Uncanny X-Force #19.1 by Rick Remender and Billy Tan

Uncanny X-Force #19.1

Written by Rick Remender
Art by Billy Tan

Let’s get this out of the way: I’ve been covering and endorsing Marvel’s .1 issue initiative for quite some time. They’re intended as jumping on points for titles. Most have been good, with a few missteps. This is a massive misstep. It borders on false advertising. You will not be caught up with X-Force, nor do they even make an appearance. This book is trying to sell you on the new Age of Apocalypse series coming to comic racks and digital reader screens near you.

Sure, Uncanny X-Force did a neat little crossover with the Age of Apocalypse, but I have to say, I’m tired of the Age of Apocalypse. I lived it, grew up with it. I thought the X-Men really were gone/cancelled. I thought it was a radical new status quo. I was very sad Generation X became Generation Next. I was thirteen, and lived my comics as they hit the rack, not solicitations, and even Wizard didn’t tell me it was temporary.

It had cool ideas, cool characters. Amazing re-imaginings. It also was one of the first massive crossovers I read that actually stood alone in each series, while still contributing to an overall story. It didn’t read like a crossover or cash out. It was an epic. It had a vague ending.

Various AoA characters popped up over the years. Blink, Victor Creed, Morph all had runs in Exiles. It was nice to know fragments of that universe lived on. There’s such a thing as revealing too much, though, and ten years later when Marvel revisited the AoA, they really overdid it. Forcing in things like an AoA Xorn, the rest of the Guthries, X-23, and Psylocke (that one really gets me, she was never even a factor in all of the AoA lore, and now she’s some shadow ninja secret agent?). Sinister lived, The Phoenix had to be referenced. At least Cloak and Dagger had a bad-ass appearance. Not lying, all through X-Universe, since Spidey was dead, Daredevil was a tool, and they made Gwen a bad-ass, I was wondering where Tandy and Ty were.

Where was I? Oh, so AoA was revisited and milked. Which brought it to the forefront again. More little fragments cameod here and there.

It was easy to ignore until Rick Remender came on Uncanny X-Force. X-Force under Craig and Kyle Yost was amazing. Talk about revisiting a concept and reworking it for the modern era; they took the old Rob Liefeld militant strike team, put all the characters we used to dream about being a fit for it on it, with some new blood (X-23 and Elixir), and made them…well, a militant strike team. And it even had a better purpose than just a cool cyborg with a penchant for guns, this team gave Xavier’s dream a dark side, gave Scott Summers his long lost cajones, and put Domino back on top of the charts. All with a running story that would circle back to the whole X-Franchise.

That arc ended, and a new X-Force was born with a new lineup, penned by Remender. And he got it. His lineup changes and updates fit the book almost better than the original’s. Some of the missions they undertook were ridiculous as only Mighty Marvel Manners allow. And then he brought it all to an early peak by returning us to the Age of Apocalypse.

I have to admit it was pretty amazing. Characters like Creed, Nightcrawler, Jean, and One Handed Logan are fun to see when written well. And he did. But then the story took a disturbing tone, for me. A longtime fan of the AoA and it’s universe and characters. If the tenth year revisit rubbed me wrong by showing us the closure, Remender doubled that by showing us the universe and Apocalypse himself live on.

Don’t get me wrong, cool concept. For the actual X-Men universe. The AoA reality paid it’s dues, it was nuked, Xorn’d, characters had comeuppance and endings. Nope. The world keeps turning and the Uncanny X-Force bore witness to it. I was very glad when we closed the door on this chapter, by the end.

Except we didn’t. Uncanny X-Force 19.1 is essentially a throwback to the 90s in multiple parts.

First off, this isn’t X-Force 19.1 It’s Age of Apocalypse #0. Because that’s necessary. Yeah, it says it on the cover, I know. But this is clearly one of those “set up the first issue, wait isn’t that the first issue’s job?” issues.

Secondly, we return to the Age of Apocalypse. Except this is the Age of Weapon X Apocalypse. Sorry, if that’s a spoiler for you, I don’t know what to say. Apocalypse lives on through Weapon X. That’s just the 90s in itself.

Thirdly, yeah, it’s AoA, so bring on the hopelessness, the grit, and violence. A 90s staple. This issue is just a mood killer. The original AoA was, obviously, apocaylptic, but even through all the loss (Generation Next, sniff. And Kitty…) and depravity (Beast, Sugar Man) there was hope. And towards the end we knew even though this universe was being pissed on, they had a fighting chance.

Ten years later, we learned things were on the upswing, but that the evil lived on. It was a passing shadow.

Now we learn it’s all for naught, they are doomed to live in a terrible, dystopian, Wildstormian reality. Lover are enemies. Children are crushed to death. Everyone is dirty and has beards. It’s not that I don’t like it, I’m just very sad and fed up for these characters I’ve seen battle it out for fifteen or so years. It’s not even cyclical like other comics, it’s just dark for the sake of dark.

Now, I trust Remender. He is not a bad writer. Please don’t think I’m saying so, Rick. But my task is to read this issue and review it. So now that we’re all brought up to speed…

Not the best jumping on point. The issue really needs the reader to be aware of all of the above, which it doesn’t. Because coming into it like this is entire confusion for new readers, which seems to defeat the point of a “jump on” issue.

The book opens in Japan, one of the other last bastions of humanity. The X-Men are there, regrouping and counting their latest losses. They are there because their leader Magneto was promised hope.

Hope ends up being his daughter Wanda. Of sorts. This is actually a really cool touch. If you’re not familiar with the AoA, Wanda was killed by the son of Apocalypse before the X-Men really established themselves. She’s even wearing the nifty red and gold outfit from the old Chronicles of the Age of Apocalypse #1 that all the X-Men wore. Points for that throwback.

Now give them back, because Wanda’s hope is that she can use her ill-defined powers to…brace yourself…erase the mutant gene. No more mutants.

Thankfully, more than myself were irritated by that turn of events. Magneto is pretty ticked they’ve been experimenting on Wanda. Apocalypse X is pretty ticked that this wrecks his whole superior race scheme. A fracas ensues.

“No more mutants.”

Two X-Men die. The rest flee. They are without their powers (or so we are led to believe).

Age of Apocalypse #1 hits stands March 7th. Looks to be about the Purifiers (depowered X-Men in tow) taking a stand against Apocalypse and his legions.

It’s an interesting premise, actually. I just feel the set up is wrong. Key characters die off within quick pages. Battles barely last a few panels. It comes across very condensed and rushed.

The dialogue and story are great, but it’s all crushed in, too much too fast.

This becomes apparent in the art as well, with crowded panel layouts, and hard to follow scene jumps. Tan’s art is very chaotic and gritty, which fits the script, but with everything packed together in 22 pages, it doesn’t give the reader time to take it all in.

Alternately, that’s a plus, because the book itself is a wild, lore-packed, fast paced ride. I can accept that.

But it comes across as clumsy if an introductory sales pitch is truly the intent.

I’m going to hold off judgement until March 7th. Just as this issue makes no sense as a jumping on point, since it’s got so much coming off of X-Force, I don’t want to comment on Remender’s characterizations and plots just yet. It’s too soon, and too colored by his X-Force launching point. I want to see if Age of Apocalypse stands on it’s own, and since this issue is essentially Age of Apocalypse #0, I’ll wait until I can read it in context of AoA #1.

But the bottom line I can tell you today is that this book is not worth the cover price unless you’re a diehard Uncanny X-Force fan curious to see where the AoA Remender crafted is going to spin out.

I do want to see more of Solar Powered Hulk, though.

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