Uncanny X-Force’s Unkillable Kill

We’re between arcs for Uncanny X-Force, with the much-anticipated storyline ‘The Final Execution’ starting next week, and the much-people-wrote-highly-mixed-reviews-about Trial of Fantomex finished. As such, writer Rick Remender decides to use issue #24 to cut off one of his dangling plot threads – the evil version of Iceman who is now hanging around in the Marvel Universe, having jumped in from a parallel Earth. And Remender chooses to cut that thread hard. After quickly throwing the rest of the X-Force team out various windows and away from the playing-field, he devotes the rest of the issue to a mano-a-mano fight between his two Age-of-Apocalypse characters, with Nightcrawler and Iceman engaging in a brutal fight against each other.
Artist Phil Noto jumps on for the arc, and shows a surprising ability to draw fight scenes as well as expressive character-building scenes. I’ve not seen Noto really lay into a fight before, but he pulls off the scrap with consummate ease, crafting a fight which flows smoothly around the page and gives readers a full idea of how the match is progressing. Remender then sticks in the knife at the end, with a brutal ending which definitively ends the story for one of the participants. And by that I mean he kills one of them. How this will affect the story as we progress across into The Final Execution is anybody’s guess, but it does add a layer of personality onto AoA Nightcrawler, after the character’s previous, slightly-wayward previous outings under Remender’s pen. The writer finally nails the character down here, and just in time. Just in time for what? For death? Maybe! You’ll have to read the issue.
The second plot thread which wanders in and out of the issue is that of Psylocke and Fantomex. Psylocke has just murdered her brother Jamie in cold blood, after apparently making a deal which took away her ability to feel compassion. This is a storyline which seems rather worrying, and doesn’t look like it’ll have positive ramifications for Psylocke’s character (and I mean that on a storytelling level). Remender handles it well here, though, and although it seems a little like a cop-out to now make Psylocke into an emotional robot, it gives him yet another chance to add character to Fantomex. Remender’s treatment of Grant Morrison’s Gambit-esque assassin has been the core of this series ever since that start, and he gets another fine showcase here, without using his guns once.
Uncanny X-Force seems to be steeling itself for the next arc. After a few shaky issues which came straight after the critically-acclaimed ‘Dark Angel Saga’, it’s now more important than ever that Remender pulls off his next story. If it’s a hit, his run will be looked on as a success. If it misses, readers are going to think he peaked early. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see what happens in Uncanny X-Force #25.

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