Monday, 27 October 2014

The Uncanny X-Force and The Profoundness of an All-Star Hit Squad

(Some spoilers, but nothing major, for the most part. You'd probably find worse on one of the wikis.)

I bought the first trade paperback of Uncanny X-Force, in the first run of the series under writer Rick Remender for my son, either as a Christmas or Birthday present in the last couple of years. He likes Deadpool, and I figured it would be something to read other than just Deadpool on his own. The story was called The Apocalypse Solution. After reading that story I never felt a need to follow up with it all that quickly. I knew I would eventually and did mention it more than a few times to the Mrs. There were other books that were more important that I kept running across.

Then about a week or two ago (mid August 2014 as of the first draft) I noticed they released a large volume that contained the already mentioned story, plus Deathlok Nation, and The Dark Angel Saga, at Rogue's Gallery (because a shout out is needed). It might seem silly to buy a book that already contains something that was already in the house, but I can easily explain. Those three stories (plus there is actually another one-off in there, that does relate to another section in the X-Men Universe) are actually devided over four tades, and would cost more to buy. Plus I wanted my own copy, because eventually my kid will move out and take his comics with. I also was at a point in my story buying, where I needed to start filling some gaps in my modern 616 X-Verse.

I am very happy that I did pick up this book though, because the other stories are pretty good, but it's The Dark Angel Saga that it all builds up to, and I thought the story was fantastic. It does help to know the most basic of Archangel's story line, but even if you don't they do give you the bare minimum you need to know. I just finished reading that as of the day I started writing this article.

Now I want to explain to you, the best that I can, how sick and broken your soul can become when you spend too long having to kill.

Now for those that need to know the basics, that you can find anywhere. Archangel was originally Angel. He was then twisted and mutated further by Apocalypse, a very old and ancient mutant, possibly one of the first on Earth. Angel then became Death the Horsemen Of Apocalypse. Eventually over time, Angel sprung forth from his perverted version that had long ago managed to regain some humanity, and his real feathered wings erupted from the metalic ones, and his skin went from blue back to a normal hue. Then a bunch of other stuff happened and now he has a slight split personality disorder issue, with Warren Worthington III being in control of both, as needed, for the most part. The rest is being kept in check by his girlfriend Elizabeth "Betsy" Braddock, also known as Psylocke. That last part can be figured out with the first five pages of the story.

You pretty much need to know that to read The Dark Angel Saga, in which we also get to see some of the best parts of Science Fiction all rolled together into a strong coherent story, with a great pace. Alternate realities (Age Of Apocalypse, a.k.a AofA), super evolved terra forming with the purpose of wiping out humanity and starting over, body snatching, but most importantly wicked character development, and no skimping on doing what needs to be done. Let me fill you in on the rest of the cast first, since we have established Angel/Archangel.

Wolverine is Wolverine in a post M Day world, which is to say a little more cerebral and a little less stabby stab. Well there's still lots of that, but it's under a controlled purpose, most of the time. One of the most interesting parts about what was going on in these stories is that Logan was also an Avenger, because he couldn't handle working with Cyclops anymore. Yep, he's that damn bad ass, that he started his own secret kill squad funded by Warren, while being one of the "good guys."

Then there are the mercinaries they hire to help fill out the team.

What they do with Deadpool in the series is interesting, because you get to see a real broken down and battered Wade Wilson. I mean he's still the wise cracking merc with a mouth, that everyone either loves or hates, both for the same reason, but he's more than that in these stories. For starters, he of all people has developed issues with some of the killing that's needed to be done, and on top of that is developing a complex because of how the rest of the team views him. To be fair they do really bully him verbally, although some people may also view it as putting the loud mouth in his place.

Then there's Fantomex. I've gotten into Jean Phillipe pretty good already, in my first article, so I won't go over him much more here. Other than to say that I have really enjoyed this character and without finishing this story's whole story line, and therefore not knowing how anything happens, hope I get to see more of him. After all when the last story is called Final Execution, you can't help but worry that the guy is going to bite it. Then again, he does seem to regenerate (not as well as Wolverine, but who does) and I've seen him take some pretty good hits. (Side note: I finished the last story and became even more intrigued to see how things continue with Fantomex.)

Some other things I will mention about Fantomex is that he seems to be wrapped up in the Weapon Plus program (as in the group that made Wolverine Weapon X), which I need to look into more, and this has allowed me to see Weapon III (which I'll get to shortly). Then there`s all the crazy stunts he pulls, which would make anyone question his motives. Plus, being a masterful world class thief doesn't hurt. (Spoilers) I`ve also recently come to discover that he is the only version of himself in the entire Marvel Multiverse. I have no clue what that means at the moment, but that`s pretty cool if you ask me. After all, that fact alone makes the Captain Britain Corps want to kill him, if not for his heinous offence of killing a child in cold calculated blood.

And speaking of the British, there's the Psy Ninja, Psylocke, she's decent enough in the series. I mean after all she's the only female on a kill squad, and oh how she can kill when needed. But she doesn't start getting overly interesting to me until I reached Otherworld, which is the first story after The Dark Angel Saga. From there on she just spirals into some variation of world gone mad, and copes with it beautifully, in a sick and disgusting, never been so disturbed because I'm on a kill squad, kind of way.

There are a couple other characters I've gotten to spend some cool time with on the hero side (I use that loosely). Deathlock for example, is through most of the large volume I have, and seems to exit with little or no mention afterward. May need to double check that. Then right about the time he checks out, the team adds Kurt Darkholme. This is Nightcrawler from the AofA universe. It's all in The Dark Angel Saga for your reading pleasure. Then things do come full circle in the end, with The Final Execution. Which tidies most of it up nicely. Always need little plot gaps to move other stories along.

When it comes to Deathlock, I know about him, and I like how he's been included in the Marvel's Agents of Shield on television, but this is my first chance to really get to read him in a continuing comic story line. I do have the issue with him in it as a secondary character, or at least one version of him. During my recent X-Factor reading, I got to read about some other variations as well. This one however, was rather cool, and gave some interesting insight into the world (possible future to be technical in this case) in which this character resides.

As for Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner), he's dead in the Marvel 616 universe (core universe of most of the comic stories marvel releases if you didn't already know). So when you bring a character who's died from one dimension to another, some interesting antics happen. Not to mention the adjusting to the new character that everyone still sees as the old character. Wolverine, for example, always refers to him as Elf, which was his nickname for Kurt Wagner, estranged son of Mystique. This Nightcrawler hates the name, and was raised by his birth morther Raven Darkholme (Mystique). Which also makes a huge difference.

I would like to get into more of these alternate characters, but there's just so many that it'll have to wait. As I've mention I haven't read the last story, or finished the second last, in this run of Uncanny X-Force, which is technically Uncanny X-Force vol. 1 #1–35 and ran from October 2010 to December 2012. I plan on being done the series before I write any more of this article, but that's okay.

Even I as I pick up this article again right now (September 2, 2014), I like how it's going to play out. See, the first volume (collection of the first four trades) is a great story arc on it's own. It feels mostly complete and you don't have to continue on if you don't want to. I think that would be a silly mistake, but what do I know, I've just read it all. However, to lend a proper feel to this article I think it's good to see it split in such a manner.

The story that takes place in Otherworld is sort of a continuation on what had happened in The Apocalypse Solution, but it also acts as a pivot point, to swing the story into the final arc. This is when we get real heavy into Betsy Braddock, because we are now dealing with Captain Britian, and the nexus of all reality, that him and the Corps are sworn to protect, plus some of their family history. The good Captain is Brian Braddock, then there's also Jamie Braddock (the formerly mad brother, that is responsible for ressurecting Psylocke in the past), with some mention of their father as well. Also because Otherworld is a place of magic, it allows Deadpool to slip in a Dungeons & Dragons comment. You may think it's a joke, but his level 16 Ranger is no laughing matter.

There's a sick story with a moral in there, and it's not the type of moral that has you yelling "Yo! Joe!" No, it's the kind of moral that makes you want to go crawl into a bottle of booze and remember why it's never truly cool to be the best there is at what you do, even when it needs to be done.

This is also where we get to find out about Weapon III, which was story worthy of Clive Barker. Basically he starts off as a mutant who can use his skin, like Mr. Fantastic moves his whole body, but can even read stuff through his skin. Then one day he gets magically skinned, so he can continue fully living, but with no skin. He would need to recover his own skin, in order to have any. Then eventually he's able to train his muscles to do what his skin could do. That's the dumbed down version, of a great nightmare creature.

And just one more quick note to this walking hellish nightmare, his skin was stolen from his punishers by Fantomex. It was then turned into a very specific kind of super amazing bullet that you have got to read about. That's why Weapon III get's involved in this whole mess to begin with, and yet again proving that Fantomex is totally bad ass.

Which takes us into the last leg of the complete story arc that is Uncanny X-Force Volume 1. Final Execution, is the end of this team. It's been fun while it lasted, but eventually the killing just gets to you and you have no choice but to slink away, while you still have some sort of soul. But there's always that one last job.

Spoiler) Now, if you read the X-Factor series (2005-2013) You'll know that Blob was a mutant depowered after M-Day, with disgusting side effects. However, Nightcrawler was not the only mutant from AofA to make it over to the 616 Universe. Dark Beast had actually been around for a while, and is how The Dark Angel Saga gets so crazy, and during that time they also bring back an alternate version of Blob, as well as a couple of others that have nothing to so with these Uncanny X-Force story lines.

By the very end of Final Execution there is one new hero in training, that looks forward to a brighter future, and a whole bunch of other people that most likely would love a Mojoverse mind wipe. This really gets dark. I mean it gets dark in some of the scariest Dystopian kinds of way.

That reminds me, I didn't mention anything about the future world this team visits, that shows them what a paradise their advance killing mentality creates. Oh yeah, it's the thought police with only one form of punishment. You thought about killing? Ooops, I'm sorry.

Yes, this series gets dark.

I really want to give you more food for thought, but I don't want to give much more away, because you should read the series for yourself. The best way I could describe this series is X-Men with Clive Barker as a heavy influence.

Welcome to the sick and twisted underbelly of the Marvel Universe.