This should have been a home run for Marvel Comics.
With an amazingly talented team who has been producing some of the best mutant related content over the last few years at the wheel, Uncanny X-Men #1 should have been an explosive moment for comic fans. But sadly, the end result is just… fine. It's not terrible, but there's nothing in the issue that matches the hype created by seeing that iconic logo across the cover. This might be a classic case of setting expectations way too high for a superhero book that has pretty much been through everything myriad writers and artists could throw at it. However, based on the creative team’s previous works (specifically Thompson’s Mr. & Mrs. X, Rosenberg’s Multiple Man, Brisson's Extermination, and Asrar’s run on X-Men: Red) we thought there’d be something more tantalizing.
Uncanny X-Men #1 is by no means a bad comic. In fact, it’s quite good... but good just isn’t enough. Before we get too nitpick-y let’s examine what works, though. The family dynamic moments in this issue are fantastic. The team interactions during mundane, everyday moments in X-Men books have always been great for character development and relationship crafting, and when Uncanny X-men #1 focuses on those scenes, it absolutely sings. There is a specific exchange between Iceman and Wolverine that is wonderful and feels so true to both of those characters.
The new team of X-Men trainees are also great. Seeing long-standing weirdos like Anole, Armor and Glob Herman stepping up to the big leagues is thrilling. We've loved a lot of these characters since Astonishing X-Men and Wolverine and the X-Men, and much like seeing Quentin Quire get more room to shine in Thompson's West Coast Avengers, they are handled with compassion and gravitas. We just wish we could have seen more of them. Their arc hits a crescendo involving some C-list villains who hail from the Liefeld-era of New Mutants, and besides some nostalgic, "Hey, I remember that guy; I think I had his action figure" utterances being coaxed from readers in their mid-30s, there isn't much that stands out on its own. But overall, the new team is comprised of a really fun roster, and we hope future issues focus on them.
The dialogue is a strength in this issue. Surprisingly, even with three scribes, the voice and tone of the characters is pretty damn consistent. It never feels like pages are divvied up (although we are sure we picked out a few Kelly Thompson jokes here and there). That consistency is going to be paramount in moving forward, especially for these first ten issues that will be coming out on a weekly basis.
For the most part, the trio of writers on Uncanny X-Men do an admirable job of trying to ease new readers into the fractured craziness that is the X-Men universe. It's like watching three amazing chefs trying to put together a four-course meal using only the condiments bar at a 7-11 (do not underrate that salsa). There are a wealth of ingredients, but trying to make them form into something even remotely cohesive is quite an undertaking. So hat's off to Brisson, Rosenberg and Thompson. These three have been writing X-books for some time now and have proven themselves to have a handle on the sprawling roster of characters, but here's the thing: do we need all of them?
What makes the teams in X-Men: Red and Astonishing X-Men easy to connect with is their the limited number of team members. A small, tight-nit group of characters is always going to develop a strong rapport with one another (and readers) more quickly than a larger one. For those of us who have been following X-Men comics over the last decade or so, getting a member head shots page with twenty characters on it is no big deal, but readers who may have lapsed on keeping up with the team or who are new to the title in general might be a bit overwhelmed. Despite the bright and shiny #1 plastered on it's cover, Uncanny X-Men #1 requires plenty of ancillary reading.
As for the art, Mahmud Asrar's work in the first part of "Disassembled Part 1" is great. There is a giant two-page splash that is simply awesome and haunting. Asrar has proven to be the new go-to X-Men artist after his stellar run on X-Men: Red, and we couldn't be happier having him on this book. The stories in the back half of this issue (which almost justify the high price tag on this book) are mostly well put together in terms of art, even though there are a few panels that are a touch inconsistent, specifically in the Mark Bagley portion.
Overall Uncanny X-Men #1 is a bit of letdown, but we're hoping the big cliffhanger at the end leads to something amazing in the weeks to come. We have a lot of faith in this team and so should you. Perhaps there might be too many cooks in the kitchen, but we're sticking around to see what they whip up even if they make a mess of things.