When Matthew Rosenberg rebooted the Uncanny X-Men with Cyclops and Wolverine taking the lead things started off well. He gave Uncanny X-Men a clear direction around the mutants being at the edge of extinction. There was a belief that maybe, finally, this new X-Men squad could start turning around the fortunes for the remaining mutants in the Marvel Universe. Unfortunately rather than treating this new direction as a way to give the X-Men and fans hope about the mutants future Rosenberg has gone on a completely different direction. Rosenberg’s choices in the last few issues of Uncanny X-Men have been extremely questionable. Can things turn around or will things just continue to get worse for the mutants? Let’s find out with Uncanny X-Men #20.
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Story Rating: 1 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 3.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At a hospital a nurse injects a mutant boy with the anti-mutant vaccine.As soon as the vaccine hits the boy’s system he suddenly starts throwing up blood.
Three days earlier the X-Men track down the Nasty Boys to The Cloisters located in Washington Heights, New York. They are shocked to find the Nasty Boys all dead (add a few more mutants to “Rosenberg’s Mutant Are Dead” death counter).
The Upstarts show up and reveal they are the ones that killed the Nasty Boys. Fitzroy says that since it is the last day of the mutants they figure the best thing to do is hunt down the X-Men. The X-Men and Upstarts immediately start fighting. The X-Men are easily able to defeat the Upstarts. Rather than surrendering Shinobi Shaw, who says he won’t be Emma Frost’s chess piece like everyone else, kills himself (one more for “Rosenberg’s Mutant Are Dead” death counter).
The next day the X-Men meet with Dark Beast in his lab. Dark Beast reveals he has been able to use a vile of the vaccine that Cyclops gave him to create a cure for the vaccine. Havok is shocked that his brother would give Dark Beast the vaccine that he could’ve used against them.
While Havok wants to force Dark Beast out everyone else reminds him that the X-Men don’t do anything without voting. Because Dark Beast has helped the X-Men up to this point everyone decides to keep him with them and to use the cure to the vaccine.
Magik and Banshee then work together to spread the cure across the world since Dark Beast created it to be airborne rather than be done through injection.
In the present, in the garage of the Hellfire Club Wolverine and Psylocke confronts Emma Frost over trying to mess with all of their minds. Wolverine warns Emma that not even Mystique, Marrow and Elixir can protect her now. Emma says he is right and calls out all her Hellfire Club henchmen.
Wolverine and Psylocke fight through all the horde of Hellfire Club henchmen. Psylocke is the first to get through the horde. Mystique defends Emma and transform into Elektra and others to fight off Psylocke. Mystique decides to mess with Psylocke and transforms iconic version of Psylocke.
Meanwhile Wolverine severely injures Marrow. Wolverine tells Elixir he should worry about healing Marrow instead of fighting him.
The ONE soldiers suddenly appear and defend Emma against Wolverine. They end setting Wolverine’s entire body on fire when he charges at them.
Over at Washington Square Park Captain America confronts Cyclops and the other X-Men about the cure against the vaccine that they released. Captain America reveals that in the eighteen hours since the X-Men released their “cure” five mutant children have been placed in a coma.
Mirage tries reminds Captain America of how they have been building trust with him through the meetings he has had with Cyclops the last few weeks and turning over villains to him. Captain America says he has not met with Cyclops since the rally where they had a falling out.
Noticing something is off Cyclops has Magik grab Nemesis, who came there with Captain America, and then teleport all the X-Men away from the area.
At the Hellfire Club the ONE soldiers have captured Wolverine and Mr. Sinister. Callahan tells Emma he is done playing games and that the Hellfire Club is now the property of the ONE. Emma is not happy about this. Callahan reminds her who the person in power in their partnership is.
Over at the X-Men’s lab as the news reports a sixth child has fallen into a coma Cyclops and the others confront Dark Beast about his airborne “cure.” Dark Beast no longer hides the fact that the “cure” will cause mutant children’s organs to work into overdrive and cause them to fall into a coma. Once that happens if the children are injected with the anti-mutant vaccine by they will automatically die. He ends by revealing that this is all thanks to the work Mr. Sinister did to add to the “cure” to make it work like Dark Beast wanted.
Dark Beast smiles and says that he and the X-Men have done great work. He then reveals that a psychic has messed with all of their minds.
Pissed off, Magik uses her powers to take Dark Beast cybernetics apart. She then teleports Dark Beast head through the ceiling, leaving his dead body just hanging from the ceiling (yet another one added to “Rosenberg’s Mutants Are Dead” death counter).
While Havok freaks out on Magik killing Dark Beast, Nemesis says he can fix all the damage Dark Beast has done.
As that happens Emma contacts the X-Men and tells Cyclops that she is giving them their missing memories back. She then asks them to help her. End of issue.
The Good: Matthew Rosenberg’s complete destruction of the X-Men continued with Uncanny X-Men #20. Just like the last few issues, the lack of hope that things will get better does not exist. There is potential in going with that direction. But as has become the norm for Rosenberg’s run that potential is never tapped into and he just heads into a direction that just leads to more disappointment.
The only positive that Uncanny X-Men #20 has is that Salvador Larroca is the artist for this issue. Since coming on as the semi-permanent artist for Uncanny X-Men Larroca has been delivering some of his best work to date. He makes the X-Men come across as an actual team with how he choreographs the fight they get into with the Upstarts. It at least shows that the team has some chemistry in the middle of a big battle.
The Bad: It is painful to see how badly Rosenberg is devolving his entire run on Uncanny X-Men after this new direction under Cyclops and Wolverine had such a promising start. It has become an absolute joke how quickly Rosenberg kills mutant characters off at this point. There is no rime or reason for it. If there is a mutant that appears who has not had a major role on an X-Men series it is guaranteed Rosenberg death touch will infect them and kill them.
That was exactly the case in Uncanny X-Men. The first flashback sequence was a clear example of this. Just as Cyclops spoke the Nasty Boys group’s name the next thing we know they are dead before even getting a single line of dialogue. There was absolutely no reason to do this other than to add to the mutant death counter that Rosenberg continues to increase.
At this point Rosenberg doesn’t even attempt to give anyone that is not Cyclops, Wolverine or Emma Frost a hint of character development. All Rosenberg has done is put out that the message that if you are a mutant you are not a person that the reader should care about. Every single mutant is expendable to Rosenberg and it is a damn shame.
The death of the minor characters that made up the Nasty Boys is a clear example of that. As an obscure group of characters Rosenberg doesn’t even bother to give them names. They were all just nameless mutants that readers didn’t even have to care about why the X-Men would search for.
The Upstarts, a splinter group of the Hellfire Club, aren’t treated any better. The only development Rosenberg gives them compared to the Nasty Boys is that he at least lets them each state their names. Outside of that, the Upstarts are just as much of a throwaway group as the Nasty Boys turned out to be.
Shinobi Shaw killing himself is just proof of how quick Rosenberg’s trigger finger is to killing off characters. Even when Shinobi Shaw was at least given a reason for his suicide it just does not carry any meaning. The lack of giving Shinobi Shaw’s suicide meaning is clear in how quickly all of the X-Men forget it. It is never addressed the X-Men talk as a group even though logic dictates that at least one member asking what Shinobi Shaw when he was hinting to Emma Frost as the mysterious person pulling everyone’s strings.
The way the X-Men just dismiss the death of those they target do not make the mistake they make in trusting Dark Beast something to sympathize with. The mutant race becoming an endangered race has just made the X-Men make one questionable decision after another. All those questionable decisions made the obvious villainous turn by Dark Beast something you just shake your head at. It is like Rosenberg wanted both the X-Men and readers to expect a different result than what Dark Beast turned out to do.
Making it all that much more disappointing is that Dark Beast revealing his “cure” for the anti-mutant vaccine could’ve been a compelling plot point. Unfortunately because Rosenberg has spent so much time showing how dark things get with each passing issue of Uncanny X-Men that this turn is not surprising at all. It is just another box that is checked in how Rosenberg is going about destroying everything the X-Men attempt to do. This development just ends up giving Magik a reason to kill Dark Beast and add yet another mutant to the death counter Rosenberg continues to increase.
All of these problems end up hurting the other sub-plots that Rosenberg is running with. Cyclops being surprised when Captain America said that he has not talked to any of them since the rally just furthers all of the X-Men’s questionable choices. Cyclops and the others are just so blinded by how desperate they are they just continue to add to one dumb decision after another.
Making this development even more disappointing is the fact that the X-Men’s relationship with the Avengers had a lot of potential. Especially when it came to Cyclops and Captain America’s dynamic. Rosenberg could’ve used the leaders of the X-Men and Avengers building trust with each as a way to give hope for the mutants future. Instead it was just another plot point that showed things are absolutely hopeless for the X-Men and the franchise as a whole. And that could’ve been a compelling sub-plot if Rosenberg didn’t botch this and everything else with this story.
This also hurts all the decision the X-Men make as a team and individuals. Whether its Wolverine and Psylocke’s rogue hunt or Havok trying to overrule everyone, none of the X-Men come off looking great. Even for all their experience, the X-Men as a whole look to be more incompetent for how all their decisions quickly backfire on them. As a reader it makes you question whether or not the X-Men can actually improve things or are only around to make things worse for everyone. And with a roster of fantastic characters the X-Men deserve much better treatment than this.
All of these negative points trickle down to everything Rosenberg attempts to do with other characters. Such as with Emma Frost and the Hellfire Club. Rosenberg has not given us much of a reason to cheer for Emma to get out of the situation she is because she has yet to show a full understanding how she caused her situation. Her call for help to Cyclops and X-Men comes from a place of desperation not of wanting to fix things.
This actually should be something that should be an intriguing concept for Emma’s character development. Unfortunately this isn’t something that Rosenberg has established as unique to Emma’s arc. The sense of desperation and back into a corner has been everyone’s character arc. This all just speaks to the lack of creativity when it comes to how Rosenberg is treating all of the X-Men’s character arcs.
Because of how problematic Rosenberg’s story is the more obvious it becomes whenever there are odd design choices in the artwork. Specifically character reactions at times look off compared to the dialogue being spoken. And the way Larroca had Magik dominate an entire page when she went on the world tour with Banshee added nothing to the journey. It looked as though Larroca was drawing a pin-up poster than adding to this part of the storyline. A stronger story from Rosenberg’s part would easily made these type of things a moot point.
Overall: There is absolutely nothing redeemable about the story being told in Uncanny X-Men #20 or Matthew Rosenberg’s run as a whole. At this point Rosenberg’s entire story has become an utter disappointment with how quickly he has pulled the trigger in systematically killing off mutants left and right. Making things worse is how Rosenberg fails to show even a hint of competence in the X-Men’s actions in the face of extinction. The X-Men franchise and its fanbase deserve so much better than what is presented in Uncanny X-Men #20. House of X and Powers of X can’t come soon enough.
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