Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: Uncanny X-Men #1 (Vol. 3)

It took me a while to get my hands on the new Uncanny X-Men #1 written by Brian Michael Bendis and artwork by Chris Bachalo. It contains the further adventures of Cyclops and what’s left of his inner circle following the events of Avengers vs. X-Men. I’m a little behind on this but I’ll be playing catch-up over the next few weeks. Now it’s important to note that you need to have at least a basic knowledge of what exactly happened during the AvX crossover but since I covered that series extensively last year I don’t want to go too in-depth with it here. However if you don’t want to shuffle through twelve reviews I’ll summarize as brief as I can:

The Phoenix Force came back to Earth to possess Hope Summers. Cyclops believed Hope could use it to restore mutantkind (99% of mutants lost their powers previously) but Captain America believed it might destroy the planet and their two teams clashed. Eventually Iron Man accidentally split the Phoenix into five parts which possessed Cyclops and his inner circle who used their new-found godhood to make fix all the world’s problem. Eventually the Avengers (and even the X-Men) kept picking off the group until Cyclops, now fully possessed by the Phoenix, basically went insane and killed Prossefor X. He was defeated, Hope gained the Phoenix Force and used it to restore mutantkind...just as Cyclops said would happen from the beginning. For his crimes Cyclops was imprisoned.

And I'm happy to debate with anyone who disagrees
I haven’t kept up with Marvel following the crossover and unfortunately this book does a piss poor job of explaining what happened between then and now so I had to do research. Basically Cyclops was content to stay in prison for the rest of his life and pay for the death of his mentor until a fellow mutant inmate was murdered. This convinced him to have his still at large Extinction Team break him out of prison where he then became the public face of a new mutant revolution. He decides to take his team to find and train the new mutants emerging in the world all while being on the run from SHIELD. Man, this is a lot backstory for one issue. I think we found out first Con and we haven’t even started the goddamn review yet.

One last thing before we get into it: I hate this trend of publishers restarting the numbering of classic comics. This is the second time in two years that Marvel has canceled Uncanny X-Men and re-started with a new numbering and from a historic perspective it really, really makes me sad. Marvel does this kind of thing all the time as does DC (DCnU, anyone?) and it always seems to be a ploy to bring in these elusive and possibly imaginary “new readers” who would be put off the higher number. But I, and many other people, would love to see one of these decades old books naturally reach #1000 but it seems that the people who are making the comics (or at least publishing them) don’t share the sentiment. It’s just a bummer.

Enough of this “Intro” stuff; full review after the jump.

[WARNING: This review spoils the final twist of this issue. However since this issue came out some time ago it's should be public knowledge by now. Still, avoid if you don't want it spoiled.]

"Okay team, don't let them know I forgot to how to optic blast."
Maria Hill of SHIELD is called in when a mysterious mutant arrives at an underground SHIELD bunker but is only willing to talk to her. He explains that following his encounter with the Phoenix Cyclops’ powers are now broken and he is very vulnerable. The mutant informs her that Cyclops, despite public onion, is a monster and wants to help the authorities take him down once and for all.

Let’s get this out of the way. The mutant in question is [SPOILER] Magneto who is betraying Cyclops in retribution for the death of Charles Xavier. This is a great direction in that in makes perfect sense. When I first saw the roster of this title I was shocked that Magneto was a member seeing what happened between him and the Phoenix Five during AvX. This is a great plot point that leaves me wondering how Magneto’s treachery might affect the team going forward. This book puts forth a lot of questions and few answers which makes it hard to talk too much about the story as it’s mostly set-up. Actually I take that back: we do get answers for our questions but they come from an unbalanced and unreliable narrator with a history of periodically trying to conquer the world. Cyclops is, in his words, a self-serving egotist and everything he’s doing is for the worst reasons but whether that’s the case or not is unknown during this issue. That’s a little frustrating but it effectively makes me want to see what’s next.

The art is fine for the most part. I realize that Chris Bachalo’s art isn’t liked by everyone and a lot of people were turned off on this comic as a result but I’ve been looking at his work since the Generation Next miniseries from the 90s and I’m so used to his style that it always looks decent to me these days (and has gotten better over the years). That said I find character faces look a little too similar and in fact for the most part Emma Frost and Magik look pretty much identical in a lot of scenes (blonde woman in skimpy black leather). I should point out that in the Marvel NOW! teasers from months ago I HATED Cyclops’ costume redesign. But I now realize that it must have been the artist because under Bachalo’s direction I think it’s actually one of his better uniforms; it’s simple yet unique, with the only awkward bit being that X-visor he has but even then it’s not too terrible. I dig it. The other uniforms are less interesting; just black leather or in Magneto’s case he becomes Gandalf the White in a major but completely 100% unnecessary redesign.

Magneto the White w/ The White Queen Some Lady
The new characters in this book, specifically Tempus and the as of yet named healer, seem interesting and come off really well despite their relatively small amount of time. Like with the plot there’s a lot of set-up for the future rather than bombarding us now but it makes me want to get the next issue. Tempus in particular may be one of the most powerful mutants I’ve ever seen depicted in an X-Men comic but you really get the sense that she barely knows what’s she’s doing. It’s intriguing.

One thing I disliked about the book is that it kind of assumes you’ve been following the X-Men titles the last year as aside from a small blurb on the first page it doesn’t let us know too much of what’s been going on. It does talk about the events of AvX but like I said in the intro I had to look up on the internet how we got from that book to here and the book doesn’t touch on it much. If you read the last issue of AvX and then read this issue you’ll be confused.

So this book gives us the team status quo, its mission statement, and some clues that Cyclops might not have altruistic motives…but little else. We’re left with a lot of questions here: why is Cyclops than recruit mutants rather than taking them to the Jean Grey School where he’d be safe? What exactly is he doing with them that Wolverine and his teaching staff couldn’t do better (and without being hunted down)? Why is Emma Frost still bothering being on Cyclops’ side after what happened between them? Are they still together despite everything? What is the nature and scope of this “Mutant Revolution” that Cyclops is supposedly the face of? But it doesn’t need to answer all these questions here. This issue’s job is to introduce this new team and to make us want to buy the next issue. It succeeds. I’ve heard people talk about this issue and have said massively positive things about it but I think the best I can say about this book is “It’s pretty good, I think I’ll buy the next one” which is likely what Marvel was going for.

"BEHOLD! Optic Blast!"
("Phew, thank god I remembered how to do that")
I give Uncanny X-Men #1 4 Adorable Pandas out of 5.


-Cyclops’ redesign looks good here 

-The plot is pretty darn intriguing 

-The new characters seem pretty cool 


-The book may be hard for new or lapsed readers to get into 

-Leaves us with more questions than answer due to the framing device 

-Key character aren’t drawn with enough distinction from each other 

Uncanny X-Men #2 has been bought and read through so be on the look out for it's review within the next week or so.

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