Although it’s only been a week since the last installment, Uncanny X-Force #8 is out. More importantly, it’s another exciting and fantastic addition to this increasingly grim/dope series. Aside from being great at everything, one of Rick Remender’s talents has always been to write people as intricately as he does his plots. As I’ve previously noted, each issue has a “spotlight” character, and for this go-around Remender is exploring the psyches of Betsy Braddock and Warren Worthington.
While touched on previously, Psylocke and Angel share a romantic relationship as well as the burden of keeping his Archangel persona at bay. As a result, this issue’s narrative factors heavily in the mind: X-Force investigates an abandoned military base with strong psychic presence and are quickly taken over by the Shadow King, who aims to finish Psylocke once and for all and simultaneously fire nukes at Utopia, thus eradicating all mutantkind. An unconscious Psylocke challenges Shadow in MindSpace while Fantomex attempts to save the day in reality. Almost like a superhero Inception, but with spacier stuff. And no Marillon Cotillard.
Billy Tan’s pencils are suited to Remender’s scripting, and Dean White continues to employ his impressive colors to give this title a distinct look — it’s beautiful, even with all the ugly going on inside. The sequences between the Shadow King and Psylocke are some of the most complex and bravest layouts in the series, conducive to the “tangibly intangible” mind battle. Tan allows his lines to skew, but keeps them metered while White fills in the rest with a bright, warm palette that draws the eye against the rest of the book — exactly what needs to happen with this kind of extemporal situation.
Remender also writes in some great background references for the detail-oriented, including Deathlok and Fantomex taking a stroll though Angel’s “Trophy Room,” where he keeps mementos of past victories, including Xorn’s helmet. If you’re not familiar, get thee to a comic shop and pick up New X-Men by Grant Morrison- you’ll regret nothing.
While Psylocke is the belle of the ball, Remender also deeply explores Angel in this issue — the final four pages are simultaneously badass and heartbreaking. One of the major character points of Warren Worthington is resisting his transformation into the murderous Archangel, and when he executes a soldier he could have easily stopped, it’s as chilling a moment as the last pages of “The Apocalypse Solution.”
This issue is essentially a stand-alone, coming in the aftermath of “Deathlok Nation” and prior to “Fear Itself,” and, as such, is an excellent jumping-on point for this series. Uncanny X-Force is one of the best and ballsiest mainstream comics in ages because it allows Remender to flex the same mean muscle that makes his Fear Agent so successful — he makes shit happen, and he keeps it that way. The X-Force are assassins and killers who have made their days darker, so their world responds in kind.