This is what Old Man Logan should have been. While the world needs another Wolverine story like it needs another Wolverine story, it’s always welcome when a writer can genuinely pull pathos and sentiment from an overexposed character, especially when it means not fully resting off of surface-level traits. I love it when Wolvie slices and dices too, but I prefer if there’s a little more to it, and in Uncanny X-Force #9 there mercifully is. Millar’s story of Wolvie’s redemption was bogged down by a few too many “insane” twists for my liking, feeling more like a chance to create a massively messed-up “What If?” universe that also featured Logan (though the last chapter is spot-on), but Rick Remender’s phenomenal understanding of team/individual dynamics creates a searing and haunting parable.
In this issue, “High Art,” we encounter Magneto discovering the existence of X-Force. It’s a moment that was bound to happen since Scott Summers founded this assassination squad, and Magneto’s reaction is surprising. He’s not appalled, or even angered — he’s in need of their assistance. He has tracked down a mysterious figure from his past, and requests X-Force’s “services” in exchange for keeping their secret. Remender continues his streak of excellent character highlight issues, this one focusing on Logan.
The visual storytelling — an essential part of the comics medium — is handled with superior expertise here. The issue is mostly silent, featuring somewhat decompressed plotting, but the pace heightens the payoff. Remender and Billy Tan let characters’ looks and glances do the talking — a panel of Magneto’s face after he’s asked Logan for this favor is rendered gorgeously, as if to contrast the sheer pain in his eyes, pain that’s virtually ever registered in the Master of Magnetism at all. Tan’s art mirrors Esad Ribic’ style, but he manages to infuse his own skills into it, making characters look particularly full-bodied and keeping his consistency between panels.
Dean White’s palette-breaking warmth in the final pages is jarring, but also a genius suggestive move: as Logan descends on his target’s home, it looks positively picturesque, keeping with the issue’s thematic defiance of expectation. It’s a beautiful place to ugly up, to somewhat paraphrase an earlier line of dialogue. As survivors, Logan and Magneto share an unspoken bond, which is most likely what led to the largely visual layout, and Logan’s confrontation with his enemy is one of few words, but each one registering like a severe blow. This same Logan we later see so cold and calculated as he murders a man he’s never met, and in both exchanges he’s as steeled as ever. A rare moment of levity comes earlier with him joking and calling Deadpool a “ding-dong,” but as he wipes blood from his sword as if it were but a dirty tool, we see him for the first time for what he genuinely is — a killer.
Uncanny X-Force #9 is another in a line of fantastic stories from this series, and while it isn’t as concerned with the craziness and future killing of previous issues, its success comes from it’s razor-sharp conservation. It’s an intimate little issue that speaks volumes. As a great jumping-on point for the series, or one-and-done short story, or even as a filler, it’s a great example of Remender’s ability to make any of his characters matter. “High Art” is a heck of a story that Remender had no way of knowing would also describe how transcendent a work of fiction it is.