“Become your own army” – The team burns down a road less traveled in Uncanny X-Force #11

UXFORCE2013011-int-LR-2-acff9Moreso than any other book on comic shelves, Uncanny X-Force embraces a time many comics fans would much rather forget. Placing Psylocke and a mohawked Storm of the late 80s-early 90s age of X-comics is a stylistic gamble and teaming them up with Puck, Bishop and Spiral just drives home how much comics have changed. When most of these characters were part of the new age of Marvel, they now have a place as exhausted, twisted and worn out killers, left to be the last resort of the mutant race.  In Uncanny X-Force #10, the heroes were assaulted by the memories of the people they once were, killers and heroes who’ve lost so much in the past to be the people they are now. The message, of course, was that it’s hard to be hero, painfully hard to put the safety and well being of others ahead of yourself and in some ways, it’s not always a choice worth making.

Bishop’s quest to save the team from the revenants in #11 reduces a man who was once a savior and soldier into an opportunist and survivor. Having spent so much of his life outside of a time he once tried to save, he knows the high costs of failure. Sam Humphries draws heavily from Eastern mysticism and the film “No Country for Old Men” as Bishop assembles the tools he needs to rescue the people he doesn’t know are worth saving and it’s a memorable moment as he dispatches the spirits of pasts left unlived.

UXFORCE2013011-int-LR-4-4b061Storm, Psylocke and Puck’s eventual triumph over their shadows shows something eternal about these characters, namely that regardless of who they’ve become, our choices don’t define who we are. Puck and his doppelganger made different choices but both know what it means to fight, to have to fight. Both Storm’s understand the powers they control but only one knows the consequences. Betsy knows what she can do but her strength is in choosing not to. It’s a well written moment and one which shows the power these sometimes less than moral heroes still have.

Humphries’ work on the title hasn’t always been consistent and a rotating art team hasn’t helped the book stay thematically or tonally consistent and a constant narrative shifts from the French thriller of the Fantomex stories to the psychedelic head trips with Psylocke and Storm and the down and dirty club battles of the series’ beginning haven’t helped the book. However, focusing on these complicated characters and the people they could and want to be is sure to benefit a series in need of focus.

Stray Observations

COURTOFOWLS1Note 1: The nice thing about Villain’s Month is at least I can ignore the issues that are terrible. Note 2: DC and Marvel need to be giving Matt Kindt better books to work on.

  • The Court of the Owls have been one of the best parts of the New 52 and the group’s one-shot in Batman and Robin #23.2 is a fun and horrifying look back at the society that controlled Gotham long before Bruce Wayne put on the cowl.
  • Brian Wood is finally making Star Wars cinematic in this week’s #9, setting up three climactic stories as Leia, Han and Luke all find themselves running out of time as Vader and Boba Fett close in.
  • It’s interesting to see how Jonathan Hickman has differentiated all of the infinity books and taking galactic betrayal to the Avengers’ doorstep in Avengers #19 is a gut punch I would never have expected.
  • Oppenheimer plays all of his cards in Manhattan Projects #14 and seeing the team of decimated psychopaths is the closest this book has come in making these characters even slightly sympathetic. Just slightly.
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