Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo bring together a massive cast of X-Men (and a few others besides) for the reading of Professor Xavier’s will in “Uncanny X-Men” #25. Unfortunately, Xavier tells a big boring story and sends his heroes on one last mission, robbing readers of the more emotional pages they had likely anticipated.
While the story (and character) set up by Xavier in this issue may well turn out to be a good one, it’s a frustrating turn of events to have so many pages devoted to Xavier informing his students of his big dark secret. It definitely feels a little wishy-washy from a continuity standpoint, even if you don’t take that stuff terribly seriously. It’s hard to believe with all Xavier has gone through over the years that this Matthew character and the problem he poses is only coming up now. Ultimately, the story feels forced, as if you can feel the writer’s hand pushing in an unnatural direction. Though Scott’s childish outburst at Xavier’s reveal makes him seem like a jerk, it’s easy to sympathize with him.
Bachalo, with his usual army of inkers (Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, Al Vey) is in fine form. It’s always fun to see Bachalo tackle a big variety of characters and he has his work cut out for himself here as there are a ton of heroes jammed into these pages. Bachalo does a particularly fantastic version of the new “angry Dazzler,” his Storm is effortlessly on point, and his Wolverine manages to feel appropriately sedate among the teeming mass. Bachalo also does a good job with the fairly mundane Matthew and “young Charlie,” and makes the most of what he’s given in that regard and the pages are beautiful and interesting.
The biggest success of the story is that Bendis has delivered a pared down script for the scenes that aren’t Xavier’s big info-dump, and he lets Bachalo do the heavy lifting in those moments. All the successful emotional beats are thanks to Bachalo’s fine character work and his exceptional ability find small moments and highlight individual characters, even if what they’re going through is mostly confusion and frustration. Bachalo’s skill at the contrast between epic and intimate is on grand display as he contrasts a hug between longtime grieving friends with an Earth-crushing displays of power.
Maybe it’s simply because it’s been so long since Xavier’s death, but the emotional punch in this issue is lacking in a devastating way, considering what a poignant issue this could have been. Perhaps the story will gain more resonance when it reveals the actual reading of the will, rather than the obligatory condition that Xavier makes in order to actually hear the will. Either way, it’s hard not to be disappointed. The fact that “Uncanny X-Men” #25 was marketed as a special issue that is both oversized (30 pages) and higher cost ($4.99) set expectations even higher, and on a deeply emotional level, it just doesn’t deliver.