Just like last week, this week on Thee Comic Column I’m dealing with something that I had really high hopes for but unfortunately let me down. However, the difference this week is that I AM going to give this book a second, third and forth, fifth and sixth chance, because I believe in Rick Remender THAT much.
I didn’t read Avengers Vs. X-Men, haven’t in fact read any Avengers or X-Men book in years other than Remender’s Uncanny X-force, which was introduction to the man and his wonderful writing. Still, I’ve tried to brush up on a little bit of the set-up for this new series via various websites and I think Remender has a pretty good chance to make something big and bad here.
For those of you who don’t know Rick Remender’s work in comics I have to tell you the same thing my friend Greg told me about this time last year – he’s good. I didn’t quite know how good until I realized that both his Venom and X-Foce books had grabbed my imagination like no mainstream superhero Marvel book had done in a while. Remender has gone on to leave Venom after an absolutely spectacularly fun run of 22 issues that completely relaunched and rejuvenated a great character that has been almost criminally misused since shortly after his creation. Visually Venom evolved magnificently over the course of his history, but with epic fails such as “Lethal Protector” alongside a seemingly endless parade of spin-off symbiotes it always felt as though Venom was a great character unfortunately trapped in the shadow of his infinitely more popular nemesis: Spiderman.
Not after Remender.
Same thing held true for Uncanny X-Force, a series that first showed up in 1991 as a bit of a rebirth for then-failing X-title The New Mutants. It’s been a long time since Cable, Domino and Sam Guthrie struggled with the Morlocks, Highlords and a then-unknown mercenary with a mouth named… uh, I forget.
In the mid-oughts when Marvel revamped X-Force as what amounted to “Cyclops’ covert hit squad” I laughed, so when Greg told me I should give this new version a try I begrudgingly did simply out of respect for him as my friend. I never in a million years thought that the book would be as absolutely fantastic as it is.
For one thing, in order to have an X-book that I’ll read you have to A) have absolutely NOTHING to do with the rest of the current continuity of the X-books and B) be written by a writer I like. Last time I read an X-book it was Morrison’s New X-Men, so that about tells you how hard and fast I hold to my particular prejudices. But with this new(er) Uncanny X-Force Remender not only somehow convinced the editorial staff to allow him to eschew continuity, he has created a sub-X-world that contains whatever characters he wants, whenever he wants, including some wonderful Age of Apocalypse stand-ins for currently deceased 616 characters.
Mr. Remender draws from some of the dark, less-standard corners of the X-Universe and creates something not unlike Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-men’s Australia years back in the mid-80’s. In fact, he even uses the Aboriginal teleporter from that series – Gateway – in his X-Force, instead of the ostentatious and really rather annoying fleet of stealth bombers and AmEx gold cards that make up the tool box of the regular books. And all these meticulous love letters to the darker years of X makes for a stand-alone book that, so far, has a body count that would make a Joss Whedon tv series jealous (or frightened).
Recently news came down that Remender would be leaving X-Force to become the scribe on the first post-AvX book, The Uncanny Avengers. The title is an obvious allusion to the melding of Avengers family and X-family books currently planned for the Marvel Now project – something that appears to be the company’s answer DC’s new 52. I was pretty excited; despite the higher profile characters and more front-line position on the Marvel roster I long to have more Remender, especially catching something from the beginning. Issue number one came out the same week as last week’s topic (Batman #13) and although it did not disappoint me nearly as much… I wasn’t instantly in love. Perhaps it had something to do with the high-profile feeling of the arena these characters are moving within. I guess I should have expected that – there’s not going to be any Gateway or Australia or hidden underground base here – or at least not at first. If Captain America has put together a team of Avengers and X-Men I guess it should have been obvious from the get-go that it would be a bit more mainstream. That’s just not my style. Still, based on my love of the previously discussed Remender titles I have to give the man the benefit of the doubt and hope hope hope that the editorial department isn’t going to oversteer the man’s vision, whatever that may be on this new title. Thus far we have some cliche but not uninteresting plot devices: Uneasy alliances, Desperate measures and the always popular guilt. But what we also have that I’d not expected is a dead Charles Xavier and a villainous Scott Summers sitting in the brig ( two more easy ways to please me in the X-verse – don’t use Xavier or Summers. Kill them, send them into space, whatever. Just get rid of them).
Uncanny Avengers #2 is out November 7th at a comic shop near you. My advice – check it out and at the same time pick up the first couple of trades of Remender’s Uncanny X-Force. You won’t be sorry.
Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.