Superhero comics, almost by definition, are violent fantasies with little concern for true consequences of action and more attention spent on blockbuster moments to entertain on a visceral level. “Uncanny X-Force” is a stellar example of doing this right because it is a comic that reaches for very big moments, is unabashed in its desire to spill blood, and the narrative steamrolls forward no matter who gets stabbed or left for dead. Yet, through it all, the sense of character and the doom surrounding one mutant couple permeates the meaning of everything. This is the documentation of a relationship going bad but on a very large scale.
There should always be weight and gravity to a moment for it to actually matter to the audience. We need to be invested. Rick Remender populates his cast with a bunch of healing factored punching bags and the rest of the page fodder is filled out by semi-familiar character doppelgangers from another dimension. There are enough people going around who can be slashed, burned, melted, and generally beaten to death that it won’t affect the wider universe and shouldn’t engage a reader. It’s the fact that Wolverine getting broken isn’t frustrating because we know he’ll get back up again but rather because it slows down his ascent toward a redemptive goal we so drastically want him to achieve that exemplifies the great structure and writing from Remender. He incorporates healing factors and teleportation and illusory misleading into the tale in the smartest ways possible.
This book is one massive war book. It has spandex and giant men made of ice and psychic intrusions and yet at its heart this is an epic battle tale. There are clear sides of good and bad and they constantly rage against each other. The big promotion for this book is that this rage is expressed through psionic blades and flame-bodied individuals and wings made of blades. This is war made pretty through the escapism of superhero tropes. For all the color and flesh on display, “Uncanny X-Force” can only survive if it draws the reader in; when you summarize why you care about this, it is the central conflict that has you by the throat. This is Warren and Betsy’s love story, and it’s heartbreaking to watch it fracture one issue at a time.
Jerome Opeña continues to make bombastic violence look like an operatic dreamscape. His take on superheroic battles feels like a reinvention of the genre. Then he drops back into flashback mode and the intimacy oozes out of the characters. My biggest gripe would be Psylocke’s new outfit. It’s bad in a Power Rangers fan contest way. Perhaps this is intentional within the story but it still throws me right off the page.
The colors from Dean White are mesmerizing. The action comes across like we’re peeking into another dimension. Archangel’s blues hold so much depth and despair that the red eyes slice out of him like beams of death.
“Uncanny X-Force” might be the best tale of a relationship dealing with issues of inferiority and addiction ever set in the superhero world. If you look past the subtext, you get a nasty smear of comic violence that feels like Sam Peckinpah rose from the grave, got his hands on an HD camera, and started documenting the revolution he sees in his mind. There’s only one issue to go on this long form tale and if ever a masterpiece needed its own omnibus then these 18 issues warrant it. Let’s see what the conclusion brings us.