The current “Uncanny X-Force” storyline -- the Dark Angel saga -- has been running for the best part of a year now, and builds off plots which began long before Remender was writing the team. With every instalment raising the stakes a little higher, providing a conclusion that satisfied everyone was always going to be a difficult task. It’s fortunate, then, that Remender and Co. didn’t just manage a satisfying ending: they put out the most singularly brilliant and affecting issue of anything I’ve read in a long time.
There are moments during a good story when you can feel the anticipation thumping against your rib cage. It's when you keep reading (or watching, or listening) purely because you feel that if you were to stop, you might burst. This issue gives you that feeling from the first page and keeps it there right until the final moment. Every page feels like it’s delivering the resolution to a plot that Remender has been carefully building since the very start of his run, and catharsis spills from every panel.
Although it says “X-Force” on the cover, this is clearly Psylocke and Angel’s story. It’s love and death, as transcendent and epic as it can be. When the final blow is struck, the moment is heartbreaking, beautiful and euphoric in the way all the best death scenes are. And then it’s unexpectedly heartbreaking all over again. The final page? Nothing short of a technical masterpiece in its own right. Artist and writer in perfect unison.
There’s no part of this issue that can be called half-hearted or unsuccessful. Even praising its dialogue, its visuals, its plotting, comes across as an inadequate deconstruction. While these elements are all superb in their own right, it’s a comic that’s vastly more than the sum of its parts. When you put it down, you won’t be remembering how great Deathlok’s lines were, or the plot twist Fantomex unveils, or even how well Opena and Ribic drew every page. You’ll come away from it feeling emotionally bruised, with a hole only the next part of the story can fill.
In many ways, it’s tempting to end a review like this by claiming that the story is so good, it has transcended its genre, as if superhero comics can’t really work this well without being something else. But what are superhero comics for, if not this? They’re modern myths, playing out classical themes on a grander stage than our own world allows. Characters living, loving , and dying for our entertainment, showing us truths about our own lives.
Best of all, though, as good as this story was, it didn’t need a crossover, or tie-ins. It didn’t even need Wolverine to be conscious. No gimmicks, no pandering, no advance spoilers. No better way to have told this story. If the creators involved never picked up their tools again, they could rest easy knowing that just once, they did everything right. But with this much passion and ability on display, something tells me an early retirement is the last thing on anyone’s minds.