by Rick Remender (writer), Mark Brooks (penciller & inker), Andrew Currie (inker), Dean White (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer)

The Story: X-Force heads off to the Age of Apocalypse to acquire the celestial life seed.

The Review: Somehow, Rick Remender has become the 90s guy and in a totally good way.  Once again, by revisiting the Age of Apocalypse this month, Remender finds himself making a distinctive callback that often deplored time and manages to make it cool again.  Well, almost.  A picture of Scott Summers with longhair still makes the character look ridiculous and full of 90s “attitude,” but I digress.

In venturing to the Age of the Apocalypse, Remender really succeeds in conveying the fact that X-Force are in a different world, a different reality.  Part of it is that unabashed acknowledgement of this being a relic of the 90s, as it makes the comic feel as though a group of 2011 characters ventured into an older comic world.  Beyond the metatextual stuff, however, Brooks and White also illustrate the setting brilliantly, making it look like a grimy, war-torn dystopia out of Ridley Scott’s nightmares.

Remender also shows that he recognizes the benefits of working in an alternate reality, as it allows you to ignore the rules that Marvel continuity usually forces upon you.  Hence, we have X-Force meeting up with a team of mutants largely composed of characters that are deceased in their home reality, characters that had strong ties to them.  While that works well as far as the interpersonal dynamics of the book go, it’s also just really cool for the reader to see these mutants out and about and kicking ass.  Hell, one of them is actually a villain that seems to have taken Wolverine’s hero role in the Age of Apocalypse, which is even more amusing.  And then there’s the last page, which is sort of an “oh no you didn’t” moment where Remender really shows the amount of fun he’s having with a reality where dead suddenly isn’t dead.

The character-work is solid as well.  Dark Beast is just as much of a dick as you’d expect and his dialogue is characterful and enjoyable.  Deadpool also continues to be fun under Remender, staying fun but never over-the-top.  It’s also amusing to see him occupy yet another uncharacteristic role: we’ve seen him as the team’s moral compass and now we’re seeing him as the pessimistic realist. Deadpool.

Art-wise, Brooks’ work is solid and he delivers the signature Uncanny X-Force look.  Things are packed with detail and the action scenes are competently executed.  The real news, though, is that Dean White is back on colours, once again giving that “gritty but polished” look that is so distinct.  Frankly, Hellboy might be the only book I can think of it that relies on its colorist to such an extent.

All told, it looks like we’re in for a fun ride in this revisiting of the Age of Apocalypse.  It’s a deft mixture of 90s energy and 2011 storytelling that is a fine balance, but one that’s worth checking out.

Conclusion: Even if you’ve not read anything Age of Apocalypse related, you’ll still really enjoy this issue of what is by far the best X-book on the stands.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans