Last issue the X-Men received their final mission from Professor Xavier as they listened to their late mentor’s last will and testament. In Uncanny X-Men #26, there’s some deliberate stalling before the X-Men finally embark on this fateful mission while Bendis continues to do all he can to sell this new mutant threat as something worth caring about.
Bendis’ take on the X-Men as a dysfunctional family can be highly entertaining but, like most family squabbles, it sometimes seems the characters can’t remember why they’re angry in the first place. Cyclops’ rants have become increasingly unfocused and it’s never a good thing to be unclear about what the lead character of a book is angry about. Bendis doesn’t seem interested in finding out as he makes a puzzling choice to leave the reader behind when Cyclops and a small team of X-Men take off on Xavier’s requested mission. Once Cyclops departs, his unfinished thoughts are interpreted by other characters but the dialogue and insights fail to justify the issue not taking place where the main action is. Firestar is an inspired choice considering her outsider status and her sympathy for Cyclops is refreshing but just as her thoughts seem to be breaking new ground, she’s interrupted by Iceman. While focus on Iceman is always welcome and a childish temper tantrum isn’t exactly out of character for the hothead, his anger feels too sudden to even take seriously.
Too much time is also spent with Matthew Malloy, the mysterious mutant that’s so powerful that Xavier kept him a secret. You would think last issue was enough to establish Matthew Malloy as a threat but even given a chunk of this issue as well, his powers remain completely undefined. Bendis resorts to a cheap trick of sacrificing an established character to convince readers that the threat should be taken seriously and while it may indeed work, making the threat interesting is another task and one that Bendis has yet bother with.
The one bright spot of the issue is a training session scene with Cyclops’ students where some question whether or not they’re on the right side. I say bright spot because for these particular characters, it’s a question that’s long overdue. However, not only does this scene feel too little, too late, but it’s totally out of place in a story that has both factions of X-Men as well as S.H.I.E.L.D. finally working together.
Fortunately, Kris Anka continues to pour his heart, soul, and talent into each and every panel. Anka is an artist that you get excited for each time you see his interpretation of a new character. The large cast of this issue gives readers lots of character eye-candy as Anka gets to play with both newer character designs as well as classic ones. His coloring decisions are impossible not to admire as the book is consistently shadowed in a startling red, as if we’re in the mind of Scott Summers himself, a place that Bendis unfortunately fails to take us.
This is a frustrating issue of Uncanny X-Men filled with too many character voices and too few points being made. It takes a set-up plot, only to deviate from it twice without proper reasoning. It rehashes established concepts instead of exploring new territory. Any momentum that the story had prior to this issue comes to a screeching halt. To put it gently, it feels like a collection of deleted scenes that should’ve been left on the cutting room floor.
The Verdict: 5.0/10