Uncanny X-Force #9
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Billy Tan
Colors by Dean White
* There are minor spoilers contained in this review. *
I initially picked up Uncanny X-Force #1 on a whim. I like the premise of the X-Force team, and Esad Ribic’s covers are seductive. The issue turned out to be an art powerhouse and a character goldmine. I love my team books, and this is a team book of bizarre proportions.
One thing that Marvel does, and I wish DC did, is provide continuity summaries. I knew nothing about Fantomex, Deadpool, and Archangel, but I was interested immediately. Rick Remender’s X-Force is disturbed and dark, and not in the lovable psychopath, Secret Six kind of way.
Some folks find the team that does the dirty work, killing for the greater good, to be trite. I disagree. It is X-Force, led by Wolverine, and it works. There is enough shock to really get your blood going, but it is not gratuitous. It is tempered by the weirdness that Fantomex and Deadpool bring to the table. Stories of blurred morality and black ops (at a time when ethics are malleable and assassination is real) are intriguing, especially if written well.
Remender’s fast-paced, character-driven style combined with Jerome Opena’s smooth art and the quick-and-dirty nature of the first arc, Apocalypse Solution, are instant gratification. I have enjoyed every issue since, but none more than #9.
The book has had three artists since its beginning: Jerome Opena, Esad Ribic (also the stellar cover artist), and now Billy Tan. Usually, that would be a strike against a book. However, the artists have maintained the tone and share a similar aesthetic, while strongly asserting their unique style. Also, they are on the book sequentially, alternating arcs. It is a treat to experience different artists that transition so seamlessly.
While I have truly enjoyed all the artists’ work, I am blown away by one in particular. Hello, Billy Tan. I am very pleased to make your acquaintance. Not that I didn’t notice your work in issue #8, but issue #9 is an entirely other animal. Combined with Dean White’s colors, it is a beautiful work of art.
Remender slows down the pace, and the emotional timing is very measured. This issue happens “between missions,” which alters the scale of the book. So often, the arcs of spandex books are just one crisis after another, with quieter moments being ignored. Pressing pause on the usual chaos within Uncanny X-Force has quite an impact.
Uncanny X-Force #9 is a largely visual story that is low on dialogue. The panel layout reads like sequential movie screens, wide and four to a page, save for one splash page. The simplicity serves the measured pacing. Tan focuses on facial expressions, body language, and unique visual perspectives to tell Remender’s story. The scant dialogue is still very telling: Warren hides his Archangel influence, Wolverine addresses the team about the necessity of their black ops outfit, and Magneto surprises them all with a visit. This issue is Magneto’s story.
The subtle character reveals are clearly building up to the advertised face-off between the X-Men and X-Force, which will launch the Dark Angel Saga. From where I am sitting, Remender has set a captivating stage. This, coming from a DC chick.