Uncanny X-Men #28 Review

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First, a few things — one of which I should have pointed out before, but failed to include.

Inside the cover in the credits, you’ll see something that only recently started happening. At the bottom where the creator credits once only mentioned Stan Lee, a new name has been rightfully added. Though we don’t know the full details of the settlement between the Kirby family and Marvel, one thing we know is that Jack Kirby is finally getting creator credit.

That is awesome on so many levels.

The other thing — Chris Bachalo’s name is on the cover, but the art this issue belongs to Kris Anka.

And third — yes, Hank McCoy, Cyclops is right.

Scott Summers’ tried and not-so-true friend finally gets it, and for once, he doesn’t know what to do. It’s a bittersweet moment that’s filled to the brim with history between two characters, one named after a one-eyed mythological figure and the other whose callsign only described his physical capabilities. More on this later.

Last issue, Cyclops decided it was time to confront Matthew Malloy head-on through diplomacy. Instead of neutering Malloy of his powers or forcing him to stand down by use of force, Summers believes the best course of action revolves around getting Malloy to join the team. It’s a bit like Avengers vs. X-Men with S.H.I.E.L.D. standing in for Earth’s mightiest heroes. Take one very powerful and misunderstood element  and add two opposing forces fighting over how to handle the situation — except this time, Cyclops, ever the staunch mutant advocate, works a more deliberate and experienced angle and requests a private meeting with Malloy away from S.H.I.E.L.D.’s helicarriers.

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For all of the character building and development these past years in which Cyclops has become public enemy mutant #1, it’s comforting to know that Cyclops is in his essence the same leader Professor Xavier raised him to be. His first conversation with Malloy displays his tactfulness as he immediately gets on Malloy’s level to gain trust.

Meanwhile, McCoy’s request for help goes ignored by the world powers. Realizing no one wants to get involved with a mutant threat, the discouraged Beast lashes out, knowing all of his years of service — even as an Avenger — still don’t carry much weight. When Storm tells him what Scott’s plans are, McCoy looks as helpless as ever.

In Wyoming, Cyclops and Malloy meet on Devil’s Mountain, and their exchange is a chess game with Malloy opening up about his fears and past mistakes and Cyclops acting like a military recruiter. Being an X-Men gets you perks — you can travel the world, save humans and mutants alike, and make up for past regrets. Admittedly, Cyclops wants to use Malloy, but it will make the world better. To emphasize his sincerity, Cyclops offers to let Malloy scan his mind, cluing the young mutant in on years of loss, regret, and mistakes along with a hope for a world where mutants and humans can coexist.

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But can mutants and humans live together in harmony? While his priorities have always been about creating that sort of world, Summer’s new plans to achieve it look like an updated version of the Extinction Team playbook. Cyclops has championed Professor X’s dream and its execution for decades (real-time, not comic time) only to see it dashed on the rocks by an ocean of human apathy and hatred towards mutants. It’s said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This issue, Cyclops declares it’s time for something new, and that involves mutants taking their place in the world through more direct means.

With a weapon like Malloy, Cyclops could bring about change while raising the status of his team and his people. But unlike AvX when Cyclops took a wait-and-see approach to the Phoenix arriving on Earth and bristled at the Avengers interference, the current storyline feels more tense because Cyclops’ direction seems to be headed on a more dangerous course with plenty of shock and awe on the menu. It was one thing to hope that the return of the Phoenix — a possible agent of change outside of Summers’ control — would save a mutant population reduced to a few hundred. It’s another to bring the most powerful and unstable mutant under your wing in order to scare the world into loving you. Even if you believe Cyclops was right, can you predict he’ll stay within bounds, knowing that in the X-Men universe, absolute power corrupts absolutely?

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And perhaps that’s the crux of the conflict between Summers and McCoy — the hair that broke the camel’s back. Having seen Jean Grey destroy planets as Dark Phoenix, McCoy could not bear to stand by as the living embodiment of Professor Xavier’s dream opened his arms to the entity’s return. Cyclops’ tunnel vision locked onto the hope upon hope for a messiah conflicted with Beast’s fear of a worst-case scenario, and the two have been at odds ever since. Ironically, McCoy’s decision to tamper with the past by bringing the classic X-Men to the present proved to be just as reckless on paper with ramifications still rippling through both this universe and the Ultimate universe. Both men have followed their hearts and minds to do what they believed was right, but in hindsight, is the world a better place for mutants and humans alike due to those actions?

Though I’m not quite sure whether McCoy’s admission is a victory for Cyclops or a loss for mutantkind as a whole, I’m just glad to see that something’s developing here because Brian Michael Bendis’ latest X-Men issues have lost their sharpness. Stagnation and odd characterizations — Storm and Iceman in particular becoming the mean girls of the X-Men universe — have lost a good deal of momentum, but it looks like things are starting to move forward once again. With McCoy coming to terms with the present situation, Bendis introduces a singularity centered in Beast — an implosion of heavy circumstance, tension, and conflict folding under its own gravity. We’re left to wonder what will happen next — will Beast come grudgingly to Cyclops’ side, or will he search for new justifications while he charts moral ground? Either way, I hope it leads to some great plot points.

And now that McCoy has been stricken with his own doubts, the arena’s clear for another challenger — Magneto. Who better to oppose Cyclops’ plans than a former archrival turned teammate? Bendis is really turning the screws here, and the direction of the story looks like it’s going in the right direction.

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The aforementioned Anka produces some of his best art here with panels that balance storytelling and impact. The anatomy still leaves something to be desired, but the big picture concepts and the scope give the issue a lot of pull. Anka’s sequentials resemble storyboards for a stylistic anime, and there’s a lot of movement on each page that loads the visuals with the necessary urgency. The colors, appropriate for the environment and emotions that are being conveyed, work well, and I have to say this is one of the best Uncanny X-Men issues I’ve read in a while.

Though we still don’t have many clear answers, it’s good to at least know the important questions remain relevant. Malloy could give Summers the redemption he’s sorely wanted, and vice versa. The former X-Men leader with broken powers could stand to gain a military ace-in-the-hole with an Omega-level mutant on his team and the political clout that comes with having that sort of power. And on that front, we see what state the world’s in from McCoy’s eyes, and though some might view his lament as selling-out, the irony becomes incredibly thick if we’re on the verge of seeing Cyclops stumble — and in Magneto’s presence to boot.

The story belongs with Cyclops front and center doing what he does best, shaping the world as he’s been trained to do. My hope is that Cyclops remains right. If he’s going to be spun on his head, at least give him the courtesy of something that makes sense. I began Hyper Geeky as an outlet in part because of the AvX series. Seeing Cyclops turned into a villain in a crossover story that made very little sense to me made me want to scream Cyclops is right all over the forum boards. If Cyclops is wrong is the immediate endgame here, let it be a natural progression that doesn’t just throw his character out the window. My criticisms of the X-Men titles under Bendis’ hand have dealt primarily with that type of grievance — characterizations — marring what I loved about Bendis’ initial plots which emphasized the distance, closeness, and dynamics of the relationships of all the X-Men.

And that’s what makes Uncanny X-Men #28 so great — walls break, mountains crumble, and history repeats itself in cruel ways. In a modern X-Men world, is Cyclops the new Magneto, Beast the new Moira MacTaggert, and Magneto the new Professor Xavier? I still consider Bendis the X-Father because of his ability to set these stories on edge by pushing elements to extremes and bringing history to bear. A conflict between Magneto and Cyclops opens wounds, and the expectations of what’s to come make me excited for the next issue.


Previous Issue: Uncanny X-Men #27 Review
Next Issue: Uncanny X-Men #29 Review

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