It’s Cullen Bunn and Greg Land’s turn on the latest “Uncanny X-Men” #1, where the newest roster takes on a questionable mission and “rescues” mutants who have willingly placed themselves in stasis in the hopes of avoiding the potentially deadly effects of the Terrigen cloud. Bunn tags the new team with some rather ambiguous morals, as they essentially act against the wills of individual mutants in the name of a self-imposed greater good, and he appropriately populates the team with members who have acted as both hero and villain in the past. Land composes a beautiful-looking team, who appear both imposing in battle on the streets and as though they’re posing for their publicity shots, making for an attractive yet rather empty introductory issue.
Bunn intriguingly pushes the moral boundaries of this so-called team of super “heroes,” and his intention to blur these boundaries is clear. From the first page, though, this muddling makes it difficult to cheer for the team in any way; the X-Men’s attack on a convoy of normal humans and unconscious mutants seems less than heroic, and Bunn even goes so far as to establish the human protagonists as victims of previous mutant attacks. The moral span between the two sides puts the X-Men on the side of the bad guys, which would be fine if Bunn made it clear this was the intent. However, Sabretooth’s kinder, gentler ways and Magneto’s deliberate show of restraint send a confusing message to readers as to whether they really still want to pull for these guys or not, even if it’s consistent with recent changes to the characters.
Compounding this conflict is the team’s posturing during their attack, and their often annoying banter just makes them a lot more unlikeable here, regardless of whether they’re supposed to be badass or just bad guys. Monet’s lines are especially aggravating and read as though Bunn is trying to make readers dislike this team, as if launching an attack on civilians didn’t give them reason enough to in the first place. While Bunn’s script hints there are additional members of the team as yet unseen, it’s really difficult to care by the time the issue ends.
Land, as inked by Jay Leisten, turns in an overall attractive issue, but sometimes the characters are simply too attractive. They often look a little too glossy; once again, Monet is given a bad break by Land, who makes her look as though she’s posing for a glamour shoot as much as she is fighting civilians. Likewise, the first image of Sabretooth doesn’t evoke any sense of the grizzled and animalistic fighting machine he’s supposed to be. While the panels flow along smoothly and move Bunn’s story along collectively, they often look static individually, with character poses and expressions that appear to lean a little too heavily on photo references. The double page spread that shows the issue’s cast in their entirety looks cool but comes across as nothing more than a piece of poster art meant to pad the story, and the cliched “X” formed in the background by two steel girders amongst the wreckage only exemplifies the empty feel of the story.
Despite an interesting experiment in morals and smooth artwork, “Uncanny X-Men” #1 is ultimately shallow and not all that likeable.