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    Pick of the Week: Uncanny X-Men #1

    By | February 14th, 2013
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    Brian Michael Bendis got his groove back by trading in the Avengers for the X-Men. “All-New X-Men” made a terrifically layered book out of a time-travel premise that could easily have come off as gimmicky. Now he relaunches “Uncanny X-Men” by promising to focus on Cyclops’ mutant crusade. By writing stories that feel important and with wonderfully lush Chris Bachalo art, “Uncanny X-Men” #1 earns our ‘Pick of the Week’ – continuing Marvel Comics’ own little mutant revolution.

    Written by Brian Michael Bendis
    Illustrated by Chris Bachalo

    The true flagship book of the X-Men returns. In the wake of the Phoenix, the world has changed and is torn on exactly what Cyclops and his team of X-Men are – visionary revolutionaries or dangerous terrorists? Whatever the truth, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magneto, and Magik are out in the world gathering up new mutants and redefining the name UNCANNY X-MEN.

    “Uncanny” #1 spends its length in a SHIELD interrogation room, as Maria Hill sits down with a man interested in bringing down Scott Summers. He tells the story of a recent happening in San Diego that acts as a microcosm of Scott’s crusade and illustrates the potential for danger in what he and his team are doing. They show up to stop a newly developed mutant adolescent from being arrested for inadvertent use of his new powers. What started as another new mutant pickup attempt turns into your classic shitshow once the sentinels show up.

    The identity of the man telling the story and offering Director Hill his help is the twist that the rest of the series looks to hinge on. But whether you’ve guessed who that man is before the final page reveal or not, Bendis makes sure that it serves the story so it’s satisfying no matter what. The way that Bendis is playing with the “roles” of all the main X-Men players in a post-AvX world is making truly fresh territory out of a bunch of characters that have been doing this dance for 50 years now.

    For instance, Scott is a better “villain” character here than he ever was in “Avengers vs. X-Men”, where his possession by the Phoenix Force felt like a shortcut around characterization. Bendis has made Cyclops a philosophical symbol for the mutant revolution in a very authentic and meaningful way, while at the same time dealing with the de-powering of sorts that he experienced in early issues of “All-New X-Men.” As good as that series is, both sides of the fight stand to gain from splitting that story off into its own series, as there’s definitely enough meat for multiple books. “Uncanny X-Men” proves that the intrigue of the mutant revolution will be just as interesting as a bunch of time-traveling X-Men from the 60’s is.

    Chris Bachalo, as well, contributes to the effectiveness of the post-AvX role reversals through his art. Bachalo’s Cyclops cuts an imposing figure in every panel he’s in. The way his head piece crosses into a sharp X evokes the visage of the classic Magneto look in a way that is obviously no coincidence. There are a bunch of symbolic visual cues like this that are particularly surprising, rewarding and worth discovering for yourself.

    But beyond the terrific symbolism, Bachalo’s art is just flat out as gorgeous as ever. Those familiar with Bachalo will even find a few surprises here, including the fact that this could be the best work of his career. His style is traditionally marked by somewhat exaggerated figure work used to create great expressiveness within the characters. And expressive these characters are, matching Bendis’ typical flair for drama. The SHIELD scenes are dark, intimate and tension-filled. But when the sentinels attack, it feels appropriately grandiose. His typically reliable character work is accompanied by tremendously detailed environments and splash pages that dial up the widescreen action when called for. Bachalo has a way of being very loose with his linework while putting plenty of detail into the panels in a way that you don’t really see from any other artist today. Most importantly, you know this is a Chris Bachalo comic when you see it. It’s a wholly original-looking book that has a timeless quality to it.

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    “All-New X-Men” may have gotten most of the hype, but “Uncanny X-Men” is not to be overlooked as its terrific companion piece. Much like in the earlier days of “New Avengers”, Bendis has a reason to write multiple books about the same corner of the Marvel Universe. Bachalo is clearly invigorated by these characters as well, turning in some really meaningful work that stands among his best. “Uncanny X-Men” is an exciting revival of age-old characters and long-time creators that continue to find new ways to surprise us after all these years.

    Final Verdict: 9.0 – Buy this and buy “All-New X-Men” too.

    Vince Ostrowski

    Dr. Steve Brule once called him "A typical hunk who thinks he knows everything about comics." Twitter: @VJ_Ostrowski