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Picks of the Trade: Uncanny X-Force Omnibus

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Unequivocally, Uncanny X-Force is an instant masterpiece. Rick Remender, Jerome Opeña, Esad Ribic, Billy Tan, Mark Brooks, Phil Noto, Greg Tocchini and everybody else that worked on this series did an absolute stellar job and without a doubt this run will go down as one of the greatest runs by not only Remender and these super talented artists, but in all of the X-book history and quite possible in all the years Marvel’s been around.

Now that the big praise is out of the way, and every word of it is true, maybe I should explain why. Remender brings a group of characters—namely Archangel, Deadpool, E.V.A., Fantomex, Psylocke and Wolverine—and he makes them a killer, both literally and figuratively, team of mutants who do what they have to do. These individuals work together to do the things that other people and mutants can’t; they take out the trash, so to speak, and in the process they save lives. Obviously there’s the question of “who let them decide?” and is what they’re doing, for any and all reasons, the right thing to do? This theme, which comes up throughout the run, is a great anchor point for Rick Remender to play off of because, really, nobody said they had to do this.

But, of course, Wolverine is damn good at it and on more than one occasion it’s mentioned that X-Force has become his release; a place to let “the animal” out and maybe blow off some steam all while killing villains and their helpless henchmen. Okay, maybe nobody used the term “henchmen”, but still. Wolverine brought along some of his close, trusted friends and together they went out and killed. It’s a great concept and one that Remender executes perfectly.

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For my money, Wolverine stands out among the rest here. Obviously he’s the leader and arguably he’s the most popular of the group, I’ll give you that, but the choices he’s forced to make and the decisions he has to live with are staggering. He truly believes that this is what everybody thinks of him anyway, so he’s more or less filling “his role” but Remender does a great job of conveying just how heavy everything weighs on him—especially when it comes to the first Apocalypse kid which, really, is just something else. Remender creates the ultimate no-win situation, and Wolverine has to decide how to handle this kid who’s being groomed to be the next Apocalypse.

As far as supporting cast goes, once again Remender is in top form. It doesn’t matter who he’s writing, it’s just brilliant. I had no knowledge of Fantomex before this and now I can say I’m a fan—at least before the final issue simply because I can’t quite wrap my head around that one as far as this character is concerned—and I had very little knowledge of Archangel or Psylocke, but it didn’t matter. Remender caught me up, and he built these characters up so that by the time issue #35 rolls around you’re more than invested in them. You care about what happens to them and that’s not something that a lot of people, I think, can do with a group like this.

There’s also Deadpool. Oh, Deadpool, you joke of a creation that’s become so surprisingly popular lately it’s almost like a joke within a joke. Under the pen of Remender, however, Deadpool is something more. Sure, he’s a wiseass who cracks jokes but there’s more depth to him. More glimpses at Deadpool with his defenses down, like he might be a real person underneath it all. There’s a lot of great moments with ‘Pool, especially opposite Wolverine, that really put Remender among some of the best to ever write the character. A Deadpool solo series by Remender would have been, and still would be, an absolute must-read series.

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But Remender always gets his characters. He always does a great job of building them up, moving them forward and making the reader fall in love, or hate as the case may be, in a way that, at least for me, we don’t get to see as often as we should. Am I a big Rick Remender fan? Sure, and maybe there’s some bias opinions there because of it. His creator owned series Fear Agent is one of my absolute favorites ever, and he’s been killing it on Uncanny Avengers, Deadly Class, Black Science and even Captain America, a character I don’t even really care for or about.

Speaking of Fear Agent, Jerome Opeña, who contributed to a whole lot on that series, joins Remender again for this one and, as he does on a consistent basis, absolutely kills it. He starts the series off in a strong way and later comes back for some very important stuff just before issue nineteen. It can’t be expressed enough how great Opeña really is and what a great job he does with this series. It’s picture perfect in every sense, and just fits into the mood of Remender and Uncanny like maybe no other artist who worked on this series did.

Right up there with Opeña was Esad Ribic, who you might now know from the amazing run with Jason Aaron on Thor: God of Thunder, who pulls off a short but amazing three issue stint just after Opeña’s initial four issues. Opeña is a hard guy to follow, no doubt, but Ribic holds his own nicely. It’s a shame we didn’t get more of him, outside of the 18 covers he did, on this run. Definitely would have pushed this series to an even higher level, if that’s possible.

The amazing Phil Noto, ladies and gentlemen.

The amazing Phil Noto, ladies and gentlemen.

Now, for me, guys like Billy Tan, Phil Noto and Mark Brooks, who generally just focuses on covers, all played their parts, however small or large, probably better than most could. Again, following Opeña is one thing, but then to follow Opeña and Ribic… I don’t envy any of these guys. But, they kept the look and feel of the series, especially during the crazy Age of Apocalypse stuff, and, hey, what more could you ask for?

The only artist who didn’t quite do it for me was Greg Tocchini, who really handled the Otherworld/Captain Britain Corps stuff. It was just too much of a change from what came before and after, and came off as jarring initially. I’m not sure if that was intended, simply because Otherworld is, well, another world, but it was definitely hard to get into when you first come to it. It probably didn’t help that I had no idea what Otherworld was and very little information on and about the Captain Britain Corps. I just… yeah I don’t know about that whole thing. Unfortunately my least favorite part of the series, but fortunately it was still good enough to not bring down the overall mood and feel of the book. I mean, it still gets 5-stars, no question, even if this might not have been “for me”, so to speak. Granted, the creepy Skinless Man/Fantomex stuff was crazy and interesting so… that helped.

Worth noting, as just a quick little shout out, is the amazing cover Rafael Grampa does for issue #19. I mean, really, that is just… wow. That is hang-on-the-wall-and-show-it-off-with-pride worthy.

Yes. This is the cover that wows me.

Yes. This is the cover that wows me.

Okay, so I’ve said a lot about Remender and his characters and the art without giving too much away, right? I really want to make a point of no spoilers. If you want a synopsis, there’s plenty of places to read one on the old internets. This is about my love for the book and how I believe that, really, everybody who loves comics should also read and love this book too. It has it all and it’s Remender in absolute top form. Quite frankly, this is the series and maybe Venom, in my humble opinion that earned him the Uncanny Avengers gig he so rightfully deserves. Remender, and really all the artists involved, give this their all. It’s a complete story from top to bottom and it’s all collected in one, handy 900+ page omnibus that’s worth every penny.

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