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Feb 23

Uncanny X-Men #17 – “You’re in the Middle of Nowhere”

Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

Hanging over Brian Bendis’ X-Men run is the spectre of his Avengers run, in which a bunch of seemingly disparate plot threads ultimately turned out, after several years, not to even gesture vaguely in the direction of coming together.

His X-Men stories have generally done a rather better job of giving the impression that there’s a coherent plan to it all, even if it does often seem like one that could speed up a bit.  But every so often you have to wonder.

The basic plot of this issue sees the trainee X-Men dumped in Tabula Rasa and left to fend for themselves as some sort of vaguely-defined survival test.  Didn’t we just do this story in Wolverine and the X-Men a few months back?  At any rate, it’s an issue of everyone getting chased around rather randomly by monsters.  Large casts and action sequences do not play to Bendis’ strengths in the slightest, and the result is an issue as shapeless as you’d probably expect.  Ultimately there are two main takeaways: something happens to Eva off panel that she won’t talk about, and Hijack is kicked out of the team after he turns out to have a mobile phone on him, which naturally leads SHIELD to trace him as soon as he turns it on.

Chris Bachalo seems to be having some fun drawing crazy monsters and odd plants in the backgrounds, though he undermines a lot of the effect with some very muted colouring that largely relegates the backgrounds to single colours.

At any rate… Hijack’s story arc, thus far, is that he gets a big build up over a couple of issues as a guy with machine-control powers, he joins the team, he kind of hangs around as yet another face in the crowd, and then he does something silly and abruptly gets booted out.  It’s not desperately satisfying, but it could work as the first phase in a longer-term plan.  And to be fair, the suddenness of the ending is played up in the scene itself, so it’s presumably meant to come across as a wonky ending.  All of which would imply that we’re likely to see him again at some point.

And yet, and yet… this sort of pointless shuffling of characters in and out of the cast was one of the more notably clumsy features of Bendis’ Avengers run.  What was the point of adding Daredevil or Storm to that team, for example, only for both characters to vanish almost instantly?  By all appearances, there was no point whatsoever in either case, yet it happened nonetheless.  So do I put it past Bendis to just pointlessly shuffle underdeveloped characters in and out of the cast?  No, I don’t, which rather colours my reaction to this issue.  All logic tells me that this is probably a step in a bigger picture… but Bendis’ track record doesn’t inspire total confidence.

Bring on the comments

  1. Niall says:

    The Cyclops side of the X-Men are getting a raw deal with regard to the number of books they have. There are three groups (staff, new students and Original X-Men) but only two books.

    The new mutants could really benefit from having their own book because it is hard to care about them when they don’t get a whole lot of time on panel. In the meantime, we aren’t really getting a whole lot of time to examine the relationship between Scott and Emma, Magneto and Scott, Magick’s current issues and the nature of Cyclop’s revolution.

    Given that Magneto has his own book where SHIELD functions as his enemies, it is probably fair to conclude that he wasn’t REALLY working with them in Uncanny. A+X seems to have – to some extent – resolved the relationship between Scott’s team and the Avengers. The Cyclops Wolverine tensions seem to have reached a climax in WATX.

  2. Brian says:

    With any OTHER writer, one would assume that he’s stick around the book itself as a subplot (especially given the technological nature of the former Weapon X base being used by the team), but “one bitten, twice shy” with Bendis and all…

    It’s amazing for seemingly editor-proof that man is. Despite his ability to sell books in the Avengers days, everyone seems to agree that he’s better off with as small a cast as possible (even if voice can still be an issue). Even with the two books, shouldn’t the X-office have tried to keep him focused on the main team for Uncanny (especially given the powers issue and the new status quo in social/legal status) rather than try to introduce new characters who wouldn’t have a proper chance to get focus, knowing that the All-New cast would be showing up?

  3. Joseph says:

    All_New has been pretty entertaining, despite the Bendis ticks and some details being off. At least you can squint and enjoy it, but Uncanny has really been suffering. I’m all for introducing a new support cast in the form of the students, but it’s been mishandled. A core group of new students can be a way to explore the tension between the adult cast without some of the old baggage. Or they can be developed as proper characters, which thus far hasn’t been the case. So UXM has floundered a bit trying to split the difference. I don’t think that Goldballs and crew could support their own book when so many other student books have failed, which arguably more interesting characters (Kieron Gillen’s Generation Hope, the various books featuring Anole, Mercury, Dust, etc.)I think these books (beginning with Generation X) have largely failed because editors have refused to give the characters a real chance to develop, instead rushing to kill them off and throw us a new batch who we might dig more. But the effect has been a hesitation in taking new student characters seriously. Not counting all the dead bodies, we’ve still got plenty of viable characters being neglected, so why should we care about Shark girl or Tempus? The writers need to make the case, and I think Jason Aaron has been much better at this than Bendis so far.
    Still, their seems to be a long game planned for Tempus, and considering the move Cyclops made with Goldballs, I’m sure something’s planned for Hijack. Maybe he’ll get picked up by SHIELD? We’ll find out what Dazzler’s been up to?

  4. Mikey says:

    This is a largely frustrating book because I can never get a handle on any of the students. Aaron did a solid job introducing his students; they were visually interesting and had distinct personalities. That’s missing here.

  5. Mikey says:

    Also, I desperately miss the New X-Men crew (Anole, Dust, etc.). I would kill for a book focusing on them.

  6. Mikey says:


    I adore Bachalo, but I cannot distinguish between the Uncanny students. I know one of the Cuckoos dyed her hair black and cut it short, but did another dye hers red? Worst characters ever.

  7. Tdubs says:

    So we think the Eva thing is a plot point? I thought she had been swallowed and pooed out by a monster.

    Didn’t they do a training gone wrong thing to start off the Limbo arc? There are supposed to be so many things going on in this book (broken powers, finding new mutants, mutant revolution, who is building sentinels) and this is like the third down time issue coming out of a crossover.

    So that’s it Magneto just leaves? I guess we will be getting Colosus soon to do nothing and be totally out of character.

  8. I remember when Fraction, during his X-run, did the vaguely sarcastic power description for characters on a regular basis. Bendis could stand to do that, only for characters we could actually benefit from being quickly encapsulated, rather than those who have been in print continuously for decades.

    (I originally typed “contiguously for decades,” which I imagine would start chafing after a few years.)

  9. Jamie says:

    Bendis is a master wheel-spinner.

  10. Dan Coyle says:

    That anyone, at this late date, still believes Bendis gives a damn about any of his WFH projects besides USM is frankly astonishing to me.

  11. Brian says:

    Joseph makes the apt point: at this juncture of introduced-to-be-abandoned new groups, why trust that any of the new characters here should matter? Bendis is offering no trust/investment, while Aaron is at least building upon previous characters while intermeshing new characters with them such that we can expect a few might last out his run in some fashion: there’s no hope that Bandis’s entries will last or his changes to the students will stick.

    With all the run-throughs of young mutants post M-Day, should the X-office take a break and try to consolidate their work, seeing what’s stuck? It seems that the Inhumanity push has arrived JUST in time to confuse/throw off whatever push could be salvaged from the post AvX confusion, so should they focus on building UP the new mutants they’ve developed rather than try to build ON the ever-shifting number they have?

  12. Suzene says:


    I agree with your overall point, but the New X-Men/Academy X book didn’t fail. The last non-event issue of the series sold at 50K+, iirc, and the Messiah Complex issues were closer to 70k. The book was only cancelled because Kyle & Yost preferred to concentrate on UXF. The Young X-Men follow-up did tank hard, but that’s what happens when you relaunch a team with no direction, using few of the popular characters, and introducing a slew of over-powered, undereveloped newbies while retreading the least-popular bits of the previous title.

  13. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    As ever, I’m a bit over a year behind because I get the UK reprints (currently in the final stretch of AvX, which I’m finding less painful than I expected), but Goldballs? There’s actually a mutant called Goldballs?

  14. Omar Karindu says:

    One thing I’ve started to notice about Bendis’s X-books is related to what the review notes: in addition to keeping the cast small, Bendis is keeping the world small. There are really only three parties in the current Bendis stories, these being the SHIELD/Avengers Establishment, the X-Men under Cyclops, and Mystique’s Brotherhood. (And the last of these is in a dubious position as of UXM #16.)

    Other than that, the X-Men’s world seems to have gotten a lot less complex, and none of the villains with grand agendas are of any relevance at present. To some extent, this seems to have been the real goal of Battle of the Atom; it eliminated any need to refer to the Jean Grey School at all and, together with the final issues of WATXM, has put paid to the Schism as a motor of the plot.

    Along with Cyclops’s “revolution” turning out to be little more than “same X-Men recruitment program as always, only now as underground outlaws,” it’s hard to say what’s really at stake. I suppose this makes it an ideal Bendis book, in which characters can talk to one another endlessly without his having to bother with all that overarching plotline and “thematic resonance stuff he;s not terribly good at, beyond the bare minimum theme of “adolescent politics vs. the establishment.”

  15. Omar Karindu says:

    I suppose I forgot the generic anti-mutant forces represented by the Purifiers and whoever’s sending the Sentinels, but they’re honestly not that distinct anymore from the anti-Cyclops Establishment, especially since they don’t seem to be targeting anyone in the Uncanny Avengers or the JGS.

  16. Chaos McKenzie says:

    I can’t help but think that Eva’s missing moments story will tie in with Magik and her time traveling to train with Doctor Strange. But like you said… who knows

  17. Niall says:

    Eva seems to have been gone for some time. She clearly has a more developed relationship with some of the other cast members based on her reactions to re-encountering them. It seems the healer kid either turns heel or his power has some sort of nasty side effect.

  18. Si says:

    I don’t know if it warrants its own title or not, but if ever there was a team that would actually fit the descriptor “New Mutants”, it’s this bunch who are newly mutants after there being no new mutants for ages.

  19. Niall says:

    And aside from that, it would be interesting to see a group of mutants who were not all teens.

    Well, it would have been before Inhumanity . . .

  20. Joseph says:

    @suzene, thanks for that. I followed Kyle & Yost’s run, though I have mixed feelings about it. I enjoyed the preceding New Mutants volume, and felt that the murder spree that followed could only have been redeemed if they’d actually focusing in on a core group of survivors, but instead the book became about endlessly torturing the students.

    Personally I think there needs to be one book, maybe an anthology book, that focuses on small groups of Jean Grey students, Cyclops’ students should be written off, graduated to soldiers whenever Cyclops actually does something, or transferred to Jean Grey and that’s the end of it. I suspect this might happen whenever Bendis actually leaves the book.

  21. Brian says:

    Omar, “adolescent politics vs. the establishment” is a great way of describing Bendis’s work from his “You’re-Daredevil! No-I’m-Not!” no consequence games in the Marvel Knights days onwards, even before his puerile foray of what a teenager imagines political power is via Norman Osborn’s ‘Darn Reign’ (comic storyline titling as scrawled in a fourth-period notebook)…

  22. Nu-D says:

    The Bendis era will go down as one of the worst in X-Men history, rivaling even Chuck Austen.

  23. joseph says:

    I dunno about that, Nu-D. Those Austin stories were really terrible.

  24. Jamie says:

    “The Bendis era will go down as one of the worst in X-Men history, rivaling even Chuck Austen.”

    It’s not any good, but it’s not offensively bad.

  25. Michael says:

    As said up above, Eva was gone for at least a few months – wherever she went. Besides her reactions to the other students, her hair was longer. I didn’t catch it at first, but upon looking at the book again, before her disappearance, her hair was above her shoulders. Upon her reappearance, it was below her shoulders (and stayed that way through the rest of the book, as I was thinking it might have been an artistic mistake) and her costume was in tatters.

    And to add to the new mutants discussion. I’ve grown to like each batch of new mutants over the years. But liking them and caring about them or two different things. with each new group – that they have cycled through quicker the last few years, trying to find one that takes the world by storm I guess, I find myself growing less and less involved with them. The Generation Hope group barely registered on my radar I was so indifferent – why invest, when more than likely, they will be replaced in a year or two’s time by a new group, while the current ones fade into the growing list of background characters populating various panels on the x-books now?

  26. bad johnny got out says:

    still mad about she hulk got laid


  27. Niall says:

    “The Generation Hope group barely registered on my radar I was so indifferent – why invest, when more than likely, they will be replaced in a year or two’s time by a new group, while the current ones fade into the growing list of background characters populating various panels on the x-books now?”

    Generation Hope was actually pretty decent IMO. It had a reason to exist. It had interesting new characters and a reason that the core cast stayed together (other than that they went to a school). They had a reason to go to dangerous situations.

    If there was a problem, it was Hope. She has never been developed properly and is not sympathetic enough to lead a series.

  28. Kreniigh says:

    The New Mutants/Generation Hope pileup of discarded characters is of a kind with the Teen Titans/Young Justice and Young Avengers/Avengers Academy situations… There is simply no room at the top of the generational ladder because the characters up there are NEVER GOING AWAY. It’s like a company that keeps hiring and grooming successors for an upper management that will live forever and never retire.

  29. Jason says:

    Did anyone else pick up the subtle change in Eva’s hair? It got longer after her little “trip”. Also, she hugs Gold balls and the changeling dude, and freaks out at the healer touching her. I’m thinking she went time traveling.

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