Every now and then, a comic book cover comes along that has nothing to do with the story beyond it. You know, it’s like, “Gee, that’s a cool shot of Spider-Man swinging across the Manhattan skyline, but what’s it have to do with the story?” Well, I’m pleased to report the cover to Uncanny X-Men #16, featuring Jean Grey and Fantomex seemingly trapping Karnak in a psychic maze is exactly what you’ll get when you hand over your hard-earned $3.99.
Uncanny X-Men #16 (Marvel Comics)
While writer Cullen Bunn and artist Edgar Salazar further a few plot threads from this particular volume of Uncanny, this issue mostly exists to expand on the story featured in the Inhumans Vs. X-Men mini-series (which is off to a great start). For many readers, myself included, one of the thrills of IVX #1 was getting to see the X-Men masterfully remove the Inhumans’ heavy hitters from the playing field.
Bunn and Salazar are tasked with chronicling Jean’s psychic efforts – along with help from the Stepford Cuckoos – to keep the deadly Karnak immobilized. It’s always been easy for Marvel to sell Karnak’s coolness to readers – he can find the flaw in anything. While the X-Men’s psychics spend the entirety of the issue seated, knowing Karnak is doing everything in his power to break free makes for a very tense issue.
Irma Cuckoo is certainly aware that if Karnak wakes, she and her fellow X-Men could die. It’s moments like this, courtesy of Bunn, that remind readers mutants and Inhumans are very much at war. The classic superhero team-up, this is not.
But the psychic battle is just half the story (remember, Fantomex is also on the cover). The rest of the issue features a return to The World, of Grant Morrison and Weapon Plus fame, and potentially sets up a new status quo for Jean-Phillipe. Surely, good news for fans of Morrison’s contributions to X-Men lore. In fact, this entire issue felt like it could sit comfortably among Morrison’s X-work, what with Fantomex, The World and the Stepford Cuckoos all present.
Except for Jean’s inclusion … because he killed her (still ticked about that).
While Fantomex is technically part of Bunn’s regular Uncanny cast, I do think regular readers who aren’t too crazy about IVX will be bummed to see so few cast members appear in this issue. However, I feel like being a fan of the X-Men will forever mean buying at least three mutant-related books a month, so they’ll probably be alright.
Salazar’s pencils remind me of a cross between those of occasional Uncanny artist Ken Lashley and DC regular Gary Frank. While the Jean and Cuckoo scenes are conversation-heavy, Salazar gets to cut loose any time we see The World and all its trippy, Sci-Fi weirdness.
Is It Good?
Overall, Uncanny X-Men #16 continues the trend Marvel has established with its event tie-in issues. It’s a fine comic – not bad by any means – but a part of me can’t help but feel event fatigue as I turn the pages. I’m always going to be more interested in seeing creators tell great stories independent of seismic events.
Will that day ever come? Perhaps in the RessurXion era? No, that’s just what Jean and the Cuckoos want me to believe…