• Reviews 

    Review: Uncanny X-Men #539

    By | June 30th, 2011
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    Written by Kieron Gillen
    Illustrated by Ibraim Roberson

    Hope has been kidnapped and there is only one mutant who can track her down: Wolverine! And when Mutankind needs their messiah more than ever, will Logan do what’s necessary to find Hope? Will the source of his animosity for the red-headed savior finally be revealed?

    It’s been quite some time since I’ve reviewed a Gillen comic, but I’m quite excited to. I took a break from reviewing his work because it became hard to think of ways to say, week after week and month after month, “I love this!” I was beginning to feel like a fanboy as opposed to a fan, and that’s no good when it comes to trying to craft a fair and balanced/unbiased look at a comic book.

    However, now we have an intermediate issue between Gillen’s first solo arc and the upcoming Fear Itself tie-in. Now we have a book that lightly connects to Generation Hope and tells a one and done tale of Wolverine and his relationship to the mutant messiah. One and done? That’s my favorite kind of issue to review!

    Take a look after the cut as I return to Kieron’s world with words to be said. As a note, mild spoilers are discussed.

    Over the years I’ve come to love one and dones. What better way for a creator to take some time off and just tell a nice story? One that helps bring characters to life, gives them definition and purpose. A really good one and done will not only tell a smart story from page 1 to page 22, but it’ll also enhance upon something – anything – regarding the character(s) that it stars. That’s the criteria that I generally hold these types of issues to: I want to leave the issue looking at a character or a relationship in a different way than I began. At least, to a degree.

    With Uncanny X-Men #539, we have a piece about the tumultuous relationship between Hope and Logan. Hope, the mutant messiah here to save everyone and whose destiny is waiting to be fulfilled, against Logan who – ostensibly – has a strong distrust/dislike for her for some undefined reason. It’s something that’s been working in the background of the comics for some time (that could, potentially, have something to do with Schism) and one that has begged for explanation. Sure, as fans we can all make assumptions of just why this tension exists; the book even posits through the voice of Idie that perhaps Wolverine is just bitter that Nightcrawler died for her (which had been talked about before by Jason Aaron and Mike Carey). However, Hope ends up getting kidnapped on a day out to relax, and it’s up to Wolverine to save her.

    The issue essentially rests in it’s pay off. The entire story doesn’t entirely make sense until you understand the end and the emotions behind the actions that Gillen is attempting to pass to the reader. After a particularly bloody affair, Wolverine reveals to Hope that he doesn’t hate her, he’s just tired of what has become routine for the existence of the X-Men. Her destiny is teased as related to that of Jean Grey, and Wolverine is sick and tired of watching people that he cares about get hurt and die, sometimes at his own hand as the token X-Men assassin. The twist then comes when Hope reveals that she understands, but she is rather indifferent to it, stating that if he has to kill her that he should just do it quickly and without remorse. In this moment Gillen reveals exactly who he wants Hope to be – yes, she was created by someone else and given a destiny he is now charged with working with, but Hope is not like every other character who hears of her future and wants to grow into it. She is not Luke Skywalker trying to become the greatest Jedi, and she is not Desmond Miles hoping to lead a revolution; she is the daughter of Cable, a soldier, and she simply seeks to do what is best for the greater good against her own benefits. If Wolverine has to kill her, so be it.

    Continued below

    That’s where the issue really becomes special towards the ongoing saga of Hope. We’ve always seen Hope under Gillen’s pen to be a rather dark individual, at least when placed against the other teens of Generation Hope who are all fairly excited to come into their powers and fight alongside the X-Men. Hope is optimistic to an extent but mainly views life as a soldier, which (as Cable’s daughter) makes perfect sense in relation to the two years that Duane Swierczynski wrote her. Gillen isn’t trying to write Hope like we’re used to him writing younger adults, and is instead pushing Hope in a new direction, one that’s more unique and in turn more exciting to read. Hope’s very existence offers up so many questions within the realm of the X-Men that to get an example of her like this, where a green hoodie is about as much as she can get excited about (and even then, not by much), is an amazingly poignant look at the girl who never got to just be a girl. One might originally expect that Gillen would try and make her more suited to her age now that she doesn’t have to be afraid 24/7, but instead he sees her as she should be: an old tired soul in a young person’s body.

    The fact that she ultimately out-grims Wolverine in the end is just the icing on the cake. Here you have James “Logan” Howelett, the man whose life has been a charade and who has the single most convoluted origin story of all of the X-Men who spends the majority of his free time drinking and grumbling, face to face with this young girl who sees life as dark as he does – perhaps even darker. It’s an amazing generational parallel to behold and is incredibly telling to the true purpose behind Generation Hope. Logan has always been a sad and tragic character, but now the one person he is trying to push as far away from him as possible is ultimately just as sad and tragic as he is, albeit for entirely different reasons – which in turn is tragic in and of itself. Logan and Hope are essentially two star crossed souls who can never truly become friends due to the lives that they lead, and while Logan will always be there for Hope (and assumedly vice versa) that’s where the connection ends: abruptly and very, very sad.

    The issue does feel a tad rushed in a few areas outside of the Hope/Logan element, though. The return of the Crimson Commando is an interesting one, but one that happens very quickly. Gillen explains his return easily, but he bounces very fast between a character who you might’ve felt sympathetic towards into a down-right dastardly foe, who is self-centered and deserved of his eventual end. This isn’t the long awaited return that maybe five people have been waiting for, and Commando serves as a tool Gillen uses to unite Logan and Hope and not much greater than that. It’s not inherently a bad thing, though. Wolverine also immediately volunteering (as opposed to getting assigned) to save Hope is a bit unclear in the beginning given his cold demeanor toward her, but the closer you get to the end of the issue the more it makes sense why he would be looking out for her at all. It’s generally a case of the entire piece not entirely making sense until you get to the end, which – as I said – is not inherently a bad thing. It basically begs a second read, and it’s always good when a comic begs you to read it more than once (and thus really get your moneys worth for it).

    Getting Ibraim Roberson on this issue was a pretty fantastic change of pace. For a while Uncanny has just been a revolving book between Land and Dodson (minus the immediate aftermath of Second Coming), and switching it up for a new artist works well with the one-shot nature of the tale. Having Roberson tell this story visually works in a way that having Dodson or Land wouldn’t have, because it allows us to visually take ourself out of the ongoing saga of the X-Men and instead look at the here and now, with a strong focus on the relationship being elaborated on in the story. It also happens to work well simply because Roberson does a fantastic job with the artwork. Roberson gives Hope a very youthful look in contrast to Wolverine’s old and tired design, which plays up the parallel between the characters even more as it thematically matches Gillen’s writing. It also seems that Roberson is drawing in a Tony Moore-esque fashion here, especially with Wolverine and Crimson Commando who both spot a wonderfully square jaw in this issue. And with Jim Charlampidis coloring, you’ll probably wonder why the team isn’t on the book more. At least, I know I am.

    Continued below

    Gillen is a writer who can often get a lot of heart into a short space, and he’s done this before many a time in the Marvel U (see the Sabretooth and Batroc one-shots). Between the two characters here, Gillen is tackling the same inherent personal idea as those comics but in a different and grander setting, and it really works to synchronize his work between his two X-titles. That’s arguably the most important element: given that he is actually writing both titles, if Generation Hope and Uncanny X-Men did not match up well with one another, it’d be reasonable to call the entire endeavor a failure (the books do go hand in hand after all). But it’s not. While there is (assumedly?) no long-form arc in play here for Gillen’s run what with Marvel Architect Jason Aaron’s Schism on the horizon, it’s still nice to have a quiet moment like this before the oncoming storm (especially when that quiet moment just happens to feature some pretty bad ass violence in the mix to spice things up a tad as well).

    Final Verdict: 8.5 – Buy

    Matthew Meylikhov

    Once upon a time, Matthew Meylikhov became the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Multiversity Comics, where he was known for his beard and fondness for cats. Then he became only one of those things. Now, if you listen really carefully at night, you may still hear from whispers on the wind a faint voice saying, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not as bad as everyone says it issss."