"Uncanny X-Force" has been shipping bi-weekly lately and it's only adding to the escalation of this current chain of events. The price of death is taking its toll on the team and Angel is wearing the brunt of this cost the most. He has lost his tether on the deadly Archangel and this means many things to many of the team members. It also starts what is going to be a mammoth storyline for this title.
The Shadow King aims to out X-Force in the press, setting off a downward spiral of actions where death has to play a role. Archangel and Wolverine, the two leaders of this squad, come to blows in a dramatic rainy rooftop sequence. By showing Wolverine's reticence to kill, Archangel is shown to be an even bigger anomaly within this group. He has travelled an arc from hero to villain in one year and the next year might be spent on either his redemption or his demise. It could go either way, which is genuinely exciting.
This issue is one very long sequence from instigation to resolution. Rick Remender has been working the last few issues as kind of standalone stories that collectively build, and the quality level has been variable. The first was amazing but the last was far too thinly created. This one is good but feels like a prologue to the next step into the "Age Of Apocalypse" segment of the "Dark Angel Saga." This issue is good, but it's more set-up than real meat on the bone.
The Wolverine versus Archangel fight in the middle is the big set piece and pays off in many ways. Remender writes the conflict within both characters well and some of it has an almost Frank Miller quality to its composition and caption work. It's claustrophobic both in the room and in these minds.
Billy Tan and Rich Elson don't quite mesh together on the art effectively. The real life scenes feel hollow, static, almost creepy. There's no life to these men and Paul Mounts' colors do not help this fact. However, once we have a scene with mutants in it, the art feels more consistent with the tone of the page. For most of the issue, the colors are much better than the art.
Fantomex gets another opportunity to use his powers of misdirection to aid the team. People have complained about this but to them I say, it is rarely used to dupe us out at the end of an issue, and he is on the team precisely to use that skill. It would be foolish if he didn't. It's like saying Wolverine's healing power or Angel's flight or Deadpool's humor are just convenient. Sure, creators work around those character bits, but once a character is established with this ability you have to assume they will use it as often as they can. Why wouldn't they? Its use here is funny and allows us to skip a bunch of standard stuff to get to the good part.
We enter a new age of "Uncanny X-Force" her. And while "Age Of Apocalypse" gains more groans as the years pass, this story could very well end up great. This issue is definitely good, though not great, and the progression of Angel's psyche is gripping drama mixed in with razor winged action. The character introduction at the end sets us up and old school fanboys can only hope Remender knows what he's doing.