Wow, this is an exceptional issue of Uncanny X-Men. Part of this is down to the beautiful art from Marco Rudy, and part of it is due to the excellent character work done by Bendis on Cyclops. I’ve enjoyed the last few issues of this book that moved the focus towards the new students, but the real star of this title, and of the X-Men franchise in general really, has always been Scott Summers, and this issue moves the spotlight back onto him, with awesome results.
The issue begins with Cyclops and his team returning from a mission, and Tempus badgering Cyke about why he kicked Hijack off the team and saying that he should be allowed back. But before the argument can really begin, they discover that the base has been attacked, and that Kitty and the rest of her team have vanished. They find a Shi’Ar Weapon, which of course, leads them to come to the correct conclusion that they came and kidnapped the young Jean Grey, as we’ve seen in the pages of All-New X-Men and Guardians Of The Galaxy.
Cyclops grits his teeth, and we get a series of flashbacks that fill in the gaps between Kitty and the original team’s defection to this side, and today. The first one sees Illyana bring Kitty to the New Xavier School, for a gripping confrontation between Cyclops and Shadowcat, where she has her first right to his head, ready to phase through and kill him for what he did to Xavier. Since this is a flashback, there’s not as much tension as there could have been, but this was still a great scene, as Bendis gets down to the nitty gritty of whether or not Cyclops was responsible for killing Xavier, and perhaps more importantly, whether he thinks he was or not, as different writers have had him saying contradictory things. It basically comes down to Scott not blaming himself for what the Phoenix did, but rather blaming himself for not being strong enough to stop the Phoenix from controlling him, which makes sense to me. Cyclops also tells Kitty just how truly guilty he does feel, and this seems to be enough for Kitty, and she and Scott sort of reconcile, and agree to move the original team to his side.
I loved the short scene that showed Emma Frost’s reaction to this, how she made it all about her, and how it was a plot by Kitty Pryde to rub a young Jean Grey in her face and piss her off. I love egotistical Emma, such a great character.
After this, there are two really strong scenes with Cyclops interacting with members of the All-New X-Men, which are just rife with awkwardness and pathos. The first is with Young Jean, and man, it’s awkward. How weird would it be to meet a teenage version of your dead wife? And to have her hate you? So sad. Jean handing Scott the copy of their wedding invitations she found a while back, and telling him she can’t imagine how she’d ever get married to him was just heart-breaking. The scene between Cyclops and his younger self was a bit lighter, as Scott basically warns him to stay away from redheads and blondes, and basically women in general, but it ends on a dark note, as Young Scott asks his future self what happened to Professor X. We don’t see the answer, but, yeah, more awkwardness. That’s what I love about the time-travelling X-Men storyline, Bendis is using it to more for interpersonal dramatic scenes than crazy science fiction nonsense, and it’s made for some amazing conversation scenes.
The issue ends with the X-Men still working out what to do, but all Cyclops can do is just unleash a massive blast of angry red energy. Scott Summers is an angry, messed-up man, and as this issue shows, he has good reason to be. It looks like next issue, he’s taking that anger out on SHIELD. I can’t wait.
As I said, a big part of how good this issue was is the art, and man, Marco Rudy blew me away with his work here. The layouts were JH Williams-level good, the present-day pages split into Xs, and the flashbacks split like Cyclops’ fractured eye-beams. I also loved the way he used different styles at times, there was one page that was painted like David Mack (colourist Val Staples deserves a lot of credit for this too), and he also did a good job at homaging classic John Byrne panels. This volume of Uncanny has featured artistic style that you wouldn’t normally associate with superheroes throughout, and this might be the best example yet. I can’t think of an X-Men book that looked this different since Bill Sienkiewicz’ New Mutants.