Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013
by Paul in x-axis
They’re doing odd things with the collections of Brian Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men. The first collection, titled “Revolution”, covers issues #1-5. Volume 2, “Lost in Limbo”, covers #6-11. But this doesn’t match up with the story arcs – the Limbo arc actually appears in issues #5-7, so it’s been split between the books. And issues #8-11 are just kind of lumped in with volume 2.
In fact, they’re not really an arc at all; they’re just issues of an ongoing series, a storytelling structure we don’t see that often. Calling issues #10-11 an arc is a bit arbitrary, in fact, but since the “Battle of the Atom” crossover starts next month, it’s as good a place to stop as any. And they’re both drawn by Fraser Irving.
So. Issue #10 is largely a talk issue, with everyone comparing notes at HQ, and Magneto being given “Dazzler” (who was replaced by Mystique in issue #9) as his new handler from SHIELD. Then the X-Men spontaneously decide to attend a pro-mutant rally and instantly get attacked by a robot calling itself the “Blockbuster Sentinel.” Issue #11, unusually for Bendis, is basically a fight issue, as Scott’s slightly dodgy X-Men team take on the latest killer robot as best they can, while everyone (including SHIELD) ask themselves the obvious question: how did the robot show up so quickly when the X-Men only teleported in on a whim?
So in the grand scheme of things, it’s set-up for a future villain. All told, though, this is a pretty solid two-parter. Action issues have never been Bendis’ strongest suit, but this one does the job of giving the various characters the opportunity to showcase their schtick, while setting up both a mystery about the villain and furthering the idea that everyone still thinks Magneto might be betraying them.
It’s Irving’s art that sticks in the mind most from these issues, though. His swirling colours and hazy images are a drastic break from typical superhero style. So instead of recycling elements of the typical Sentinel design for the umpteenth version, this time we get a weird looking thing with what looks like a staticky hologram instead of a head. It’s a design that probably wouldn’t translate well to the styles of a lot of other artists, but if it’s not intended to be recurring, who cares?
Irving is an interesting choice for this book’s secondary artist. When you’ve got Chris Bachalo as the lead name, there’s an obvious question of what you do on the other issues. There’s nobody out there with a closely similar style, and you want to avoid an impression of imitation or blandness. Irving probably represents the best solution – somebody with such a strong style of his own that he immediately avoids Bachalo’s shadow.
The downside, of course, is that you lose a lot of consistency in the book’s appearance. But with so many X-Men titles out there already, that’s less of an issue. Besides, both artists share an oddness that makes them appropriate for this team. Cyclops’ squad is a wonky shambles with a dubious claim even to use the name, and steering well clear of an artist with a conventional superhero style fits the vibe of the book. And Irving also turns out to be able to handle some of Bachalo’s more unusual designs; a lot of artists have seemed to struggle with the current Cyclops costume, but Irving gets the blankness to work for him.
I’m largely enjoying Uncanny at the moment – there’s a sense of direction here, and a rather better pace than the often sluggish All-New. There’s still work to be done in giving the recruits an opportunity to develop their characters, but Fabio’s getting there and the others at least show some potential. If these issues are filling time before the crossover, they’re doing it pretty well.