Marvel’s Uncanny Avengers is a book that should crack under the weight of how many layers of continuity it is built on-and I’ll admit, it’s a hard book to recommend to someone not intimately familiar with much of Marvel’s past history. Writer Rick Remender draws on not only his own previous run on Uncanny X-Force, but tons of bits of trivial Marvel history. This isn’t a book I’d ever hand over to someone who is a casual Marvel fan, or just knows the characters from the movies for example. But if you’re a longtime Marvel reader like myself, then Uncanny Avengers offers a lot of payoffs to long-standing plot threads and stories, and all done in a suspenseful and engaging way.
Issue #14 begins to bring to a culmination to many of the story threads Remender began back in the first story arc. To summarize the story up to this point; the Apocalypse Twins, children of Apocalypse’s Horsemen Archangel and Pestilence, have been taken to the future and raised by the Avengers’ immortal enemy Kang, and have now come back in time with the seemingly benevolent purpose of taking all the mutants on Earth to a new world (Planet X, naturally) to avoid the death camps the humans will inevitably put them in just a few short years. The key to their cosmic mutant “Rapture”? A spell from Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch.
In case you haven’t been paying attention to Marvel these past few years, poor Wanda has been saddled with some serious baggage by various writers and editors. A lot of what Remender has been doing on Uncanny Avengers is massive clean up work to classic Marvel characters that had seemingly been damaged beyond repair by events over the past decade in crossovers like Avengers Disassembled and House of M. Sunfire, for example, an early member of the new X-Men and one of Marvel’s few prominent Asian heroes, had been sidelined for years and turned into a joke, and ultimately was made one of the horsemen of Apocalypse. Remender is redeeming him here as a member of the Avengers Unity Squad. Poor Simon Williams, AKA Wonder Man, had been turned into a massive jerk who hates the Avengers simply because writer Brian Bendis didn’t like the character, making him yet another Marvel character Remender has to “fix”.
But no classic Marvel hero has been abused as much as the Scarlet Witch. Wanda Maximoff is one of Marvel’s earliest and most prominent female heroines, alongside Sue Storm, Jean Grey and the Wasp. Yet over the past decade we have seen her become insane, unable to control her own reality-altering powers, which resulted in the near mutant genocide at the end of House of M, all in an effort to piss off her daddy, Magneto. Just like that, she went from a beloved hero to genocidal maniac, and was shelved for the better part of a decade.
At some point, Scarlet Witch must have gotten in touch with Green Lantern Hal Jordan’s damage control people, because it was decided that when she went bad, she was under the influence of the mysterious “Life Force,” a cosmic power which drove her nuts, a similar “get out of jail free card” used by Hal Jordan over at DC. She even used her power to reignite the mutant gene at the end of Avengers vs. X-Men. You’d think that would have gotten her off the hook with her fellow mutants, but nope…none of them trust her, and all seem to be waiting for the other shoe to drop. (I don’t remember this much animosity after Jean Grey came back from her stint as Dark Phoenix; is it just because she killed a few billion green aliens that know one knew?) And no one seems to have it in for Wanda more than teammate Rogue, who has been waiting since the first issue of Uncanny Avengers to take Wanda out for good.
And in previous issue of Uncanny, the Witch said she’d do it…she’s taken all the mutants to Planet X at the bidding of the Apocalypse Twins. So much for redemption, right? But in the last issue, she revealed to her boo, Wonder Man, that nope, she’s gonna rapture all these mutants into an army, and take down the Apocalypse Twins for good. Unfortunately, no one told Rogue, who has been looking to take out Wanda for her mutant de-powering actions in M-Day since the first issue of Uncanny Avengers. Let’s just say in issue #14, things get ugly, and the S hits the F. As the issue opens, Rogue and Sunfire are out to kill Wanda once and for all, because Rogue believes she’s betraying Xavier’s dream of a mutant/human future and essentially exiling her own people to space. Although Wanda is actually doing a spell to summon the mutants to stop the Twins and not help them, Rogue doesn’t know this and plans to kill her anyway. With all these sitcom-y levels of basic misunderstanding, it’s like an episode of Three’s Company, but with cosmic stakes.
For all the big cosmic shenanigans, the best parts of the issue are the emotional moments; Rogue has to fight an undead Grim Reaper, a character who the last time she saw him, she kinda killed him (he’s totally not over it). Even more brutal is the fight between Wolverine and Daken, his son that he also recently killed (both Grim Reaper and Daken, along with Banshee and Sentry, have been resurrected by the Apocalypse Twins as the new Four Horsemen). Although Logan and Daken literally tear into each other as only fast-healing mutants with claws can, it’s the things they say to each other that do the most damage here. Most importantly, longtime X-person Rogue does something that she just can’t take back in this issue, something that no matter how Marvel might un-do it in the near future, will stain Rogue’s character. You’ll just have to read Uncanny Avengers #14 to find out just what it is she does. Whether or not Rogue was justified in her actions will be debated for years on end by Marvel fans no doubt.
Having said all this, the real star of the issue are the pencils from new series penciller Steve McNiven, taking over from artists John Cassaday and Daniel Acuna. Although those are not small shoes to fill, he pulls off some of his best panels in several years, maybe ever since his work on “Old Man Logan” in the pages of Wolverine. The constant art shifts in this book have been kind of irritating to be honest, but with arts as solid as McNiven’s, it’s hard to stay mad about it. McNiven draws the hell out of this issue’s massive fight scene, and the moments between Wolverine and son Daken are especially well done.
If you’re a longtime Marvel fan, big changes take place in issue #14 of Uncanny Avengers, and this isn’t an issue you’re going to want to skip. No matter how this story ultimately plays out over the next few issues, certain characters will be changed by their actions in this title, and in many ways, Uncanny Avengers is the most important book in the overall Marvel Universe right now. Highly recommended.