Love or hate the character of Matthew Malloy — the immensely high-powered mutant whom Professor Xavier had been regularly mind-wiping to keep from remembering his powers — there’s something to be said for Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo’s depiction of him in “Uncanny X-Men” #27. Up until now he’s felt like more of a plot contrivance than anything else, and while that still continues, Bendis starts to tip his hand this issue. Malloy’s lack of character works because his purpose seems to be to help build the character of Cyclops instead.
Despite the presence of S.H.I.E.L.D., Storm, Rachel Grey and company, it’s Cyclops who ends up being the focus within the characters trying to figure out what to do with the increasingly-powerful Malloy. That’s a good thing; while “Uncanny X-Men” is a team book, it’s Cyclops who is the real focal point of the title, and it’s nice for the book to take advantage of that. This issue serves as a reminder of both why Cyclops was a good leader of the X-Men for many years, and why even with his part in the death of Professor X he’s still a force to be reckoned with. Cyclops’ strategy here is not only the wisest one, but (considering that he’s dealing with a telepath) most likely genuine in his intentions.
Bendis does tackle some of the other characters though, with Rachel getting a fair amount of attention. For a character that no one seems to understand what to do with (despite being fairly well liked), it’s refreshing to see her doing the best one could in a virtual minefield with destruction on every side. I also found myself amused by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Code Black Crash Protocol; for an organization that loves its helicarriers, it makes perfect sense.
Bachalo’s pencils are a little erratic in places, no doubt with there being five different inkers stepping in to get the issue out the door in time. Some pages look richly detailed, others are just scratchy. Bachalo’s love of diagonal panel borders and page layouts get quite a workout here, sometimes with good reason (the attack on the helicarrier), other times randomly (Rachel’s attempt to re-establish the mental blocks on Malloy). Overall it’s not a bad looking issue, but the sea of inkers each bringing their own style brings a disjointed nature to the finished book, and that’s a shame. If Marvel is looking at the longer term picture, I think having a uniform look for a collection (and a couple of extra weeks to just have Tim Townsend ink the entire comic) would have been preferable. It’s nothing against the other four inkers — all of whom are talented — but it almost looks like five different pencilers at this point.
“Uncanny X-Men” #27 is satisfying, but at the same time it doesn’t stand out. It’s good, but we haven’t hit the moment that makes you straighten up in your chair and think, “I must find out what happens next.” Still, for a comic starring a character that feels like a not quite right fit (and whom I’m sure people are already betting won’t be around after this storyline’s conclusion), it’s trucking along fairly well.