I love the X-Men. It’s hard for me to remember a time in my life when I wasn’t unaware of the team, having grown up on the oft-referenced 90s television series. Still, when I’ve delved into the comics starring the merry mutants I’ve been impressed as many times as I’ve been let down.
With several X-Men series spinning out of Marvel’s latest publishing initiative earlier this year, I figured I’d give them a try to see what I liked. Both Extraordinary and All-New iterations of the team let me down, but I’d heard great things about Uncanny. With the release of the first trade paperback, it was time to put that opinion to the test.
Uncanny X-Men Superior Volume 1: Survival of the Fittest, which follows a new naming convention given the plethora of #1s coming out of the House of Ideas, stars a team of mutants led by Magneto including Psylocke, Sabertooth, Monet, and Archangel. The Terrigen Mists released by the Inhumans are sweeping across the world and killing mutants via a disease known as M-Pox. Simultaneously, a shadowy group known as the Dark Riders are assassinating mutants with healing abilities in order to ensure that only the fittest survive, thus the title of the trade paperback. Thus, Magneto and his comrades seek out mutant healers and attempt to defend them from the Dark Riders. Tensions run high among this team of dangerous X-Men while they fight for survival.
Writer Cullen Bunn crafts the tale of these mutant renegades. In my experience, Bunn does his best work when either A. writing a creator-owned series such as The Sixth Gun or B. writing a solo series starring an anti-hero such as Magneto. I’m glad to say that with Uncanny X-Men Bunn has brought his writing game to a new level. Sure, some of the dialogue is stilted at times, particularly in issue #1 where each character expounds on her or his abilities, but overall Bunn captures a tone befitting these dangerous mutants. There’s enough drama between these characters to make their interactions more than just typical superhero team shenanigans, while also including the requisite amount of action and suspense befitting an X-Men title. I also have to say I love the concept of villains hunting down healers, and the X-Men racing to protect whoever they can.
Uncanny X-Men Superior’s art team consists of Greg Land (pencils), Jay Leisten (inks), Nolan Woodard (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters). Public opinion on Land is bifurcated into the “his art is terrible” and the “his art is solid” camps, with my own opinion falling squarely with the latter. I don’t mind that his work is from photo references in some cases, particularly as this allows his work to feel more lifelike which is great for this type of story. Land’s character placement gives a sense of flow to each scene, whether its a conversation between two teammates or a no-holds-barred battle. Leisten, Woodard and Caramagna all complement Land’s work and bring it to a higher level, though in some instances, especially around issues #4 and #5 I felt the color palette was too muted and it detracted from the linework, as the artwork was hidden behind the muddied hues.
The latest title to bear the Uncanny X-Men moniker does justice to the name. Bunn, Land, and company present an exciting concept with great characters. My hope is that in the next volume we see a little more of the character work that readers were privy to a few times in this trade paperback. I definitely recommend picking up this trade, as it gave me almost everything I could want in an X-Men story. I’m eagerly awaiting the next piece of the story.
-Story with enough drama and action to satisfy an X-Men fan
-Great concept, both in terms of the team and their mission
-Several instances of stilted dialogue
-Muddy color palette in a few scenes mutes the art
-Interesting character interactions, but they were too few
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