It’s all over. Rick Remender’s era-defining X-Force run has reached its sooty endpoint after thirty-five inimitable issues. Not with a bang. Not with a whimper. But with a weary resigned sigh. It’s a pity Remender ran out of gas. I sigh. Remender sighs. The characters sigh. We all sigh…for ice cream? We get our ice cream in issue thirty-five appropriately called, Rainbows, Puppy Dogs & Sunshine.
It’s a bitter-sweet liquorice flavour, like tiger tail ice, but any ice cream is better than no ice cream, I suppose. Fantomex gets resurrected from the dead (gone for all of what—seven issues? An aeon in Remender time); Psylocke gets her guy; Deadpool actually makes a friend; and Wolverine gets the hemlock (why does he always draw the bitter draught?). All hastily slapped together. The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Daken as the sacrificed son. It comes full circle, deus ex machina.
Why did you rush the pieces, Remender? The king was in sight, but did you have to sloppily accelerate your moves to win? The plot of X-Force had always felt breakneck to me and that was half the charm: the breathless pursuit of the white rabbit down the hatch, the abashed hallucinatory free fall. What was thrilling before—Remender’s fearless shape-shifting gambits, his vainglorious techno-realist conceits—seems contrived now. Pulling Sabretooth and Daken into the fray may have been intrepid moves had Remender anything craftier up his sleeve for the end game. He was doing masterly illusions before—levitations, transformations, teleportations—only to close with a basic card trick?
In issue thirty-one, Sabertooth and Daken do us the favour of explaining Remender’s motives. They walk around their secret base and chit-chat about their thoughts. Remender chalks a problem over the blackboard and then he solves it all neat. The moral implications of X-Force were once misty, grey, and cloudy; now they’re starlit in the middle of the day. The lessons are explicit. Even when the characters voices lament polyphonic, moderately soft, moderately loud, weak beats, strong beats, there’s no mistaking the monologic narration, no escaping the author’s clutches. The characters are mere mouthpieces of the author. When they speak, he describes through them, which, according to my high school English teacher, was a major no-no.
Then there’s Daken’s big moment with Papa, when he ham-fistedly turns the plot unequivocal: “The denial of my nature caused self-loathing. Hating the very thing I was genetically intended to be.” Again, this reads like Remender’s shorthand for Daken’s motivation. Where’s the actual dialogue? For that matter, why is Daken here in the first place? Because he’s Wolverine’s son and he needs to be killed because he will kill in return, maybe even people Wolverine cares about, maybe even Wolverine himself? It was even hinted that Daken, in the futuristic twenty-ninth issue, may have been responsible for world’s descent into despotism. I’m not sure how his death would avert such a future, that is, if you could ignore for a moment how ridiculous such a proposition seems. It probably has something to do with X-Force collectively learning that killing is always an evil, no matter how one justifies it (sigh, if only turkeys could talk).
Remender gets a pass on what finally is the greater moral lesson of his run on X-Force. I mean, there’s no way a comic could accomplish what literary titans like Dostoevsky and Tolstoy agonized over their entire lifetimes. Still, Remender could have done a little bit better for his readers. Had Daken been around since the early issues, had he figured into events come the Dark Angel Saga, I could have been okay with his role as puppeteer, and I could have accepted Final Execution as a wages of sin type of tale, the revenge of the son visited upon the father, with Daken and Evan as twin sides of the same coin, innocence lost and innocence found. Or something akin. Instead we get Sabertooth running away from Wolverine like a prankster who launched a stink bomb in the school’s lavatory, cementing what is probably one of the worst ever reveals in comic book history.
It’s not all bad, though. There’s plenty to love amidst the hate. Deadpool’s monster heroic turn! Nightcrawler bamfing the shark into the Blob’s innards! The skinless-man finally eating it! Fantomex triply reborn! (So money!) But for Sabertooth, Daken, and turn-coat Nightcrawler, in these dark economic times, I respectfully say: fuck you, Rick Remender!