This is a bit of an odd storyline when you think about it. It started off with The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier, revealing new details about Xavier and some of his deepest secrets. Meanwhile, it built up an extremely powerful mutant named Matthew Malloy. The last few issues put Xavier’s will on hold while they dealt with this mutant, who destroyed a SHEILD helicarrier with a mere thought and teleported the X-Men on board across the globe at the same time. Whatever Xavier’s last request was on the will, it’ll have to wait until Matthew is dealt with one way or another.
The last issue ended with Cyclops confronting Matthew and trying to recruit him, going directly against Xavier’s wishes. Most of this issue is the two of them talking in a remote location. It’s a great conversation where Cyclops briefly explains how he sees the history of the X-men and how he disagrees with his mentor’s methods of acquiring his dream. Matthew’s mood switches from confusion to fear, losing control of his powers at one point. Even so, it shows how convincing a leader Cyclops is and shows how hardened his experiences have made him. It partially reveals the plans for his revolution, and how unlike Xavier, he’s perfectly ok with people fearing mutants.
Apart from Cyclops’s conversation, this issue offers several scenes that enhance the drama through other characters. The preview pages showed Beast and Storm in a well-written scene detailing Beast’s concerns and how stumped he is. The brief conversation between Maria Hill and her shield agents shows the same sentiment. Frankly, nobody knows what to do about the situation, and they’re all scared to touch it. That is, everyone except Magneto. Sure, one could argue not much happens in this issue since it’s mostly talking and that will turn some people off, but for me the build-up is exciting.
What really makes this story work isn’t just the tension or the good character moments, it’s the complete uncertainty behind everything. This storyline could still go pretty much anywhere from here. Will Matthew join Cyclops? Will Matthew lose control and the X-Men have to take him down or re-install Xavier’s mental blocks? And what does the last page cliffhanger say about Magneto and his future with the X-Men? It’s worth noting that in this comic, Cyclops starts talking like Magneto while Magneto speaks like the old Cyclops.
The art by Kris Anka is very good. I’m not sure why the cover says Chris Bachalo did the art because this is nothing like his style (the solicitation made the same error, but the recap page correctly credits Anka). It’s a simple, smooth look with bright colours to make it appealing to the eye. Despite the simple look, there’s lots of environmental detail, especially at the helicarrier crash site and whenever Matthew uses his powers. The flashback pages provide a neat montage of Cyclops running toward the reader, showing not only a different costume in each panel, but a different team behind him.
Brian Michael Bendis really is writing a bunch of good X-Men material. While Cyclops has always been a hardcore leader, he’s a more fascinating character when you’re not sure if he’s slipping to the dark side or not. When Magneto tells you you’re taking it too far, well … the next issue should be good. Even though Uncanny X-Men 28 is mostly talking, it feels intense. If you’re an X-men fan who hasn’t given Bendis’s run a chance yet, you really should. The slow build won’t be for everyone, but every payoff has been worth it so far.