This is the only comic I picked up this week, and even then, it was on my “maybe” list. Why? Because I kind of hated Uncanny X-Men 11. Usually I try to re-read every comic I pick up within a couple days of buying them, but I only got around to re-reading Uncanny X-Men 11 last night. If anything, reading it a second time made it worse. So as much as this is primarily a review of today’s Uncanny X-Men 12, I’ll also be talking about 11.
Uncanny X-Men 11 took place sometime after the events of Uncanny X-Men 10, which ended with almost every X-Men character vanishing off the face of the earth. We know they’re not dead – not completely. They’ve just been moved to an alternate reality of X-Man’s creation (combined with Legion’s powers), which is supposed to be X-Man’s version of paradise. Meanwhile, the world has gone full-blown anti-mutant, with X-gene killing vaccinations becoming widespread, and in some places, mandatory. Most surviving X-Men are imprisoned, while the rest are in hiding.
It makes for a repeat of a story arc we’ve already got twice in the last decade – the extinction story arc. The first time, with decimation, it was actually handled well. There were some great stories to come out of it, and it actually felt fresh. Sure, there were some needless death scenes, but even the darkest comics weren’t without a sense of hope. Only a couple years after Decimation ended, the struggle against the terregin mist began, and it ended a mere year later. It was terribly handled in more ways than one, and the more you read of it, the more it felt like it was editorially mandated. Extraordinary X-Men writer Jeff Lemire, usually a really entertaining writer, pretty much confirmed that in an interview.
But this is the darkest version yet. Uncanny X-Men 11 is an utterly joyless and needlessly mean-spirited comic. We’ve seen plenty of in-universe support for the X-Men and other mutants. The X-Men have even enjoyed friendships with government officials at times. As much as I complained about Laura Kinney’s portrayal in Dennis Hopeless’s All-New X-Men run (up there with her worst written dialogue and out of character behaviour), he did a great job showing some of these mutant supporters. It felt optimistic. Yet here, we’re supposed to believe that nobody misses the X-Men. Not to mention that there are two pointless deaths in the issue, one of them is a precog committing suicide in what is probably the most controversial moment in the last few years of X-Men comics. It deserves to be controversial, as it pushes the hopelessness narrative over the top, not to mention writer Matthew Rosenberg’s tasteless comments on twitter over the controversy.
That’s to say nothing of the fact that it’s a double priced comic with three equal length stories that tell the same story from different perspectives. Half of the dialogue from Cyclops’s story is repeated in the other two stories. It’s lazy seeing the same text multiple times in the same issue to an excessive amount. The closest thing this issue got to good was seeing Cyclops and Wolverine fight alongside each other for the first time in years, but what should have been a glorious moment ended up being kind of underwhelming.
Anyway, Uncanny X-Men 12 begins pretty much exactly where 11 ended. It’s not as bad as 11 was, but it’s still far from good. First of all it feels way too short. There’s also yet another death of an X-Men character, as if two in the last issue wasn’t enough. During a mutant rescue scene, we also learn of some of the twisted experiments going on in what is essentially a mutant concentration camp. Some of the treatment is mentioned through dialogue spoken in a public café as if it’s socially acceptable to torture kids. Yeah …
The art by Salvador Larroca is probably the one truly redeeming factor of this comic. It’s really good. The opening scene with Wolverine treating Cyclops’s wounds gives a perfect balance of lighting, shadows and a mix of close-ups and wider shots. Everything is highly detailed, whether it be Wolverine’s facial hair, the wrinkles in Cyclops’s jacket, or all the debris flying around during the main fight scene. Facial expressions also do a great job at conveying character fatigue, Wolverine’s rage and Cyclops’s cold anger. Rachelle Rosenberg’s colouring is also great, making for an overall bright and colourful comic, even with all of its dark environments.
But as much as this comic isn’t as bad as the previous issue, and as much as it’s got fantastic art, it’s still a needlessly dark and depressing comic that does little more than repeat the same X-Men story we’ve been getting almost non-stop since 2005. For a franchise that’s supposed to mirror real world prejudice, it’s going the opposite direction of the general progress society is making. Congratulations Matthew, you’re actually making me miss the passionless Extraordinary X-Men and the dull and pointless X-Men Gold. The first 10 issues of this series certainly had flaws – many flaws, but at least it had some brilliant moments and entertaining beats. As long as this story arc is still going on, I’m done with this series. That makes this the third flagship X-Men title in a row that I’ve dropped, but I cannot support an X-Men comic this pessimistic.
Uncanny X-Men 11 – 1/10
Uncanny X-Men 12 – 3/10