I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Friday, March 1, 2013

Uncanny X-Men #1

Scott Summers has become more than a man, more than a mutant, more than even an X-Man: he has become a cultural icon. Though the official opinion of the world is that Cyclops is a terrorist and a murderer, possibly the most dangerous person to ever walk the Earth, the chat in the cubicles and on the construction sites is that he is a hero. His face is like that of Che Guevara, plastered on the shirts of many, and on the hearts of many more. Some may say that Summers ended Xavier's dream when he ended Xavier, but with rock star artist Chris Bachalo and the hardest working writer in comics Brian Michael Bendis at the helm of Uncanny X-Men, some may say that Xavier's dream never looked so good.

There are a few things that you should maybe know about this book that you won't find out by reading the story. This is the third volume of the Uncanny X-Men. The first volume was canceled in order to make the battle between Cyclops and Wolverine truly consequential. At the time it was the longest running continuous comic published by either Marvel or DC. I still carry a fire of anger at this decision which decided to separate future writers from the legacies of Stan Lee, Chris Clairmont, and Grant Morrison, to name a few of the most influential Uncanny writers. For a handful of issues, Kieron Gillen took over with a grand scheme that involved the dastardly schemes of Mister Sinister. His plan was brilliant, but equal parts poor delivery and shrinking readership lead us to this Uncanny X-Men.

Now, Marvel tries to publish comics in pairs. Jonathan Hickman is writing both Avengers and New Avengers, Matt Fraction is writing FF and Fantastic Four, and now Brian Michael Bendis is writing both All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men. With Bendis and Aaron on the key X-Books, this is certain to be a great year for the X-Men. And it ought to be: this year is the fiftieth anniversary of the X-Men, after all.

The thing that people ought to be raving about regarding Uncanny X-Men is Chris Bachalo's art. I am always astounded at how Bachalo makes pages look bigger and more full than any other artist save maybe Jim Lee or Greg Capullo. This is the kind of artist that you just throw on a Marvel project and make it succeed. You could call him Marvel's real life Hulk option. Wolverine and the X-Men was one of the few to make the cut in Marvel Now, after all, and much of that had to do with the historical collaboration of Bachalo and Aaron. The Uncanny X-Men are decked out in all-new, all-different costumes, which make them look like they're approaching Age of Apocalypse, part two (which wouldn't be all that inaccurate, seeing that the death of Xavier caused the first AoA). While Cyclops is the mutant icon, I actually enjoy Magneto's all-white costume the best.

The unfortunate down side of Uncanny X-Men #1 is that it is missing a lot of the things that Bendis usually succeeds at, namely, strong dialogue and strong emotional content. This is unfortunate, because if it weren't for this book Bachalo could still be working Wolverine and the X-Men right now. On the bright side, I've found that Bendis is much weaker at first issues than he is at any other. I didn't think I was going to like All-New X-Men after the first issue, but it has already delivered one of the best, most touching X-Stories in their long history. With two of the best-developed Marvel characters (Cyclops and Magneto) at the center of one of the best all-time writers for character development (Brian Michael Bendis), I expect that I won't see many disappointing issues in the future.

Uncanny X-Men #1 is great, but it is not perfect yet. My prediction: you're going to need a box of Kleenex for what comes next. Bendis knows shortcuts to your heart that many writers don't. Never underestimate this man.

I've syndicated this review at Examiner. You can read it here. If you click on it a few times, spend some time there, or navigate to a new page, I might get some money. But I'm only asking that of you if you liked reading the article here and want to show your appreciation.

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