Uncanny X-Force #1
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Jerome Opeña and Dean White
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
There are certain pairs in this world that don't get nearly enough credit on how well they work together. Like peanut butter and Nutella. Like David Fincher and Brad Pitt.
Or in the case of Uncanny X-Force, like Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña.
I still think it was positively criminal that more people weren't reading their spectacular first arc on Punisher last year, so it's great to see that Marvel is bumping up the duo's spotlight with their merry band of black-ops mutants. And while this first issue is missing a couple of important questions — mainly, how is this team different than its previous iteration — there's enough strong characterization and superb composition to make this a rock-solid debut.
In many ways, it's the smaller touches that Rick Remender brings to the table that gives the team its edge. His take on Archangel, whose identity crisis pushes him towards the self-destructive nature of X-Force, is a supremely fresh take on a character who has been more than a little schizophrenic with his high concept lately. And Fantomex? Oh man, Fantomex. It's no surprise that this bio-bred super-thief steals the show, as Remender not only gives him a smart tweak to his otherwise nubulous power set, but also gives him the best lines of the book: "It's the repression of desire that leads to the crime. So I skip the middleman." And even though you could argue that Wolverine himself gets a little short shrift, he has a hilarious exchange near the beginning of the book that displays his roughneck sensibilities perfectly.
But there are few artists who play to Remender's strengths like Jerome Opeña. There's a rhythm to Remender's scripts, and Opeña plays them to the hilt — there's one page where Archangel is on the ropes from an unlikely adversary that is terrifying to watch, with metal wings curling up in razor-sharp defense. And his composition is striking — I could watch characters jump off ledges for 22 pages if Opeña drew them, because they never fall (or land) the same way. Opeña's style feels a little scratchier than before, with certain panels reminding me a bit of David Finch — but considering Finch's status as a top-tier artist, that's not a bad place to be at. Where I think the art does get a little hobbled is with the color — Dean White uses some pretty garish tones, whether it's Wolverine turning purple and red against a green and brown background, or the overload of orange and magenta on Fantomex's ship.
That said, this is a strong book, but it ain't a grand slam. The book rests comfortably on Archangel's inner plight, but for those who haven't been keeping up with the X-Men books, particularly the recent "Second Coming" arc, I really wanted to know — why? Why does Wolverine feel X-Force needs to continue, especially considering his earlier ambivalence towards the idea? Why do people like Psylocke go willingly with this team? The biggest strength of the previous X-Force run was its mission statement within the greater X-Men line: Do what has to be done, and don't let Cyclops' secret get out. The completely AWOL team has tons of potential, but I think it would have been a more powerful (and more user-friendly) first issue if the metaphor behind this relaunched team was a little bit more closely examined.
Still, even if it feels like a key ingredient has gone missing, there is a lot to like about Uncanny X-Force, just on a craft level alone. There aren't enough books on the stands right now that have a writer and an artist that feel on equal ground, that can challenge and promote each other to the next level. Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña are one of those teams. Yeah, it isn't going to blow up the Marvel Universe — at least, not yet — but this book has just jumped to my number-one pick of the X-Men stable. Buy it.Have you read UNCANNY X-FORCE #1 yet?