It's to Rick Remender's credit that when the "Dark Angel Saga" made its way into the Age of Apocalypse reality, that development wasn't met with a collective groan. More often than not, the AoA reality has been used as a setting to give sagging books a kick in the pants in the numbers department and even when we at Comics Bulletin expressed some concern over the first chapter of the arc, we nonetheless remained cautiously optimistic. And now that we're at the halfway point, the arc is really ramping up to be something great.
Remender and artist Mark Brooks have used this arc to explore the paradoxical nature of what X-Force are attempting to do. To put it in the most basic terms, X-Force have travelled to the wastes of the AoA reality to obtain a Life Seed, a Celestial artifact that is their only hope for saving Warren Worthington, whose Archangle possession is getting truly out of hand. To put it in more highfalutin terms, X-Force have descended into a land of death and destruction in order to claim an item of life and growth.
Brooks' art has grown more confident as the arc has gone on, particularly here in #13 where he gets to really flex his creative muscles with a battle against Celestial drones set in the belly of a Celestial Gardener. Brooks' fight choreography here is excellent, dynamic but clear and concise, his depiction of the Celestial drones true to tradition but also entirely menacing. Dean White gets a chance to expand his color palette as well, some much needed boldness injected into the otherwise grey and rust tone heavy world, with Andrew Currie's inks helping give the battle anotherworldly shimmer. Of course, one contender for the best moment in the entire book happens here and it relies less on the incredible art, instead showing off Remender's irreverence as Fantomex decides to take Gambit down a notch:
There's also a whole lot of hints about what could be coming for X-Force in this section, with Fantomex flabbergasted by the eerie similarity between the Celestial technology and that which powers The World. Back in the main story, X-Force continue to square off against Wolvapocalypse and are treated to a sign of what they'll be facing in their main timeline if they fail to cure Angel. Wolvapocalypse stops the fight long enough to explain there's more to his Ascent to Apocalypsedom than meets the eye and without spoiling anything, it's an extremely clever use of Remender's ongoing exploration in this series of how death and life are parts of a whole.
Of course, what quite a few fans are going to be most concerned with is whether there's more Black Legion and the answer is yes. In fact, there's even another scene of Blob eating someone for those of you who like that sort of thing:
As much fun as the visual gag of Black Legion has been, Remender purposefully avoids giving much explanation of them, but there's more than a few dangling plot threads by the time this issue ends with X-Force seemingly ripped out of the AoA reality, making it pretty certain that our time in that deathly place isn't quite over yet. Whether X-Force itself will be around when we learn more about what's going on in AoA, specifically a curious subplot about an apparent traitor fleeing the battle, is another matter.
So, issue 13 here leaves us with quite a bit of questions, which is fitting given that it's dead set in the middle of the arc. But even without that addictive aspect of the story, this is an excellent entry from Remender and crew that really drives home the stakes of the title, with some fan favorite characters dead before its end and not a whole lot of hope for our heroes. Shit is getting real in the best X-title available right now.
When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and a staff writer for No Tofu Magazine. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon.
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