Anghus Houvouras reviews the latest issue of Marvel NOW!’s Uncanny X-Men…
“How is Magik the only one of the Phoenix Five to come out of the experience unscathed? And there is something strange going on with one of the other members of the Uncanny X-Men.“
At the heart of the two core X-Men titles is a battle of wills over the interpretation of Charles Xavier’s vision for the mutant race (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days). There are those who believe Xavier’s idea that mutants can co-exist with mankind and should make every effort to assimilate and walk side by side with mankind. And there are a scant few who believe that peaceful coexistence must be tempered with training for the eventual persecution they will face. That whether they like it or not, eventually they will have to defend their existence to an uncaring world afraid of their potential. Scott Summers has seen Xavier’s dream develop from the beginning. His hard line stance that humanity is going to push back on the recent surge in mutant activity seems almost antiquated in a Marvel Universe where mutants are popping up on Avengers rosters and being heralded by Captain America as part of the solution.
As I read Uncanny X-Men #4, I started to see the holes appearing in Cyclops’ argument. He and his associates including Magneto and Emma Frost have boldly walked up to the front door of their former allies and declared they are looking for students to train. Shockingly, this does not go well. Writer Brian Michael Bendis has been doing a fantastic job with Uncanny and All New X-Men, presenting two very good books with very different perspectives. Both teams are flawed in a number of ways and dealing with multiple layers of dysfunction. The ‘good guy’ X-Men headed up by Wolverine, Storm, and Beast are dealing with time travelling versions of the original X-Men who are having a difficult time realizing the dream they have been fighting for not only doesn’t come true but eventually destroys and distorts them beyond recognition.
The Uncanny team is dealing with similar realizations. Their powers have been diminished, their friends have turned their backs on them, and their new recruits are starting to wonder if they’ve picked the right side of this conflict. More than ever before, Cyclops comes across like a desperate man who has lost everything and will do anything to try and get it back. Even if it relies on him selling his fellow mutants on a bill of goods about fear and extinction.
It’s funny. The Beast went back in time and got the five original X-Men telling them that he needed their help to avoid mutant genocide. When he brings them to the present he tells them that he’s trying to prevent it from happening. Both the Beast and Cyclops are using mind games to curry favor with their fellow mutants. If nothing else, we are learning the original X-Men are not beyond deception to try and push their personal agenda.
Uncanny X-Men continues to be interesting because it gives us characters with such raw and exposed metaphoric wounds. Cyclops is trying to build something again. Emma Frost openly admits to her genetically cloned offspring that she needs them to come back because she needs to be a teacher. These are characters who are in a rapid state of deterioration. That makes them capable of almost anything and makes Uncanny X-Men the best book of the current mutant line up of titles. We also get some introductions to the new mutant recruits, and there’s a whopper of a turning point as Cyclops’ pitch to the mutant community brings over an unexpected defector.
Well written, stylishly drawn, and continuing to ramp up the tension, Uncanny X-Men is easily one of the most consistently enjoyable titles in the Marvel NOW! line up.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the graphic novel EXE: Executable File, is available from Lulu.com.