Monday, June 23, 2014

Review: Uncanny X-Force: Otherworld

Following "The Dark Angel Saga," which spanned the previous two collections of the Rick Remender-written Uncanny X-Force, this is the second consecutive story arc in which the black-ops team of mutant assassins travel to an alternate dimension, and the second consecutive story arc which heavily rewards familiarity with the ins and outs of X-Men continuity.

The previous volume, The Dark Angel Saga Book 2, marked a major turning point in the series, as 1.) Angel/Archangel/Warren Worthington died and was reborn sans his memory (and thus left the team), 2.) the Nightcrawler from the world of Age of Apocalypse joined the team in order to hunt down and kill a few of his enemies from his world that escaped into the main Marvel Universe and, 3.) the fact that Fantomex has secretly been growing and training a clone of the Apocalypse-to-be little kid he killed in the first story arc was finally out in the open.

It also ended with Captain Britain and some other Captain Britains emerging from a portal and kidnapping Fantomex.

That's where this fifth collected volume of the series opens, with a four-issue story drawn by Greg Tocchini.

Apparently Psylocke's brother is Captain Britain, who currently leads the Captain Britain Corps, a vast army of Captain Britains from many different dimensions based in Otherworld, a fantasy realm filled with various cliched fantasy elements like castles, dragons, wizards and suchlike. Her other brother, a reformed sometimes-villain, is also there, and helping out the cause of...Captain Britain-ing, a family business the Braddock boys would really like their sister Betsy "Psylocke" Braddock to get in on.

So they kidnap her and Fantomex, who they want to put on trial for his killing of the kid who would grow up to be Apocalypse. Verdict? Guilty. Punishment? Death.

Otherworld's got other problems too though, as there is a big war involving a goat-headed wizard trying to lead his army of Lord of the Rings monsters into Captain Britain HQ in order to gain access to the multiverse. Weapon Plus program alum Weapon III, The Skinless Man, is there and seeking revenge on Fantomex for flaying him alive (he reciprocates by cutting off Fantomex's face). Wolverine, Deadpool and Nightcrawler arrive to fight the forces of The Goat. And there is a rather bitterly ironic nature to the threat to Otherworld, which puts the Braddock siblings in the same place Fantomex was in when he decided to pop the Apocalypse kid, and they choose the same path that Captain Britain and his Corps were ready to kill Fantomex for taking.

While I'm pretty unfamiliar with the Braddock family soap opera, this is another tightly-plotted story arc by Remender, who has been remarkably consistent at sticking to the central theme of this book (which is at this point almost two years into its existence), whether or not doing something bad to prevent something worse is okay or not, and, even if it is okay, how that might wear on those who do those things. This whole super-team may consist of people with fairly huge body counts, but as cool as Wolverine might make stabbing people seem, Remender has effectively made the taking of lives for good seem like a depressing, soul-crushing burden.

Also, he provides Tocchini with a bunch of weird, cool shit to draw.

Tocchini's illustrator-like, almost painterly style is a sharp departure from much of the art that's preceded it on this book, but then, there hasn't really been a consistent look to Uncanny X-Force since its first issues. The dark gray and black garbed heroes of X-Force stand in sharp contrast to the bright red, white, blue and gold of the Captain Britain Corps and the earthy colored creatures of Otherworld.

There are two more comic books contained in this volume. There's the done-in-one "Frozen Moment," drawn by Phil Noto. This issue is split between Wolverine and Deadpool's attempt to help AoA Nightcrawler kill AoA Iceman, and the aftermath of the events of "Otherworld," as Psyclocke and Fantomex attend a funeral and finally enter into a physical relationship Fantomex has been pushing for since the book started. It's hard to believe that Betsy could look at Fantomex after seeing his face cut off, let alone sleep with him, but I suppose that's why she's a superhero and I'm not.

Finally, there's Uncanny X-Force #19.1, by Remender and artist Billy Tan. I was actually quite surprised to find it in the back of this book just now, as I didn't read it a few weeks ago when I first read this collection, nor do I remember it even being there. I suspect I was reading this late at night, got all the way up to the end of the relevant story, and then stopped reading. And then moved on to the next story without returning to this volume to read #19.1.

I didn't read it just now, either. It's entitled "Ghost Reunion," and doesn't feature any member of Uncanny X-Force in any capacity, so I'm not entirely sure what it's doing in this collection. It's a story set in the "Age of Apocalypse" setting, where Dark Angel Saga Book 1 was set, and ends with the tag "TO BE CONTINUED IN AGE OF APOCALYPSE" so I assume it is a prequel to the short-lived Age of Apocalypse monthly series, trying to lure the Uncanny X-Force audience into checking out that series.

4 comments:

JohnF said...

"Apparently Psylocke's brother is Captain Britain"

Yes, this has been common knowledge for 30 years now. Research!

Rev'd '76 said...

@JohnF:

There are how many characters in 313, exactly? C'mon. Cut Caleb a break for not being as 100% hardcore as the rest of us lifeless fools.

JohnF said...

Well I wasn't expecting him to know how Psylocke became an Asian woman or anything ridiculous like that.

Rev'd '76 said...

@JohnF:

I would have been saddened and appalled had he actually known about Revanche.

See, ignorance has its perks!