Writer Brian Michael Bendis delivers a surprisingly accessible issue with “Uncanny X-Men” #8, despite being in the midst of a long and somewhat meandering story arc. The return of artist Chris Bachalo brightens things up a little as Bendis addresses the growing tensions within the team as they recruit new mutants to their cause, even as their own powers are still not fully functional.
The X-Men have long been a franchise noted for new reader impenetrability, and Bendis has frequently been criticized for writing a couple of paragraphs when a sentence will do — but he puts this tendency to good use, bringing readers up to speed on the status quo of the series and the general state of mutant affairs as he goes along. A lengthy exchange of dialogue between Magneto and Cyclops sums up not only their uneasiness around each other, but also provides a nice summary of where things stand for mutantkind in the wake of “Avengers Vs. X-Men.” A far briefer explanation by a young Angel explains his place on the team, although how that came to be in recent issues is not. A quick line from Magik provides a high-level recap for anyone who hasn’t been reading the X-Men titles for the past few years.
But Bendis’ typical penchant for maximum verbosity also continues when it’s not required, as showcased in a three-page talkfest between one of the book’s cast and his family members. It’s a standard Bendis-style conversation where he somewhat evokes the more realistic sound and feel of a real-life discourse, but unlike the aforementioned Magneto/Cyclops discussion, doesn’t really have a lot to say in the disproportionate page count it’s given. Because of its placement near the end of the issue, it reads more like Bendis had to stretch things to fill the page count.
Also in typical Bendis fashion, he inserts some lighthearted quips between characters in moderately serious situations that feel out of place, like he’s going for laughs during moments when one wouldn’t really expect any. But the issue has its share of lighter moments that do work, such as a recently-introduced character’s sight of Angel making him think he’s dead, and Angel’s puzzled and naÃ¯ve reaction.
Bachalo’s resumption of the artistic duties for this title is nice, as he brings his usual pleasant kind of quirkiness to the page, using detail only where required but foregoing it elsewhere, and knowing when to exaggerate facial expressions and when to play them down. Coloring over his own layouts, he effectively applies tonal variations of like colors, providing for a particular mood when needed and using starker color switches for scene shifts. He also uses photo-realistic backgrounds to good effect, especially on the cover. Character-wise, his Magneto, who looks pretty cool and pretty similar to Bruce Willis trying on Ricardo MontalbÃ¡n’s wardrobe from “Wrath of Khan,” is larger-than-life and imposing.
This issue is a nice-looking reminder that Bendis does a pretty nice job with character interaction. While he could afford to tighten things up if he wanted to, his style still plays well with the X-Men family of titles.