This review/summary has been sitting in my drafts for quite some time. Since the TPB is coming out soon, this may help readers out there who are interested in picking up the title.
During the Messiah Complex storyline, Cyclops formed a field team that consisted of hunters, trackers and killers and sent them off to pursue the kidnappers of the newly born mutant. At the end of that story, Cyclops decided to retain the services of that team and named them X-Force – a group secret to the rest of the X-Men that was formed to be a proactive and permanent solution to mutantkind’s problems.
The existence of the team was finally revealed during the events of Second Coming, when Wolverine inadvertently exposed his methods to the field team that was sent to intercept and retrieve Hope and Cable. Not sitting well with the rest of the X-Men, Cyclops finally disbanded the team after the final battle with Bastion. Unknown to Cyclops, Wolverine and Archangel formed a new X-Force lineup, deciding that their extreme way of dealing with issues are still very much needed.
The story opens with Deadpool infiltrating an ancient structure. Witnessing a ritual, Deadpool successfully sends out his intel before he is downed by a minotaur-like statue. Receiving confirmation that Apocalypse has been resurrected, Archangel sets up a meeting with Wolverine and the rest of the team – the mutant telepath and Archangel’s on-and-off lover Psylocke, and the mercenary known as Fantomex. Aboard Fantomex’s ship E.V.A., the team proceeds to the ancient structure in an attempt to rescue Deadpool. They encounter the stone minotaur who attacks them. Wolverine is hit and is taken over by an inner rage, causing him to attack Archangel. Realizing the nature of the minotaur, Fantomex uses his powers of misdirection to convince the minotaur that he’s in love with Psylocke, which results in the explosion of the statue.
The team succeeds in rescuing Deadpool. Realizing that the structure is actually a ship that is about to take off, the team escapes and regroups. They reflect on several realizations – that Apocalypse has indeed been resurrected, and that the minotaur that they encountered is an avatar of War, one of Apocalypse’s horsemen. Given the minotaur’s power, Archangel further muses that he is one of the Final Horsemen. The team decides to kill Apocalypse because he poses a major threat and using E.V.A., they travel to the moon.
Upon arriving, X-Force is immediately engaged by War, and the other horsemen follow suit: Famine, a Confederate soldier whose drumming causes a cancer that feeds on the flesh of those who hear it; Pestilence, a Japanese geisha with the ability to spew carnivorous beetles from her mouth; and Death, a Persian prince who has the ability to transmit terminal diseases to others whenever he is in contact with various metals. Due to the tremendous power of the Horsemen, X-Force is overcome easily – Archangel succumbs to Famine’s power, Deadpool is overwhelmed by Pestilence’s beetles, and Wolverine, Psylocke and Fantomex collapse due to the terminal diseases given to them by Death.
Using her psychic powers, Psylocke discovers the nature of each horseman’s powers. She enables Fantomex and Wolverine to fight by turning off the pain receptors in their brains and shut down their auditory organs before she is taken prisoner by War, who brings her to his chambers. With his misdirection power, Fantomex is able to disable Pestilence and fool Death into believing that he’s killing Wolverine, who in reality was swapped with an unconscious Pestilence. The two heroes make a retreat and, being unable to find them, the remaining three Horsemen retire to their fortress. While this was happening, Deadpool recovers due to his healing factor and proceeds to feed Archangel bits of his flesh.
Upon realizing that Apocalypse’s ship/fortress is about to teleport off, Wolverine orders Fantomex to use his misdirection powers to fool the ship into thinking that it has already taken off. It works, due to the ship’s sentient nature, and the pair make their final assault. Meanwhile, Psylocke uses Fantomex’s misdirection to her advantage – she flirts with War, giving her the opening to incapacitate the Horseman via her Psychic knife.
After felling Apocalypse’s lackeys, the duo were once again overwhelmed by the remaining three Horsemen. Relishing their victory, the illusion fades and the three realize that they have been victimized by Fantomex’s misdirection. While fooled into believing that they had Wolverine and Fantomex beaten, a recovered E.V.A. transported the three to another planet. Rejoined by Deadpool and a recovered Archangel, the four made their way to Apocalypse’s chambers and were confronted by Psylocke.
The team discovered that Apocalypse has been reincarnated as a young boy, which prompted Psylocke to change her mind about killing the despot. Wolverine is also swayed , and after a brief tussle, Archangel finds out that he cannot murder the child, even if it is Apocalypse. Fantomex ends their argument by shooting the young Apocalypse in the head. At a loss for words, the team is jolted back to reality when the fortress shuddered in preparation for the teleport jump. Completely silent, the team departs from the area. They will have to deal with the ramifications of their mission some other time.
Not much effect on the Marvel universe outside of X-Force, but this sets up a future storyline in the X-Force title: The Dark Angel Saga.
My favorite moment:
I loved the entire storyline, but there’s one scene that’s quite unforgettable – Deadpool feeding Archangel bits of his flesh. It’s crazy, it kind of makes sense, and it was totally unexpected.
My least liked moments:
This is nitpicking, but Famine’s power didn’t make much sense to me. He can conjure a bio-auditory sound that consumes the flesh of everyone who hears it – so flesh is consumed, and yet Archangel recovers from it by feeding on Deadpool’s flesh? Also, the team relied heavily on Fantomex’s powers of misdirection. Without Fantomex, they would’ve been screwed three times over. Would’ve preferred it if the misdirection wasn’t used like a Deus Ex Machina that saved them from the predicament they were in multiple times in the same storyline, but thankfully the rest of the team didn’t look incompetent – rather, the threat of the Final Horsemen was really established because of this.
If you thought the recent X-Force was good, wait until you read this. The cast is perfect, the dialogue is crisp and in-character, with each standing out as an individual personality that contributes to the team rather than just being a member of the roster. Being free from the usual X-Men storyline helps a lot and gives Rick Remender the freedom to explore storylines without having to stay within the boundaries of the current status quo. There’s also a lot of action that makes sense, and none of the important battle scenes happen off-panel. This is a good opening arc that plants seeds for future storylines and successfully establishes why we need X-Force.