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.
After getting a new mentor, Kamala Khan teams up with a new sidekick.
Last issue, Wolverine brought Medusa news of Kamala’s existence, prompting the queen of the Inhumans to send Lockjaw to keep an eye on her. While New Jersey reacts to a giant alien bulldog with appropriate fear, Kamala immediately adopts Lockjaw and persuades her parents to let her keep him.
And with her personal war against The Inventor escalating, Lockjaw couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s hard enough for a non-superpowered teen to sneak out at night, and Kamala needs a way to escape the limits of space and time if she’s going to moonlight as a superhero while obeying her parents wishes — or create the semblance that she is.
Khan gets a lead after using a previously kidnapped teen’s social media to discover a frequently visited spot. After suiting up, Kamala and Lockjaw storm the abandoned power plant and take on a giant mech. Kamala headbutts the robot into submission, revealing its power source — another missing teen that’s crossed paths with Kamala before.
The familiar teen faints but not before he demands Kamala stop from unhooking him from the robot. Khan drops him off at the hospital and huffs it to school with a stowaway in her bag. Another one of the Inventor’s mechs comes crashing into the school, and Khan receives a wound that, without her powers, would have killed her.
The issue ends with a tense standoff between the powerless Kamala and a hulking mech ready to throw down.
On first glance, we see Adrian Alphona’s returned. There’s something about Alphona’s rendition of Kamala that gives her life. The expressions and reactions as Lockjaw comes bounding into New Jersey are wonderful, and Kamala looks about as happy to see Lockjaw as I am to once again review Alphona’s visuals.
One of Alphona’s strengths that I haven’t touched on in previous reviews is his ability to fill out his panels with details we might overlook. Take, for example, the screws on the various robots along with the swiveling joints. While we don’t need to know exactly how the Inventor’s robots work, the extra details, mechanics, and technological innards of his creations build up the character because we see a bit of the method to his madness. Alphona takes none of these things for granted, and it adds a meaty layer to a very deep title.
Ian Herring on colors also gets a boost because of the various textures Alphona uses. Fencing, rubble, fur, and skin — the colors pop with appropriate contrasts and subtle shades. It’s great work.
Writer G. Willow Wilson’s pacing on the issue is snappy, and we go from scene to scene without missing a beat. I really enjoyed how Bruno has become a sort of Oracle to Kamala’s Ms. Marvel, and Wilson’s inclusion of Lockjaw into the mix doesn’t result in automatic winning. During the junkyard brawl, it’s Kamala that pulls off the victory after Lockjaw gets smashed.
Issue after issue, Ms. Marvel continues to rock, and I’m glad Wilson didn’t end the first story-arc with a simple meet and beat. Ms. Marvel needs an arch-villain, and instead of giving her training wheels with a familiar B-level villain who gets dispatched and tossed away, we get a measured conflict that’s appropriate. This isn’t so much about world domination as it is a localized and immediate threat, and the title’s better for it because of the more personal approach.
That the last act mirrors some of the newsbreaking stories involving crimes on campus makes this issue a pertinent one that proves Wilson isn’t writing with kid gloves on. Again, I’m looking forward to the next issue — make mine, Ms. Marvel.
The plot thickens in Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW — S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltrates a former X-Man’s house for interrogation, Mystique and Sabertooth are up to something, an advanced Sentinel attacks, and Cyclops declares war!
If you feel a strong sense of deja vu, you’re not alone. Bringing back plot points that have been on the backburner for months, Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW — more like a revisiting than a retread — reminds us what we’ve been waiting for.
Cyclops’ Uncanny X-Men squad is the alpha team — the team with the heaviest hitters which is one significant member down since Magneto decided to go off in search of himself. Still, there’s been plenty of growth from even the youngbloods, and Cyclops looks more formidable than ever as a man on fire.
So while new readers jump on for Uncanny X-Men and get acclimated — after Cyclops’ team deals with the Sentinel threat, we’re reminded once again how people feel about mutants — steady readers won’t get much new this issue except for more teasing on what happened to Eva Bell in Uncanny X-Men #17 when she disappeared then returned a bit older.
Emma Frost knows enough about Bell to warrant a “You have to tell him” after Cyclops compliments Eva. There’s a suggestion of romance here, and it’s either a one-sided thing, or perhaps Bell saw something in her time displacement that’s so important, Scott Summers has to know.
As far as scripting goes, Brian Michael Bendis gets a good back and forth between S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill and Bond. Hill is written exceptionally well — she’s manipulative to a point, but she’s still well-meaning, if a bit threatening. As condescending as she gets with Bond this issue, it’s apparent she’s willing to do what it takes to save the world without crossing the line into supervillain territory.
The curtain on what happened to Dazzler is raised, and we see something a bit startling here as Mystique reveals where she gets her Mutant Growth Hormone. The visuals are played up with Mystique storing the illegally obtained substance in a Louis Vuitton bag which shows how far she’ll go to get what she wants.
Chris Bachalo’s pencils are fantastic this issue, though not without flaw. In one panel showing Eva, Emma, and two of the Stepford Cuckoos — all the women have the same face with only their hair and uniforms to differentiate them. Not that it looks bad — Bachalo’s attention to detail and backgrounds helps create some very dynamic panels with devastating spells and destructive explosions opening it up for how epic these battles can be.
And if I can say one thing about the costumes — Goldballs’ retro look is at the same time hilarious and a hot mess. I’m not sure if he’s a parody of something else — maybe on DC as a whole — but he’s basically the team’s de facto comic relief now.
Everything else about this issue is pretty pitch perfect — the inkers’ squad has another member this issue bringing the count to five. Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olazaba all contribute on bringing those penciled sketches to bear with clean lines, dramatic shadows, and darkly dark backgrounds.
In terms of color, Bachalo handled 100% of the work before, but this time we get a few pages by Jose Villarrubia that are reminiscent of Frazer Irving’s filtered green textures. Seeing Villarrubia’s colors — if just for a page or two — on Bachalo’s work makes me wonder what kind of tone an issue would take if someone else was brought in for color. I’m still not totally keen on Bachalo’s choice of hues, but to each their own.
And while I’m not the best at judging at a letterer’s work — Joe Caramagna should be commended for his work this issue. Explosions, laser blasts, and power beams get their own personalities, and it makes the battle sequences feel very epic.
The previous issues with their character sketches were a good detour, but it’s time for the Uncanny X-Men to get back on track. While new readers joining the rest of us will benefit the most this issue, it’s a good reminder for the pull-list subscribers of the particular threads left untied and loose. For some, it’s an “about time” moment when the story they’ve waited patiently (or not) for is finally getting its round.
And while the training is never over — at least from Cyclops’ perspective — it’s time for these kids to use what they’ve practiced. The threat is there, whether it’s S.H.I.E.L.D., the mysterious Sentinel builder, or both, and these X-Men have proven themselves to be more than apt for the task.
Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW (2013)
Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olazaba
Colors: Chris Bachalo and Jose Villarrubia
Letters: Joe Caramagna
The X-Men scramble to ward off a potential resurrection of Arkea Prime only to discover their worst fears coming true.
The new Sisterhood is already one step ahead with the meteorite that carried Arkea to Earth now in their possession.
Escalation is the issue’s theme with Sabra and Gabriel Shepherd joining the X-Men, Jubilee and Karima Shapandar using their espionage skills to lock onto Ana Cortes’ position, and Rachel Grey interrogating her former boyfriend John Sublime.
Sublime feels Arkea come back online, and the effects are devastating. After possessing Reiko, Arkea gives power to Cortes, Typhoid Mary, and the Enchantress who has been freed from Odin’s imprisonment.
About 20 years ago, Professor X decided to split the X-Men into two teams — gold and blue — as a tactical countermeasure against the various threats they would likely face.
Of course, it wasn’t Professor X’s plan as much as it was Marvel’s — Professor X is a fictional character, and Marvel knew it had a cash cow on its hands.
X-Men #1 went on to becomme the highest selling comic book of all time, and Cyclops’ blue team, stacked with popular heavy hitters like Wolverine, Gambit, and Psylocke, took on their most popular foe — Magneto, ruler of the space-bound mutant safe haven Asteroid M.