members regroup to find Psylocke . . . now protected the host of Apocalypse. Wolverine and Archangel immediately try to talk her through this as she points out that he is an innocent child. Archangel points out that he's a blood thirsty killer when she points out that he's a child and that they are not heroes if they kill him for something he might do. Archangel believes there is not redemption for the child and ends up fighting his girlfriend. Archangel orders Wolverine to do this when Fantomex and Deadpool watch. Betsy gets the better of Warren when Wolverine says to stop and agrees with Betsy. That they can help the child. Archangel lashes out at them when he goes towards the boy. Yet . . . falls to his knees, unable to kill the child. Psylocke holds Archangel while Wolverine says they can rehabilitate the boy . . . BLAM!!!

   A smoking hole on the young boy's head and Fantomex with his guy smoking. The book ends with the group heading back to Earth . . .visibly shaken by what has happened.


    You know, when X-Force got cancelled to be restarted as Uncanny X-Force, I was kinda of disappointed yet intrigued. I can understand why the new number #1 yet at the same time, didn't really see much need for it.   Though with how this first storyline ends up setting up EVERYTHING moving forward from the book, I can really see why. This one storyline opens up so much for the cast and plot of the book that it is still going on with aftermath of it even today. It is why I ended up picking this particular storyline to review and NOT the others.
      Rick  Remender does a great job of crafting one of the most pivotal stories in the X Universe in years. For a four issue story, there was a whole lot seen with our characters, both as individuals and as a group. The story's pacing was excellent, growing faster and faster to the conclusion of the storyarc in issue # 4. There was no real time to relax. Even the training sequence in the beginning of issue # 2 was still keep the pace  forwarded and continually moving towards the conclusion.
     The development of the team was also greatly established with wonderful character moments between the members of Uncanny X-Force. And while it seemed as if Psylocke and Archangel received the most amount of character development in the storyarc, Wolverine, Fantomex and Deadpool got great character depth as well. And not necessarily just through conversations or narrative  Deadpool showed some interesting depths mixed in with his usual comedic moments. Fantomex was interesting as we see his snobby character mix extremely well with the cast members here. His attraction to Psylocke seems to be a plot line that can develop into more down the road. Wolverine is showing his chops as not only a leader but as a character that has evolved and believes in redemption. I honestly don't think that if this was the Wolverine of 10 to 15 years ago, he would have done what he did here. Remender really shows great work of our main cast but seemingly misses a bit with our protagonists. He took the time to develop origins of the Final Horsemen but only War and Pestilence are the only two that seem to have real character development. Also, I am undecided about how the Final Horsemen were tricked and then we didn't see them again.
         Artistically, Jerome Opena does a terrific job of give this book the dark, gritty feel that it needed. This isn't the X-Force of old. Heck, it isn't even the X-Force that had been just prior. This is probably the darkest X-Force has ever been, with the team having some very large and interesting issue to face such as . . . well, Killing a child of possible things he could do. Opena's characters have pounds and pounds of emotion alongside of all the blood, metal and bullets. Multiple emotions are nuisance throughout the storyline. Particularly the look on Deadpool's face as he and Fantomex watch Archangel duke it out with Psylocke over the life of the boy. It told so much of Deadpool's character than words have. The sheer horror and amazement that a man is gonna kill a boy over something that he COULD one day do was just expressed in one panel without a single word. That . . . that is a sign of a good artist. The shadows were all blended in when need while other issues shadows were not as dominate  . . .as in the cases of when Warren is Angel vs. Archangel. Angel had less shadows so he was a lighter character, matching that persona while Archangel had more shadows to give that persona its more ominous and grim look. While Dean White's colors were very instrumental to always give the right colors to match the tone and pace of the story and the emotions of the characters. When looking at the pictures of Cavern X as Wolverine and Angel were reminiscing of old days, those colors were lively, happy and vibrant. Yet as this story started and continued, things continued to get ever so darker.  Kudos to Dean White on his color job.

    Uncanny X-Force is a great and solid beginning for what could be one of the better X-books out there. The storyline and characters are interesting and gives moral dilemma a great scope and showing through this very first storyarc. I just wished that the Final Horsemen did not end up such a group of . . . well, pushovers. War was threatening at first and so did all the other Horsemen when they first appeared but they all ended up coming up a bit short as a threat for the story. I think that if we didn't have the origins of the Horsemen and a more balance final battle, this would have been perfect. Instead, the origins feel like filler. Other than that, a great job by Remender, Opena and White.

Comic Book Clash gives Uncanny X-Force: The Apocalypse Solution an Intercontinental Contendership. And we got our first blood bath done for the week . . . coming next . . .Gail Simone's SECRET SIX!!!

See you next week!

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