Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Uncanny X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis, Volume 5

This....THIS! This has to be the crowning jewel of the entire series so far. Brian Michael Bendis' The Uncanny X-Men has really come so far from whatever forgettable trite that was its lackluster first volume. Anyone who decided to stop reading after that said volume is sorely missing out for the breadth and quality of the next stories that came afterwards. 

The last time I was this consistently stimulated and completely invested in the plot and character revelations of an X-Men title was during my readings and reviews of Joss Whedon's The Astonishing X-Men. In a way, this was continuation of that run, considering the central figure that dominates most of UXM material is Scott Summers a.k.a Cyclops, and it's in this volume that it was fully realized. Simply put, Volume 5: The Omega Sentinel is comprised of issues #26-31 and by all that is holy and Loki, I ate it all up like it's the most scrumptious serving of blueberry cheesecake! 


This fifth installment packs some dizzying punches to the face and gut, and picks up straight from the previous volume's climactic revelation about a very powerful mutant named Matthew Malloy, and how the late Professor X had done everything in his power to dampen and weaken Malloy's mutation because the alternative will destroy creation and all existence. At first, I wasn't convinced that we I should even give a fuck that a superpowered and out-of-control mutant is threatening the Marvelverse (YET AGAIN), but as the story deepened and Scott was placed in a position of great struggle and temptation, I was able to truly enjoy the narrative for what it is: a cautionary tale that was timely and relevant in regards to the events that have transpired since AVX, and has mold Cyclops so far from the young and hopeful idealist he started out with. Scott saw an opportunity to impart his newfound philosophy on Malloy, and took a chance to make him see that they are very much the same. 

Like Malloy, Scott had a destructive power he thought he could never live with. And together, they can help each other make the world a place where mutants don't have to walk on eggshells among humans and can finally be who they are, free of guilt and shame. 

The panels concerning Scott trying to get through Malloy were tinged with such sadness and yet with bravery and dignity as well that I was moved to near tears. To become a part of such insanity and suffering--to grow up unloved, unappreciated, misunderstood and exploited--to feel as if not even your own self can be trusted--this seemed to be the birthright and given calvary of powerful mutants of the past, those who are able to wield terrifying powers which eventually corroded them inside. Scott allows Malloy to dig through his mind and see for himself how Jean Grey, Magneto, Scarlet Witch, Apocalypse, etc. have all faced a breakdown of epic proportions--and how their tragic tales almost killed everyone in the world and transformed reality--and, most importantly--that Malloy DOESN'T HAVE TO BE ONE OF THEM. Scott is willing to show him another way even if he himself isn't sure which it would be. Nevertheless, he still believes there is no one else more suited for the role to become Malloy's mentor but him.

It's an interesting twist to see Magneto arriving right in the middle of this proposal, seeing as he's been absent during the reading of Xavier's last will and testament. Much more so when he opposed Scott's offer and tried to make Malloy see the error of Scott's ways and why she should never be trusted. This was pretty much the heart of the story but everyone else played vital roles in the sidelines. We have Magik (Ilyana) and Emma Frost who serve as Scott's closest associates. Ilyana has finally found the balance between her mutation and sorceress powers, thanks to the assistance of Dr. Strange, and she does everything she can to help Scott even if they disagree about his methods. Emma, on the other hand, still chose to stand by Scott even though their romance had been obliterated the Phoenix Force. She remained loyal to him, and her trust in his vision is often overwhelming, both to her and the others. Meanwhile, we have the young recruits in the secret Xavier School; teenagers who are forced to adapt and evolve even if there are some moral conundrums that are beyond their grasp. The notable one of them had to be Eva Bell who has the ability to control time.

Eva is growing up and becoming more opinionated if not altogether reckless. She expressed great disapproval over Scott's decisions, and her role in the resolution of the conflict for this story had been the most harrowing and dangerous. The Steford sister Celeste argued passionately to get her to restrain herself from getting actively involved in a fight that she shouldn't take over, but Eva has made up her mind and went back in time to warn Charles Xavier about Malloy, and to ask for help in preventing a disaster to occur in the present timeline. Xavier was unmoved for a while, disappointed and angry that an X-Man just violated the laws of the universe just to meet with him, but Eva was able to convince him afterwards, and with his help she effectively erased a timeline that proved to be detrimental.

See, Scott, Emma, and Ilyana all died after trying to save Malloy and also when they found themselves smacked in the middle of a crossfire with S.H.I.E.L.D. Emma died when Malloy tried to defend himself from her attack and her sudden demise angered Storm and she was about to be the next victim when Eva and Xavier began changing things via time travel. By having Xavier help him erase Malloy's existence in a way where he was never even born, everything in the present timeline was fixed--except of course what was already broken already to begin with. That is, Scott still killed Professor X. We get to be taken back to the new reading of Xavier's will and testament where there was no mention of his marriage to Mystique, or Malloy. Instead, he bequeaths the school to Scott. Before Scott could ever accept, he gets to talk to Eva one last time and their conversation made him realize he is not suited to become a mentor and so signs over the deeds of the Jean Grey school to Storm and then asks her to take in his students from the Weapon X facility.

It was a shocking turn indeed that a new character like Eva showed teeth and took matters in her own hands and basically rewrote a timeline. And there are SOOO MANY QUESTIONS that hopefully will get answered in the next volume. First of all, Mystique not being married to Xavier before his death. I assume she wasn't anymore? Or perhaps Xavier just didn't mention it in his will? If they were never married, does that mean Dazzler doesn't have to go after Mystique anymore because Raven never went crazy with grief over Xavier's death and therefore she did not build Madripoor or kidnap Dazzler to impersonate her? What? This is a subplot I need to know for sure is still happening. ANYWAY! This volume had been such a heck of a ride. I could hardly keep up. I was reading this at work and all I could do is do this:

When deep, deep within, I was going cuckoo for cocoa puffs like this:

I feel like giving this a perfect rating but then again I do have some issues about it a little bit. Also, I think I'm just going to hold off on my perfect ratings for this series for now. I can't help but feel that Bendis still has some tricks up his sleeve.


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