Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Uncanny X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis, Volume 2

Due to the lackluster debut of this series' first volume, my expectations were already set low before I even started reading this sophomore release. I'm therefore more than pleased to be proven wrong because The Uncanny X-Men's Volume 2: Broken was charming in so many ways that I have come to expect from a Bendis comic book (which I sorely miss after the dwindling quality of his other work, All-New X-Men). For a while I was slightly discouraged to pick up this title because I had a few friends who advised me against it, but since I have made a commitment to embark on a X-Men comics diet journey, I knew I have to include a more recent flagship title. The glaring flaws from the previous volume Revolution were thankfully not repeated in this one. In fact, most of the problems I had were addressed for Broken which was ironic, considering its titular purpose.

After the cosmic terror that was the Phoenix Force laid waste during Avengers vs. X-Men storyline, the aftermath proved to be just as hard for the ones it possessed: these would be Scott Summers, Ilyana Rasputin and Emma Frost (while it also almost drained Magneto of his magnetism) Now each of these formidable mutants face their most difficult trial just yet. Scott Summers can no longer control his own powers which is essentially his nightmare come true; Emma Frost lost the ability to read easily through minds and the restraint not to project her own thoughts to people; Magneto's magnetism has weakened that he can only control metal to a certain extent and length of time before it renders him exhausted; and Ilyana Rasputin's already screwy sorceress powers began to overwhelm her that she had damned herself along with her colleagues and their recruits to the hellish fire of Limbo where a stupidly named demon tries to massacre them all.

Comprised of issues #6-10, Broken is substantial enough to hold and sustain interest while there is enough material concerning both the familiar and new characters that I was so enthralled to explore. The first two issues concerning Limbo finally found its focus when it turned its attention to the young recruits who have no choice but to work together to survive the place. Way to establish a surprise coming-of-age series of moments with these kids, Bendis. Their invigorating spirit and dynamic as a group were painfully paralleled with that of Ilyana Rasputin's internal conflict. This is a girl who had never been normal since childhood. After the Phoenix Force used her mind and body, it damaged her a lot worse than the others, unleashing dark elements from her magic that she has fought so hard to try to gain control over in this story.I was really rooting for her because I've always found Ilyana as a consistently tragic character and for once I want her to be victorious.

On another plus side, another consistent quality about Broken is how it developed its young cast. The X-Men is always about the young blood's transition to functional relevance as superheroes before finally stepping into a stage of semi-greatness. Xavier always gets them young, hopeful and full of potentials. In here we see Scott, Emma, Ilyana and Erik as teachers who, in spite of their unresolved inherent brokenness, are more than willing to impart their experience and knowledge to the children because they know more than anybody that there is still something to fight for. And there is trust between them and these kids, most especially after Limbo, and the more S.H.I.E.L.D insist on attacking them, the more they cling onto one another and fight better as a team.

Notable moments for this volume include: (1) that conversation between Scott and Erik. I was so angry that Magneto seemed not to give a damn about Charles Xavier's murder. I wanted so bad for him to hold Scott responsible, but after reading this interaction, I think what Erik chose to do instead was actually a more dignified response to what I wanted. Scott had committed something beyond forgiveness, even if he was under the influence of the Phoenix force. He had murdered his surrogate father, and the father of every mutant who believed in a dream of peaceful coexistence with mutants. People are never going to stop talking about Scott killing Xavier. They shouldn't. And Scott needs to deal with that. He needs to carry that with him wherever he goes, especially now that he is adamant in fighting for a revolution he believes will empower more mutants who were just beginning to manifest their abilities. Scott's new agenda is to reassure they will have a school not just to learn in but also to thrive in, if in fact they choose to be warriors and fighters for the cause.

(2) Speaking of which, the young mutant Fabio Medina was focused in as well, and he was just adorable! He has the unique and often hilarious ability to shoot out gold balls from his body. After the hellish experience in Limbo, he tried to go back to his home and when he was there, he realized he was proud of who he is even when his parents couldn't accept his condition. Eventually, he does come back to the team, more decisive to fight and grown alongside them. (3) The surprise feature of Dazzler as a recruit for S.H.I.E.L.D was nice but fucking Mystique had to go ruin it by pretending to be her. Honestly, get a new set of hobbies aside from villainy, Raven. The same douchebag moves are getting old. (4) Scott's speech towards the pro-mutant human supporters was both awkward and stirring. I have no idea why he's being painted as some kind of merciless crusader, if not outright lawless villain. I think this is still the same Scott from the old times--only much more willing to deal with reality and is able to respond better. I like this Scott. He may have killed Xavier, and he may still be prone to bouts of insecure ranting, but so far I think Scott is more or less a hero who actually doesn't hesitate anymore to make mistakes and risk condemnation from his peers. I like it. Scott finally has teeth. And people around him are actually more eager to fight with him and for him, such as the young recruits and Emma and Ilyana. I'm not sure about Erik yet. Hopefully, he makes up his mind soon.

Overall, The Uncanny X-Men, Volume 2: Broken was greatly paced, spectacularly illustrated, and engrossing. I didn't expect to have fun reading this title at all, and I was glad I did because for me, the X-Men just isn't the same when a core character like Scott Summers isn't taking the reigns and in this story we see him having the opportunity to do so, and he did not disappoint. The rest of his recruits too are impressive, ready foot soldiers who trust him enough to lead him, and I can only hope he guides them to the right path.


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