Comic Book Review: ‘Uncanny X-Men’ #1

Posted Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 01:00 pm GMT -4 by

Following last week’s ‘Wolverine & The X-Men’ #1, this week, we find out how the other half of the X-Men are faring.  As was teased in ‘Uncanny X-Men’ #544, the big baddie in this first story arc is Mister Sinister, reinvented here in a fresh new body and sporting a snappy Victorian wardrobe, which I think actually looks great on him.  Sinister’s plot involves the Dreaming Celestial, a cosmic deity that showed up, planted itself in San Fransisco and stands in silent, unmoving vigil.  No one knows why it’s there… except Sinister.

Meanwhile, Cyclops brings together his ‘Extinction Team,’ consisting of Colossus, Danger, Emma Frost, Hope Summers,  Magik, Magneto, Namor and Storm and lays out his plan for the team going forward, which is basically what it was before, to serve as aggressive super heroes.  This team will be the focus of this title, but there are many other mutants remaining on Utopia, their island sanctuary in San Fransisco Bay.  These characters make cameos, but most of them occupy their own titles.  Even so, Cyclops explains how they will all fit into his master plan.  The elite members of the Extinction Team are the leaders.  Psylocke leads the adjective-free X-Men as the Security and Recon Team.  The X-Club serves as the Science Team.  The Street Team, led by Dazzler patrols San Frasisco thwarting crimes and training the younger mutants.  The New Mutants act as the Clean-Up Detail.  There’s also Generation Hope and the younger Recruits who are still in training.

Then the action begins!  The Dreaming Celestial’s energy signature spikes through the roof.  The Extinction Team investigates and learns that Sinister has taken control, which he demonstrates by hurling its massive energies against them.  Colossus is forced to employ the demonic energies of The Juggernaut, which also causes him to become evil.  This team represents some of the most powerful mutants in the entire world, but even their might isn’t enough to keep one member from being seriously injured.  The X-Men put up a good fight, but by the end Sinister’s full plan is revealed.

This was more straightforward than ‘Wolverine & the X-Men,’ which spent the entire issue building up to the action.  ‘Uncanny X-Men’ was half set up, half action, so there was more balance there.  The first two pages establish their home in San Fransisco.  The one drawback with this issue is it felt just like the last time the X-Men relaunched and first moved there.  Cyclops’ stance– to be proactive and serve as straight-ahead super heroes, saving the world repeatedly in order to force humans to accept them and respect their powers– is the exact same plan he laid-out last time.  So in that regard, while this is a fine jumping on point for new readers, it was a bit repetitious to long-time readers.  I’ve pointed this problem out in the past, that too often, X-Men writers feel the need to retell the same stories and use the same villains over and over.

About that though, Mister Sinister, while an existing rogue, is nicely reinvented here.  I like his new look, which is more subtle than his old armor and tattered cape.  With his chalk-white skin and wide-brim hat, he bears a vague resemblance to V from ‘V For Vendetta.’  He’s handled quite well here!  Everyone is, actually.  Emma gets to make her quips.  Storm is at her most strong and opinionated, pointing out that so many on this team have villainous pasts as well as verbally sparring with Magneto.  Magneto is strong and determined as well.  Cyclops has for several years, come across as unlikeable to me.  That continues here.  I mean that in a good way, though, as he seems to  want to be unlikeable, so well handled!  In fact, his grudge against the Avengers is hilarious!  He steals the Avenger’s tagline and calls the Extinction Team “The Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” and later when Abigale Brand says she will call in the Avengers, his response is so superior and smug it was a hoot!  All in all, great spot on characterizations.  But my favorite is Colossus, such a gentle giant in the past, who now struggles with the demonic powers of The Juggernaut.

Carlos Pacheco has never drawn an ugly comic in his life and continues to evolve and excel here.  This work is more detailed and realistic than most of his past work, which was more stylized.  The new style does lose a bit of the dynamic energy of his past work, but the detailing and realism make up for that!  There are a lot of splash pages and large panels, which normally means there’s less story, but I didn’t feel that way about this issue.  I think he uses them well, to emphasize the more important scenes, while relying on smaller panels for the quieter moments.

To sum up, while the story doesn’t break any new ground, the characterization is spot-on and the threat intriguing enough.  And beautiful artwork that can tell the story without words.  Definitely a great jumping on point for anyone looking to get into the X-Men!

Verdict: Buy

UNCANNY X-MEN #1
Written by Keiron Gillen
Pencils by Carlos Pacheco
Cover by Pacheco, Cam Smith and Frank D’Armata