Uncanny X-men 23 kicked off “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier”, a storyline that Brian Michael Bendis promises will change the course of the entire X-Men franchise. It stipulates that a number of X-men must be present during its reading, from both sides of the Schism. It forces Wolverine’s side and Cyclops’s side to stand in the same room together no matter how much they hate each other.
The meeting is just as awkward as you’d hope, with a lot of dirty looks and resistance from Wolverine’s side. Even Cyclops doesn’t want to be there, and states that he doesn’t want whatever Xavier left him. There’s a lot of snarky dialogue that keeps the issue entertaining, and most of it feels perfectly in character. But alas everyone gathers in the Jean Grey School’s main office for She Hulk to read them Xavier’s will. And that’s when the comic drops a bombshell that I won’t spoil. This issue’s reveal might annoy some, but it has so much storytelling potential. We’ll likely see some of it play out in the next issue.
There’s also a side-story involving a potential mutant with what is quite literally an explosive power. The comic hints that Xavier already knew about this potential mutant but until that’s confirmed, it’s just a neat little distraction. The only real problem with this issue is that She Hulk seems a little dense. Why doesn’t she know what happened at the end of Avengers vs. X-Men? She was involved in a couple of the tie-ins and would surely have heard that Cyclops killed Xavier under the influence of the Phoenix Force. Who in the superhero community wouldn’t know? This is a minor complaint, but still.
The art by Chris Atka is good. It’s a mostly simple design, but one that makes great use of lighting and facial expressions. The opening page shows several characters in the school’s office in the silhouette against the sunlight. Only Iceman’s colours are clear, glistening with the light travelling through his ice. Beast has a consistent cold look that matches his words that he simply wants nothing to do with Cyclops. Wolverine grins when he learns that Cyclops is in the old Weapon X facility. The look of surprise on everyone when the bombshell is dropped is priceless, along with Emma Frost’s burst into laughter afterward.
Even if you’re not a fan of Bendis’s X-Men run, it’s at least important to read this issue. It will clearly have a huge effect on the franchise at large. Even ignoring that, it’s a delightfully awkward situation involving two sides of the X-Men that mostly hate each other. Of course looking back, one does have to acknowledge that if this were told in the 80’s, the whole thing would be done in one annual or a double-sized special.