I know – you see the word “Annual” and you’re afraid this is a throwaway X-Men story by a fill-in creative team. Good news: Uncanny X-Men regulars Cullen Bunn and Ken Lashley deliver a tale that picks up threads from this volume’s first arc and highlights how mutant powers can be both a blessing and a curse.
Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 (Marvel Comics)
Before I dive into this review, I have to admit I can’t tell you how many Uncanny X-Men Annuals I’ve read with the #1 slapped on their covers. It really highlights how crazy this relaunch culture has become. Remember the old days, when you’d go to the comic store and ask a clerk if they had issue 25 of your favorite series in the back issue bins? Today, that clerk is likely to say, “Which one?”
Anyway, regular readers of Bunn’s Uncanny X-Men series will know that Elixir, a mutant healer who first appeared in the second volume of New Mutants, met his demise at the hands of the Dark Riders. Well, Elixir fans, this is the annual for you, because the healer has healed himself!
Elixir’s resurrection provides Bunn an opportunity to continue his epic exploration of Magneto. It’s been interesting to see Magneto lead a squad of X-Men in a world without Charles Xavier, Cyclops and Wolverine. Remember the Age of Apocalypse when this was something that could only happen in an alternate reality?
Elixir’s powers have evolved and he wants to make up for lost time healing those in need. The ethically ambiguous Magneto wants to see how much good the young mutant can do and they travel to a crisis medical center in Kansas City, where mutants are dying from M-Pox. Through Elixir, Bunn is able to explore the classic X-themes of unstable power, the desire to do good and the tragedy that often befalls those with the X-gene.
On the art front, I’ve been happy to see Lashley’s name on this series’ covers. I remember discovering his pencils in the mid-1990s when I first started reading Marvel comics, so it’s nice to see he’s still receiving regular work when so many creators from that era have vanished from the shelves. Lashley’s Magneto is both regal and menacing. Classic superhero story style!
As this is an annual, readers are treated to a short Domino back-up story by writer and artist Anthony Piper. It’s a showcase for one of Marvel’s deadliest characters–who is expected to appear in Deadpool 2–and a real treat for readers who like to see characters shot in the head. And spot the fun jab at Batman v Superman in this R-rated adventure!
So while I’m not really a fan of the annual format, I can’t really fault this particular issue as it’s basically a regular installment of Uncanny dressed as an annual. Well played, Marvel, well played.