Primer — Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW Review

Primer — Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW Review
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The plot thickens in Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW — S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltrates a former X-Man’s house for interrogation, Mystique and Sabertooth are up to something, an advanced Sentinel attacks, and Cyclops declares war!

If you feel a strong sense of deja vu, you’re not alone. Bringing back plot points that have been on the backburner for months, Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW — more like a revisiting than a retread — reminds us what we’ve been waiting for.

War.

Cyclops’ Uncanny X-Men squad is the alpha team — the team with the heaviest hitters which is one significant member down since Magneto decided to go off in search of himself. Still, there’s been plenty of growth from even the youngbloods, and Cyclops looks more formidable than ever as a man on fire.

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So while new readers jump on for Uncanny X-Men and get acclimated — after Cyclops’ team deals with the Sentinel threat, we’re reminded once again how people feel about mutants — steady readers won’t get much new this issue except for more teasing on what happened to Eva Bell in Uncanny X-Men #17 when she disappeared then returned a bit older.

Emma Frost knows enough about Bell to warrant a “You have to tell him” after Cyclops compliments Eva. There’s a suggestion of romance here, and it’s either a one-sided thing, or perhaps Bell saw something in her time displacement that’s so important, Scott Summers has to know.

As far as scripting goes, Brian Michael Bendis gets a good back and forth between S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill and Bond. Hill is written exceptionally well — she’s manipulative to a point, but she’s still well-meaning, if a bit threatening. As condescending as she gets with Bond this issue, it’s apparent she’s willing to do what it takes to save the world without crossing the line into supervillain territory.

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The curtain on what happened to Dazzler is raised, and we see something a bit startling here as Mystique reveals where she gets her Mutant Growth Hormone. The visuals are played up with Mystique storing the illegally obtained substance in a Louis Vuitton bag which shows how far she’ll go to get what she wants.

Chris Bachalo’s pencils are fantastic this issue, though not without flaw. In one panel showing Eva, Emma, and two of the Stepford Cuckoos — all the women have the same face with only their hair and uniforms to differentiate them. Not that it looks bad — Bachalo’s attention to detail and backgrounds helps create some very dynamic panels with devastating spells and destructive explosions opening it up for how epic these battles can be.

And if I can say one thing about the costumes — Goldballs’ retro look  is at the same time hilarious and a hot mess. I’m not sure if he’s a parody of something else — maybe on DC as a whole — but he’s basically the team’s de facto comic relief now.

Everything else about this issue is pretty pitch perfect — the inkers’ squad has another member this issue bringing the count to five. Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olazaba all contribute on bringing those penciled sketches to bear with clean lines, dramatic shadows, and darkly dark backgrounds.

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In terms of color, Bachalo handled 100% of the work before, but this time we get a few pages by Jose Villarrubia that are reminiscent of Frazer Irving’s filtered green textures. Seeing Villarrubia’s colors — if just for a page or two — on Bachalo’s work makes me wonder what kind of tone an issue would take if someone else was brought in for color. I’m still not totally keen on Bachalo’s choice of hues, but to each their own.

And while I’m not the best at judging at a letterer’s work — Joe Caramagna should be commended for his work this issue. Explosions, laser blasts, and power beams get their own personalities, and it makes the battle sequences feel very epic.

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The previous issues with their character sketches were a good detour, but it’s time for the Uncanny X-Men to get back on track. While new readers joining the rest of us will benefit the most this issue, it’s a good reminder for the pull-list subscribers of the particular threads left untied and loose. For some, it’s an “about time” moment when the story they’ve waited patiently (or not) for is finally getting its round.

And while the training is never over — at least from Cyclops’ perspective — it’s time for these kids to use what they’ve practiced. The threat is there, whether it’s S.H.I.E.L.D., the mysterious Sentinel builder, or both, and these X-Men have proven themselves to be more than apt for the task.

Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW (2013)
Marvel
Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olazaba
Colors: Chris Bachalo and Jose Villarrubia
Letters: Joe Caramagna

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Fired Up — Uncanny X-Men #6 Review

Fired Up — Uncanny X-Men #6 Review
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Dormammu forces Magik into a dramatic situation as Team Cyclops gets surrounded in Limbo.

Afraid and unsure, the new members of the team begin to falter until the Stepford Cuckoos send mental support, brainwashing the team with over-confidence. Meanwhile, Agent Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D. seeks out a candidate to find out what Scott Summers is really up to.

It’s a cut and dry issue with a surprise appearance by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s newest agent, Dazzler, and the issue rolls with three story arcs — the first of which chronicles the birth of a new mutant whose ability to push and pull a car either stems from psychic or mechanical-manipulation powers.

Maybe both.

Readers get to see Cyclops go full blast. And apparently, Magneto fills one of his pouches with nails ready to be aimed and fired like bullets from a chaingun.  The X-Men are clearly out of their element as they fight in another world, and the ability to manipulate teammates by removing fear from their minds makes the Stepford Cuckoos a powerful addition to the team.

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Brian Michael Bendis’ scripts are solid and steady. Frazer Irving remains artist since the last issue, and his moody and atmospheric panels benefit from the one-two-three punch he delivers by taking over pencils, colors, and inks — his medium is electronic, but the entire effort remains his.

It’s not the best issue — it’s a bit mid-sentence as story arcs progress — and the Dazzler reveal doesn’t have that punch. Bendis could have chosen a mutant with hunting skills, a vendetta against Cyclops, or a trusted confidante whose turning could add tension because of past history or relations. Hopefully Bendis’ choice in Dazzler proves itself to be a good one.

Uncanny X-Men #6 is a bridge between issues. It introduces one new mutant who figures to be a game-changer and another mutant who returns to the fold under a new banner. There’s build up and reveals, and the creative team keeps it interesting with dramatic visuals and character development that sees the team building and growing in strength. Uncanny X-Men is Marvel’s flagship mutant book, and the events taking place within these pages should have the biggest effect. What we’re seeing is an X-Men team being forged in fire — literally — and Bendis is dangling war on the horizon.

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Uncanny X-Men #6 (2013)
Marvel
Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Frazer Irving
Letters: Joe Caramagna

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