[Comic Review] The House That Charles Built — Uncanny X-Men #25

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As revered as Charles Xavier is, he isn’t above reproach.

And he has made his share of mistakes.

The creator of the X-Men and its main mouthpiece until he lost his life at the end of AvX, Xavier has proven himself to be quite human. His history has been spotted with errors big and small — his attraction to an underage Jean Grey, the imprisonment of a sentient Danger Room, and now this issue’s revelation concerning a mutant we’ve seen glimpses of these past few issues.

(We can get into the retconning, but the original motivation for the scripts can’t be changed.)

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Thanks to Shi’ar technology, Xavier gives his X-Men one last mission after plenty of backstory.

During the X-Men’s earliest years, Charles perfected his Cerebro technology. Combining his telepathic powers with futuristic technology, Xavier was able to scan the world for mutants who were in need of help — or in need of putting down.

One such mutant who unfortunately fell on both sides of the spectrum, a little boy named Matthew Malloy, exhibited such tremendous powers that Xavier decided there was only one recourse — telepathically lobotomize the child.

For years, Xavier personally saw to it that the boy would be taken care of while also making sure the child never came into his own as a mutant. Xavier never told anyone else, though he detailed all of this in his last will and testament as a measure to put Malloy in the X-Men’s care in the event Charles was unable to keep the young man in check.

Extra-sized, Uncanny X-Men #25 somehow still feels sparse and unsatisfying. Scenes cut to the reactions of the remaining X-Men who can barely stand to be in the same room as each other, though it’s not exactly clear what the real beef is anymore.

Bobby Drake hasn’t been his usual wise-cracking self these past few issues and has harbored some sort of anger against former teammate Scott Summers. It’s strange because he himself posits Scott wasn’t conscious during Xavier’s murder, which sort of flies in the face of what he says a few pages before when Summers gets upset, and Drake suggests he kill Professor Xavier again.

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The back and forth has become stale, and it seems the X-Men of the Jean Grey School are stuck in a mode of pain and blame that makes them look overtly hostile and hypocritical to boot. I can accept the fact Hank McCoy may never get on the same page as Scott, and that’s fine — there’s a lot of history there that goes beyond what happened during AvX. But when Ororo Monroe follows Scott outside the mansion and asks, “Sort of wishing you hadn’t killed him now?” it seems incredibly petulant given the circumstances.

As for actual developments — and these are the best moments of the issues — we finally get a look at Alison Blair’s Dazzler 2.0 which is a much darker version of the character now wearing her trauma on her sleeve. She’s got a vendetta now against Xavier’s widow Mystique, and she quickly dismisses Hank’s request to rejoin the team. Kitty Pryde also meets with Kurt Wagner in a touching moment that’s powerful in the silence of the panels. The two haven’t seen each other in a considerable amount of time, and they don’t waste time filling the void with words.

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On art, Chris Bachalo returns along with his cadre of inkers. I’ve enjoyed Bachalo’s work for a majority of his run, but I have to say I wasn’t into it this issue. There’s a lack of empathy and scale, especially during Malloy’s origin story which, while showing how powerful he is, doesn’t have the intended impact. It’s one thing for Xavier to talk about a controversial decision — but the art and words fail to keep it interesting.

The inks by Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, and Al Vey are phenomenal as usual, filling in the panels with tremendous details. Bachalo’s colors are a bit more varied than usual, and there’s separation between the outdoorsy flashbacks and the present taking place in interior spaces.

The issue ends with Malloy hovering over an icy landscape, manipulating the land. The last will and testament of Xavier revealed the true plot, but there’s still plenty of questions. Just as the X-Men wonder about Xavier’s affiliation and marriage to Mystique, readers are left grasping for any clues as to what that’s about. There’s also the matter of handing out Charles’ estate.

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For all of the truths we learn, the shadows — the questions left unanswered — seem the most compelling, and I hope the ship is righted in subsequent issues as it moves forward because even the banter between the X-Men, allies and enemies, that was a highlight of issues past doesn’t have as much weight. Things aren’t evolving — factions seem entrenched in historical emotions and stagnating idealogical perspectives. Losing Professor Xavier was huge, but the current lack of understanding coming from a group of superheroes who’ve banded together because the world doesn’t misunderstands them — it just doesn’t jive as well as it used to now that things have progressed past the breaking points. I’d rather the wounds continue to deteriorate or begin to heal.

Probably the most curious thing — and perhaps the most indicative — is the issue’s cover — a collage of scenes and faces in red and black and white with the word revolution at the top. It looks unfinished, and anyone unfamiliar with the X-Men would be hard pressed to figure out what it all means — even those well-versed in X-Men lore would be stretching to piece it all together. It’s trying to say something, but it relies too heavily on what we already know. It lacks synergy or that punch that gets us roiled inside. The X-Men as a team is filled with characters suited for telling stories with contrasts and conflicts, but like the cover, this issue felt bland.


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Uncanny X-Men #25 (2013)
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Marvel
Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, and Al Vey
Colors: Chris Bachalo
Letters: Joe Caramagna

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