I have been looking forward to Uncanny X-Men #1. Cullen Bunn is a talented writer and this roster looks intriguing. My only concern is that Greg Land is the artist. Well, you can’t get everything in life, right? Two out of three ain’t bad! At any rate, I have not been interested in the X-Men franchise in a long time. This franchise has become a nearly impenetrable and convoluted mess. It makes it hard to even want to bother to descend into the quagmire that is the X-Men’s continuity. But, Bunn and this roster is enough to get me back into the X-Men franchise once again. Let’s hit this review and see if Uncanny X-Men #1 delivers an entertaining read.
Words: Cullen Bunn
Pencils: Greg Land
Inks: Jay Leisten
Colors: Nolan Woodward
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with several HUMMERS from Someday Enterprises escorting several container trucks. One of the Someday Enterprises guards talk about how they are paid to provide this service to their customers. That their customers want their services and that Someday is just trying to help them. So, the guard wonders why “they” keep attacking them and either putting them in morgues or emergency rooms. The other guard responds that it is not his job to wonder why. He is just paid to do a job.
Suddenly, Magneto appears on the scene and lifts the HUMMERS and container trucks off of the ground. Magneto says that Someday Enterprises has drawn his ire. Magneto says that he now claims Someday’s container trucks and their cargo as his. Magneto says that he will let the guards leave with their lives if they do not put up a fight and let Magneto leave with the cargo. Of course, we all know that ain’t happening as the guards open fire on Magneto. Magneto easily deflects the bullets back into the guards.
We then see Sabertooth appear on the scene and smash through the window of one of the HUMMER’s. Sabertooth says that at one point in his life he would have scooped out the guard’s brains. Luckily for the guard, this is the new nicer Sabertooth. Sabertooth then makes a comment that he can smell that the guard has soiled his pants.
We then see Monet appear on the scene. Monet comments how toilet humor is what she expects from someone like Sabertooth. Monet takes out a guard. Sabertooth engages in some banter with Monet. Sabertooth then calls Monet “Frail” which draws Monet’s anger as she warns Sabertooth to never call her “Frail.”
Psylocke then appears on the scene and takes out some guards. Psylocke tells Monet and Sabertooth to get a room and quit their “flirting.” Psylocke says that sending the entire team on this mission was complete overkill. Several guards open fire on Monet. The bullets bounce off her as she annoyingly asks if the guards did not understand that she is bulletproof. Sabertooth takes down a guard and tells him that with this crew that the guards are better off lying down and playing dead.
Magneto states that this could have been done peacefully but that the Someday Enterprises guards were predictable in their eagerness to be crushed. Magneto then says that at least crushing the guards is quite satisfying. Suddenly, Magneto releases control over the container truck and kneels to the ground. Magneto whispers that he pushes himself too hard and that his powers are overtaxed. Magneto says that he can feel death still pulling at him trying to drag him back.
The container truck with the cargo then races off trying to make an escape. Magneto tells Psylocke to stop the truck. Psylocke says “Connection established.” We then see Angel race onto the scene. Psylocke says that she will never get used to it. That Angel’s mind and soul is so vast and labyrinth and empty. That there is nothing left. That Angel is nothing more than a hunter. A predator drone. Angel fires blades from his metal wings and blows up the cab of the container truck.
Angel lands and Psyclocke mentally asks him to give her a twitch or even the slightest indication that he can hear her when she says she is sorry. Angel just blankly stares at Psylocke. Sabertooth comments how Psyclocke is spending too much time trying to get inside of Angel’s head. Sabertooth and Monet start trading barbs. Monet says that she is not trying to start a fight with Sabertooth. At least, not yet. She just can’t help playing with her food.
One of the defeated Someday guards mumbles that they were not hurting anyone. That “they” wanted Someday Enterprises’ help. The guard asks “Who do you think you are?” We then cut back to the entire roster of the Uncanny X-Men standing their striking poses and not saying a word. (That’s how you play it. It is comic bookish and dramatic but not too over-the-top.)
Psylocke says “Take a nap.” and knocks the guard out. Magneto then rips open the container truck and pulls out several stasis tubes. Magneto then unlocks the stasis tubes and opens them. We see mutants wake up and exit their stasis tubes. One mutant asks if it is all over. Magneto says that these mutants are scared of the Terrigen Mists and paid to be placed into suspended animation so they could sleep through the horror that is now going on in the world. Magneto calls these mutants selfish.
We see that one of the mutants is injured since shrapnel from the fight pierced his stasis tube and stuck into his chest. Psylocke says that one of the freed mutants is a healer. The healer tries to slip away but Monet blocks his path. The healer says that he never wanted this. That he never wanted to be a mutant. That he just wanted to dream. Monet is utterly unsympathetic and tells the healer that she never asked to hear his sad little story.
The healer then goes over to the mortally wounded mutant and heals him. The healer then asks Magneto if he will let them go back to sleep until this horror is over. Magneto replies that mutantkind is at a crossroads. That all mutants should be out trying to help. Magneto says that the X-Men have even gone into hiding. Magneto says that so many mutants have died with their eyes wide open. Magneto asks why would he let them dream while the Dream is dying all around them. Magneto tells the mutants to leave here and find help or go help others. Magneto says that if he sees them selling themselves out again because they are afraid then he will view them as enemies of mutantkind and deal with them accordingly. The X-Men then hop into the Blackbird and take off.
We cut to aboard the Blackbird. Psyclocke asks Magneto why he insists on flying when the Blackbird has an autopilot. Magneto replies that it is because he likes to have the illusion that he has control over something. Psylocke questions Magneto’s motives for setting free the mutants from suspended animation. Psyclocke says that it better not be because Magneto is using those freed mutants as some sort of control group to monitor the chances of mutants surviving on their own. Psylocke says that she is here to help her people.
Magneto retorts that Someday Enterprises is capitalizing on desperation. That they are taking the mutants’ money and placing them in suspended animation so they can bypass the current situation and wake up in a better day. But, Someday Enterprises is lying. That Someday Enterprises has ulterior motives. Just like Psylocke. Magneto says that they know why Psylocke is really here. We then cut to Angel in storage in the back of the Blackbird.
Psylocke is silent and then asks to pilot the Blackbird for a bit. Magneto gives Psylocke the controls and says that they all have their illusions. Psyclock then says that it still might have been nice to have a healer on the team and that it would also be nice to give those mutants a safe haven. Magneto replies that more than once he has tricked himself into believing that was possible. But, such a thing is a fantasy. There is no safe haven.
We cut to the recently freed healer. He comes across a homeless camp. A young boy sits next to his dying mother. The healer then heals the mother. Suddenly, the healer is shot in the head. We see the Dark Riders on the scene. The Dark Riders are composed of Gauntlet, an Inhuman, Tusk, an Inhuman, Deadbolt, a mutant, and Spyne, a mutant. The Dark Riders live by the belief of the survival of the fittest and they have served Apocalypse.
Gauntlet says that he did kill the healer out of hate. That he has no problem that the healer was a mutant. Their problem with the mutant was that he was a healer. That healers are an affront to nature. That healers spit in the face of natural selection. That only the strongest are meant to survive. That the mutants had their chance. That the Dark Riders are here to set things right. End of issue.
The Good: Uncanny X-Men #1 was an excellent first issue. This issue should be mandatory reading for comic book writers who are given the task of writing a debut issue of a new title. Cullen Bunn checks all of the boxes of tasks that a writer must accomplish when kicking off a new title. I was so impressed with Bunn’s technical skills with this issue. Uncanny X-Men #1 was a wonderfully constructed issue and technically sound from its foundation on up.
It was the little details that made Uncanny X-Men #1 such an enjoyable read. Bunn knows that taking care of the small technical nuts and bolts of an issue may not be glamorous but they are absolutely vital in delivering a proper start to a new title. Some writers think that getting themselves over with the reader or their trademark dialogue or character work is what sells a debut issue. Bunn knows better and delivers a well constructed time-tested formula for a debut issue. The focus should be on the characters and getting them over with the dialogue and selling the new title to the reader as something that absolutely must add to their pull list.
Bunn quickly introduces the entire roster of the new Uncanny X-Men. He then gives the reader a good feel for each character’s personality and power set. Bunn establishes and fleshes out the setting as well as the tone for the story that we will be getting on this title. . Bun then quickly establishes several sub-plots as well as the main story arc. Bunn also clearly establishes the mission statement for this title and what the reader can expect to get from this title and why it is different then the rest of the team titles already on the market. Bunn also makes sure that Uncanny X-Men #1 is new reader friendly. If you have not read the X-Men in a while then do not worry. Bunn gives you all the information that you need to know in order to enjoy this issue. Like I said, Bunn puts on an absolute clinic on how to craft a debut issue of a new title.
Uncanny X-Men #1 was pleasantly well-balanced. Bunn dials in the perfect mix of action scenes and dialogue heavy scenes. The first 13 pages of the issue focus on action and unveiling the team. The action was entertaining but still managed to serve a purpose. This was not mindless action. Bunn crafted the fight scene in a manner in which to properly introduce each member of their team and to show off their unique power sets. Bunn also used this fight scene to convey to the reader the character’s different personalities. Lastly, Bunny used the fight scene to install several sub-plots into the story. This was an excellent example of how an author can employ a fight scene to pull of character work and plot progression in an entertaining fashion.
I love Bunn’s decision to roll out the jobbers in the form of the Somebody Enterprises guards in order to get this heel roster for the Uncanny X-Men totally over with the reader in a big fashion. Bunn pushes the Uncanny X-Men hard as serious badasses. The fight scene effectively gets the reader to believe that this is a team that nobody in their right mind would ever want to tangle with. Bunn succeeded in conveying to the reader how unique and different this current roster of the Uncanny X-Men is compared to previous versions.
The crowning moment of this massive fight scene is the moment where the beaten guard asks who they are. I geeked out for this moment. I love the double page splash shot with the Uncanny X-Men all striking poses in a classic comic book fashion. This was a time-tested dramatic comic book moment. However, Bunn avoids having this moment seem cheesy or too over-the-top by not having anyone say a word. There is no response at all. There is no witty comeback. There is no “We are the X-MEN!!” Nothing. There is just silence and then the characters move on to the next part of the story. This is also consistent with the personalities of the characters on this roster. This moment was a great example of how less is more.
The final 9 focused more on dialogue heavy scenes furthering the plot lines and fleshing out the setting. I like that Bunn slowed things down a bit and brought more emotion and seriousness to the story that gave it a proper sense of gravitas given the dire situation that mutantkind finds itself to be in post Secret Wars. These 9 pages were powerfully written and quite compelling. Bunn completely pulled me into the story. Bunn got me invested into the story and really caring for the characters and their conflict. That is absolutely vital for a debut issue of a new title. The writer must get the reader invested in the characters and the story in order to get the reader to come back for the next issue or to add the new title to their pull list. Mission accomplished by Bunn.
The pacing of Uncanny X-Men #1 is spot on. The story has a pleasant flow it moves with a clear purpose in mind. There is certainly plenty of quality plot progression in this issue. Overall, the plotting in Uncanny X-Men #1 is fantastic. Bunn installs several smaller sub-plots as well as the main plot line for the opening story arc. I like the subplot involving Psylocke and Angel. I tapped out of the X-Men a long time ago due to the boring and convoluted mess that the entire franchise had become. So, I am not familiar with Angel’s most recent past. However, Bunn gave the reader just enough information concerning Angel so that we were not totally lost or confused about his current incarnation. Bunn also did a smart move by holding back just enough to still create an interesting mystery concerning what is going on with Psylocke and Angel in order to get the reader interested in both characters and excited to see where Bunn takes this storyline.
Bunn also rolls out the sub-plot involving Sabertooth and Monet and their running fued/flirting. I love the combination of Sabertooth and Monet. Both are strong characters and their personalities interact well with each other and provide for some immediate sparks and intriguing chemistry. I am certainly interested to see where Bunn takes this sub-plot. I do not want to see these two characters immediately paired together in a romantic fashion. However, some type of eventual physical relationship without the component of love would be interesting. It would also be consistent with two characters that are highly physical and prone to hot tempers yet are emotionally detached.
The Somebody Enterprises plot line was brilliant. This was an interesting concept of having a service that mutants would hire to place them into suspended animation so they could sleep through the current horror facing mutankind with the Terrigen Mists killing them. This is concept that makes perfect sense given the situation. It plays into the feelings of fear and hopelessness that people would have in this type of situation. I like that these mutants just wanted to “dream” and then be awoken when the horror was done. Bunn handled this story concept adeptly and gave it a nearly poetic feel. This plot line had such a sad and haunting feel to it.
Magneto’s response of attacking the Somebody Enterprises guards and waking up the mutants who had paid to be placed into suspended animation was spot on. This was consistent with Magneto’s background and personality. Magneto has a cold and brutal aspect to his personality that is born from him being in a concentration camp as a young child. Magneto knows more than anyone the feelings of hopelessness and fear. Yet, Magneto has never given up. Not as a child in a concentration camp and not as an adult fighting against the persecution of mutantkind. It makes sense that Magneto would view this mutants with utter disdain and contempt. It makes sense that Magneto would not allow these mutants to sleep peacefully and dream their way through this terrible struggle that mutantkind is currently enduring.
Bunn ended Uncanny X-Men #1 with a solid hook ending by rolling out the Dark Riders. The Dark Riders with their roots in both Mutant and Inhuman history and their belief in the survival of the fittest make them a perfect choice for villains in this current setting where mutants are struggling to survive and the Inhumans are rising to prominence. I am definitely interest to see where Bunn takes this plot line.
Bunn also knows how to quickly get the villains over with the reader in a strong fashion. Having Gauntlet mercilessly kill an innocent and sympathetic character like the healer effectively gets across the cold-blooded nature of the Dark Riders. This immediately gets the readers to get a clear understanding of the personality of the Dark Riders. It also gets the readers to hate the Dark Riders and want to come back for the next issue to see the Uncanny X-Men lay a whipping on the Dark Riders.
The reader gets treated to plenty of good character work in this issue. All of the characters have nicely developed personalities. Bun also spins some strong dialogue. All of the characters have well-defined external voices. The strong character work and quality dialogue combine to deliver some great chemistry between the characters on this roster.
I am absolutely fascinated with this roster. I am equally interested in every single character. That is a rarity for me with team titles. Normally, every roster has a couple of characters that do not interest me in the least bit. That is not the case with the team that Bunn has assembled for this title. I love that the Uncanny X-Men are a mostly heel roster. Magneto and Sabertooth are longtime villains. Monet is naturally heelish. Angel has had a run as a villain in his past. Psylocke was created by a villain, Mojo, and has a personality that is more in line with Wolverine than with the more classic good guy X-Men. What a great collection of characters for a writer to play with!
What is even more impressive is that Bunn eschews the route that manner writers would take when given a roster like this one. Bunn writes them as regular characters and not over-the-top ham-fisted villains like many writers would deliver. No. Bunn treats them as real people. Even villains and jerk heroes view themselves as heroes and good people and have the same hopes, fears, loves and desires as classic good guy heroes. Bunn gets that. Bunn gives us a more nuanced take on these characters than I was expecting. This is important since Bunn must get the reader invested and sympathetic to these characters rather than pitching this as a title where you can see ham-fisted villains or morally ambiguous characters act outrageously over-the-top.
Bunn delivers an excellent Magneto. It is clear that Bunn gets what makes this character tick with the manner in which Magneto deals with the mutants who were clients of Someday Enterprises. Having said that, I could so do without the hackneyed problems with his super powers angle that Bunn has saddled Mangeto with. This does absolutely nothing of interest for Magneto’s character. Having said that, Magneto is exceptionally well written and serves well as the leader of this new team. Bunn really shows off his handling of Magneto’s character with some truly fantastic dialogue from Magneto in the final scene. Having Magneto discuss about how Charles Xavier’s dream that mutants have a safe haven on this planet is dead is a powerful moment. This is where the reader realizes that we are getting something much different from the normal mission statement on an Uncanny X-Men title.
I will admit that I have always been neutral on Psylocke’s character. She has never moved me one way or another. Having said that, Bunn did a nice job with her character and actually got me interested in her role on this team. Psylocke is the closest that we get to a classic good guy X-Men out of all the characters on this roster. Bunn, should be able to use Psylocke as the moral compass for the readers as we proceed forward with this new roster of characters.
I did like the immediate chemistry that Bunn created between Psylocke and Magneto in the scene on the Blackbird at the end of this issue. I love that both Magneto and Psylocke crave the need for the illusion that they are in control of something. It was nice that Bunn was able to show that these two character may initially appear to be totally dissimilar when in fact they are more alike each other than either would be willing to admit.
I dig this “predator drone” version of Angel. To be honest, Warren Worthington has always been a bit of a dud character. And regular Angel just does not have an interesting power set for a character on a modern super hero team title. But, this version of Angel? I dig it. Angel is definitely a badass and I like that he is more of a weapon than a man who is to be deployed in certain situations. I am certainly interested to learn more about Angel as well as why Psylocke is so wracked with guilt when it comes to his character.
I am a huge fan of Sabertooth so I am thrilled that he his on this team. Sabertooth is actually a wise addition for this roster. Sabertooth fills the void that Logan has left now that he is no longer around. Sabertooth is on the team to satisfy readers, like me, who love Logan and have absolutely zero interest in X-23 as Wolverine. Until Logan returns, Sabertooth will satisfy the desire for that type of character.
I am also a massive fan of Monet. I always loved her character over in Peter David’s X-Factor. Bunn nails Monet’s character perfectly. Monet is properly egotistical and bitchy. She’s also sexy. And she is a badass. These are four personality traits that Monet should always exude. I cannot wait to see Monet mix it up with Sabertooth at some point in the future. At any rate, Monet is an agitator and not always the best teammate. Which should make for some interesting moments in the upcoming issues.
The artwork by Greg Land and Jay Leisten was solid. Look, it is Greg Land. And whenever Land is doing the art for a title you know what you are going to get. And I could rehash all of his weaknesses and the annoyances of his tracing but we have all read it about a billion times before. It is what it is. Honestly, Land was fine. The action scenes and the dialogue heavy scenes were solid. This was not as flat and stiff as Land’s artwork has been in the past. It was like he drew more scenes freehand in this issue than he traced. Or he just managed to make his tracing look more organic in this issue.
The Bad: I have no complaints with the writing in this issue.
Land’s tracing was only glaringly obvious with Monet’s facial expressions in several panels. Monet was flashing what is clearly a fashion model’s smile while posing for the camera at several points in this story when it was utterly and completely inappropriate. It was so obvious that Monet’s face was traced that it became distracting. It is small little details like that that can rip the reader out of a story. It happened to me several times in this issue. And that is a shame. Bonn’s excellent writing deserved more support from the artist than what Bunn got from Land.
Overall: Uncanny X-Men #1 was a great read. Bunn delivers a well crafted issue that kicks off this new title in a splendid fashion. Yeah, you have to deal with Greg Land’s artwork and all of its annoyances, but Bunn’s writing more than makes up for that. Uncanny X-Men #1 offers up a balanced read that has action, adventure, mystery and great character work. There is a lot in this issue that will appeal to a wide range of readers. If you like comic books that are not ashamed to embrace their super hero roots then you definitely need to buy a copy of Uncanny X-Men #1.