They may not be the hottest comics on the market, but Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run from 2010 is among the best X-Men comics ever written.
When you talk about the X-Men, you have to take a moment to pray at the altar of Chris Claremont. He saved the title from publishing purgatory in 1975 and went on to stay on the series until 1991, making the X-Men the premiere team in the comics industry in that span. Since then (supposedly due to the fact that Fox owned the film and television rights to the X-franchises, and Disney didn’t want to promote something that would make money for the competition, but that’s only hearsay and theory) the X-Men have lost their way, but they are finally getting the push they deserve with the resurrection of the Uncanny X-Men title.
As a lifelong X-Men fan, I’m excited to see “uncanny” back in the title, but eight years ago, we had the best story line outside Messiah Complex that the franchise has had in 20 years: The Apocalypse Solution. In the pages of Uncanny X-Force #1-4, Remender created a modern allegory of the war on terror and the moral costs of winning by any means necessary. It embodied what has always made the X-Men so intriguing and relevant for all these years – masking modern social contexts in the guise of mask-wearing superheroes. That’s not to mention that the lineup for those issues – Wolverine, Archangel, Psylocke, Fantomex, and Deadpool – remains one of the fiercest combinations in X-Men history.
While the lineup was impressive, Remender’s story was filled with depth and substance. With that cast, it would have been easy to throw together a basic premise with lots of explosions and gunshots, but he layered all these characters and gave us a dynamic story that enthralled from beginning to end. Personally, I’m not a fan of fourth-wall-breaking gag characters like Deadpool, but Remender even managed to give him some depth and made his part in the tale engaging.
What’s going on in this story, for those of you new to it, is that Apocalypse is in the midst of his rebirth. Instead of emerging from his chamber as a fully grown nightmare of doom and destruction, he’s a child. What’s more is that, despite all that Apocalypse has done and the atrocities he’s committed, this version of him is truly innocent. He’s surrounded by his disciples who tell him he’s a god, but he simply wants to be a child and play with his toys. He doesn’t understand who or what he is.
Meanwhile, Cyclops has formed this new version of X-Force comprised of the most cold-blooded killers in the X-Men. Their mission is to assassinate any threat the X-Men deem too risky to be alive. What makes this story so amazing is when the team finally reaches Apocalypse, even Wolverine and Deadpool hesitate to kill him. When Fantomex pulls the trigger, the team reflects the reader’s stunned silence. It is poignant and has an emotional impact that few comics are able to manage.
As Marvel gears up for a new run of Uncanny X-Men, I can only hope that we are treated to a story half as good as this one.