One of the criticisms I'd heard about Uncanny X-Force before I started reading it was that it felt like it was just unrelentingly dark, bleak and miserable, and that didn't sound very appealing to me. However, while it does indeed truck in the ugly side of superheroing, it's still just a damn good read, and it's one of my favorite books out there.
The first three chapters of Rick Remender's Dark Angel Saga have found most of the team – Wolverine, Psylocke, Fantomex and Deadpool – scrambling through the Age of Apocalypse, having been abandoned there by the Dark Beast, trying to find a Celestial "life seed" in order to cure their tortured teammate Angel of the possession he's long suffered at the hands of En Sabah Nur. Now, in Uncanny X-Force #14, they have returned successful – although success in this book always comes with stomach-churning regret – only to find that Warren Worthington no longer wants to be cured, nor called by that name. The Archangel is ascendant, and he's amassed a small army, determined to bring about a new age of mutant supremacy, while equally determined not to behave as sadistically as Apocalypse always did before him.
Leaving four people to try and find some way to stop Archangel's rise to immense power. Four people who mostly specialize in shooting and stabbing. One of whom has loved the man he once was for years.
Remender's depiction of the ultimate evolution of Worthington into the cold, distant and strangely polite demigod Archangel is expertly crafted. We see elements of the wealthy business magnate Worthington was in his new form, as his regime would seem to be one of corporate synergy rather than the tyrannical madness of Apocalypse. He insists that the Dark Beast and the long-time groveler Ozymandias dispense with all "ritual and fawning" and work as a team from which he only wants honest opinions. His plan is to usher in utopia without the horrifying cullings that characterized the Age of Apocalypse, and reset the proper course of evolution that was so radically altered by the Scarlet Witch lo those many event books ago. However, even though we catch glimpses of buried humanity within him, he is not above recruiting new Horsemen to serve him – including the son of the original Famine Autumn Rolfson, whose father would seem to have somehow been Nemesis, formerly Holocaust, and the young man's name is, appropriately, Genocide.
The artwork of Jerome Opeña is breathtaking, too – a glorious painted style that does wonders in bringing across the aloof composure of Archangel, the stunning power of Genocide, the badass skills of Psylocke, the horrors of Famine and the absolute despair the team faces as they seem completely unable to even slow the progress of this new, horrible regime as it takes aim on small town America to begin their master plan. It's clean, it's striking, and Warren's face has so much character you can't help but wish Opeña would stay on this book forever.
Remender has done a hell of a job stacking the deck against this covert hit squad – even using the fact that they're a covert hits quad as the reason they can't possibly get any help from the big-name superteams. They're on their own, and their job looks completely impossible – and it's a hell of their very own making.
Uncanny X-Force is a damn good read.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 9.5/10