Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Alvin Lee & UDON
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens on a cargo ship 300 miles off the east coast as we see this ship has a couple of passengers who could make a considerable impact on Agent X's world. We then join Agent X as he's busy finishing off a group of thugs that were sent after him by his previous employer, but we find most of his attention is caught up in his conflicted feelings over his current relationship with Sandi, and his inability to choose between her & Outlaw. We then find Sandi has set up a job in which Agent X & the Taskmaster act as bodyguards to the one of the heads of the Four Winds crime family. Given the man Alex is called upon to protect is the very same one who tried to have him killed only a short while back, and this man is quite open about his affections toward Sandi, Alex isn't exactly big on taking the job. However, Sandi's insistence that this job will show people that the animosity between him and the Four Winds has been resolved proves to be enough of an argument to quiet Alex's concerns. While on their way to a meeting between the Four Winds families Alex's group is set upon by a pair of super cheerful assassins, but after a frantic battle, the group arrives safely at the meeting. However, Agent X finds a pair of people waiting for him at the meeting, one of whom he's not exactly pleased to see, as he shoots him in the head.
Gail Simon has come back to tie up the big loose end that was left hanging when she last left the book, as the question of who in Agent X, and what is his relationship with Deadpool gets a nice kick in the pans in the final pages of this issue. Now the simple solution has always been that Agent X is simply an amnesiac Deadpool, as the two characters have the exact same personality, and they both sport a healing factor, so it's very easy to make the connection. In fact I think some part of my mind just automatically believed Agent X was Deadpool, as I can't tell you the number of times I've gone back over one of my Agent X reviews and had to take out the names Deadpool & Wade, and replace them with Agent X & Alex. Now this issue offers up a nice little twist in the final pages as the Black Swan shows up with the very much alive Deadpool, and while he could've dressed anyone up in a Deadpool costume, I assume that Gail Simone's answer is going to be a little more complicated than the Black Swan dragged some poor sap halfway across the world to provide us with a shocking cliffhanger. The fact that Deadpool looks to have lost his ability to talk seems to suggest that Agent X is playing host to Deadpool personality, while the Deadpool that shows up in the final pages is his soulless body (you know a bit like that episode of Star Trek, where Spock has his brain stolen, and they controlled his body via remote control).
Gail Simone takes aim at an element of anime/manga that has left me a bit curious about the Eastern mindset, as they do seem to be quite taken with the idea of young, female protagonists with bubbling, super cheerful personalities that I find grow extremely irritating over an extended period. To me it's always been a bit like Goldie Hawn, in which the actress can be a great deal of fun in small doses, but when she's called upon to carry a feature length movie (e.g. Private Benjamin, Wildcats) her ditzy, sunny-shine personality grows a bit tiresome. Now, as is the case with most elements of satire Gail Simone takes this element to an extreme as this issue has Agent X battling a pair of female assassins, who drive around in color-coordinated bunny jumpsuits, and are forever cheerful, no matter what the situation may be (e.g. locked in the back trunk of a car with numerous painful injuries). On also has to smile at their rather novel weaponry, as how can on not love a bomb that looks like a cute little stuffed toy, and the fact that even their guns match the color of their jumpsuits. Agent X's nonplused reaction to their nonstop cheerful banter was also rather amusing, as it quickly becomes apparent he's having a grand old time in this fight, and that his mood is almost as irritatingly upbeat as the assassins he's facing.
The art by Alvin Lee & UDON studios is quite solid when it comes to the action, as there's a wonderful sense of speed during the sequence where Agent X is being dragged alongside the car, and it's done largely without using the artistic cheat of blurring the backgrounds, or an over abundance of speed lines. The art also does some solid work keeping the action clear & easy to follow, as we can see where the various players are, and what they are doing, and while we are cheated out of the big final battle, I did enjoy the way that the art shifted to the slanted panel design to create a sense of urgency for the moments of conflict we did get to see (plus one has to love Agent X's secret weapon as he unleashed a barrage of trolls at the advancing assassin). The art also does some nice work on the more comedic moments of the story, like out first look at Agent X as we find him sulking on his merry-go-round, or the super cute outfits that our deadly assassins are sporting. Plus, how con one not smile at the panel where Agent X announces the bomb is a dud, before joining use in the next panel minus a hand. Now there are some color discrepancies like Agent X's gloves changing from white to black during a key panel, but overall that art is quite solid when it comes to artistic continuity.
Gail Simone returns and pretty much picks things up right where she left off, though she does take up a plot thread that was brought into play during her absence, as Agent X's relationship with Sandi is clearly evident. However, the main thing is that this issue is just as much fun to read as the issues before her departure, and it's not often that you get to see a writer return to wrap up the loose ends they left hanging. Agent X's battle with the super happy assassins is a fun little exercise that nicely lampoons the overly cute elements one finds in anime/manga, and the battle has a nice sense of energy to it thanks to the steady stream of amusing, if somewhat off the wall observations that Agent X continually offers up. The question of how Agent X is connected to Deadpool also gets a nice little surprise twist in this issue as one of the most likely theories looks to be dismissed, as Deadpool shows up along side the Black Swan to confront Agent X, which makes it pretty clear the two are different characters.
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