Uncanny X-Force #30 is an exercise in painful, drawn-out heartbreak. Writer Rick Remender is no stranger to tales like that, of course – see the disaster that was Flash Thompson and Betty Brant over in his Venom run, for instance. That's why I'm not expecting any kind of last-minute save or amazing heroics that will help prevent this unfolding tragedy from reaching its completion.
The story of Evan stems back to the first arc in Remender's series about a cover wetworks team whose mission was to stop threats before they become threats. The ultimate test of that philosophy came about when X-Force uncovered a newly reborn Apocalypse, scourge of humankind, as a child fully indoctrinated into the old 'might makes right' mantra that En Sabah Nur always espoused. It's that age-old question – if you had the chance to kill Hitler as a child, before he became Hitler, would you? The strange pseudo-French mercenary known as Fantomex answered that question with a resounding yes, gunning down the Apoca-child and fracturing the psyche of his teammate Psylocke, who did not stop it and has quickly grown to regret that fact. It did the same to his other colleague Warren Worthington, in the same but also different ways – sparking his long-buried Archangel persona to become transcendent as the natural successor to the lost Apocalypse. Thus, The Dark Angel Saga enveloped the whole team and was a painful losing experience for all of them.
However, Fantomex, aka Jean-Philippe, is not quite the heartless killer we thought him to be. The unexplainable Grant Morrison creation actually attempted a grand experiment to try to balance the karmic scales against his murder of the child. Within his weird shrinking nether-space called The World, he grew a clone from the genetic sample of the dead boy, but raised him entirely differently. Nature vs. nurture, as sort of antithesis to the Apocalypse code. He grew the boy he called Evan to young maturity in a virtual reality setting, wherein he had the idyllic homespun family life, raised by two benevolent parents on a Kansas farm that looked an awful lot like Smallville. Evan even has Clark Kent's black hairdo, albeit with the blue lips of Apocalypse. Fantomex himself would even appear to him as his "Uncle Cluster" to impart important life lessons as he grew. However, Evan was released from this perfect little cocoon life too early in order to save X-Force from certain doom, and he was then enrolled in Wolverine's school for mutants in the hopes he might acclimate to reality well in that environment. Instead, he had people like Quentin Quire constantly mocking him for his genetics, and he slowly began to learn parts of the truth about his identity.
Uncanny X-Force #30 has the rest of that truth being revealed as harshly as possible to Evan by the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, sporting the likes of Daken, Sabertooth, the Shadow King, the Skinless Man, Mystique, Blob and The Omega Family. They've captured Evan, seemingly destroyed X-Force and killed Fantomex (his body still hangs on their wall, stabbed and defeated, and they've set about disabusing him of all his good-guy notions. Sabertooth and Daken look like bad guys from a 1980s video game as they drag Evan around to every place he thought was real and strip away all his truths as falsehoods. Dave Williams brings some very tremendous artwork, gritty in its realism and heart-rending with depicting Evan's horror at each new revelation in Shadow King's telepathic torment. It's this sad, brutal decay of a character we'd grown to hope for, and that Clark Kent hook was a brilliant move by Remender to get us to have that hope.
This is much like how The Dark Knight made us love Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent so much that when he finally fell and became Two-Face, like we all knew he would, it was a moment of tragic sadness, where we wanted the comic book necessity of his appearance to be avoided. The same thing seems to be happening here. Young nice boy Evan trying to make his way at the Jean Grey School of HIgher Learning, imbued with an honest and forthright moral code ever since his memories began to form – it's an effort we wanted to watch succeed. It's an effort that seems utterly doomed to failure now, and we feel all the lesser because of it.
I may be wrong – Fantomex may spring back to life to salvage this, although his nervous system's evolution into an android lady named Eva says that might not be likely (told you, he's unexplainable). Wolverine, Psylocke, Deadpool, Nightcrawler – they all may return to save some part of this day. Maybe Evan will face these harsh truths, and his sense of honor will remain intact – this could very well be the true test of a hero. It does have a slight sense of tragic origin to it – a good boy learns the evil truth about his life and dedicates himself to the fight against that evil. Maybe this will make Evan a stronger character in his own right, or maybe this is just the beginning of a new Apocalypse with a more emotional core than he's ever had before.
I don't know. But it's Rick Remender, and he's not a man known for happy endings. It's best to prepare for a heavy heart, and maybe some kind of gut punch to boot.