This storyline is intense. Brian Michael Bendis’s Uncanny X-men run has mostly focused on Cyclops and his followers building a team of new young mutants, trying to get their own powers under control and dealing with their fugitive status. Meanwhile, SHIELD is hunting for them while struggling to deal with the mutant problem in a peaceful way. Dazzler was hired by SHIED to help these efforts, but then Mystique kidnapped and replaced her. To make matters worse, a mysterious figure in a green mask has been using SHIELD resources to build special sentinels in an effort to shut the X-men down. All of these storylines combined in issue 20, and the major battle ends in today’s entry.
The battle takes place at the Jean Grey School, with a hacked helicarrier raining fire down on the school lawn and launching sentinels. The X-Men struggle to hold everyone back while the helicarrier personnel struggle in vain to regain control. SHIELD’s nuclear weapons are armed. This is a battle issue, yet Bendis still finds room for a couple character moments. Dazzler’s line about finding music is brilliantly hardcore, while Cyclops and Beast have the first civil conversation they’ve had in a while.
Chris Bachalo is on art duty, and while he’s certainly a talented artist, I’m not really a fan. Sometimes his colouring blends together, making it hard to visually follow action scenes. This issue is more colourful than most of his work, but it’s still difficult to see what’s going on in some of the smaller panels. There’s a mostly greyish panel where Mystique (disguised as Dazzler) is walking away from the fight, and you have to look carefully to find her when she’s drawn the same colour as the grey buildings. When Cyclops and Beast find the shadow figure and break his face mask, the exposed eyes and forehead do little to identify the culprit. Only the text manages to explain who he is. That said, there’s a lot of detail in the backgrounds and he draws facial expressions well. If you’re a fan of Bachalo’s art, you’ll like it here.
This is the kind of payoff slow-building is meant for, making this comic a great read. While some may not be a fan of Bendis’s writing or his slow building style, he obviously cares about the X-Men universe. His characterization is spot-on in this issue, and the reveal of the mysterious villain makes perfect sense. If you’re an X-Men fan who hasn’t given Bendis’s Uncanny X-Men a chance, you really should. That said, it’s probably best to read it from the start.