Due to the drama at the X-Mansion, Illyana Rasputin plans a spontaneous getaway for herself and teammate Kitty Pryde in Uncanny X-Men #33. The plan: Find and save a mutant somewhere on an island filled with gigantic kaiju-like monsters.
After a quick skirmish, the pair follow Illyana’s portable Cerebro and discover a young girl, Bo, abandoned in a cave. Bo speaks a little English, and she explains how she accidentally hurt her mother before she was dropped off by her father. When Magik threatens to kill Bo’s father for leaving her, a monster comes to Bo’s rescue, leaving the young girl with no other choice than to unleash her powers.
On its own, Uncanny X-Men #33 is a nice story that does several things well. It examines the current state of Illyana and Kitty’s relationship, a friendship which — like many other things — has suffered due to the chasm splitting the X-Men. The issue also reinforces what we know and believe the X-Men should be — a safe haven for the unwanted. Bo’s story seems rooted in the fact that many Chinese girls are abandoned or aborted because of the country’s one-child rule. With many parents opting for sons instead of daughters, the country’s birth rates have begun to skew with a birth rate ratio of 118.06 boys to every 100 girls in 2010.
The strength of the issue comes from putting Illyana at the center of the story. Illyana is the primary focus or at least the lens which provides perspective. When Kitty continues to poke at Illyana’s “dark and crazy mysterious” personality, Illyana reveals she’s hurt by Kitty’s words. And the fact that Illyana chooses to use her downtime to help mutants in need proves she’s more than just Cyclops’ sergeant-at-arms — she truly believes in Professor Charles Xavier’s dream.
The review for the issue would pretty much stop there in discussing Brian Michael Bendis’ plotting and scripting, but in looking at this issue as part of an entire volume of the Uncanny X-Men title, I have to bring up the herd of elephants in the room.
First and foremost, last issue we saw Cyclops gathering up the strength to keep on fighting — even if it meant standing on the other side of the law. Cyclops has been the X-Men’s core conflict these past few years, and we are painfully torn away from almost everything else that has made the X-Men titles compelling. With only one more Uncanny X-Men issue before Secret Wars, I’m skeptical about what’s in store for the characters. I’m afraid Marvel will clear the slate without giving readers a full reckoning — at which point, I may lean towards removing all X-Men books from my pull list.
There’s way too much stuff up in the air. What happened to Illyana tasking Eva Bell with bringing Hank McCoy to trial? What happened to Professor Charles Xavier’s will? What happened to Cyclops and Havoc?
Will any of these questions be answered, or will they come into play as the Secret Wars turn into Battlewars? Will it even matter at that point?
For that reason, Uncanny X-Men #33 fails, and that’s unfortunate. It’s like asking for a PS4 for your birthday, and you open the box to find a Vita. If it wasn’t for the fact you expected something else, and it wasn’t your birthday, getting a free console would be great — but given the circumstances, you can’t help but feel a little bitter about the situation.
Thankfully, there’s Kris Anka’s art, which is a real treat. Body language does a lot of heavy lifting in the visuals, especially in the issue’s first action sequence when Illyana battles the monsters. Kitty chooses to opt out of combat, crossing her arms — a display that shows how far apart the two have become. In the scenes with Bo, Anka not only gives us a glimpse of the child’s powers, he works the emotional aspects as well with some great details in the facial expressions, though Illyana’s face gets a little overwrought.
Antonio Fabela’s colors are strong, and Bo’s ribbons are beautifully lit in contrast to the grit and grime covering the abandoned child’s face and clothing. Fabela’s colors are a great complement to Anka’s art style — gradients keep the art from becoming too flat, and the differences in skin tone between Illyana and Kitty add another dimension to the panels.
In closing, I liked the issue out of context — the duo of Illyana and Kitty makes for some good reading, and a series based on the two looking for and rescuing mutants could work really well. The problem is, why is it happening at this moment as universes collide on each other? We’ve had years of plots being built up and pushed aside, and though it would be a stretch to claim Bendis and crew are throwing up a middle finger to anyone who’s mainly invested in the major storyline, it does feel like whoever’s in charge of the X-Men over there at Marvel is leading us around a giant bush with a huge drum. Uncanny X-Men #600 ships as an over-sized issue, and it’s supposedly meant to tie a lot of loose threads.
If that’s the case, I’m guessing we’re going to pay for it one way or another.