The previous issue of Uncanny X-Men gave us a number of reveals. It turns out that the reason hundreds of Multiple Man’s dupes are running around with super powers is because Legion captured Jamie Madrox and forced the dupes out of him, providing them with his own personalities and powers. No wonder they all talked somewhat incoherently. With Age of X-Man already introduced, this also means that the X-Men are caught in the middle of an epic struggle between two extremely powerful characters, Legion and X-Man. The previous issue ended with X-Man’s “horsemen of salvation” destroying the X-Mansion, declaring the X-Men as warlike problems.
I apologize in advance for the length of this review, because I get a bit ranty when it comes to the way a couple characters are characterized in this issue.
This issue picks up where the last left off, with the X-Men hiding from the Horsemen of Salvation, shielded from both their view and the explosion they caused. Most of the rest of this comic gives us some much needed exposition. It gives us a basic idea of X-Man’s cause, showing that his goals may be noble, but he’s taking them way too far. His power levels are off the charts even by Nate Gray standards, yet he’s clearly not himself. It’s as if he’s possessed by his enhanced powers. The X-kids get some good moments here, especially with Armor standing up to Jean Grey when she feels that they’re not being appreciated, and calling for the other kids to take matters into their own hands, as risky as her plan may be.
There’s also a nice moment where the X-Men save a bunch of people, and they’re genuinely thankful. That’s a nice change from earlier issues where there’s nothing but anti-mutant protests. That shows some hope that this series might not only show mutant hating crowds. If that continues, the complaint that I brought up in Uncanny X-Men 3’s review will be considered null. Oh, and Legion’s scenes in this issue are awesome. He’s delightfully insane in the way he rambles on.
That said, this issue isn’t without its own problems. As well done as X-Man’s scenes are, and as much as the core story is compelling (even if it’s not exactly all that unique of an X-Men story), it’s hard to say this issue is great when several characters are badly out of character. First off, after a brief argument with Armor, Jean Grey is uncharacteristically condescending. She talks down to Armor as if she’s a child, despite how Armor is easily the most experienced member of the select X-kids group in this comic. She’s ready to join the big leagues – she’s been ready for years.
Jean is usually the voice of reason. She’s usually the one who helps calm everyone down. Yes, it’s true that these X-kids are no match for X-Man, but they’re at least ready to help reduce the harm that X-Man’s horsemen are causing. Even if the younger X-Men are to stay at the mansion, Jean should have put it much more gently at the very least. Just look at her role in this week’s X-Men: The Exterminated. She helps console Hope Summers and calm her rage. She helps Hope realize that traveling back in time to save her father’s life won’t work the way she intends it to. She’s able to talk down an emotional teenager from fighting Deadpool out of rage. That’s how you write Jean Grey, not making her talk down to people like Armor (who deserves a lot more respect than she usually gets these days). Pick up X-Men: The Exterminated if you like Jean, Hope or Cable by the way – it’s a brilliantly done comic.
This second point isn’t as significant as the first, but because it involves my favourite X-Men character, it annoys me just as much. I’ll risk a minor spoiler for the sake of context. Two of X-Man’s horsemen attack an oil rig, burning it down and tossing its workers into the water. Then a Megalodon pops out and starts eating them just as the X-Men arrive. Laura’s line is “Was that a Megalodon?! It was, right? It was totally a Megalodon! Do I get to stab it? … Just a little?”
I don’t really have any serious problems with X-23’s characterization in earlier issues. Her conversation with Iceman about using her claws as forks was fun, and I’m ok with Laura developing a slightly morbid sense of humour. It just works for what she’s been through and how far she’s come since. Calling the Mutant Liberation Front “amateurs” after soloing them is just the right level of condescending talk from someone who is a touch arrogant, and has a history of being condescending (unlike Jean Grey). It’s one of her character flaws that she’s still getting over. After cutting her way out of a T-Rex in issue 2, her line, “Is that all you’ve got” is awesome. But in issue 3, she kind of speaks like a typical teenager when she’s anything but a typical teenager. That said, her actions still felt right. But the Megalodon line is wrong on multiple levels. Not only does she not use words like “totally”, but the line makes her sound like a hothead.
Wolverine is a hothead. Captain Marvel can be a hothead. When Bishop is passionate about his goals, he is the very definition of a hothead. Laura is anything but a hothead. She’s cold and calculating. She always prefers to study her opponents before she attacks, searching for weaknesses. And as much as she likes a good fight, she’s also known to seek a peaceful solution. Sure, a giant shark showing up and eating people isn’t worth seeking a peaceful solution for, but Laura is also smart enough that she won’t do much against a giant shark, not to mention her claws will make swimming away difficult. She knows when not to fight. She knows when she’s not useful, and when to sit back and watch those with relevant powers and skills take over.
This one line is the complete opposite of what Laura should be saying, save for the fact that she recognized the shark. After all, she’s smart enough to figure that out first out of everyone on the team, plus she’s got fantastic eyesight. Save for the fact that he’s also too smart and experienced to say such a line, I would say that it’s a lot more appropriate a line for Bishop than for Laura.
I’m not sure which of this series’ writers lead the writing in this issue (Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson and Ed Brisson), but usually with these weekly titles, all of the writers are involved with every issue, but each of them take turns being the lead writer for each issue. Whatever the case, it’s possible that Jean and Laura are the two most popular characters in this comic right now (at the least, they’re the only two who seem to be able to hold a solo series for more than 11 issues lately). It’s not good when you’re getting the two most popular characters wrong in the same issue.
Anyway, character rant over. Pere Perez’s art is great. Every panel is highly detailed, right from the opening page showing the aftermath of the X-mansion being destroyed. The variety of ways that characters’ hair dangles down from their downed bodies sells the aftermath of the explosion quite well. There’s also a great level of debris, including a couple of posts in the ground that are still standing. Facial expression do a great job of conveying emotion, whether it be Psylocke’s despair when Angel didn’t seem to care when he saw all the illusionary bodies on the ground, the crazed look in Legion’s eyes when he’s rambling, and the look in Nate Gray’s eyes when he’s so calm that it’s unsettling. There isn’t much action in this issue, but what is there flows well from panel to panel. Rachelle Rosenberg’s colouring is fantastic for the most part, although several characters have the wrong eye colour.
Overall I like this comic and I think it’s good, but poor characterization in two of this issue’s most popular characters is enough that one can’t honestly call this a great comic. Jean Grey is usually calm and understanding, but here she’s condescending. Laura is usually the smart, tactical thinker, yet here she’s a hothead who talks like a teenager. On the plus side, Nate Grey’s plan is compelling enough that even though this isn’t what you would call an original X-Men plot, it’s well told enough to carry this series for a little while. I’m not sold on this series yet, and I hope the writers can sort out their characterization issues before they start to turn me off. This series is worth paying attention to, but I’d recommend that you read it before you buy it.
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This is the best issue so far, and I’m glad it didn’t bother with any more anti-mutant nonsense, but most of my big concerns are still in place. The huge cast still means there’s more banter than actual character examination. The plot still borrows a lot from other stories. Legion vs. X-Man could be an interesting conflict, but we’ll see.