Monday, November 30, 2015

The Uncanny X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis, Volume 4

The one phrase I can accurately describe the fourth volume of Brian Michael Bendis' The Uncanny X-Men with is that it's been 'a series of escalations'. The previous volume was comprised of oneshots that are more or less independent of one another. It's something I immensely enjoyed but perhaps a more critical reader will find the lack of a unifying arc as wasteful. Luckily, Bendis answered that expectation by getting us back on track with The Uncanny X-Men Vs. S.H.I.E.L.D which ran from issues #19-25.

Since the events from AVX and Scott Summers' murder of Professor X, mutants relations with the government especially the S.H.I.E.L.D agency have been more tense than the usual, and this friction will ultimately play out for this volume's plot. Current head Maria Hill is hunting down Cyclops and his colleagues Emma Frost, Magik and Magneto, believing them as the new face of a more radical mutant revolution. Meanwhile, Scott has recruited young and promising mutants and, together with his colleagues, has been training them for combat and bringing them into missions. Essentially, The Uncanny X-Men allows readers to experience progress and evolution of Scott's new team of heroes, as well as sympathize with the struggles they have against their usual public enemies, both super-powered and human. This Bendis title started rather weak in its first debut but has steadily become an engrossing, exciting and well-crafted tale that's part-Shakespearean drama, part-coming-of-age story and part-political intrigue.

This fourth volume The Uncanny X-Men Vs. S.H.I.E.L.D probably serves as the climactic point of the series' narrative where chess pieces laid before in the previous volumes are finally coming out to play across the board. This include the ongoing strife and misunderstanding among Scott's team, Wolverine/Storm's school, and S.H.I.E.L.D. Whenever Scott's convictions and reputation, alongside his infringed team, are being questioned, the faculty and student body of the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning also take heat which is somewhat unfair when the X-Men have obviously been divided into two distinct factions since AVX and Xavier's death. To Maria Hill, that difference doesn't matter. Mutants have been engaging in more revolutionary phases that she and S.H.I.E.L.D want to limit as much as possible which only end up making things worse. Special Agent Hill even employed the assistance of one Alison Blaire (a.k.a Dazzler) as her mutant liaison which shape-shiffter on-and-off villainness Mystique took advantage of. She abducted Dazzler and posed at her for a good amount of issues. While stashed away, Alison's mutation was used to sustain a mutant growth hormone for the population of Mandripoor where Mystique created a new haven for mutants to roam free and indulge every whim. Magneto (who was battling his own demons after the death of his best friend) managed to rescue Alison from captivity and he agrees to help her take revenge on Mystique.

On the other hand, new kind of Sentinels are hunting down X-Men again, this time having the ability to suppress mutation while near vicinity. Magik is the only one who can defend them, considering she can tamper with her sorceress powers from Limbo, something she has been able to handle much better now, thanks to the tutelage of Dr. Strange. Hijack, a mutant recruit Scott let go of last time, came back to help them defeat the Sentinels and earn his place back in the program. The instigator behind this mass production of new Sentinels is no other than Dark Beast, much to Dr. McCoy's chagrin. Scott and Hank's friendship continue to deteriorate as well as Bobby's respect for Scott.

These two major conflicts (Sentinels vs X-Men vs S.H.I.E.L.D; and Dazzler's quest to get even with Mystique) have been interesting to follow with plenty of restrained exposition in favor of more action-oriented panels which I really preferred. The visual composition for this series has been one of the most recognizable and fun from all the MARVEL NOW! titles I'v encountered so far. There is also plenty of humor to be had in spite of the undermining seriousness of the situations which is really a trademark quality of any Marvel comic book. The most critical storyline for this volume, however, had to be the one with Charles Xavier's last will and testament. The build-up for that issue alone was palpable. Everyone can't agree if Scott Summers should be there but legal representative Atty. Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk) insisted and so after much debate, they fetched Scott from his secret school (Weapon X facility, much to Logan's understandable distaste). The youth were left at the secret school under Emma's care as Scott was accompanied by Magik back to the Jean Grey school. The last will and testament was a hologram and midway through the Professor revealing his greatest shame and secret (and NO, apparently it wasn't MARRYING MYSTIQUE BEFORE HIS DEATH), they had to take a break because it's so SURREAL TO SEE the Professor speaking again, granted it was only a projection. AND YES, XAVIER AND MYSTIQUE GOT IT ON. It was so...weird! I love the sibling relationship they had in the James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence versions (and I do ship them to a degree) but comics-Mystique and Xavier are...just weird together in a romantic context. BLEH. Magneto should have joined this gathering. I would love to see how he would react to this news.

Now everyone figures out why Mystique has gone off the rails after her husband's death. AND THE JEAN GREY SCHOOL MAY OR MAY NOT BELONG TO HER. Logan revealed that he signed back the property to Xavier before he died. So...the widow gets her late husband's possessions, right? Well, Storm ain't having that! But that upsetting news is just a sideshow.The real main attraction is the secret Professor was tackling concerning the mutant Matthew Malloy whose powers are so uncontrollable he can destroy everything in his path with just a single thought. Said adult Malloy has been seen in between pages causing disasters within close vicinity of him. And Xavier is begging the X-Men to help him and ensure he doesn't remember what he is capable of which meant all available psychics at their disposal must help repress Mallow's memories and put the strongest locks in that Pandora's box. As we have see at the end of this volume, they may be too late. Malloy looked like he embraced his fullest potential on that last panel. Also, it's worth mentioning that Scott has been slowly but surely adjusting properly to the fact that he had killed Xavier (well, not according to Bobby at least. He argued that Scott still keeps looking for an excuse to justify the murder). But it's still going to be a looooooong way to go before he gets absolved by everyone else...including by his own judgment.

Volume IV had been so magnificent and entertaining all throughout and I was so THRILLED to see Charles Xavier again in a pseudo-flesh presence or whatnot. I'm not even going to bitch about Magneto's startling absence and the severe lack of Cherik in this volume because that's how amazing the overall content of this volume had been. Hopefully, we will get Magneto again in the next volume since he had agreed to help Dazzler track down Mystique. In my headcanon, he'll find out about the marriage between Ravena and Charles and he will definitely have something to say about that trite affair. Can't wait for the next installment. SRSLY!


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