Matthew Rosenberg has been on quite the role with Uncanny X-Men. Creating a core team with Cyclops and Wolverine at the center has been the best choice Rosenberg has made for this series. There is a strong sense that the X-Men are going in some sort of direction. That direction may not be an easy one for all the characters involved. We saw some of those difficulties recently with how Cyclops was seriously injured during a conflict with Hope Summers. That conflict brought new problems for the X-Men to deal with. What comes next is anyone’s guess now. Let’s find out with Uncanny X-Men #16.
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At the Salem Center in New York Cyclops hands over Samurai, Dragoness, Forearm and Strobe to the authorities. Captain America compliments Cyclops on the X-Men’s work. He then questions if his intel is true about the X-Men keeping Dark Beast, Banshee and Hope Summers as prisoners. Cyclops states that Captain America’s intel is wrong.
Captain America reminds Cyclops there working relationship only works if they trust each other. Cyclops says he handed over the mutants that caused trouble because he trusts Captain America and that trust is not just a one-way street.
Captain America understands that Cyclops no longer sees the United States as his country, something Cyclops confirms. Captain America tells Cyclops that he has always respected him and that he continues to believe in what the X-Men are working towards. He then hands Cyclops over some information.
Once the authorities leave Havok questions Cyclops on keeping things from Captain America to just protect Hope and Dark Beast. Cyclops states that being a leader is about making the tough choices and listening to the opinions of others that they may not agree with. Which is why he states that he listens to Wolverine since they don’t agree compared to Havok who tends to follow his big brother’s lead. Havok understands but wonders why they continue to follow the old path since Xavier’s dream and school are gone.
Elsewhere, at a military camp in Eastern Transia, Juggernaut is spotted by some guards.
At Harry’s Hideaway Cyclops talks about how everyone in the room has grown as leaders during their time as X-Men. He goes on to state that they can’t rebuild the X-Men by doing the same thing anymore. Because of that he announces to the X-Men that he is stepping down as the leader of the X-Men, effective immediately.
Back at the military camp in Eastern Transia, Magneto attacks the camp with a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, that includes Juggernaut, Tod, Avalanche, Pyro and Random.
At Harry’s Hideaway everyone wonders who will be in charge if Cyclops is stepping down. Cyclops says that is for all of them to decide. Mirage leads a vote for there to be no official leader, instead they all decide as a committee what the X-Men do. The majority of the X-Men go with Mirage’s way of thinking.
Magik then asks since there is no leader that they vote on something she had in mind next.
At the military camp in Eastern Transia the X-Men, with Hope and Banshee now in their ranks, show up and send Magneto flying into a wall.
Flashing back to earlier Wolfsbane meets privately with Cyclops and Wolverine. She tells them that her heart isn’t into fighting and wants to try to live a normal life. Wolverine respects Wolfsbane decision and tell her to follow her heart.
Back in the present the X-Men split up to deal with the various Brotherhood of Evil Mutant members. Magik and Karma are able to quickly take down Avalanche. Mirage and Hope, similarly, quickly take down Random.
While Cyclops and Havok hold Magneto back Juggernaut accidently throws Wolverine and Banshee into Magneto. Noticing Magneto’s helmet coming off his head Cyclops quickly orders to Karma target Magneto. Karma does just that and is surprised to find Magneto is actually Joseph (the original Magneto’s clone). With his identity reveals Joseph uses his powers to capture all of the X-Men with the metal around them.
Joseph states that the reason he is doing what he is doing is because humanity no longer fears mutants and it has caused chaos for mutants. He goes on to state he wants to show humanity to fear mutants again to regain their previous position in society.
Cyclops loudly disagrees with Joseph’s way of thinking as all he is doing is starting another war. Karma speaks up on how they must all step up as leaders, show they can make the world better and earn their place in society. Joseph gets pissed by what Karma says.
Juggernaut suddenly attacks Joseph, as he is not happy that he was tricked by a fake Magneto. Juggernaut ends up easily overpowering Joseph. Pyro tries to defend Joseph but Cyclops quickly knocks him out with a punch.
Juggernaut states he wants to be part of the X-Men again because he is done standing in the sidelines not helping mutants.
When Joseph comes to the X-Men tell him he is done. Suddenly something cuts Joseph’s head off his body out of nowhere.
Psylocke suddenly appears, showing herself to be the one that just beheaded Joseph. Psylocke speaks in Japanese. Wolverine identifies this Psylocke as being Kwannon. Psylocke states she killed Joseph because he is a threat to mutants being erased from Earth.
Mirage suddenly starts feeling odd. She reveals to everyone that Wolfsbane is dead. Wolfsbane’s death causes Mirage to collapse from the pain. End of issue.
The Good: Uncanny X-Men #16 is a good example of a comic book that has confidence in its direction. That confidence is able to overcome a major shortcoming that could’ve easily caused this issue to crumble. Matthew Rosenberg has shown that readers should just be along for the ride rather than just questioning what the endgame is.
The greatest strength of Uncanny X-Men #16 Rosenberg never betrays who each character are. Each of the X-Men make decisions that make sense for the people we know them to be. This made all the developments that happen allowed where the X-Men end up come across as a natural progression of the story taking place.
The opening scene between Captain America and Cyclops is a good example of that. There was a clear line of respect from both of them as leaders. There is a clear trust between them. At the same time, because of their respective history they do protect themselves from one another to keep a sense of strength. Specifically for Cyclops his decision to keep the fact that Hope Summers, Banshee and Dark Beast are with the X-Men does create the question where his standing with Captain America will go from here.
This transitioned nicely into Cyclops’ explanation as to why Wolverine has been the X-Men’s second-in-command up to this point. Cyclops reasoning to Havok for his trust in Wolverine’s opinions was sound. Them coming from different perspective is exactly why they balance each other out in a team environment. At the same time, Cyclops was still able to assert his authority by reminding everyone that he was making the final decisions.
All this character work for Cyclops made the fact he stepped down as the X-Men leader even more surprising. The way it was all done hints that Cyclops did this to grow the X-Men’s confidence. It shows that he understands that up to this point the members of the current X-Men are all coming off their lowest points. They needed a reminder of how much they’ve grown to be strong individuals rather than living in their heads.
Giving everyone their own sense of agency in the events that the X-Men are being a part of. Seeing Mirage and Magik in particular step up to have everyone take vote on the X-Men first two moves in the new status quo showed this immediate confidence they gained. It spoke to how much truth there was in Cyclops words that everyone on the X-Men should be confident in being seen as leaders.
The move also made the quick turnaround for Hope Summers and Banshee rejoining the X-Men work within the context of the story Rosenberg is creating. There are still things these characters have to answer for, especially Hope. But with where the X-Men are now having petty conflicts like Hope and the other having a grudge with each other is not needed. It once again highlights how all of the members of this X-Men roster are adults who see the common bigger picture that Cyclops laid out for them in previous issues.
This made how the X-Men were able to effectively fight as a team just days after this shake up work so well. There were very little words that needed to be shared for the X-Men to understand how to properly fight against the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. They all understood each others roles and powers well enough to split of in appropriate pairs.
The effectiveness of their teamwork helped make the back-and-forth the X-Men have once Magneto was revealed to be Joseph even better. Even though they understood were Joseph was coming from none of them were shaken by his words. They all knew Joseph’s way of doing things was wrong and he had to be stopped as soon as possible.
By doing this it made it clear that Joseph and the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants were villains. Rosenberg does not paint them in the anti-hero light at any point. It is refreshing to have the lines clearly drawn as having antagonists like Joseph that are straight up villains is what the X-Men need. They have to overcome this type of opposition to continue to show that that they are trying to make things better in the world, not just for mutants but for everyone.
How Rosenberg positioned Joseph’s stance on mutant matters made Juggernaut turning on him a bigger moment for the character. Juggernaut is someone that has flipped flop a lot between being an X-Men ally and villain. For him to side with the X-Men it needed to come across as something that was reasonable because of all that flip-flopping. Rosenberg does just that as we do believe that Joseph tricking Juggernaut into believing he was Magneto was a big act of betrayal. And because of that it made Juggernaut open his eyes more quickly into siding with the X-Men’s direction for mutants.
Joseph’s death coming out of nowhere was also another good move by Rosenberg. Joseph is a character that is not needed because he just overcomplicates things. It’s sad to say but he just has never escaped being nothing more than Magneto’s clone who is used to fake the real ones occasional disappearances/deaths.
Joseph’s death also helps to bring in the Kwannon version of Psylocke into the fold in a big way. While Betsy’s the name we know Psylocke to have it is actually Kwannon is the version that is the iconic version. And with her actions here Rosenberg establishes how Kwannon is someone that is more like Wolverine in that she is not afraid to what is necessary. This is a big distinction to draw from how we know Betsy to be in the recent iteration of Psylocke before Age of X-Man.
Once again Salvador Larocca delivers high quality artwork throughout Uncanny X-Men #16. He continues to give this series a big event feel. Having a big action sequence between the X-Men and Brotherhood of Evil Mutants gave the chance for Larocca to show how he choreographs big fights with characters using different powers. Everyone, especially on the X-Men side, were able to show of their powers and skill sets in battle appropriately with how Larocca drew them.
The Bad: The ending with Wolfsbane’s death happening off-screen was highly disappointing. Having it happen off-screen hurt the impact of her talk with Cyclops and Wolverine about why she left the X-Men. This did not feel like a real payoff for the big character arc Rosenberg opened for Wolfsbane. Having her go out this way made her look like just a cheap plot device to hammer home how bad things are for the X-Men and mutants as a whole.
Even if this was the endgame for Wolfsbane’s character arc there should have been some character development done in the long-term that showed her giving living a normal life a chance. It would’ve worked well as a back-up story for Uncanny X-Men moving forward to see a different side of the current conflict the mutants find themselves in. But Wolfbane getting the opportunity to grow while giving living a normal life a chance is thrown out the window.
One other questionable thing that happens with Uncanny X-Men #16 is that we never get a clear idea of the consequences of Cyclops losing an eye. There was no difference to how Cyclops fought or acted. The way he was shown in action made it look like he had two working eyes. In the long-term, it’ll be better for Rosenberg to tackle the ramifications of Cyclops now only having one eye.
As much as I liked most of Larocca’s artwork, the way he drew Magik looked odd. It seemed as though he tried to make her look distinct compared to other characters. The problem was that the way her facial features were drawn made her look disconnected from the rest of the look of this character. She almost looked like she was drawn by a completely different artist and just popping in from another universe.
Overall: Uncanny X-Men #16 was a solid issue that properly properly progresses the direction Matthew Rosenberg is taking the series. Rosenberg has a clear vision of where he is taking the X-Men and gives every character a sense of confidence that makes the team stronger. If it wasn’t for a few questionable decisions, Uncanny X-Men #16 would’ve been a much higher rated issue.
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