Posted January 16, 2012 by Tony Tuason in MORE

The Comic Book Group 2011 Awards – Series of the Year

CBG’s Series of the Year (2011) — Uncanny X-Force

(Check the other full list of the CBG Awards Winners here)

Uncanny X-Force

“One Team, One Mission, One Choice”
by Anonymous

Uncanny X-Force wins Comic series of the Year, and for good reasons. It is simply a comic book that keeps on giving.

21 issues of superb writing by Rick Remender, excellent art by Jerome Opena and Co.,Uncanny X-Force stands as a textbook example of how to make a comic book engaging, entertaining, graphic, and badass. The formula for the series is amazing – take characters who have had a history of being made to do evil things, put them in situations where they are forced to still do evil things but for good reasons, add engaging and emotive dialogue backed up with witticisms, drama and the Mutant universe’s brand of evolutionary moral debates, and you have UXF. It’s a formula that simplyworks. The art complements Remender’s writing in a way that borders on destined love, whether it’s Opena and White giving those characteristic high contrasts, or Billy Tan and Rich Elson drawing evocative facial expressions. The art is all about lighting and shading – darkness and light, and the gloom-versus-glare contrast speaks poetic volumes when pitted against the characters of the book, who find themselves perpetually caught in the ethical shades of grey.

With Wolverine’s X-Force being disbanded by all the do-gooders of the Marvel Universe, he forms a new one with Deadpool, Psylocke, Fantomex, and Angel. Remender is careful in picking the members of the team, and from the get-go readers can readily grasp the kind of synergy that each member puts on the table – Wolverine’s the big boss who keeps the team on track. Deadpool’s the funny one, and his otherwise comical humor here takes a darker, more gruesome tone. Fantomex is the snide intellectual who inveigles and misdirects, thus he’s never trusted. Psylocke and Angel, being in love, are your Rose-Growing-out-of-Concrete, who wager that they can maintain this relationship despite the darkness that surrounds their job. It sounds frazzled, and admittedly throughout the series we learn that the team experiences a lot of bumps on the way. Was that Deadpool getting cold feet about killing a kid? Why is Fantomex bailing out on his own team? Where the hell is Wolverine when the sh*t hits the fan? How do they fix Angel after Psylocke fails to keep Archangel contained?

Uncanny X-Force Archangel

The conflicts, flaws, and difficulties that the team experiences throughout the series add something that most comic books out in the market find hard to pull off – doubt. In a universe where billionaires have robot suits and Nordic gods walk the earth, it becomes a very special thing when a comic book makes readers doubt the characters’ ability, success, and even survival. How are pistols supposed to fair against cyborg-clones of The Avengers? Did Fantomex just run out of bullets?

What’s he gonna do? OH GOD HOW DID HE DO THAT? If there was ever an Uncanny X-Force reading club, that’s what you’d probably hear. Further, it’s a comic book that builds upon established stories in the X-verse. It’s delightful to see material from Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, as well as Apocalypse figuring as a major villain for the Mutants again. And don’t think we missed that Days of Future Past tribute – presenting the alternate future should Wolverine’s X-Force fail is simply X-Men gold.

The story itself is a countdown to Remender’s phenomenal story arc – The Dark Angel Saga. Throughout the series, the members of X-Force learn that being the mutant wetworks shadow organization isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Children, though innocent, need to be killed. There’s simply no room or time to discuss otherwise, especially when they’re the reincarnation of Apocalypse. Biological fathers need to die, and by your own hand, as a son; unless of course you’re willing to wager the survival of innocent people against an army of Dethlok Avengers. And when a nemesis approaches you, asking you to murder someone for an evil past (particularly, for being Nazi scum), you have to learn that in a society with messed up values, forgiveness can be bought in the court of law, and that you may be the only chance of ever exacting justice in the most natural sense of the word. So, yes. Aging Nazi official? You simply have to die. As each member of X-Force finds their hands reddened, Psylocke confronts hers, and fails to recognize that it was Archangel, implanted by Apocalypse himself, who set everything up all along. Being exposed to the gratuitous violence and moral ambiguities of the team, Archangel finally finds a way to conquer Warren’s repression, and fulfil his destiny as Apocalypse’s successor. Now the ultimate test is presented to the team, and the arc goes full circle – what was once routine exercise in the DangerRoom has now become reality. Archangel must die, and by the hand of the woman who loves her more than anything in the world.

Uncanny X-Force Apocalypse Solution

And like every other challenge the team has confronted, they deliver. The feat seemed impossible, the challenges larger-than-life, and it has been a long time since comic books have ever felt this epic.By hook or by crook, X-Force saves the day. And there are no accolades, no Congressional Medal of Honors, just shattered dreams and a terrible price to pay. Psylocke’s episode of dreaming a future with Warren is a tear-jerking example of how much this darker side of heroism costs each member. But the shocking revelation after Archangel’s death is even more astonishing. Is having to kill a loved one the most painful thing in the world? Remender thinks otherwise.

All in all, Uncanny X-Force takes the crown for this year because regardless of you being a comic book sage or a newbie, this is a book that shows you the medium at its finest – telling a story that is beautifully rendered, solidly and cleverly written, and well-capable with introducing characters in a way that isn’t draggy and weighted with encyclopaedic comic book knowledge. UXF is an accessible book for new readers, a classic saga for established readers, and a respectfully aware paean to the Mutant universe for die-hard X-Men fans.

There was a mission, there was a team, there was a choice to be made. But what they didn’t tell you was that there was a cost – and before you even asked, X-Force paid it.

Tony Tuason

Tony is just your average guy who loves comics, toys, games, movies, and all those geek goodness.