Uncanny X-Men has been one of the flagship books for Marvel for a long time. It has, unfortunately, had a few reboots over the last few years that – in my opinion – were unnecessary. Sure, Marvel has a knack for – when they bring Bendis on board a title – they pretty much do a reboot to a #1, but even the previous series did it when I think it was completely unnecessary. However, the ongoing story surrounding new student Eva Bell has been very interesting, and this issue brings to an end that storyline as well.
Like I mentioned above, Brian Michael Bendis has been the primary X-scribe over 2 of the books for the last few years. He has brought his 2 titles together (the other being All-New X-Men) and even had it cross over into the other team book that he writes for Marvel (Guardians of the Galaxy). He has a lot of history at Marvel, and until recently had never been able to effectively tackle the X-Men. The last couple of years he has had his chance, and I will admit that I am really digging it. With this title, he has introduced a whole new group of students to the mix. One of those students is Eva Bell. Although many of the students never really got my attention during the course of the series, including Eva, the last few issues of this title have really endeared me towards the character. Eva has the ability to time travel, which has her do something that has been around throughout Bendis’ run on X-titles: encountering someone from the past. In this case, a lesser known character named Charles Xavier. Although the ending of the issue seems rather anti-climactic, it is something that Bendis does well and many other writers seem to forget: you don’t need the big battle, the big explosion, the epic fight scene. Sometimes the smallest thing – and simply interacting with people – can give the ideal ending. Picking those elements to conclude your story vs. a fight scene – and the balls to go that route when everyone is expecting one mother of a fight, including probably your own editors – is what has Bendis stand out from other writers out there. He writes 4-5 books a month, sometimes more when it goes bi-weekly, and although he doesn’t always hit it out of the park, his track record is definitely on the plus side.
Unfortunately, Bendis’ stories are not the only part of the comic. Chris Bachalo was the artist on this series, and I’ve never truly felt that he consistently had the right style of this book. I loved his work on Generation X, and I wanted to see him take on one of Marvel’s legacy horror properties – I think he would KILL IT on something like Werewolf By Night. I am not saying he is a bad artist; this is not the case. However, his style sometimes has a consistent quality. And by consistent, I mean that a number of his artists look the same. Take the aforementioned Eva Bell. Reading through this issue, with the outfit she is wearing and a white stripe in her hair, had I just opened the book I would have thought this was Rogue. The representation of Eva Bell is virtually identical to when Bachalo had drawn Rogue in the past. There are many instances where he gives a unique feel to many characters, but there are just as many where you never know who someone is at first.
My bigger nitpick with this issue may not be Bachalo’s fault but it is artistic in nature. As posted above, you can see the cover of this issue, which has Cyclops fighting Havok, his brother. At the end of the Axis crossover, Havok did not revert back to his original personality – he remained inverted. A battle between him and Cyclops is inevitable, and the cover implied that is what happens in this issue. Havok was nowhere to be found. We did not have a brother-versus-brother scene. We had nothing even remotely relevant to this cover, which set a false expectation for the issue. (Note that when I even referred back to marvel.com to see if this was printed perhaps on the wrong issue, I could not find any confirmation of that… only that even Marvel has mis-credited the cover on their own site to Kris Anka.) I really did love this cover – it reminds me of the simple covers on the Fraction/Aja run on Hawkeye) – I just found it disconcerting that the cover seemed to represent a fight that fans know is coming, but there was no such scene. Bachalo really does do gorgeous covers and is one of my favourite cover artists, as the style is simple and detailed all at the same time. But the misplacement of this scene on this issue really did get to me.
With a few of these inconsistencies, it makes me wonder if Marvel is losing touch on the details needed to support the books, or if their editorial team is too focus on the upcoming Secret Wars series and crossover and details like this are falling through. I really hope that is the case, or maybe the fact that there have been some editorial shifts at Marvel of late so that juggling just means a few things get missed. I can get that. I just hope this is not a sign of what is to come, especially with Bendis leaving the series soon, just around the Secret Wars event in a few months. If there is too much going on in the X-universe, simply cut back on the number of X-Men titles – there are 5 that contain X-Men in the title right now. Let’s get a more cohesive universe back in place.
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Bachalo
Publication Date: April 2015