"Uncanny X-Force" #25 by Rick Remender and guest artist Mike McKone is a very expensive comic considering we only get twenty pages of real story (with a fill-in artist) and two short stories that, despite being written by Remender and drawn by Jerome Opeña, might as well be throwaways. They are entertaining enough on the surface but they add nothing to the overall tapestry of "Uncanny X-Force" and also say nothing new about the characters they feature (Wolverine and Deadpool).
The main event is an adequate story, the quiet after the storm of their most recent insane adventure, and it's a tale that finds a lot of characters going their separate ways. But Mike McKone's art, though lovely in places, easy to follow, and more than serviceable on the whole, is just not the right tone for this book. McKone is a great artist and this is a better-looking book than many comics I read, but the feel is completely off from what we've come to expect in "Uncanny X-Force." As a result, even in a quieter issue like this one, it's almost like watching a movie with the sound synced incorrectly. The cumulative effect is hard to ignore.
Though I am a huge fan of Jason Aaron's "Wolverine and the X-Men," it is here in Remender's hands that I finally begin to understand what is going on with Wolverine and why I barely recognize him in that book. Remender makes an excellent case for Wolverine the fluffy bunny/headmaster of "Wolverine and the X-Men" and Wolverine the brutal killer of "Uncanny X-Force" co-existing together. The idea that Wolverine is only able to be the fluffy headmaster for a bunch of X-kids because he also has his top secret killing team where he can go to blow of steam makes a whole lot of sense. I'm glad someone is finally addressing it, but that's the sole bright spot in this issue. Everything else feels a bit rote.
Psylocke is apparently leaving the team, which makes a certain amount of sense and in some ways is overdue. Fantomex is following suit, albeit under the (fake) reasoning that because Wolverine can no longer pay him it's time for him to go. And these decisions make sense from a storytelling standpoint, but it feels a bit like breaking up a great band and it's depressing. "Uncanny X-Force" has been such a good title and such a surprise of a book that it's hard to let go of that lightning in a bottle.
Wolverine, for me, has been great in this book, but he's never been the draw. Rather, it was great to see underused characters like Psylocke and Fantomex and even Deadpool -- to the degree that he's generally not used as a team player -- and while it has been Remender and Opeña's skills that have brought me back for more time and again, I'm having trouble imagining who I'm interested in following now that the band does indeed seem to be breaking up.
However, Remender and Opeña have earned the benefit of the doubt and so I'll be staying on to see what they can do next. Hopefully it's as creative and interesting as what they've done for the first two years. Remender already surprised me once with this book in making it one of my favorites, I'm happy to be surprised again.