Comic Book Review – Uncanny X-Force Volumes 3 & 4

Uncanny X-Force Vol. 3: The Dark Angel Saga Book One
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Billy Tan, Rich Elson, Mark Brooks, Scot Eaton

Uncanny X-Force Vol. 4: The Dark Angel Saga Book Two
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Jerome Opena and Robbi Rodriguez

dark angel saga one

Warren Worthington has spent the last few years of his life pulled between the personas of The Angel and Archangel, the light and shadow of his soul. His paramour, Betsy Braddock aka Psylocke, has used her considerable psionic gifts to keep the worst of Archangel caged up allowing Warren to live a relatively peaceful life. But something happened when X-Force killed the burgeoning newborn Apocalypse, the universe declared that someone must fill that vacuum of power. That someone is going to be Warren. The whole team is thrown into an epic battle that will send them across realities to a world where Apocalypse came to power and then back to their own universe for a final showdown against Archangel.

This two-part storyline is my personal favorite of Remender’s run on the X-Force title. It manages to be referential to the lore of the X-Men and provide a very human, grounded story. It also builds on the previous volumes in a seamless way that I haven’t seen a Marvel comic do in many years. Thankfully, Marvel editorial left Remender to his own devices in this book so that the multiple crossovers and events happening in other titles never really touched here. In that way, it reads almost like an Image comic in that the creator is allowed to do their own thing.

For a new reader, I have no doubt this could be daunting, but for a lore nerd like me I am in absolute heaven reading this story. The inclusion of the 1990s-era Age of Apocalypse entirely works and is not just a gimmick to bring back an expired property. With the stakes of the arc being Archangel’s ascendancy into the bringer of humanity’s end, we see what they might look like in the AoA universe. The blue-furred teleporter Nightcrawler had died a few months before this story and Remender manages to his a pretty emotional note when Wolverine glimpses this alternate version of his close friend. There is also a meeting between Wolverine and his alternate counterpart’s daughter with his lost love Mariko.

Remender spends a considerable amount of time on Fantomex, particularly his burgeoning relationship with Psylocke. Fantomex is such a fantastic anti-hero who is a terrible choice for a large team of heroes but creates terrific conflict and drama. His antagonist romance with Psylocke is one element and the way he keeps a significant secret from X-Force in the form of a clone of Apocalypse. The World from Deathlok Nation resurfaces as a key plot point for Archangel and his cadre of apostles. The mid-story cliffhanger amps up the stakes of this story to such an excellent crescendo.

dark angel saga two

Jerome Opena returns in the second half to produce such brilliant atmospheric, dark, and textured artwork. He manages to handle the underground city of Akkaba with the right amount of decay and murk while injecting color and life into the parcel of Montana land that Archangel seeds with a new sped up form of evolution. Opena also plays an important role in a crucial scene in the finale, the concluding moments with Archangel and Psylocke that is spectacular.

Remender takes two very flat characters and injects them with life in a way previous writers had failed to. Before Remender’s run on X-Force, I would struggle to think of an issue or storyline that developed Psylocke and Archangel’s relationship in the way he did. In the second book of The Dark Angel Saga, we get multiple flashbacks to significant moments in their relationship and gain a full understanding of why these two were drawn to each other. It feels like the momentum of the story is pushing in a specific tragic direction and Remender gives us that moment, but then a page later throws a twist that I was shocked on my first reading to see. The final issue in the collection acts as an epilogue wrapping up Warren’s arc while sending off a new character, Evan to the pages of Jason Aaron’s Wolverine & the X-Men. Evan would play a crucial role in the final story of Remender’s X-Force as well as get a confusing send-off in AXIS, only to surface post-Secret Wars. But more on that when we get to AXIS in early 2019.

Meanwhile, we’re onto Uncanny X-Force Volume 5 where the team ends up in the clutches of the Captain Britain Corps!

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