Over the years, the X-Men have seen their powers shift, change, and disappear.
For Magneto, the master of magnetism, what began as the power to bend metal to his will turned into the ability to create forcefields, affect gravity around an object, and turn invisible by bending light. As comic writers brought imagination and ingenuity into the X-Men stories, characters grew.
It’s only been 10 issues, but the new recruits in Cyclops’ X-Men squad are learning how deep their powers are, and the results are pretty frightening to the students under Scott Summers’ tutelage.
A sparring match between Eva Bell and Illyana Rasputin gets complicated after Bell makes physical contact with Magik and scores a takedown by freezing her in place. In fear, just as Magik is about to lunge at her, Bell locks Rasputin in a bubble and makes her disappear.
Astonished, Emma Frost and Summers, contemplate seeking advice from Reed Richards, and the tense situation causes Bell to take off running. Bell isn’t the only taking off — Magneto takes the X-Men blackbird out for a spin after he’s contacted by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill.
As the two talk in a park, it’s hard to tell where Magneto’s allegiance lies. It could very well be that he’s manipulating both sides as he carves his own niche, and despite the heart to heart with Summers in issue #8, it’s less clear what his plans are.
Summers isn’t the only who’s questioning what Erik Lensherr’s motivations are — Hill has run out of trust and patience, and she places Alison Blair in charge of communicating with Magneto. Before she leaves, Hill dangles a carrot, and it’s not known how much Magneto’s willing to give up to get the answers he’s seeking.
The issue’s final act takes place in Michigan where the X-Men suddenly appear to bolster a rally. Cyclops takes center stage to call for peace and point out who the real enemies are. He stumbles over some of his words, but he regains his composure to discuss what he believes are threats to both human and mutantkind. Before he can finish his sentence, something threatening comes — a new form of the Sentinel: the Blockbuster Sentinel.
After only two issues, Chris Bachalo is once again away from Uncanny X-Men, and Frazer Irving returns to take his place. Irving’s medium of choice is digital, and the contrast between his art style and Bachalo’s is vastly different. The back and forth at this point is mildly distracting — it’s not immediately clear why Marvel has been playing musical chairs with the art, and Bachalo was a great fit for the series.
And while Frazer’s style for Limbo fit the scenery during Bachalo’s previous departure — now that the story has returned to planet Earth, Irving’s style looks like an ill fit. Faces seem distorted and unattractive — not that everyone should be utterly beautiful, but some of the expressions seem more caricature-like. There are inconsistencies between images of the same character, and Frazer’s abstract visuals in issues past were stronger and more visually appealing.
There’s a lot to appreciate in Irving’s artwork, and there are some really cool panels — the team’s reveal at the protest is a highlight. Irving also draws a great Magneto whose aging face looks less like a withered old man and more like a weathered veteran who’s seen more than his share of battle and tragedy.
Irving handles all aspects art, and when it comes to colors, there’s a flatness that’s a bit too level. Backgrounds are textured, but the layering of detailed characters over basic backgrounds doesn’t add depth so much as it feels like things have been pasted on. It all feels lacking in direction — the contrast between detailed and simple, dimensional and flat, expressive and impressionistic has a push-pull effect that needs to be resolved.
As for the writing, Uncanny X-Men #10 feels like two steps backward and one step forward. The plotting this issue is similar to the first issue which involved Magneto meeting with Maria Hill, the X-Men appearing suddenly in public, and then — Sentinels. Bendis’ writing is still effective and precise, but the issue feels too much like a retread with old ideas. The momentum feels stifled, and the first appearance of the Blockbuster Sentinel lacks real drama and foreshadowing. The design of the Sentinel references old sci-fi movies with its green color and minimalist design, and it hardly looks intimidating, especially compared to Bachalo’s monstrous Sentinels that suddenly appeared out of the ground in issue #1.
Issue #10 isn’t a total loss, and there are some really good moments. It raises expectations for the next issue, and the plot threads may weave into a stronger tapestry over time. We’ve gotten our fill learning about the characters, poring over their powers, and understanding the ramifications of Cyclops’ actions.
It’s time for a real blockbuster.
Uncanny X-Men #10 (2013)
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Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Frazer Irving
Letters: Joe Caramagna