Finally, after a long wait, Uncanny X-Men is back! Cyclops is charging forward with no reservations and his new vision for Marvel’s mutants is the focus of Uncanny X-Men #1. Does this debut offer something new or is it the same story all over again?
UNCANNY X-MEN #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Pencils: Carlos Pacheco
Inks: Cam Smith
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover: Pacheco, Smith, D’Armata
Assistant Editor: Sebastian Girner
Editor: Nick Lowe
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Previously, in Uncanny X-Men: Wolverine and Cyclops’ squabbling over the future of the mutant race has caused a Schism. So while Logan’s taken his toys and teammates back to Westchester to redo the old School for Higher Learning bit, Scott’s approach to mutant rights is a little more forceful.
XAVIER’S DREAM, IT AIN’T
Uncanny X-Men #1 features Scott organizing his heavy hitters into something he calls the Extinction Team. It is a deliberately controversial name, taken a step further when Cyclops explicitly compares Utopia to a nuclear weapon-armed North Korea. His vision for the future requires a more martial stance from the X-Men, transforming students into recruits and putting Utopia on war footing. Cyclops is in a rather grim mood, as his wont these days (but at least he’s started shaving). Logan’s departure in no way causes Scott to question his contentious, somewhat segregationist beliefs; rather, Cyclops is pushing his agenda even harder. The first half of the issue sets up the new direction for the Scott Summers-siding elements of the X-Universe, while the second focuses on a new threat involving Mr. Sinister doing something malevolent with the Dreaming Celestial in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The Extinction Team engages and fisticuffs ensue.
Uncanny X-Men is focused on a team that might be hard to love. The character mix is a little unbalanced, with a proliferation of arrogant jerk characters (Magneto, Emma Frost, Namor and arguably Danger and Cyclops himself), a demonically-influenced sibling duo (Ilyana and Colossus, although I do like the new Juggernaut angle) and only two relative nice guys (Hope and Storm). Gillen has a tough row to hoe with these guys. Early on, Storm points out that the majority of the team has a fair share of super-villainy in their pasts. Kieron Gillen’s plowed a tough row to hoe with this crew; there’s a good amount of drama to be mined from their prickly natures, but it might be hard for readers to relate to these guys. I know I had trouble this issue. Luckily, one thing Gillen does do well is set up an interesting conflict. His take on Sinister plays up the Victorian angle while adding a certain meta flavor, and the issue ends with a wildly out-of-left-field development that worked well. And because I can’t resist, it’s out of context quote time, courtesy of Namor. “To sit in a seat so fine, Namor would take it from any man.” Sure thing, Namor.
PRETTY GOOD PACHECO
Carlo Pacheco’s art is done in the usual stock superhero style we see these days. It is a very crisp and clean – a little too clean, to be honest. His Celestial doesn’t look as otherworldly as the usual depictions, which is unfortunate. I do like the care he takes with drawing the San Francisco landscape. As a San Francisco resident, I was tickled to see the big fight taking place a few blocks from where I actually live, and he got most of the details right. Pacheco’s art is best when he’s got the characters punching and pummeling. While I could do with some more flair during the quieter moments, Pacheco knows how to draw a crackling fight and the second half of the issue comes alive under his pencils and Cam Smith’s inks. I hope Marvel sticks with these artists over Greg Land.
IT BOILS DOWN TO THIS
Uncanny X-Men #1 presents a daring step forward for Cyclops’s team, but in this issue, I’m more impressed by what Gillen is doing with the villain rather than with the heroes. It will be a real challenge to make this team likeable, and while Gillen definitely knows what he’s tackling with these guys, I still need convincing. As one of the flagship X-books, Uncanny needs to feel big, and on that account, Gillen and Pacheco succeed admirably. This is a bold issue with a strange and interesting threat and a political bent that makes it clear that Schism was a game-changer. This first issue of Uncanny X-Men wasn’t a home run like Wolverine and the X-Men, but it did swing hard enough for a worthy four out of five stars.