For the past few issues, Rick Remender plunged most of the cast of “Uncanny X-Force” into the timeline known as the Age of Apocalypse, as they scrambled to find a Life Seed to stop Archangel from transforming into the next coming of Apocalypse. At a glance, it feels like a safe and slightly dull place to do so. After all, it doesn’t matter what happens to all of the alternate-universe characters, because it’s just that, an alternate-universe. Right?
As it turns out, yes and no. Sure, it’s a different timeline, but it’s much to Remender’s credit that this story has felt right from the start like there were real stakes to worry about. It helps that this is a timeline we’ve seen numerous times in the past, sure, but Remender doesn’t rely on just nostalgia. Instead, he makes their fight and struggle compelling, through small character moments with the alt-timeline faces, as well as by letting the situation mirror what’s waiting for them when they return home. In many ways this issue serves as a test run for what they have to do all over again, only now with someone they care about.
Mark Brooks shifts back to pencils for this issue (with an assist from Scot Eaton), who’s up to his usual abilities with clean character designs and easy to follow pages. Considering that many a panel has over half a dozen characters crammed into it, that’s no small feat. The story is also assisted in that the art really sells Remender’s script. When Psylocke pleads for Fantomex to use the Life Seed to stop Apocalypse Wolverine, or Jean wearily tells our heroes to go back to their own timeline, there’s a strong level of emotion that’s being visually delivered to the readers rather than just through Remender’s words. It makes the characters feel that much more real, and the emotional punch at the end of the issue that much stronger.
With the conclusion of “The Dark Angel Saga” barreling down on the reader, Remender, Brooks, and Eaton are making sure that this isn’t a forgettable middle chapter. It’s a strong reminder that a good creative team can make every issue in a storyline fun, and it’s what makes “Uncanny X-Force” a must-read every month.