An Iceman at the End: "Uncanny X-Force #24"

In "Frozen Moment" writer Rick Remender poses the question, can the members of X-Force, an off-the-books kill-squad ever really return to the more honor-bound ideals of the X-Men?

Uncanny X-Force #24

Publisher: Marvel
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Rick Remender, Phil Noto
Price: $3.50
Publication Date: 2012-06

This was going to be a very different review, much easier. I was going call it "The Iceman Goeth…". I'd have looped into publicly airing out some grievances and some expectations around the Eugene O'Neill. I'd have used this as a launching pad to get into the idea of inner bonds and community and the complexity of social structure, some 5,000 years ago by punning my way into "Iceman", which I'd at that point take to mean Ötzi. I'd then perform the prestige…I'd say that social bonds have always been complex, and that 5,000 years ago, high in the Alps, it was not so very different from a bar in Greenwich, in 1912, where erstwhile anarchists discover they need their false hopes and idle dreams more than they realize. But I can't write any of that. Not after "Frozen Moment", issue #24 of Uncanny X-Force.

It's not quite two years gone yet, the calendar-run on Uncanny X-Force. But #24 still feels like a closing down, a tying off of loose ends, still is a powerful, singular statement. We won't get to the two-year mark on Uncanny X-Force, but after "Frozen Moment" I can't even begin to imagine what that two-year mark will look like. I know this though, I've been around for every issue of Uncanny X-Force, and there's been a reason for that. In its own way, Remender's carved out an Uncanny X-Force that is as powerful and as singular and as enduring as the Simpsons.

The story starts in an unexpected and unexpectedly hopeful place. In the Qabalah, in the story of the two hands of God. One, Gevurah, is the Hand That Strikes In Anger. The other, Chesed, is the Hand That Gives In Love. There is a surprisingly, almost Cartesian, hopefulness that offers up a narrativization of the work of These Two Hands. Gevurah, this tale that animates The Hands goes, is the first to move, the first to work. In Anger, the path is cleared for Goodness and Joy to manifest and take root in the world.

But part of growing older, is also growing up. And coming to terms with the idea that such positive, affirming rationalizations, as much as we'd hope for them to be, simply aren't always the case. If anything, we've had to come to terms with this newer, world-grown-colder outlook at the opening of every issue. The intro to Uncanny X-Force boots up thus: "Some evil won't stop. Some evil no prisons can could, no force can contain, no plea can soften. Sometimes to truly save lives, the only option is to take them…".

We've seen that very positive story of Anger First play out in an entirely different way in primetime television. At the start of the 90s the Safe, Warm Sage of the Cosby Show came head to head with the broken-down ramshackle dysfunction of the Simpsons. Whatever the Cosby Show was, it wasn't a hopeful show. It felt more like a welcome retirement, sweeping in just one generation after the Civil Rights movement. Not to say that the Simpsons hasn't dulled itself after more than twenty-one years at bat, but in the beginning, going up against the Cosby Show, it certainly was a powerful statement. It was the idea that more often than not we live down to our weaknesses, rather than live up to our expectations. It was the idea that not every problem will always be solved, and certainly not in the neat closure of the scope afforded by a 21-minute show.

For his own part, Remender has enacted this idea of growing-older-is-also-growing-up at a deeper more conceptual level over the past 26 issues of Uncanny X-Force (although this is issue #24, there've been two "point one's", #5.1 and #19.1). Not only is this growing-up an idea which appears at the level of narrative mechanics, where characters are forced into tough, life-and-death choices. But this notion of "growing-up" also appears in the thematic working through of the genre as well. In the early issues of Uncanny X-Force we've seen the rise of a genre we can easily understand.

There's been a pulse, strong as a jackhammer, running like zeropoint momentum through those earlier Uncannys. We knew the stakes intuitively. The team would pull together, confront the bad guys, face incredible odds, and be brought face-to-face with an impossible moral choice. The genre itself was safe, and warm and sage, like an episode of House or the Lone Ranger. But slowly over time, those genre conventions got stripped away. Until we're brought here, to "Frozen Moment".

This is a cold, ugly kill. The putting to death of the Age of Apocalypse Iceman (Robert Drake, not our own more familiar, Bobby Drake, now resident teacher at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning), is a moment that is drawn out over the course of the issue. It's exactly what it should be. The disillusion and the frustration of being thrust into a morally ambiguous position, and taking an unacceptable action to escape it. A shotgun wouldn't do it, a plasma grenade wouldn't do it, but Robert Drake is eventually put down by his closest friend. It's the long, slow anger of watching the past burn away, watching the hope of a friendship burn up, as Kurt Wagner, Age of Apocalypse Nightcrawler, enacts a morally indefensible action, by hand.

This isn't about cold, clinical surgical strikes. This is about betrayal. The betrayal that brought Robert Drake to this point of being a psychopathic killer, and the betrayal of Kurt Wagner's ideals, necessary to undertake this indefensible action. So by the end of the issue, we really have worked our way back to The Iceman Cometh…. This really is a story about necessary illusions, and the question, after all of this unsanctioned life-taking, can the members of X-Force ever really return to the more honor-bound ideals of the X-Men?


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.