The schism has occurred and the new era of “Uncanny X-Men” begins two weeks after Marvel’s long-running title saw the previous volume’s final issue ship. Not so much a stunt to gain new readers (though that no doubt plays a part), the relaunch of “Uncanny X-Men” places it on equal footing with the newly launched “Wolverine and the X-Men,” showing that each group is acting parallel to one another, neither one “better,” just different. Despite the harshness of the “Schism” title, the aftermath is one of mutual respect and coexistence, something this first issue makes quite clear as it lays out the new status quo and direction of the series. It’s an entertaining first issue that draws upon past “Uncanny X-Men” stories while maintaining a new reader-friendly tone.
In the final issue of the previous volume, writer Kieron Gillen laid out how Cyclops would be looking to the future, seeing returning to school as a step back, and this issue illustrates exactly what Cyclops had in mind. The story isn’t a radical approach, having roots in Grant Morrison’s “New X-Men,” but it’s one that makes sense and gives “Team Cyclops” a distinct purpose. Cyclops’ use of language and willingness to do what’s necessary to see his vision through may take some readers aback, and it’s clearly his embracing some of these tendencies that caused Wolverine and the others to move back to Westchester. It seems as though, without dissenting voices present, he’s becoming even more comfortable taking up the role of the sort of leader he thinks mutants need. This is underscored by Cyclops’ belief that this mission is vital to Wolverine’s group as they’re still “his people,” as it were.
The first villain of this relaunched series, Mr. Sinister, isn’t a surprise since he was given considerable panel time in the final issue of the previous volume. Gillen’s take on the classic X-Men nemesis is an entertaining one, his role determined by Cyclops’ new direction for the X-Men. Sinister is theatrical and entertaining, more a dangerous nuisance than a true villain, which makes him even more compelling than your typical antagonist. His display of power is impressive, putting into doubt how effective Cyclops and the X-Men will be in facing him.
Carlos Pacheco has flirted with a full-time return to the X-books, producing the “Point One” issue of “Uncanny X-Men” earlier this year as well as the first issue of “X-Men: Schism.” He’s a good fit with Gillen’s writing, providing a clean and clear artistic vision of the group. His art, combined with Frank D’Armata’s colors, makes the team look a little futuristic — modern, bright and shiny. D’Armata’s coloring isn’t as overbearing as it sometimes is as the colorist seems to have a good understanding of how to complement Pacheco’s pencils best. When the issue turns to action, Pacheco’s art really shines. He’s always been a great superhero action artist and Gillen plays to his strengths well.
While some purists may complain about the relaunch of “Uncanny X-Men,” this issue makes a strong argument for the new direction of the title and deftly illustrates what sets it apart from the previous volume. Cyclops and the X-Men look to be changing mutants’ role in the world in a manner different from Xavier’s vision, and as such, the break makes sense. This first issue sets up the new status quo well before diving into the plot, resulting in an entertaining, action-packed, smart comic.