With the current series of “Uncanny X-Men,” there are storylines where I wonder why I’m still reading the title. Then I get to ones like the current story, with Cyclops trying to help Omega-level mutant Matthew Malloy, and everything comes together in such a way that I’m glad I stuck around. It’s not a perfect story, but Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Bachalo and every inker in Bachalo’s address book put together a comic that’s ultimately pleasing.
It’s the bookends of this issue that really stand out; Illyana Rasputin consulting with Doctor Strange on a way to minimize the danger to the world, and the last few pages as Cyclops, Illyana, Matthew and Eva all find themselves in uncertain situations. Some of the best material from Bendis in “Uncanny X-Men” has been watching Illyana Rasputin finally be allowed to grow and mature as a character; having her work with Strange as well as gain more confidence has been a real joy, and this issue is no exception to that rule.
Likewise, now that Eva’s story has been told in the “Uncanny X-Men” and “All-New X-Men” annuals this month, her suggestion on how to fix everything using her powers as well as the action she finally takes carries a bit more weight. Bendis’ decision on how time travel and timelines/alternate universes work in the Marvel Universe has changed a bit (but that’s a story for a review of “All-New X-Men Annual” #1), and while it holds a bit more hope for the dramatic cliffhangers that appear in this issue, it also makes Eva’s choice that much more powerful. While it runs the risk of invoking a deus ex machina conclusion to the story, for the moment Bendis has firmly seized my attention.
A little less exciting, unfortunately, is the middle portion of this comic. Cyclops and Magneto’s confrontation lacks any real punch, unfortunately, and it actually feels almost like Bendis is just stalling before the cliffhanger. There’s nothing we haven’t really heard, even as it also emphasizes that most of the “Uncanny X-Men” team of characters has been effectively sidelined throughout this storyline. It’s the weak point of this issue, something that’s ultimately buoyed by the strength of the opening and closing scenes.
Bachalo and his army of inkers turn out a pretty good looking book, although as per usual there’s a bit of inconsistency from one inker to the next. The scene near the end of the comic where Illyana appears looks like an entirely different comic than anything else in this issue, for example; compare her to the opening scenes where she appears not just a different age, but almost an entirely different character. It’s frustrating, too, because Bachalo’s pencils are crazy detailed and it would be great to have all of the pages a little more in-step with one another. Look at the entire sequence set in Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorium; the items on the shelves, the fringe on the area rug, the flowers on the shelves, even the bird in the cage tucked into the background. This feels like a real home, one cluttered with knickknacks and souvenirs, even as Strange and Illyana move through it. Bachalo’s a talented artist and I feel like he deserves to have those pencils shown off a bit better. If that means scheduling larger gaps between his story arcs in order to have the proper amount of time to have them inked, well, that is something to consider.
In the end, “Uncanny X-Men” #29 is a fun comic, although I do wish that the middle didn’t feel like it was dragging its metaphorical feet, and that the art held together a bit more. At its core, though, there’s a good comic here. I’m already looking forward to the next installment in 2015.