Having become a fan of Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force over the last year, I couldn't help but notice how self-contained the massive threat posed by the Archangel-possessed Warren Worthington was in The Dark Angel Saga. It makes sense and is likely for the best, considering the Fear Itself mess that was sprawling everywhere, but it's nice to see that, in Uncanny X-Men #5, there are ramifications for the disasters the covert squad failed to stop.
In this case, it's the fact that a nuclear blast wiped a small Montana town off the face of the earth and into a blank slate, before doming it off and restarting an entirely new evolutionary course – jumping 150 million years in one day.
Psylocke lost the love of her life the day they managed to finally end the Archangel threat, and now, she has to lie to Cyclops about all of it, because he's not supposed to know that X-Force is still out and about doing their thing. Still, she brings Cyclops' new "Extinction Team" (which is a fairly awful name for a group trying to score public relations points, but new team names don't seem to be the strong suit in the House of Ideas after the Annihilators) to the disaster site, now called Tabula Rasa and looking entirely like a crazy alien landscape of rainbow foliage and bat-monsters to fight.
Of course, Magneto knows about X-Force and has kept it quiet, and in return, he gets the real scoop from Betsy, and together they uncover a tribe of blue primitive people who have their own cave-style drawings of Archangel and Fantomex and are revering them as gods. Then, we get an appearance at the end of some mysterious enemy I don't recognize, but who looks like a tiny human-sized version of Terminus – a return I would welcome.
Anyway, Kieron Gillen's story is interesting, but he continues with some questionable ideas – not the least of which is Hope Summers, who I think is supposed to be about 15 or so, hitting on Namor. I may not have much room to talk here, being a fan of the Kitty Pryde/Colossus relationship, but Piotr Nikolievtich Rasputin was a very naive farmboy, and Namor – at least as Gillen has been writing him – is kind of a sleazebag. So that's completely uncomfortable. Then there's a totally-not-forced-at-all foreshadowing of Avengers vs. X-Men with a Cyclops/Captain America confab, as well as hammering home the whole Phoenix Death-Rebirth angle with Illyana's conversation with Piotr, getting him to remember to appreciate beauty again after being possessed with the Juggernaut's destructive power. It's okay, but maybe I'm just too inundated with all the AvX hype of late.
Greg Land, whose porn-tracing I generally loathe, doesn't do anything patently offensive in this issue for me to rail about, but he still contiues to prove that he is absolutely horrible at matching facial expressions to characters or dialog. Maybe I'm just not entirely familiar with what has happened to Illyana, but through most of Gillen's run that I've read, she's come off as emotionless and blunt, as she's apparently lost her soul or something. But here, she's all giggly for no apparent reason. In a weird way, it crystallizes what's wrong with Land – his work feels like utterly soulless architecture rather than art.
So, Uncanny X-Men #5 has a good hook for X-Force fans, but it might not be enough for them to accept the huge trade-down to Land from the amazing stuff of Jerome Opeña.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 6.9