Story by Kieron Gillen
Art by Carlos Pacheco & Cam Smith
Colors by Frank D’Armata
$3.99 – Marvel Comics
Man, you’ve got to feel for Kieron Gillen and Carlos Pacheco. Not only are they kicking off the first issue of the second volume of one of Marvel’s legacy, crown jewel series, Uncanny X-Men. But on top of that, they’re following the incredible out pouring of good will that came after the release last week of Wolverine & The X-Men #1 by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo. It’s incredibly hard not to compare the two titles, as two halves of the shared universe coin of the X-Men universe. While I was hanging out at my local comic book store last week, we wondered what direction could Gillen be taking Cyclops and the mutants who chose to remain on Utopia? This week, we got that answer: the only direction he could and boy, was that the right decision.
Now, I’m going to limit the comparisons to Wolverine & The X-Men after this paragraph, because I don’t think it’s fair to Uncanny X-Men to do that sort of thing. But it’s slightly recquired in order to understand the book in that Uncanny X-Men #1 is everything that Wolverine & The X-Men #1 was not, and I mean that in absolutely good way. Where Aaron delivered a whimsical, comedic at times, fresh new start for Wolverine and the mutants at the new school in Westchester, Gillen’s representation in Uncanny X-Men #1 is a serious, more adult world that these mutants live in. And that’s exactly how it should be.
The world that Gillen and Pacheco have created for Cyclops and his fellow mutants on Utopia is one of the real world. This isn’t the safe haven of a school, with room for mistakes and learning. No, this truly is the “graduated” team of X-Men. Graduated is even a word that doesn’t represent the massive amount of power represented by the team Cyclops has assembled, consisting of characters like Emma Frost, Magneto, Storm, Colossus and Namor. These are heavy hitters in the big leagues, and it looks as if, finally, Gillen has the makings to deliver on yet another dream in the X-Men world.
What dream am I speaking of? Not Professor Xavier’s dream of co-existence, but rather the dream of Joss Whedon when he set out with Astonishing X-Men. To take the X-Men and move them out of the shadows of the fear and hatred that follows them, and allow them to be the public, world saving heroes we know they can be. As I’ve often ruminated, I never thought Whedon delivered on that vision, and the long list of writers who followed him seemed to avoid the concept like the plague. But it wasn’t until Uncanny X-Men #534.1 earlier this year that it seemed as if Gillen was inching in that direction. And now, with Uncanny X-Men #1, it appears that Gillen is, in fact, going for it, and I couldn’t be more pleased.
For those intimidated by the world of the X-Men, Uncanny X-Men #1 opens up as a perfect number 1 issue should, with a welcoming greeting to the world of the X-Men within the world of San Francisco where the mutant island of Utopia lives off the coast of. Readers are introduced, right out of the gate, to the initial villain of this new status quo, as hinted in Uncanny X-Men #544, the final issue of volume one. From there, Gillen and Pacheco spend no time getting us situated on Utopia and what the world of the X-Men now looks like. What struck me about this new approach made me realize what had flawed the X-Men so recently. Once the island of Utopia was established, the X-Men never fully realized it as their own. It was always this dire, refugee camp-esque environment. But now, with the events of X-Men: Schism behind them and everyone on the island there, presumably, because they want to be, the X-Men now seem to have focus and a direction. Gillen subtlety introduces this elegantly and simply through small touches, like identifying who is doing what on the island, and through banter amongst the characters about the furniture. It’s this little attention to detail that allows me, the reader, to feel as comfortable as the X-Men now do at home on Utopia. From here, the direction of the X-Men as laid out by Cyclops becomes almost matter of fact as the details are presented. Of course this is how things are now, it all makes sense.
Now while I said above that compared to Aaron’s lightly comedic take in Wolverine & The X-Men #1, Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men #1 is serious and more adult, it’s not without it’s own brand of wit. Gillen, after writing these characters for the better part of this year is now dialed into just about as much as you’d hope he can be and the subtleties of some of the relationships between characters is delivered with such devious ease, that I found myself chuckling to myself as the adventure of the issue developed. The X-Men have always had a lightheartedness to them and while this is the “grown up” (I’m not saying grim or gritty) branch of the X-Men family tree, it’s not devoid of personality and that touch is part of what makes me so optimistic for the “West Coast X-Men.”
X-Men: Schism got off to a strong start, much thanks to the artistic talents of Carlos Pacheco and that continues here in Uncanny X-Men #1. This work on the X-Men is some of Pacheco’s strongest that I’ve seen in a while, as he fully realizes the geography of the San Francisco Bay Area, and deftly inserts the fantastic world of the X-Men into it in a way that seems perfectly natural. Now, I can’t spoil specific details of the issue in this advance review, but it’s safe to say that there were several moments that left my jaw agape at what Pacheco was able to do with the pieces laid out by Gillen from within the story. The team of Gillen and Pacheco is definitely not one to be under estimated, as by evidenced in this issue, they work quite well together.
Ultimately, Uncanny X-Men #1 is the underdog in the world of X-Men: Regenesis. It’s the take on the X-Men that we’re most familiar with, spinning off from the stories of the recent years. And yet, despite that, this issue brings into focus what it’s going to take for the realization of the dream of X-Men as public heroes will take. With Uncanny X-Men #1, Gillen and Pacheco take a bold step forward in the evolution of the X-Men mythos. If this issue is any indication of what’s to come, I can’t wait to see what this next chapter holds.
Story: 4 / Art: 4 / Overall: 4
(Out of 5 stars)