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Where’s the line between sociopathy and vengeance or even defense? With this issue Rick Remender makes us think about what it means to be a killer. If you look at Uncanny X-Force as a bunch of superheroes who are killing villains, it’s edgy. Outside of indie comics we all know that heroes don’t kill – otherwise they aren’t heroes. It’s the biggest reason for the conflict between Jason Todd and Bruce Wayne. Why doesn’t Batman just kill all the inmates at Arkham – they’d kill him in an instant – and have killed members of the Bat-Family. He’s already operating outside the law, so why not. Because then he’s not a hero – he’s The Punisher and there’s little sympathy in that direction. We want our heroes to be better than us.
But if we look outside of the fact that Wolverine and the rest of X-Force are comic book heroes, we can see that Rick Remender is actually dealing with some pretty heady stuff. X-Force is essentially an army. No, X-Force is Black Water because they answer to no one. No one even knows they exist (except Magneto who figured it out at some point) so they are accountable to no one. It’s really an aspect of life we don’t question because it doesn’t concern most of us. But, really, how can anyone kill anyone else when they aren’t in immediate danger? How can you decide (or allow your commander to decide) to kill this guy or that guy? That’s why we have boot camp and the socialization process. We need to plant the seeds of sociopathy in our soldiers because absent an immediate threat only those with mental issues kill other humans. It’s why we sometimes have issues when they aren’t properly deprogrammed upon rejoining civilian life and they go on killing sprees or, even more benignly, are unable to hold a job.
And, at the very least, until recent times we had to wait until a conflict was erupting to provide cause for war. Now we’re capturing and killing people because they might, maybe one day threaten us. Remender, of course, tackled this early on when Fantomex shot a child Apocalypse. He had yet to commit any crimes, but they were afraid he might commit future genocide. This act would have a destabilizing, transformative effect on anyone and Remender made that metaphor manifest itself in Angle’s transition to Arch Angel and then to Apocalypse. In the end he literally lost everything – his mind was wiped and he’s a bizarre semi-invalid now.
To top all this off, in the last, bizarre arc Psylocke had to kill her brother to protect the Omniverse. Again, Remender makes metaphor real by having Psylocke not only shutting off emotionally, but literally giving up her ability to feel remorse. This idea of metaphors becoming real is one of my favorite aspects of fiction (see Angel transforming into the evil Angelus in Buffy as a metaphor for boys treating their girlfriends like crap once they finally get laid) and Remender is doing a great job using all the tools at his disposal in the Marvel universe.
At the end of the last issue we say Psylocke finally giving in to all of Fantomex’s advances. In this issue we see that, in the aftermath, it is Psylocke who is finally messing with Fantomex’s head. And it seems that she slept with him in an attempt to feel SOMETHING in absence of remorse or to finally get some release after the non-stop action represented in the last 24 issues or both. Speaking with Wolverine, she brings Rick Remender’s thesis to the forefront – is Wolverine a sociopath at heart who is using the idea of X-Force as an excuse to let loose with his rage? Hold that thought because it’s further explored in one of the backup stories.
As Wolverine and AoA Nightcrawler head to assist Deadpool in their latest assignment, we also see that perhaps AoA Nightcrawler is having the opposite effect on Wolverine than the 616 Nightcrawler had. 616 Nightcrawler was religious and he helped Wolverine limit himself to brawling rather than killing. AoA Nightcrawler is actually on a mission to exact revenge – and X-Force shouldn’t really be about revenge – because then you lose even the tenuous grasp you have on the morality of killing the villains.
So the main story continues to be one of the most mature stories being told in the Marvel universe right now. Remender is using the comics medium to explore deep topics and rightly deserves praise he’s been getting for his work.
This issue costs $5 and the reason is that there are two backup stories from when Rick Remender previously wrote for Wolverine and Deadpool. The Wolverine story demonstrates that Rick Remender has actually been exploring the idea of Wolverine’s duality and appeal for a while. After all, a character like Wolverine almost needs to be a killer in order not to be too much muscle or needs to have enemies that can regrow themselves like Sabertooth. The backup story shows that Wolverine is one of the most realistic characters in the way he reacts to situations if written well. The Deadpool story is dumb, but it’s true to Deadpool so take that as you will.
Buy this issue!!