Uncanny X-Men returns with revolution on its mind.
Uncanny X-Men #1
The flagship X-book has returned, but alas it finds another book in its place. For all intents and purposes All New X-Men is the new king of the X-Franchise and although Uncanny X-Men has the classic name, it is a spin-off born out of the events of All New X-Men. This isn’t a problem however as Brian Michael Bendis displays the same passion for this title’s concept as he does for All New X-Men. However the execution isn’t quite there yet.
It maybe a spin-off, but Bendis also plays to the new reader crowd (as he should). So in this issue one we are given the set-up as Bendis explains away the concept, introduces a few themes and the characters. Bendis keeps the school concept with the introduction of new mutants. This element will hopefully allow these new characters to grow. There is also the focus on the fact that Cyclops, Magneto and Emma Frost are having power problems, which has the potential to create some great tension and Bendis has already started exploiting these three mutants new found weakness. Also the lack of powers means that the three of them will have to rely on teamwork more and Bendis really manages to put that across. These elements give the reader something too look forward to and makes the title an interesting prospect.
This intriguing nature of the book is crystallised by its central idea. An idea that is excellent as the title’s focus is on a group of X-Men who are concerned with revolution rather than reaction. The statement “but not all mutants see peaceful coexistence as a reality” succinctly sets the tone and mission statement for the book on the first page. This revolution angle has heaps of potential that can be explored. It maybe underdeveloped at the moment, but this is just the first issue and Bendis succeeds in delivering this thematic strand through the blurb on the title page and the small description of Cyclops’ popularity in one panel. It is all that is needed and isn’t heavy handed at all, unlike some of the other elements.
That is the biggest problem with the book. The heavy handed exposition makes the issue read more like an information pack than an actual narrative. Of course this is an issue one and therefore set up is necessary, but most of the ideas and narrative strands of the book are over written. This leads to the sense that the actual content is very thin if you look past all the words. Basically Bendis is writing a lot but not saying much, other than presenting his simple concepts that will take the book forward.
Bendis structures his narrative so that he can get away with the information dump. But the problem is that the delivery is uninspired and dull. At the end of the day it is one person explaining to another everything you need to know about the title. It is a lazy narrative device that is made all the more worse due to Bendis’ penchant for over writing.The dialogue suffers as a result. But then the dialogue isn’t really of a high standard either. “Back away from the mutant, guys” “Woo! dizzy!” and numerous other “witty” statements punctuate the book to the detriment of the overall experience.
Another major problem comes from the fact that the cliffhanger is entirely guessable within moments if you use simple deduction. The whole issue hangs on the hope that you haven’t guessed the cliffhanger and once you have the ending lacks any impact at all. Granted the actual idea behind the betrayal will add some tension down the line, but that isn’t the point. In fact that is the constant problem with the issue. It has all these great ideas and potential, but that is all it has due to the problematic execution.
Chris Bachalo is teamed up with Bendis on this and he definitely gives the book a unique visual style. It is a more subdued and clearer affair compared to some of his more recent work. His depiction of the action is excellent especially with the slanted panel layouts. It makes the scene dynamic and stand out from the rest of the book. The character work is inconsistent though with some of cast constantly squinting. Bachalo just doesn’t convey any real characterisation with his pencil work. It doesn’t help that he frames talking scenes in a pedestrian way that leads to them being visually dull. Bachalo succeeds more on the redesigns as some of them look great, especially Cyclops. Magik suffers from her redesign though as it is far too over the top, especially the hilarious anime sword. Also Magneto’s all white get up makes it look like Bachalo forgot to colour him in, which is a shame as it is a great design. These problems do distract from the rest of the visuals, but the art isn’t a right off.
The main problem is that Uncanny X-Men is a preview and nothing more. First issues are suppose to entice of course, but Bendis has done little more than show the potential of this series. The character work and plot in the book is slim. It has action, but nothing really captivating. It all adds up to a first issue that does its job in explaining everything and setting up future events, but has no substance. The art doesn’t quite sell the book as a visual experience and Bendis’ script suffers from his own style. It isn’t the strongest start in terms of storytelling, but as a look at what is to come it at least gets you interested.
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|Lots of potential from the concept and the ideas||Heavy handed exposition, inconsistent art, lack of actual plot and characterisation|