My biggest criticism of the Uncanny X-Men series thus far has been its lack of a solid narrative with defining points.
The current volume started out strong as Cyclops gathered up his closest allies while being hunted by S.H.I.E.L.D. and the other X-Men. After that, the plotting began to meander through various storylines that started off with huge potential only to fizzle away. Between focusing on the new members or developing the complex tensions between Cyclops and his own team — and don’t forget the bitter emotions embroiling Cyclops and his former X-Men — the story at large seems pretty watered down due to a lack of solid impact.
A prime example of the individual plots failing to gain muster is the reading of Professor Xavier’s will, an Original Sins tie-in that brought us to Matthew Malloy but left us with a ton of other questions, none of which have been answered. While we get to witness the rise of the most dangerous mutant, we’re still not sure what else that will was about, and we may never return to it. Instead, the spotlight has been on Cyclops’ attempt to bring Malloy into the X-Men fold, and issue #29 left us with a cliffhanger and three corpses.
I won’t admit I was wrong — yet. I didn’t think Brian Michael Bendis would end Cyclops and Magik, but he might have. When S.H.I.E.L.D. agents verify the remains, we see the Eye of Agamotto has been left there, and Malloy somehow manages to resurrect himself in a massive power storm that rips apart a helicarrier. And though he tries, Malloy can’t resurrect Cyclops or Magik, prompting him to seek revenge.
Malloy visits the Jean Grey School where Emma Frost has learned of Scott’s death. Eva Bell also visits the school, but in a different time. Bell has gone rogue, opting to visit Charles Xavier in the past against the Stepford Cuckoos’ wishes. We all know what tampering with time has done, and Uncanny X-Men #30 ends with plenty of dramatic moments as the circle closes upon itself.
Now, I said what my biggest criticism was for the series, and though we have plenty of defining moments here in this issue — more than we’ve had in the last several issues combined — I can’t say they’re agreeable. The jury is still out about Cyclops and Magik being definitely deceased, but there’s at least one casualty this issue that no one can question. Things have definitely escalated to epic proportions, and Bell pulling a Hank McCoy seems like two wrongs that can finally make one right.
But I’m uncomfortable when characters begin to turn into currency — lives become debts measured against debts for plotting purposes. Cyclops is the title’s most valuable commodity and killing him off does several things. It ramps up the drama, for one, by forcing the other characters to react. Maria Hill will have to answer for her indiscriminate killing, and the other X-Men who learn of Summers’ death will have to choose a side.
On the other hand, it removes the most important piece off the chessboard — the piece we’ve been hoping would find some sort of closure. Mind you, this is all conjecture, and like many of the other Uncanny X-Men issues, it’s hard to say anything about anything because we’re given so little in terms of concrete story. Everything leads to something else without laying a foundation, and we’re forced to buy the next issue to see whether what we just saw has any sort of rooting.
I’m glad to see Chris Bachalo on pencils for visual continuity’s sake though the colors, once again, change the artistic landscape a bit. Antonio Fabela returns from last issue to color some of the pages, but it’s Bachalo who does the majority. The colors are a big deal because it seems that Bachalo’s pencils look best when he colors his own artwork. That’s not a knock on the colorists — it could be a matter of Bachalo being more invested in his own work when he’s finishing it. The artwork the past few issues looked a little rusty by Bachalo’s standards, and Uncanny X-Men #30 gives the penciller his groove back with some epic scenes and that trademark level of detail. At this point, I’m wondering if a guest-stint on The Walking Dead would be right up Bachalo’s alley because he does dirt and grit so well — the pages where Malloy pieces himself back together twice is depicted brilliantly.
And credit the inking team — Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, and Al Vey — for keepiing the book relatively clean. There are some panels in Bell and Xavier’s exchange that look a little rough, but overall, they’ve done a fantastic job.
So with that, I’m not sure if I like this issue or not because I feel like I need to read the next issue to get my bearings straight. The issue leaves me with a bit of confusion, and I can’t predict what’s going to happen with the X-Men, S.H.I.E.L.D., or Cyclops’ young squads. But judging this issue on its own as if it were a one-shot, I would have to say it’s a mind-blowing read not without its flaws. Bendis flubs up Xavier and Bell’s exchange — “I am so offended by you being here. You’ve ruined my life.” — but in the big picture, he proves no life is too important to dust away. The twist was unpredictable, and Uncanny X-Men #30 is the freshest the series has felt in a long time.
Uncanny X-Men #30 (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 and Antonio Fabela
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