Last issue left off with the Avengers ambushing Cyclops’ X-Men team in Australia. Magneto, working as a mole, gave up information on the X-Men’s whereabouts, giving the Avengers the opportunity they’ve been looking for to apprehend the mutant criminals, Scott Summers and Emma Frost.
It was a spontaneous trip for Summers and crew, and what started as a reunion between new recruit Eva Bell and her mother, turns into a tense — but mostly peaceful — showdown between Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Strangest Heroes of Them All.
Both sides state their case with Summers and Frost blaming the Avengers for the Phoenix splitting into five parts and possessing them. The Avengers, on the other hand, want to bring in the man who killed Professor Xavier. Neither side is willing to budge, and it’s pretty clear now that thick lines have been drawn in the sand by the leaders of both factions.
Similar to how previous meetings have gone between the Avengers and Team Cyclops, diplomacy is replaced by force, and the Avengers attack.
Or they try to.
Eva Bell — a flashback shows her talking to her class about her favorite hero, Captain America — creates a time bubble that stops the Avengers in their tracks, giving Cyclops a photo opp and a chance to do some commentary, inviting mutants to join him in the fight for survival, thanking the human supporters, and sending out a threat to anyone who would attack mutants.
The issue shifts when the X-Men return home and Magneto comes clean. Working as a double agent, Magento hopes to discover those behind the new Sentinel program. Whether or not he’s telling the full truth remains to be seen, and the X-Men decide to let the betrayal slide.
It’s a tightly written issue that’s right up there, quality-wise, with Brian Michael Bendis’ other series, All-New X-Men. The back and forth between the Avengers and X-Men members explores the bitter and shared modern history between the two teams and the arguments have weight to them. The past year for Marvel has been filled with controversy, and fans have taken to the online forums to express their disappointment, satisfaction, and apathy for the changes. The X-Men are split, Cyclops and his team are criminal outlaws, and the Uncanny Avengers operates as a superhero squad and public relations experiment.
And speaking of Cyclops, Bendis’ plotting has made him more complex than the character’s ever been. Once considered one-dimensional, Cyclops is now the political-activist revolutionary of the Marvel universe, which isn’t too much of a stretch considering he used to be the leader of a young X-Men team fighting anti-mutant governments. But Cyclops’ has the blood of Professor Xavier on his hands, and readers have fiercely debated whether Cyclops should be held accountable or in high esteem.
It’s a lively debate, and it proves comics can be great discussion starters with mature and thoughtful themes.
Issue #3 ends as Team Cyclops teleports over to the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. Emboldened by his victory over the Avengers, Cyclops enters familiar but unfriendly territory, and it’s a thrilling ending for the issue that opens the door and continues the drama. And while the writing has been highlighted and noted, the art has a lot going for it too.
Chris Bachalo’s pencils are eye-catching and well-composed, but his flat-matte colors could use a little pop. On the facial expression front, Bachalo’s characters are a tight-lipped bunch. Though they may part their lips unconsciously, they hardly ever actively speak. It’s noticeable, and when the text bubbles are removed from the panels, there’s a conveyance of strength that comes from the statuesque poses.
The inks by the quadfecta(?) of Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, Al Vey, and Victor Olazaba are tight and strong. One of the strongest pages — the Avengers, locked in the time bubble — looks great in monochrome, and the inks don’t look like a jar’s been tipped over spilling pen juice all over the page.
The combination of strong writing and amazing art gives Uncanny X-Men #3 a lot of pull, especially for those emotionally invested in Cyclops’ story. As a rogue leader, he’s a force to be reckoned with because of the heavy hitters on his team. He’s also a man on a mission, and as one of the best tacticians in the Marvel Universe, he’s a formidable foe for the universe’s supervillains and superheroes.
With the confrontation with the Avengers over, it’s time for Cyclops to return home and welcome those who would come over to the fold. And while the Avengers didn’t stand a chance of landing the first punch, could the X-Men meet their match against the other X-Men?
Issue #4 comes out next month.
Uncanny X-Men #3 (2013)
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Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Colors: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, Al Vey, and Victor Olazaba
Letters: Joe Caramagna