"Uncanny X-Force" is the X-team that kills. It has Wolverine and Deadpool on it, and the one chick present wears barely anything. This comic has such a 90s core there is a step cut into its hi-top fade. Yet, this comic is far from some dire 90s affair. This issue might bring back the Shadow King and send astral forms to fight, but underneath there is a very important question. In fact, it's the most important question about this comic: who do X-Force kill?
The first arc of this book broke every taboo by not only having these lunchbox heroes kill an enemy, but by making that foe a child. It is, some might say, the ultimate line to cross. And what is on the other side? Reactions to this event have been taken seriously and now the aftermath questions the purpose of this team. Whom does X-Force kill and how do they decide upon this act? Is the death meted out objectively or subjectively? Is the objective decision made from someone's subjective analysis? Is everyone exactly on the same page when it comes to the team M.O., and can such a thing even be regulated?
Fantomex is making some fluid decisions as he didn't mind playing executioner in the first arc, but when it comes to The World he suddenly finds a different stance. If the team is inconsistent then can they ever really be effective or coherent? They go from being a kill squad for good to just being a bunch of people wiping out whomever they like. That prospect doesn't sound so good anymore because the delineation between the right and the wrong might get blurred and you can't have anything uncertain if death is the result. If X-Force is going to kill that's fine, but then they have to always be right and always be consistent.
Having Archangel, formally the Horseman known as Death, be the leader of this team is providing the perfect peak to this very slippery question. If they deal in death then what happens if they are led by Death? How will the control of this justice be decided? The final two pages of this book give us some indication at the future we could be looking at in this situation. The reactions of Wolverine and Psylocke are provoking, but Archangel's is only worrying.
The genius of Rick Remender is that he poses this cerebral question amidst an issue that is still chock full of action and narrative. In the slices between are some excellent dialogue driven character moments. They show you that not only is Remender writing the best versions of these characters right now, but that he's mixed them into this team perfectly. No one feels superfluous, and that should be the mission statement for every team book. The interaction between Archangel and Fantomex is the best moment in comics this week.
Billy Tan steps up with some of his best art of recent time. His characters are vivid and completely in keeping with the tone of this book. Much credit goes to Dean White for the job he executes on colors. The world of this team is like a seedy nightclub in the muted fluorescence of certain colors and the absolute shadow of others. Interesting, then, that the one time we see Warren Worthington as Angel is in his virgin white. Yet he cannot illuminate the world around him just yet.
"Uncanny X-Force" is one of the subversively smartest books Marvel puts out right now. Hidden under the veneer of 90s glam cool characters and edgy hyperviolence beats a heart that is exceeding its limit. Remender has been handed a lethal mutant team and instead of revelling in the glee of excess, he instead has turned his focus inward to see how a group of heroes kill, why they kill, and what happens after they kill. If only all action comics were created with such intellect and intricacy.