By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Chris Bachalo (pencils & colors), Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza & Al Vey (inks), and Joe Caramagna (letters)
The Story: An inside man approaches Maria Hill with an offer to help take down Scott Summers.
The Review: One of the concerns I had about this book going in was the way it would differentiate itself from All-New X-Men. Yes, I realize it wouldn’t feature the time traveling teens, but Cyclops and his gang have appeared quite a bit in that book such that having them star in this one seemed to be some serious overlap. Thankfully, Bendis quickly dispels this concern. It’s not so much that Cyclops team are front and center, which they are, but rather that the tone of the book has been subtly altered. While part of it may be due to Bachalo’s artwork, with its muddy colors and its lack of distinct, clean lines (as opposed to Immonen and Marquez on All-New), the big reason for this is the subtle change in tone. The book feels more shadowy, more “underground,” and a touch more edgy. The humour isn’t there and the soap opera of All-New is shifted into something that’s a little closer to twisty, spy-thriller dramatics. All-New is the above-ground, flagship story. Uncanny is what happens beneath and on the revolutionary fringes that Cyclops and his team currently occupy.
Bendis uses a framing structure this month to great effect, with a traitor trying to ally himself with Maria Hill. This puts a great deal of tension on the book and really enhances that conspiratorial flavour I just mentioned. You’re left guessing throughout who it is; left with nothing but the repeated image of a bald head, I honestly started to think it was a somehow revived/cloned/time traveling Charles Xavier. Well, either that or Grant Morrison. While the last page reveal of this character’s identity isn’t quite THAT dramatic, it’s still a pretty nice twist and one that makes a lot of sense. It also does a lot to hammer home the point of what a mess Cyclops is that this character would be one to take such a comparative moral high ground.
I also enjoyed Bendis’ use of the new mutants he introduced in All-New, making them a real part of the team and working towards fleshing them out as fully realized characters. It’s also rather cool to see Scott so firmly in the role of teacher, with these new recruits even calling him “Professor.”
If there’s one knock on the book, it’s that, while nicely illustrated, there’s a battle between Cyclops’ team and a random group of sentinels that goes on a little overlong, given that it’s a battle against what are essentially faceless goons with no stakes and little actual danger. The whole point of the battle was really just to get to its last panel, which again emphasizes the problems Scott is having with his powers. No reason to drag it out. I’ll also admit that Magik’s voice is completely off, with Bendis essentially settling for “derivative Bendis female character.” These, however, are ultimately minor quimbles in comparison to the book’s positives.
Bachalo’s art is very good here. I’ve often had mixed feelings about his work, but even with the frenetic sentinel throwdown, this is a more restrained Bachalo, with coherent and less densely packed lay-outs. It also helps that he’s not doing his own inking here, as Tim Towsend and company do a good job of cleaning up his work.
Conclusion: A shadowy and edgy tone instantly distinguish Uncanny and set the stakes for the book. This was definitely a strong effort and yet another sign that Bendis has truly come out of Marvel NOW a revitalized writer.