Rick Remender has, so far, told an incredible story in a very small amount of time. It’s a story that, across less than 10 issues (even counting the Age of Ultron tie-in) has set up a cosmic-level threat that hearkens back to his Uncanny X-Force run in a natural, organic way but also fits seamlessly into Marvel’s narrative and timeline, despite large swaths of it being a massive retcon. This issue, specifically, is all about consequences. We see glimpses of Daken in Wolverine’s nightmares, the revelation of Uncanny X-Force’s first mission, in which a child carrying the mantle of Apocalypse, was killed comes to light for his teammates and Kang’s seemingly-limitless ego and plotting finally hit a wall at full-speed. The characters both banter and argue well, the Apocalypse Twins’ ploy takes an old idea and makes it new again, and no one character is given too much panel time. He even addresses a point we discussed on the podcast about why mutants are so much more feared than people who got their powers artificially, and while he doesn’t answer it definitively, he presents it, as well as the “mutant pride” argument, so well that it’s clear he’s not taking a side but letting the reader decide what they may.
Daniel Acuña's art is, likewise, still amazing. His strange, surreal style had worked well in the fantasy of Thor’s flashback and the high science-fiction of the Apocalypse Twins’ machinations, but even something as simple as Wolverine and Rogue having a kitchen conversation over steak is so beautifully rendered, with such attention to detail, that it makes it seem more stylized than it actually needs to be. Very few people make indistinct character outlines and completely invisible linework function as well as Acuña does, and that continues to be the case throughout this issue.
As much as I praise and enjoyed the dialog, parts of this issue are very wordy. There’s no 3rd person narration (which I was JUST starting to come around on in some places), but the debate between Rogue and Scarlet Witch that rages in the Danger Room training session takes place in a VERY high-action part of the issue. It’s eventually played for laughs, but it would have been better to build to it, rather than just having large swaths of text when the eye should be moving faster across the page, off the bat.
This continues to be a must-read book, so if you decided to drop it after the first arc, feel free to come on back. The characterizations are great, and it has SO MUCH of it for a team book, but the real strength lies in the ways these characters interact with each other. Since they’re so clearly defined and consistent, the good times and the bad ones all make sense and all enhance the greater narrative of the book. That coupled with the absolutely incredible art makes this one of my quickly climbing favorite books.