There’s a lot to digest in Uncanny X-Men #21 — a hot and heavy issue that puts several plot points on a collision course.
With Cyclops and Magik unable to control their powers after a sudden attack, Storm has no other choice than to literally taze them with a lightning bolt. Hank McCoy knows something’s up and moves to carry his former leader away, but not before Dazzler, liaison to S.H.I.E.L.D., shows up and demands to take Cyclops into custody.
The X-Men aren’t having it — mutant problems should be dealt with by mutants — and Maria Hill gives Beast one hour to test his hunch and see if he can track the culprit by finding out what’s wrong with Magik and Cyclops.
Cue worst-case scenario when the mystery assailant takes control of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, firing all weapons on the Jean Grey School.
Meanwhile in Madripoor, Magneto returns and deals with the Blob’s addiction to Mutant Growth Hormone. The Blob has fallen far, and were it not for their collective history together in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Magneto might have done away with him once and for all. Instead, Erik shows Frederick Dukes some mercy and rescues the real Dazzler, Alison Blaire, who’s been forced to supply Mystique’s drug trade with her own internal fluids.
Uncanny X-Men #21 is a quick-paced issue with lots going on. It feels amped, and I’m glad to see Hank’s hand being forced to help his former friend. The history between Cyclops and Beast has definitely been complicated by events these past few years, and I’d like to think that deep down inside, McCoy’s still got a soft place for his former commander.
This issue is a culmination of numerous plots that Brian Michael Bendis has been nurturing. The current volume of Uncanny X-Men began with an attack by the superpowered Sentinels, and while Cyclops is down and out, I hope he doesn’t let everyone else do the dirty work. Emma Frost and the rest of the squad look like they’ll have their hands full, and Magneto might be set for a key appearance, though it’s unlikely he’ll be coming back to the team for a permanent position.
Chris Bachalo’s pencils and colors seem like they’ve been streamlined to deliver maximum impact. The composition is great, and the delivery is amazing, particularly in the panels with Erik and Frederick where the tension can be felt. Last time Magneto was in an issue of Uncanny X-Men, he caused havoc for Mystique and her crew, then leveled the building they were standing on.
As for inkers, we’re holding steady with five — Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, and Al Vey. The inks are wonderful and precise — every line of stubble, architectural detail, and ice chunk on Iceman’s body is in plain view.
Next issue brings the reveal of the mysterious leader of the Sentinels, and though I have my guesses, I’m not ready to place any bets. Right now, only one person knows, and it’s McCoy, and it seems plausible that the mystery assailant has a personal vendetta against him.
And though it wasn’t advertised as a major event or crossover, this particular arc is probably my favorite one from the past few years on the hope that it delivers. It seems like Bendis has been loading up plotlines for a perfect storm that could make or break Cyclops’ X-Men, and I think it’s about time to settle some scores. The more the better, and I’m looking forward to what the next issue brings.
Will we see Magneto on a rampage or a confrontation between Dazzler and the impostor? Interesting enough, we see Triage on two facing pages — one at the Jean Grey school as Hill tries to regain control and another at the New Xavier school. If it’s Mystique playing a part, why that one?
I can’t wait to find out.
Uncanny X-Men #21 (2013)
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Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, and Al Vey
Colors: Chris Bachalo
Letters: Joe Caramagna
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