“Uncanny X-Men” #10 by Kieron Gillen and Carlos Pacheco concludes a 2-issue story which teams up the Avengers and X-Men. It’s a safe bet that we won’t see that happen again anytime soon, at least for the foreseeable future. With the teams fighting a horde of escaped alien criminals, Cyclops makes a decision that damages his relationship with the Avengers and sets the tone for “AvX,” while the X-Men (and Cyclops in particular) find out that even the best planning can rapidly go to waste.
Of all the concepts to come out of Gillen’s sadly-truncated “S.W.O.R.D.” series, Unit was the one with the most potential. A sentient weapon built by a hyper-intelligent race, his personable exterior hides a master manipulator with pitiless moral code. For a team that has become used to pummelling their foes into submission, his near-limitless powers and intellect present a genuine problem for the X-Men and they’re not as well-equipped for it as they suspect.
The difficulty in the story is twofold: Gillen needs to present Unit as a capable threat and do so without making the X-Men look incapable. He just about manages, if only because the threat of Hope’s life in the balance means that the team are relying on desperation over preparation, forgiving the somewhat shambolic plan of attack and ease with which the team is dispatched. The resolution is smarter than it initially seems, too, and the promise of more to come from Unit is a tantalising one. Not least because a team full of nukes now finds itself babysitting the ultimate weapon of mass destruction — and not very convincingly so.
Carlos Pacheco (and assisting penciller, Paco Diaz) are a reasonably strong team, particularly when the story calls for action — but there’s often a stiffness to the subtler moments of the story and it’s hard not to be distracted by the increasingly ridiculous proportions of the female characters. Emma Frost being a bit chesty is one thing, but when Agent Brand’s breasts are larger than her head and become a panel’s dominant feature, something has gone wrong.
Where this issue excels, though, is in its treatment of the X-Men as a soap opera. Multiple subplots get advanced, new ones are created and there’s a sense that the story moves on even though the villains are dispatched. There’s no reset button ending and no happily ever after. It’s probable that the developments of this story will reverberate through Gillen’s “AvX” tie-ins, and that only makes them more intriguing. Particularly when you see that final panel.