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Damn.

Uncanny X-Men #20

Written by Kieron Gillen

Pencils by Carlos Pacheco

Inks by Roger Bonet

Colors by Guru eFX

Review by Joey Braccino

“What were you planning?”

“To save everyone, ever. Same as always. But the actual specifics? You’ll never know.

And with issue #20, Uncanny X-Men Vol. 2 comes to an premature close. It seems like just last summer (edit: actually, it was last summer) that I was writing a review of issue #544 of Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1, the final issue of Marvel’s longest running ongoing series. At the time, I was critical of Marvel’s decision to end Uncanny X-Men just to relaunch a new volume later the same month. Despite my meta-criticism, I did heap praise onto writer Kieron Gillen’s handling of Scott Summers in that grand finale. This week, Kieron Gillen is once again tasked with writing a final issue for our merry band of mutants, and once again I applaud his storytelling.

Gillen has been at the helm for Uncanny X-Men Vol. 2 since its relaunch last summer. He focused his larger mythos on the Extinction Team—Cyclops, Magneto, Namor, Storm, Emma Frost, Magik, Colossus, Hope, and Danger—and their exploits taking on a new Sinister and spelunking in Tabula Rasa. The series has explored anthropological, philosophical, scientific, media, and mystical themes across its high fantasy story arcs—a trait common to Gillen’s style of storytelling. During the Avengers Vs. X-Men crossover, Gillen’s handling of the Extinction Team and Scott Summers in particular was the sole source of emotional shading for the mutant side of the conflict during all the tie-ins and core series. Uncanny X-men Vol. 2 provided a new direction for the X-Men in a post-Schism, Utopia world—one that twisted the extinction storyline into a reflection on Joss Whedon’s classic “We have to Astonish them!” proclamation. It has been a wonderful year, and, unfortunately, Gillen’s relaunch comes to an end in the midst of all the Marvel NOW! hoopla.

This issue is broken up into three distinct chapters, each tying together a respective ongoing storyline from Gillen’s last 20 issues. The first deals with Danger and Unit, the hyper-intelligent humanoid robot alien that has waxed philosophical for the better part of Gillen’s work. Unit gets Danger to set him free, and he tells her that she is beautiful and valuable and will now be free to do whatever she pleases, away from the mutants that have oppressed or manipulated her since her inception. Heavy stuff. During this chapter, it quickly becomes clear that Gillen is speaking through Unit regarding his entire project on Uncanny. Aside from the obvious wink at the readers referenced at the start of this review, Unit’s comments on Danger’s value and beauty could be a subtle nod to those X-Fans who feel the X-Men franchise has been dismantled in favor of Avenger-izing every book in the Marvel catalog. If you think about it, this November will be the first time in over 50 years that Uncanny X-Men will not be put up on the stands. Sure, Bendis’ All-New X-Men is coming out, but there’s a certain historical value and weight associated with the Uncanny X-Men name that just won’t be around anymore for the foreseeable future. It’s depressing.

After the Danger/Unit sequence, Gillen wraps up loose ends regarding the Colossus/Magik storyline. It’s a somewhat convenient resolution to the Cytorrak thread, but at least Gillen imbues it with enough character pathos to push the characters forward. Whether Dennis Hopeless continues Colossus’ development in the upcoming Cable & X-Force series is of course another question.

Finally, Gillen proves once again that Cyclops is not the uber-super-villain-murderer that Marvel has tried to recast him as in recent weeks. In a wonderful scene between Scott and Kate Kildare (PR specialist for superhumans), Gillen pulls one last twist out of his brain to reaffirm Scott’s innate heroism. It’s sad to see Gillen leave Uncanny, and it would appear that he wanted to leave the book reaffirming the superheroic qualities of his characters instead of playing into Marvel’s new status quo.

Carlos Pacheco’s naturalistic artwork is stunning as always. Along with Roger Bonet’s fine inking and Guru eFX’s solid colors, the artwork for this issue perfectly captures the facial expressions and emotions in each panel. There isn’t much in the way of action in Gillen’s reflective script, but Pacheco and Company are up to the task for this largely intimate, conversational comic book.

Verdict

Buy it. Buy the whole volume in back issues if you can. And then read all 600 issues of Uncanny X-Men. It’s a monumental franchise whose end deserves much more fanfare than it is receiving. And check out Kieron Gillen’s work on AvX Consequences this week or his relaunched Iron Man series coming out later this Fall.

Also, Cyclops was right.

 

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