By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Chis Bachalo (pencils/colors), Tim Townsend (inks)
The Story: Magneto and Cyclops have a chat while a pair of young mutants discover that no matter what path they choose to walk, it won’t be an easy one.
The Review: Brian Michael Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men has never quite had the energy that its sister title, All-New X-Men, has… But this month it presses the advantage it does have– its characters. Unlike the other X-Books, Uncanny really has the opportunity to explore the struggle of the new wave of mutants. Bendis put his considerable talent behind two very different ‘coming out’ experiences this month and they positively radiate intelligence, empathy, and respect for his characters. Well, his mutant characters, anyway.
The need for new X-Men stories guarantees that the people of 616 (Marvel’s primary universe) will never fully accept or tolerate mutants. The metaphor of mutants as a minority is a powerful one, but, since Professor X first called his X-Men to him, we’ve seen the Civil Rights Movement, significant strides in the cause of feminism, and possibly even the beginning of same-sex marriage nationwide. In short, you’d think we might have moved on from the possibility of government-funded Sentinels, or at least heard about human advocates for mutant rights a little more often. While there are likely to always be those who cannot find it in their hearts to be tolerant, without a counterpoint, it feels like what we’re encountering are strawmen, and that doesn’t do justice to the book’s human characters, Bendis’ skill as a writer, or those who actually face discrimination.
Bendis also has control over two of the biggest names in mutant history. While the scene between Scott and Magnus isn’t exactly the sort that glues one to their seat, I can’t say that it wasn’t fascinating under Bendis’ pen. Bendis clearly has put a lot of thought into these characters and their unique circumstances only exacerbate the tension between them.
I’m starting to think that Bendis is some kind of Decompression Elemental. The man has absolutely no fear of eschewing traditional comic book plotting for the sake of his story, and a remarkable talent for keeping even the most academic of scenes interesting. Unfortunately, while this makes his work a pleasure to read, it does lead to a two-fold let down once you reach the end. First you realize that very little happened, and then you realize that you’ll have to wait at least another two weeks for more of that wonderful nothing. If this issue felt more connected to an ongoing journey that might feel more tolerable, but as of yet we don’t have much more than a vague mission of “make the world safe for mutants.”
Chris Bachalo is back in this issue and apparently rearing to go. Though some aren’t fans of his distinctive art style, Bachalo provides some lovely pencils this month. In some previous work, like his tenure on Wolverine and the X-Men, Bachalo’s pages have been rough and cluttered, but thankfully that’s not the case here. In fact, in several panels he doesn’t even bother with backgrounds. Understandably, this may not sit well with some readers, but Bachalo is also the colorist on this book and in that role he truly shines.
Each scene in this book is color coded, giving an essential sense of tone. Bachalo’s colors are strangely vibrant in their rusty dullness. It’s clear that the issue benefits greatly from his ability to plan his art with the coloring in mind.
The Conclusion: Uncanny X-Men 8 is another solid installment in the series, especially after getting sidetracked by Dormammu for a couple of issues. Bendis is everything you’ve come to expect and Bachalo balances his artistic desires with the needs of the reader. Still, the somewhat lazy opposition the X-Men encounter only highlights a sense of lack of purpose that’s overtaken the title. Bendis needs to set goals and define expectations before this series will really take off. Otherwise, it’s going to feel like it’s rambling.