REVIEW: Uncanny X-Men #1 – SPOILER FREE

Uncanny X-Men #1

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)

Comments

  1. drdeeeznutz drdeeeznutz says:

    I Didn’t enjoy Wolverine X-men but this sounds more like a book I would be into. I really enjoyed Gillen and Pacheco work in the past so I will Definitely give this a try-Thanks for the review

  2. wiski wiski says:

    Hopefully this means that the two books will generally keep the separate tones, Wolverine and the X-Men being more light-hearted and Uncanny X-Men being more serious. I prefer the more light-hearted myself, and would be disappointed if WatX-M starts getting all serious and full of drama.

  3. party party says:

    I wasn’t planning on getting this because I’m a Wolverine guy all the way, but this review makes it sound different from what I expected. It definitely at least gets a flip-through at the store. I’m still wary of Magik and Danger though….

  4. KenOchalek KenOchalek says:

    Thanks, Ron! This has been the book I’m most looking forward to this, and now I’m straight up excited!

    The idea that the combination of “superhero” X-Men with “school” X-Men has ended up short-changing both concepts is something I’d never considered before, but I think makes a ton of sense. It’s going to be fun seeing both concepts get fully explored.

  5. KenOchalek KenOchalek says:

    @Ron I don’t mean to nitpick, but you might want to give that fifth paragraph another look. There’s some funky syntax going on there. As someone who writes a lot of poorly constructed sentences because he’s excited to share an idea/opinion, I can empathize with excitement causing fingers to type words in strange orders.

  6. lorddowney lorddowney says:

    Can we also get a review of this from someone who isn’t a one eyed X-fan? I do not trust Ron on the X books…

    • Maceface Maceface says:

      Agreed. I’m a big fan of Mr. Richards but I’d like an unbiased opinion because I didn’t believe Schism for a second.

    • adrianrigter adrianrigter says:

      Ouch, i expect a critical minded X-fan (like Ron) to be throughly honest in review of a #1 Xbook, and anyways, it’s a 4/5 review not a drooling bells & whistles 5 star, If it was 2/5 would you still be calling out biased fanboy? silly.

    • Ron Richards Ron Richards (@ronxo) says:

      Just to chime in – I don’t blame you at all – I can be very optimistic about the X-Men books – but I’ve been fair and honest over the years – let’s be frank, we’ve had more bad issues than good over the past 10 years. So interpret my review as you will, but I’m holding these issues to a VERY high standard

  7. kmob181 kmob181 says:

    I’m not sure I understand the comparison with Whedon’s run. To me this just sounds like more Fraction.

  8. Neeks Neeks says:

    Thanks for the review Ron, based on this i truly feel im going to be sticking on the Wolverine and The X-Men side of things.

    Im looking for a fun new approach on the team where this just sounds like more of the same serious stuff advancing previous storylines and characters more fit for the hardcore long time X-Men reader although im sure its still good.
    Lets face it though, cutting down my pull list also plays a big part in this since im tempted to try out this first issue still, im going to convince myself to pass

  9. adrianrigter adrianrigter says:

    sounds interesting, i trade wait $3.99 marvel books, but perhaps like W&tXM i can find a friend that picks it up on wednesday:)

  10. cutty cutty says:

    I’m glad that the X-Men line has a vision and some cohesiveness again, something it’s lacked since Messiah Complex. Although I’m just pretending Legacy and adjectiveless don’t exist.

    • KenOchalek KenOchalek says:

      I’m not so sure you can count those books out just yet.

      Carey is moving off of Legacy in a few months (Chris Yost is coming on) and both books seem to have a core group of characters attached, so I’m betting they’ll each have some kind of semi-unique mission statement.

      I can’t recall what the deal is for the Legacy characters, but I think the adjectiveless team is supposed to be the Homeland Security-like team for Utopia with Psylocke, Warpath and a few others.

    • cutty cutty says:

      I like that they’re getting back to a focused team-per-book method, Fraction’s wide net approach was an absolute disaster, and the players became interchangeable parts instead of fleshed out characters with histories and personalities.

      I’d be on board for Yost on Legacy, his runs on New X-Men and X-Force are 2 x-highlights for me over the past 5 years or so. Unless of course Craig Kyle was the brains…

    • greendart greendart says:

      Christos Gage is going to be the new writer on legacy, not Yost.

    • KenOchalek KenOchalek says:

      @greendart GAH, you’re absolutely right, thanks for the correction. Christos/ChrisYost, I was kind of close.

      In any case, the article posted here a few weeks ago about the new direction for Legacy made it sound pretty good. My pull list is beginning to look like it did 10 years ago – X-books and Bat-books.

  11. SenatorSnake says:

    I think this will be really good but Battlefield 3 is way better.

  12. acowell429 acowell429 says:

    this book was so much more enjoyable than the wolverine and x men book it was almost laughable. a bit over the top in some aspects but a great read all the same.

  13. cahubble09 cahubble09 says:

    I must be missing something … the art was good, but the story was a major fail.

    Shades of Astonishing vis a vis Whedon … “We’re the world’s greatest … WOOT!” Please …

    And when did Celestials become pregnable? According to Marvel, “No Earth being has ever seen what they look like beneath their armor or knows their origin.” (http://marvel.com/universe/Celestials)

    But all of a sudden Mr. Sinister possesses some inexplicable power that allows him to hijack this unassailable being’s head? C’mon.