After Days of Future Past effectively rebooted the entire series by rewriting the future, the series comes full circle by bringing back a bunch of familiar superpowers in teenage form — Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel, Nightcrawler, and Storm.
X-Men: Apocalypse trailers begged answers for the questions: Who will join the mutant megalomaniac En Sabah Nur? Who will fight to stop him?
After seeing the movie, I’m prepared to answer those questions with another: Who cares?
X-Men: Apocalypse contains everything terrible about the X-Men movies, turns all of the good into a routine exercise, and spins its way to an anti-climactic finish for the second worst entry in the entire franchise.
Talk about being a shell of its former self — you would think Bryan Singer had hit his stride after releasing back to back critical darlings X-Men: First Class and the aforementioned DoFP.
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.
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.
It seems wherever Cyclops goes, someone’s asking him what happened with Charles Xavier.
It’s a valid question, and it’s an issue Scott Summers has been dealing with internally as he holds on tight to this second chance of his. Though the fans have chanted, Cyclops is right, past events have had a major effect on him, altering him from pure leader to tainted freedom fighter.
Alison Blair, former X-Men in charge of PR for Cyclops’ extinction team, now works for S.H.I.E.L.D., and her first assignment involves taking Fabio Medina into custody for questioning. Blair takes advantage of a fangirl, and uses her powers to subdue the family, freeing herself up so she can bring Medina onto the helicarrier.
Too bad for Maria Hill and her underlings — David Bond’s new affiliation with Cyclops’ X-Men squad has given him time with some of the most powerful mutants on the planet. Bond began to understand his ability to take control over machinery last issue, and he’s been spending time with some of the greatest teachers. It all pays off when Bond takes control of the helicarrier after the X-Men teleport to Fabio’s side.
It’s an issue filled with tactical maneuvering, trick surprises, and changes. Irma, one of the Stepford Cuckoos, has changed her hair style, prompting her sister Celeste to “freak out.” It’s an interesting dynamic because the X-Men books have long tackled issues concerning prejudices, but even the X-Men aren’t immune to tiffs and fighting over expections of “normality.”
By the looks of it, Brian Michael Bendis is having loads of fun drafting the Uncanny X-Men series — the dialogue is witty, the tempo is brisk, and the characters have momentum going forward. The heavy hitters of the team still command presence, but the cast feels fuller now even if the elder teammates have to deal with being broken. It leaves the younger recruits room to grow and show they can handle their own as they fight for the spotlight. Credit Bendis for giving readers a reason to care for the new teammates who don’t feel disposable.
Chris Bachalo’s pencils remain top notch, and each page is filled with fully loaded panels. There’s tension and great composition, and Bendis’ doesn’t make it easy for Bachalo with all of character interaction. There’s been a lot of story in the past few issues, and Bachalo’s artwork isn’t lazy — it’s actually pretty frenetic. Character expressions are Bachalo’s strength, and body language is easy to read.
If there was a major gripe, it’s Bachalo’s penchance for backsides. There are at least four prominent “butt” shots, and each issue seems to have at least one. It can be distracting, and Bachalo could be a candidate for the Hawkeye Initiative Award if there was one.
As for inks — Tim Townsend gets help from three other inkers. Lines look fluid and smooth, and the dark black shades add thick contrast without feeling sloppy or overwhelming.
Bachalo’s colors get a nice boost with some more variance in colors. There’s more blue to this issue, and the palette switching is more attractive compared to the melange of orange Bachalo used last issue.
The Uncanny X-Men series has been strong — more or less — on a month to month basis, and Mystique’s appearance here after a stint in All-New X-Men shows she’s part of a bigger picture. Mystique proves you can’t stop her — you can only hope to contain her — and she’s a threat that’s been deserving of a bigger challenge.
Kudos to the creative team for pushing the pace and creating an issue that puts some of the most powerful mutants on Earth in harm’s way. Bendis could have chosen higher-profile characters, but he’s bringing in solid and dangerous foes capable of making a huge impact on the X-Men universe.
Uncanny X-Men #9 (2013)
Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin, Al Vey, and Jaime Mendoza
Colors: Chris Bachalo
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Dormammu forces Magik into a dramatic situation as Team Cyclops gets surrounded in Limbo.
Afraid and unsure, the new members of the team begin to falter until the Stepford Cuckoos send mental support, brainwashing the team with over-confidence. Meanwhile, Agent Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D. seeks out a candidate to find out what Scott Summers is really up to.
It’s a cut and dry issue with a surprise appearance by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s newest agent, Dazzler, and the issue rolls with three story arcs — the first of which chronicles the birth of a new mutant whose ability to push and pull a car either stems from psychic or mechanical-manipulation powers.
Readers get to see Cyclops go full blast. And apparently, Magneto fills one of his pouches with nails ready to be aimed and fired like bullets from a chaingun. The X-Men are clearly out of their element as they fight in another world, and the ability to manipulate teammates by removing fear from their minds makes the Stepford Cuckoos a powerful addition to the team.
Brian Michael Bendis’ scripts are solid and steady. Frazer Irving remains artist since the last issue, and his moody and atmospheric panels benefit from the one-two-three punch he delivers by taking over pencils, colors, and inks — his medium is electronic, but the entire effort remains his.
It’s not the best issue — it’s a bit mid-sentence as story arcs progress — and the Dazzler reveal doesn’t have that punch. Bendis could have chosen a mutant with hunting skills, a vendetta against Cyclops, or a trusted confidante whose turning could add tension because of past history or relations. Hopefully Bendis’ choice in Dazzler proves itself to be a good one.
Uncanny X-Men #6 is a bridge between issues. It introduces one new mutant who figures to be a game-changer and another mutant who returns to the fold under a new banner. There’s build up and reveals, and the creative team keeps it interesting with dramatic visuals and character development that sees the team building and growing in strength. Uncanny X-Men is Marvel’s flagship mutant book, and the events taking place within these pages should have the biggest effect. What we’re seeing is an X-Men team being forged in fire — literally — and Bendis is dangling war on the horizon.
Uncanny X-Men #6 (2013)
Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Frazer Irving
Letters: Joe Caramagna