With this issue “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier” finally comes to an end. I don’t think anyone is denying that this story lasted way too long. Even the cover is ready to be done with it, clearly displaying the beginning of next story that Bendis thought would be beginning this month. Nevertheless, the question is how did this story wrap up, especially after the last arc of Uncanny X-Men came to a rushed and awkward end.
Well, we knew something was up when Bendis flat-out murdered Scott, Ilyana, and Emma last month. Clearly this was headed down the dangerous road of time travel, but we didn’t know how substantive the arc would feel when all was said and done. Looking back on it, there was no excuse for how long this arc dragged out given what it amounted to in the long run.
Bendis continues to carefully build the story of Matthew Malloy, shows us, in great detail, how his tale will play out, but it really doesn’t amount to very much of anything. The resolution is extremely rushed, effectively playing out on one page. Not only that, the way it’s all resolved not only undercuts the entirety of the arc but invalidates the opening sequence of this issue, leaving it feeling a little empty. There are some stories that can really make this strategy work for them, the Gargoyles episode “Future Tense” comes to mind, however there wasn’t nearly enough that fans could get excited about in the possible future nor was it anywhere near concise enough to pull it off. At times it almost feels like Bendis had turned in a number of pages and suddenly realized that he was halfway into the first issue of his next arc and had to wrap it up.
I’m still not thrilled with Bendis’ handling of Storm and the apparent choice to abandon one of the only lingering plot points from this arc reeks of either rushed planning or an awkward attempt to build hype early on. Frankly, “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier” is still a bit of a mess.
If the review up to this point were all you had to go on, you’d probably think Bendis was not a particularly good writer, but that’s not at all true. Frustrating as it is to see poor work from strong writers, it is clear what Bendis’ end game for this story was and, somehow, despite all the problems in this issue he does bring it in for a landing.
It may have been too little too late, but Bendis clearly foresaw the risks of utilizing time travel in this way and planned to minimize its weaknesses. The last five pages are actually excellent. As ever, whenever Bendis decides that Cyclops is finally deserving of blame, that’s the moment when I think he’s being too harsh on him, but nonetheless, Eva and the New Xavier faculty are written brilliantly and the way the issue ends is surely an exciting shakeup for the series.
Chris Bachalo’s lines are crisp and legible without losing his distinct flair. In fact, there are a lot of Bachalo’s favorite techniques crammed, rather naturally, into this one issue. Use of negative space, ‘dutch panels’, time-lapse grids, high contrast shots, and more. There’s a particular sharpness in Bachalo’s lines that comes through, if not equally then consistantly, despite the veritable army of inkers. It’s a quality that meshes especially well with Professor X, Bachalo’s closeups, and Bachalo’s close-ups of Professor X.
Speaking of the inkers, I’m very impressed with the fluidity with which the transition from one to the other takes place. Admittedly you’ll notice the differences between them if you’re looking, but even if you are it’s quite difficult to pin down where one ends and the other begins. It’s especially lucky as much of this issue is dependent on facial expressions. Bachalo’s clear linework allows the characters’ emotions come through and the result is an issue with impressive vitality in its small moments.
With an assist from Antonio Fabela, Bachalo also provides particularly striking color to the book. I might not have expected such use of light blues and glowing oranges in an issue like this but it works surprising well.
As a conclusion to “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier” Uncanny X-Men #31 is deeply unsatisfying and the issue itself can’t escape those flaws. That said, there are some excellent character beats and the art is lovely. Visually this issue is a treat and Bendis provides, arguably, his best depiction of Scott Summers and a powerful conclusion that will get you excited for what’s next even after the troubles of this arc.