Brian Micheal Bendis counties to tell his labyrinthine time travel story that has long since left logic and interest behind. There are pulled punches, obvious plot developments and sheer nonsense in this issue, and it still seems like Bendis doesn’t have a good handle on these characters. But then there is Chris Bachalo’s art – it remains rich, complex, and inventive. The reason to read this book is the excellent art, not the lacklustre story.
What a long and winding path this story has trodden with X-Men from many timelines all sharing one trait, an inability to act rationally. The majority of characters in this issue act and speak as one with each plot development, there are no unique voices – there is no difference between Beast and Storm for the purposes of this story because Bendis does not write them as nuanced individuals. They all agree Scott is wrong, that he has become a terrorist, that saving Matthew Malloy is too hard or too dangerous. Isn’t this exactly a situation they have faced before, an unstoppable mutant who may destroy us all (think Phoenix), and isn’t Scott’s attempt to talk Malloy down rather than fight him the exact thing that Professor X would have done? “Scott Summers is making his play” says a frankly idiotic Beast – yes Hank, something must be done to stop one mutant from helping another.
Bendis has tried to tell the story of Scott Summers’ descent from Professor X idealist to Magneto terrorist, but he has failed to convince at every turn. It has never really been clear how much blame should be on Scott’s shoulders for the death of Professor X, after all he was under the influence of the Phoenix force, and yet Scott has been abandoned by his friends, Beast has even accused him of attempted genocide. So what is any of this really based on, Scott has repeated his manifesto not to let mutants be hunted by humans several times, but it doesn’t sound much different to the X-Men’s old remit. I still don’t understand whether Cyclops is the hero or the villain of this story, but it seems like Bendis doesn’t know either. This might be intentional on Bendis’ part, but there is nothing to back it up in the book, no heated debate or well framed argument about the rights and wrongs of Scott’s actions – every character just magically agrees that Scott has to be stopped without really exploring why. This is much the same as the repeated convention of ‘broken powers’ that Bendis has played with in this book, he says they are broken, but refuses to explore how or why.
So Scott has become a half-formed mini-Magneto (but one without the passion, rhetoric, or personality), and the remaining X-Men are all standing around talking for literally months (how long have they been stood in that office?), which I guess means there is only one man who can save the day. Eva has travelled back to an unspecified earlier time in X-Men history to recruit a young Professor X. When Beast had his cockamamie idea to bring the original X-Men forward in time it achieved literally nothing except convoluted storytelling and forced drama. And here again Bendis writes a character in a bizarre way – this Professor X is unhelpful and obtuse, even threatening to control Eva’s mind. This is unlike any 616 Professor X I have ever read. Oh wait, no it is just like the unreasonable mutant rights obliterating Charles that Bendis wrote at the start of this story. “This is the other Charles Xavier I’ve heard about” Eva says, but I wonder where she heard about this person. In Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, for example, the professor made some dubious choices but that was because he was taking on responsibility for protecting mutants not shirking it. For some reason Bendis wants all of his characters to be on the grey end of the moral spectrum, but then he writes them on the grey end of the interest spectrum.
Bachalo has long been one of the most inventive and exciting artists working on Marvel’s core books, and he is especially good at drawing X-Men. His panels as Malloy comes back to life and the subsequent angles on his retribution are just great, and boy can Bachalo draw destruction incredibly well. He also colours much of his own work and his technique for flashbacks and close-ups, Ben-Day dotted shades of grey, remain a personal favourite of mine. The Professor at the pool side is suitably relaxed and the panel composition mirrors the subsequent destructive panels; Bachalo is contrasts these environments to great effect. This isn’t a vintage Bachalo book, he isn’t given an opportunity to really cut loose in this issue as it is mostly large talky panels, but his work always has character, detail, and depth.
Scott, Illyana, and Emma are not going to remain dead, Matt Malloy won’t destroy the world, but the Professor will almost certainly complicate the already stretched-thin-time-travel-shenanigans that Bendis seems intent on drowning the X-Men in. There is no character development in this book, and a very slow-moving nonsensical plot. If not for the always dependable Chris Bachalo this book would not be easy reading.
Uncanny X-Men #30 // Writer – Brian Michael Bendis / Art – Chris Bachalo / Colours – Chris Bachalo & Antonio Fabella // Marvel
Notes and Observations –
- The long running X-Men visual of the ‘Magneto Was Right’ t-shirt is wonderfully subverted in a brief moment after Malloy arrives at the school – a shirtless character has ‘Thanos Was Right’ painted on his chest. Glob Herman is there too!
- Maria Hill is necessarily merciless, but I still can’t get on board with her war on Cyclops – it just doesn’t make sense.
- Malloy looks noticeably younger once he resurrects himself. Not sure if that is on purpose.
- I have no idea why Marvel insist on publishing Kris Anka covers on a Bachalo illustrated book and then Bachalo covers on an Anka book.
All art belongs to the copyright holders