There’s an increasing danger that when you pick up a “point one” issue, sold as a stand-alone issue of a series you’re reading, you actually get an issue of another series entirely. Case in point: “Uncanny X-Force” #19.1 doesn’t feature a single member of the book’s cast, unless you count an alternate universe Wolverine, which I don’t. This is “Age of Apocalypse” #0 in all of the ways that count.
Still, Remender’s storyline has been leaning heavily on the “Age of Apocalypse” recently, so there’s some legitimate claim to this book appearing under the “X-Force” banner. Indeed, it does appear as a sort-of epilogue to the Dark Angel Saga. If you can acknowledge that you’re not really reading an issue of “Uncanny X-Force” and move past that fact, there’s a lot to like.
Without spoiling any big developments, the book offers a new status quo for the Age of Apocalypse and its increasingly depleted team of X-Men, while introducing new characters who will take the lead in the ongoing series spinning out of this story. As a modification of the X-Men concept, it’s an interesting one, exploring the idea of a world where everyone’s worst fears about mutants has been confirmed, and the resistance fighters are a few plucky humans. In pure plot terms, there are plenty of threads that could be picked up on; it’s packed with ideas, even though they don’t have the space to be fully explored.
Of course, there is one problem: the new set-up and developments here jettison the most recognizable aspects of the Age of Apocalypse universe. Aside from the presence of Wolverine and Jean, what this book suggests is an Age of Apocalypse so different from the one that became a fan favorite that you can’t help but feel turned off by it. If anything, I’m now less likely to read the ongoing series, having seen that what’s in store is radically different from what I wanted.
None of this is down to the creators, of course. Remender’s writing is, once again, full of perfectly-timed pace and strong story beats, while the artwork is moody and bleak, though mainly due to Jose Villarrubia’s well-chose colour palette. The range of character designs is particularly enjoyable, and if the opening is heavy on exposition, the substantial number of events that follow more than offsets a difficult opening.
As a piece of entertainment, there’s no doubt that it’s well-executed story. As a product, though, it’s difficult to justify (to the buyers) why they should have read an issue of one series under the name of another. Despite the thematic similarities and a little narrative confluence, there’s nothing here that justifies the name “Uncanny X-Force” being put on the cover. If Marvel wants to dispel the notion that Point One issues are skippable, issues like this aren’t the way to do it.