REVIEW: ‘Uncanny X-Men’ #23

(Marvel Comics, 2014)

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Artwork by Kris Anka
Lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna

The events of Original Sin have brought the last will and testament of Charles Xavier to light and suffice to say the discovery was met with shock and awe. The task of gathering together the scattered squads of X-Men including Cyclops who while possessed by the Phoenix Force was actually responsible for the professor’s death is an arduous one by any standard; setting aside rifts and hostilities is only the first hurdle to be overcome before delving into the real mystery contained within the document. Brian Michael Bendis sets up the story with surgical precision in this issue. His narrative thrusts the students and faculty of the Jean Grey School and Cyclops’ band of rebellious defectors together for the reading of the will however there is quite a bit more going on. Hurt feelings and bruised egos make for some volatile reunions particularly when Scott has to mend fences with Hijack and as if that isn’t enough for the de facto leader of the X-Men, Cyclops must address the aging anomaly effecting Tempus. Perhaps the darkest and most poignant scenes in this issue involve Dazzler and her mental break down resulting from her sadistic torment by Mystique. Dazzler’s continuing tribulations have provided some of the most deeply intriguing and disturbing moments of Bendis’ run so far. His recent take on the character has been darker than anything done with Dazzler to date; the tense psychological drama and penetrating examination of character have been highlights of the series.

The subject matter overall takes a decidedly darker turn in this issue, Bendis’ penchant for humor doesn’t get much play in this issue even a guest appearance by She Hulk doesn’t lighten the mood to any significant degree. One particularly humorous scene comes just before the will is about to be read and the definition of death as it is understood in the Marvel Universe is called into question. Here Bendis’ gift for writing clever, witty dialogue comes shining through. As is par the course, Bendis does a fantastic job of finding each character’s individual voice and then providing some of the best dialogue you are likely to find in any comic book on the racks today. That is what drives this issue, as it is predominately a set up for some very substantial consequences to come, Bendis expertly lays out his plan without giving too much of it away. He masterfully reveals just enough to keep us clamoring for more.

Kris Anka takes over for series artist Chris Bachalo on this issue to stunning result. Anka’s art is dynamic and a bit whimsical in comparison to Bachalo’s signature style. The characters take on a slightly more realistic look in the hands of Anka who has a less exaggerated approach to anatomy than Bachalo. Anka’s approach to storytelling is energetic and works extremely well with Bendis’ quick paced narrative as does the artist’s emotive use of facial features and posing within a panel. His page compositions are slick and polished with sharp, clean lines and excellent technique. Anka is a consummate professional and a really nice fit for this story.

Uncanny X-Men has been one of the most consistent books of the Marvel Now re-launch; Bendis does not disappoint and proves time and again that he is the anchorman that Marvel needs to hold down this franchise. He did similar work on Avengers and Daredevil before that, Brian Michael Bendis delivers plain and simple. This issue is entertaining, engrossing and most of all it pulls you into and gets you excited about what’s to come. I don’t know many people who are not already onboard with Bendis for both of his X-Men titles but if for some reason you haven’t been following these titles, what are you waiting for, a great writer with a proven track record for inventive and imaginative story arcs, check. How about dynamic artists who provided mind melting, eye popping images month after month? Well check again, both Bendis’ X-Books have great series artists as well as some incredible fill in talent. Nuff said True Believers, jump in and hang on for one heck of a ride, this issue is a perfect place to start. (4.5/5)

___________________________

ShawnWarner-bio-pic1-crop2

Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.

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