19 Dec 2012

Cover To Cover: UNCANNY X-FORCE #35

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Phil Noto & Frank Martin Jr.
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: And just like that it was all over. With the end of the 'Final Execution Saga' comes the end of Uncanny X-Force, the series that seemed to win over the vast majority of the Paradox Comics Group through its course and even turn some back to the world of the X-Men which they had been leaving well alone. For me, personally, it would certainly make an appearance in any 'Top 5 series of the past 10 years' list and I’m sad to see it come to an end, yet am glad that it’s managed to run at such an insanely high level of consistent quality.

In this finale it’s very much a time for reflection and resolutions, the lion’s share of the action climax having been dealt with in #34 where X-Force faced off against the latest Brotherhood in a battle for Evan’s - the clone child who would be Apocalypse - destiny. With so much fallout from that conflict and so much drama and pain having been dished out through 35 superb issues, Remender had a lot of threads left hanging like cut nerve endings to tie off or cauterize and, by the Four Horsemen, does he do a good job of it!

As the issue progresses this talented scribe ensures that most of the arcs that made up this tremendous series are noted in some small way, highlighting just what emotional and physical tortures each member of the team has had to endure and carry with them since that very first mission. I love how Remender opts to show the vast majority of this through the very tightest of dialogue - the Braddock siblings reconcile again, as they often have to, and in doing so reveal their feelings on Betsy’s deeds and choices, offering up a few insights into the late Fantomex in the process. Wade has a final confrontation which runs precariously close to sentimental cliche, but in the same breath shows just how Remender has developed Deadpool throughout the series, lacing his crazy comedy commentary with genuine emotion and drive and elevating a character who is used simply as comic relief by others to an intrinsic part of the team and someone who, on more than once occasion, the heart of the series hung upon.

When it comes to the leader of the team things are kept simple and subtle as Wolverine, scarred from so many years of fighting and saying farewells to friends and families taken too soon, bears yet another burden, a single revealing panel offering up a glorious return to one of the team’s earlier missions that must have cut the old man deeply and influenced the course of his actions. Phil Noto certainly does a fine job of keeping Logan’s demeanour nearly neutral throughout, save for a lone panel that tells so much in one quietly pained expression. The artist is then called in to deliver a great final act for this chapter - no spoilers here folks - that rounds off Remender’s run perfectly and throws up a world of possibilities for other projects moving forward - Remender has already stated that at least one thread will appear soon in Uncanny Avengers (hooray!) and Sam Humphries’ upcoming Uncanny X-Force #1 for Marvel NOW! is sure to deal with another.

Looking back over the series I really have to admire how Remender has taken incredibly dark premises, made them believable as a threat to these near immortal characters, and in the same stroke allowed his skill with wry humour to still play out. Without the subtle jokes and pokes at character history, the occasional laughter in the face of imminent danger, without Fantomex's endeering arrogance and Wade's slightly scaled back rubber wallpaper/straightjacket schtick, this could have been a series that took itself far too seriously and lost the believabilty that burns brightly in each and every character.

In his final signoff letter contained within this issue, Rick Remender sums up what this title, from breathtaking debut to masterful fitting end, was all about and how he used it to ‘tell the kind of story that could only be told in the shadows, out of everyone else’s view’. He's truly succeeded in realising that and in doing so he's ensured that we were all given a comic book story that deserves to be in absolutely every reader’s view and collection. Uncanny X-Force stands out on its own and will remain a highlight in his and Marvel’s bibliography for years to come. Buy it, read it, love it, for it is uncannily brilliant. 9/10

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