When thinking of X-Men comics, there are several iconic stories that come to mind: The Dark Phoenix Saga, Days Of Future Past and X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills to name a few. One of the greatest X-Men runs in recent memory is Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, which consisted of Wolverine, Psylocke, Archangel, Deadpool and Fantomex using lethal force against mutant threats. I picked up the graphic novel that contained the Dark Angel Saga and it’s one of the most heart-wrenching stories I’ve ever read. There are so many themes to appreciate, including nature vs nurture and what it means to be a hero. Here is The Comic Vault’s review of the graphic novel.
Wolverine and Angel have put together a black-ops team and their first mission involves hunting down the reincarnated Apocalypse. Angel has plenty of incentive to want to stop Apocalypse and is trying to keep his Archangel persona under control. He’s helped by his lover, Psylocke, and seeing Warren and Betsy’s relationship explored through the story is one of the most emotional aspects. Fantomex is the wildcard of the team, while Deadpool offers plenty of banter and fourth wall breakage.
Soon, X-Force encounter Apocalypse’s Final Horsemen and the team almost die, but Fantomex’s misdirection powers allow them to escape. It’s revealed that the reincarnated Apocalypse is a child who is unsure about his place in the world. When X-Force encounter the child, they struggle to reach a decision. Archangel is intent on killing Apocalypse, while Psylocke is adamant in protecting the boy so they can rehabilitate him. Wolverine makes the choice to bring the child back to the X-Men, only for Fantomex to shoot Apocalypse in the face.
This act sets off a chain reaction that haunts the team throughout the rest of the graphic novel. With each new mission, Psylocke questions her morality and loses a piece of herself. Angel finds it harder and harder to control his darker side and isolates himself from the rest of X-Force. Wolverine needs to keep everyone together as the fight an army of Deathloks and try to stop a bleak future from happening.
The stakes are raised higher when Archangel ascends into the new Apocalypse and X-Force are forced to go into the Age of Apocalypse dimension to retrieve a Life Seed. For anyone who enjoyed the acclaimed 90s story, it’ll bring back plenty of nostalgia. The Age of Apocalypse is a dark dimension where mutants are still fighting for survival. Wolverine encounters a heroic version of Sabretooth, a Jean Grey who’s alive and a twisted version of himself. As a cruel reflection of the mainstream reality, the AOA Wolverine became Apocalypse to serve evolution and the Celestials.
Eventually, X-Force are able to return home with a Life Seed, but Archangel is waiting for them. He captures Psylocke and turns her into his Bride of Death. All seems lost until Fantomex releases a cloned version of the Apocalypse child to fight Archangel. Breaking free of her mind control, Psylocke stabs her former love with the Life Seed.
This leads to the most emotional sequence in the story, with Psylocke altering Angel’s memories to show that he lived a full life. They have a family, grow older together and Warren dies in Betsy’s arms. It’s juxtaposed against him dying in the real world. X-Force regroup and Warren is reborn without any memories. It’s a bittersweet ending, as Angel is treated like a ghost, unable to remember his family or the love of his life.
Remender’s characterisation is incredible, putting Angel and Psylocke at the heart of the story. Warren is one of my favourite characters and despite being one of the original X-Men, it’s always felt like he’s been relegated to the background. Under Remender’s pen, he flourishes as a tragic figure unable to overcome the darkness inside him.
Psylocke is given the chance to shine as well. She demonstrates her strength, determination and desire to keep fighting. Of all the characters I’d say she receives the most development, evolving from a staunch supporter of Charles Xavier’s dream, to a morally compromised killer who loses her soul to save the world.
Different artists are showcased in the collection, including Jerome Opena, Rafael Albuquerque, Billy Tan and others. Usually, I’ll say who my favourite artist is, but in this case all of the art is on the same level. It’s rare that a graphic novel with different artists can mesh together well, yet the transition is seamless. Every artist brought their A game to the series and it makes the story even better.
The themes of Uncanny X-Force are powerful, with nature vs nurture cropping up several times. There’s a sense of the inevitable occurring. No matter how hard the team fights, Apocalypse rises in order to preserve the natural order. This can be seen from the murder of the Apocalypse child and the ascension of Archangel.
The collection is a must for any X-Men fan because it puts beloved characters in the spotlight and builds on the legacy of those who deserve more recognition. The Dark Angel saga is the greatest Warren Worthington centric arc of all time. If the art doesn’t grab you, then the story will. Buy. This. Book.