After the first book, I was expecting great things here and they didn’t let me down. After successfully acquiring the life seed in the “Age of Apocalypse,” X-Force is immediately ambushed by Archangel, and his Horsemen who take it for themselves, leaving the team to escape by the skin of their teeth. Everyone except Psylocke who stays behind to try and save the monster who used to be the man she loved. From there, things only escalate in scale and urgency as a town is incinerated, a new land is born, alternate realities invade and (of course) the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Rick Remender executes it all so skillfully that even though the form of the story is quite familiar it becomes impossible not to get swept up in the drama. There’s even some real heartbreak at the end as Psylocke has to deal with the ashes of her relationship with Warren.
Even with all the high stakes and dark tone of this collection, it never becomes suffocating. It’s the details that Remender throws at you, from Archangel’s “really nice bad guy” disposition, creative power uses from Famine and the “Age of Apocalypse” Iceman, Fantomex and Psylocke making their last stand, “Kid Apocalypse,” and Deadpool’s perfectly solid reasoning as to why they can’t go to the Avengers or X-Men with this. There’s a solid undercurrent of fun throughout the book that keeps things from turning into a dirge, and keeps things thrilling. Jerome Opena also illustrates most of the book and brings a level of style and detail that you don’t see very often in superhero books these days. Robbi Rodriguez’s stylized work at the end is a somewhat jarring change, but it brings some energy to the “winding down” feel of the epilogue. Yes, this is still a story that will only appeal to those familiar with the characters and relatively well-versed in their continuity; but, if you are then it’s one you’ll want to have in your collection.
(Of course, after reading all this I can’t help but wonder how Remender got so far off track with “Fear Agent.” Isn’t the rule for a writer’s creator-owned titles to be BETTER than his work-for-hire stuff?)