I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Uncanny X-Men. The book has run the gamut from crazy space adventures to more grounded philosophical situations with dashes of action with varying degrees of success. I hoped that with the soft reboot that most of the X-books were getting that we could finally get an Uncanny X-Men title with a clear and succinct vision that was actually compelling (i.e. more like the end of the last volume and less like that mutant flu drivel that plagued the Matt Fraction to Kieron Gillen changeover). In Uncanny X-Men #1, we get an issue full of focus but one that lacks the charm of it’s sister title, Wolverine & the X-Men. I’ve been a Gillen fan for a while but he’s never completely sold me on a concept with the first issue (the Thor in Hell thing is a perfect example) and this issue is no different.
From the outset, Scott’s X-Men seem to be behaving like we expect the X-Men to. They’re patrolling and fighting enemies in the Bay Area. The X-Club is solving science mysteries. S.W.O.R.D. is tracking intergalactic threats. Gillen very quickly gives us a rundown of a rather large cast of characters but the focus is on Scott and his Extinction Team. These are the heavy hitters: Magneto, Storm, Colossus (still possessed by Cytorrak), Hope, Namor, Magik, Danger and Emma Frost. Scott goes on and on about how this is the team that will prove to humans that mutants are a-ok and ultimately, we find that despite the Schism, Scott is working very much in the interest of all mutants, Wolverine included. It’s no different than his stance has always been but now instead of doing the quasi-mutant-terrorist thing, he’s going the full-fledged hero route that might be so extreme that they seem like villains. Confused? I don’t blame you.
I think the problem with this group is that none of them are all that likable right away. But that’s what happens when you get a bunch of former villains together and the cast examines that for a moment. Magneto and Namor are aloof and dickish. Storm, Danger and Emma are boring. Scott’s whole leader schtick is tiring. Gillen made me care about Colossus at the end of Uncanny #543 but without Kitty around, he’s less interesting. Plus, Magik has always been annoying. The beginnings of real tension on this team are there. Magneto and Storm’s exchange is one highlight. But unless Gillen really starts digging into it soon, I’m afraid many readers could lose interest.
That being said, I’ve always felt that Gillen was a slow starter. Although this book is jam packed with action, the compelling nature of the X-Men has always been the soap opera-like drama between the characters. We don’t get a lot of that here. That makes sense. Gillen needs to set-up something for these characters to get dramatic about and Sinister melding with a Celestial is actually a pretty big deal for the Marvel Universe and the X-Men in particular. That’s what sets this book apart from Wolverine & the X-Men. This book is HUGE. Everything is gigantic. The smaller scale character stuff is there but it’s in a scene where magneto is holding together the nervous system of a cosmic deity. It just hasn’t gotten into gear yet. Once it starts really clicking, this book could be great.
On the art side, Carlos Pacheco puts together a satisfactory effort. It’s definitely not his best work but I definitely prefer his art to a few of the other X-artists. Pacheco’s biggest struggle in this issue are the mid-range shots. For some reason, his faces just come out all wonky. Hope, for instance, looks about 80 years old in multiple panels. It’s jarring considering she’s supposed to be a teenager. But the action sequences are excellent. The loss of Emma Frost’s arm, Colossus transformation and the overwhelming magnitude of Magneto’s power are captured with such gravitas that it really drives Gillen’s script home. This threat is very real and very dangerous. Super heroics will only get our X-Men so far.
It’s a slow start but Uncanny has promise. Hopefully, it doesn’t let me down. There’s definitely something there for everyone, an inkling of doubt about Scott’s plan or Namor’s true intentions on this team. But there isn’t enough yet to really latch onto. In the coming issues, we’ll really get to see Gillen flex his muscles and the minutiae of the X-Men’s relationships will collide with the gigantic threats they face with some serious consequences. Just wait. It’ll come.
WRITING: 3 / ART: 3.5 / OVERALL: 3.25