Anghus Houvouras reviews the second issue of Marvel NOW!’s Uncanny X-Men…
When we last left the Uncanny X-Men, Cyclops and his band of rogue mutants were on a recruitment drive to shore up their ranks and relaunch Xavier’s idea of recruiting and training the persecuted members of their own kind. We also learned that Magneto has turned traitor and is working with S.H.I.E.L.D. to expose Cyclops as a fraud.
Issue #2 continues to build on these themes. Cyclops and former romantic interest Emma Frost are dealing with their broken powers. Cyclops can’t control his optic blasts and Frost’s psychic abilities are barely present. These broken heroes try to move forward bringing their new recruits to the Charles Xavier School for Mutants. With a half dozen new recruits in tow, they introduce them to the campus and outline their philosophies. Unfortunately some of them aren’t as gung ho for revolution as Cyclops and the other disenfranchised X-Men.
Like a lot of Marvel NOW! titles, Uncanny X-Men moves at a brisk pace. There’s a lot of introspective character moments crammed into a rapidly moving narrative. Cyclops is still lacking in the leadership department. There’s a little arrogance mixed with a lot of uncertainty. He still believes in his pro-mutant agenda and believes ‘his people’ need to be saved, the eternal martyr on a mission. On top of his recruitment issues, he’s also walking into a trap laid by Magneto and S.H.I.E.L.D. that brings them to a confrontation with the All New Avengers. Things aren’t shaping up so well for the Uncanny X-Men.
Like the first issue, Uncanny X-Men succeeds as an entertaining homage to what made the original X-Men so interesting: A group of likable characters with their backs to the wall forced to try and survive in a world that seems hell bent to try and break them. There’s a great dynamic between the former X-Men. Cyclops and Emma are dealing with a lot of old baggage and a lot of new problems. They are a group of underpowered heroes with targets squarely drawn on their backs. The new recruits are amusing but are competing for panels in a comic with an ever expanding roster. Right now the focus is so heavily on the more known mutants that they haven’t had a real opportunity to define themselves. That’s less of a complaint and more of a concern. It’s only the second issue. I don’t expect every new character to be perfectly etched this early on. Though I will say that Jonathan Hickman has set a high bar with his work on Avengers. Six issues in and I feel like I have a firm grasp on a lot of different characters.
Brian Michael Bendis works well in this corner of the Marvel universe. He’s established a good, playful tone with a book that had the potential to get way too serious. Even with the life and death stakes at play, this still feels like a fun book. Some of it feels almost Whedon-esque in it’s construction. And yes, I consider that a compliment. Uncanny X-Men continues to be an intriguing title with a lot of potential.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the graphic novel EXE: Executable File, is available from Lulu.com.