Written by Brian Michael Bendis. Penciled and colored by Chris Bachalo. Inks by Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, and Al Vey.
I’m adjusting to the Marvel NOW takes on the X-Men. The top-selling comics in America feature enduring, decades-long brands. Distinction in different titles using the brand can give at least the sense of variety. The Avengers brand is the strongest it’s ever been. I worry that too many titles will tangle continuity and give me less incentive to buy more comics.
For now, the X-Books have a plan for the titles: All-New X-Men has the original X-Men displaced in the present, Uncanny X-Force is an looser group, Uncanny Avengers mashes up two mega-franchises, and the X-Treme X-Men probably does extreme kool stuff.
I was drawn to Uncanny X-Men because it’s the flagship title of the X-Men franchise. I have my hesitations with the writer, the renowned Brian Michael Bendis, because he’s the supposed face of decompressed storytelling. “Decompressed” has a stigma in my mind: slow-moving and casually filling-in-the-blanks. However, I don’t see the ugliness of slow storytelling here in Uncanny #1. So far, so good.
The story’s framed by an interrogation by Maria Hill to a mystery man inside a S.H.I.E.L.D. underground bunker. Cyclops is established as a mutant revolutionary. The mystery man tells the story about in mutant-human encounter in San Diego. Cyclops, Magneto, who’s not a strong as he used to be, Emma Frost, the sorceress Magik, the time vortex maker Tempus, and afro-wearing guy who can heal. Together, the group saves a bubble-forming mutant named Fabio Medina from threats minor (police) and major (sentinels).
Fabio is presented as a bit nerdy. He doesn’t understand what his powers can do. Cyclops couldn’t have just made a random stop. Fabio seems to be a potential recruit. Magneto is still a capable fighter and the rest play their roles competently.
Cyclops is positioned as the next Che Guavara, a revolutionary icon worthy of devotion by the people. It’s unclear how Cyclops, who killed Charles Xavier, can become someone who regular folks want to look up to. My fascination is with the combination of mutants working along with Cyclops. Decades of shifting allegiances have muddled them from being pure heroes or villains. If Cyclops becomes either mutantkind’s savior or the greatest mutant threat then the shades of gray dynamic would be exciting to read.
Bachalo and the inkers displays flair with sweeping action and tilted panel spreads. However, the exaggerated faces sometimes don’t give the characters dramatic heft. The framing device with the mystery man and S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t bog me down with empty talk. Even when the mystery man’s identity is revealed his reasons for appearing in the bunker in the first place aren’t disclosed to readers.
Uncanny X-Men volume 3 has pieces of a puzzle showing the way forward for mutants. The pacing moved well and I want to find out more about Cyclops, even he isn’t my personal reason for liking this comic. I’m not a 616 continutity expert, but I know the cursory details of Avengers vs. X-Men. If you like “big picture” plots and don’t mind the Uncanny X-Men title having shiftier protagonists, Uncanny may be the sole “essential” X-Book to read monthly.
See also: Cyclops as Redhead of the Day (yeah, yeah, I screwed that selection up :P )
Preview Uncanny X-Men #1 at Comic Book Resources.
Read Uncanny X-Men #1 story synopsis and variant covers at Marvel Database.