Somehow, Rick Remender has taken a weird French-esque guy who looks like Firefly from G.I. Joe with a nervous system that is also a spaceship and made him into one of my favorite Marvel characters to read in the span of only 13 issues. He's droll, he's a cad, and he's self-deprecating enough to be likable, which makes all that old weirdness into something affable instead of soemthing off-putting. This issue just solidified it, because there's no quicker way to my heart than to mock Gambit.
But that's not the only way Uncanny X-Force #13 is a fantastic read. Chapter 3 of The Dark Angel Saga has the covert good-guy hit squad rooting through the ruins of the Age of Apocalypse world and finding it even more ruined than they thought, as AoA Wolverine has sold his soul to the other side in order to spare humanity the wrath of the Celestials, whose technology Apocalypse has been powered by in the past. They're questing to get a Celestial life seed to cure their teammate Warren Worthington from his own Pocky-stank, but our man Logan has become way too involved in trying to right some wrongs in this new and ugly world – particularly because Jean Grey is alive, well, and in love with a version of him here.
One fantastic little moment is the first panel Wolverine shows up in, on page 7.
It's just one little line about the 'flat note' that somehow makes his legendary 'berserker rage' much more real, cinematic and interesting. It's all about Remender's dialog choices that keep being so cool I can't get bothered by how unrelentingly dark his books tend to be. Blob calls somebody "stink-pits." Sunfire denigrates Rogue's defeatism in a fight with "Do not dampen my performance with your desperation." When asked what the plan is, Wolverine says "First, kill these people." Very matter-of-fact, which is counter to how emotionally distraught this whole world has made him. And, of course, Deadpool quips "Hot Wolverine-on-Wolverine action!" It's just too entertaining to ignore.
But really, it's mocking Gambit on page 2 that opened my heart in the first place.
And then he dies later! Bonus! And it's even a pretty good death, so people who actually like Gambit can't get too upset.
Mark Brooks and Scot Eaton on the artwork are pretty cool, too, juggling a big cast of characters and going for broke when it counts. Jean Grey's outfit is more than a bit ridiculous, but I'm not sure who's to blame for that. UXF #13 is just a really compelling chapter, and it's really interesting to watch Wolverine NOT be the unflappable level-headed field leader, but the guy whose emotions are off the charts and he's unable to think clearly, and it ends with another kick in the nuts not only for Logan, but then for the whole team when they see what the Dark Beast has been up to since ditching them in his home dimension.
One interesting thing to note – in this recent teaser for Uncanny X-Force #19, we see Nightcrawler on the cover. Since they've been in the AoA world and Kurt Darkholme's been fighting alongside them, naturally everybody assumed, especially judging by the whole face-paint thing, that this was going to be the AoA Nightcrawler making the journey back to the 616 with the team. However, when they do get shunted back at the end of this issue, there's no Nightcrawler to be found. Also, earlier this week, Remender cryptically tweeted "Everyone seems so certain that the Nightcrawler on X-Force is from the AoA."
Does that mean he's somehow bringing back the real deal? Will he pluck some other Nightcrawler from some other dimension? Or is this all some Fantomex-style misdirection and we'll see Kurt bamf his way into town next issue to bust some heads? If so, it's still a cool way to inject a little mystery into the proceedings which may have been spoiled already.
Not that he needs to – Uncanny X-Force should sell itself by now, regardless of spoilage – and nobody's going to complain about AoA Nightcrawler being around. He was one of the cooler parts of the original crossover anyway. Yeah, it might be lame to trade the pious Kurt Wagner for the dickish Kurt Darkholme, but he'll need to be dickish to stick around with this team of cool jerks.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 9.3/10