If you told me in the mid-1990’s, at the height of Generation X’s popularity, that I’d one day be reading an Uncanny X-Men comic book starring M and Sabretooth, I’d never have believed you. Yet, here we are – and I’ll tell you something else – Uncanny X-Men #17 by writer Cullen Bunn and artist Ken Lashley also makes for a very enjoyable read!
Uncanny X-Men #17 (Marvel Comics)
I loved Inhumans Vs. X-Men #1, so I was shocked to discover that this issue of Uncanny X-Men – an IVX tie-in – actually beat out Inhumans Vs. X-Men #2 as my favorite comic of the week! No slight to Bunn’s run, which has made some great contributions to X-canon, but event tie-ins aren’t always essential reading. Many of the Avengers Vs. X-Men tie-ins come to mind.
But perhaps IVX learned from AVX’s mistakes, as the most recent issue of Extraordinary X-Men, a tie-in by the event’s co-writer Jeff Lemire, was equally stellar. Due to the Terrigen-borne M-Pox and its devastating effects on mutantkind, it’s hard not to root for the X-Men in this war between species. And yet, Bunn achieved something truly uncanny – he made me sympathetic to the Inhuman cause.
How did this happen, you wonder? First off, you should probably read IVX #2 before Uncanny X-Men #17 – and if you want to remain completely unspoiled – revisit this review after you’ve done your Wednesday reading. Very minor spoilers after the image…
Oh, you’re still here – thanks for sticking around! As part of the X-Men’s strategy to remove the Inhuman royal family from their assault on New Attilan, Magik swept up the likes of Medusa, the Human Torch – and several random Inhumans – and deposited them in Limbo, famous, of course, for its deadly demons.
This is where Bunn goes for the heart strings. Because, sadder than the concept of war itself, is the fact that innocent bystanders are often dragged into the conflict. As you’ll see in IVX #2, the X-Men’s aim isn’t to harm Inhumans; just ensure they stay out of their way as they finish what Cyclo–er, Emma Frost started – destroy the remaining Terrigen Cloud.
But sadly, this issue begins with Sabretooth and Rachel Grey discovering that innocent Inhumans were transported to Limbo, where they met their demise at demons’ claws. One injured Inhuman asks the X-Men who discover her, “Why would you bring us to a place like this?”
That’s a powerful moment – one that will surely define this event in my memory. And just as we saw the impact M-Pox has had on innocent mutants in Extraordinary X-Men #17, this moment shows that recent events really haven’t been good for either side.
This is far from the issue’s main plot, though, as Bunn spends the rest of the issue furthering his exploration of the inner struggles post-AXIS Sabretooth and post-Emplate M are both experiencing. In my opinion, the sometimes-flirty relationship between Victor Creed and Monet St. Croix has been one of the highlights of this series. It’s like a twist on the classic Wolverine/younger-female-X-Man-mentor relationship, just, only a more twisted twist, as it’s the formerly murderous Sabretooth. Hopefully the characters’ post-IVX writers won’t drop the threads Bunn developed and instead build on them.
What’s also encouraging is that this issue of Uncanny X-Men, unlike the last, feels like it fits into this series. Because of events like IVX, tie-in issues can end up overrun with characters from other books (as last issue featured Jean Grey, the Stepford Cuckoos and Karnak). This comic book should reassure fans of Bunn’s run that he intends to wrap up many of his subplots, even if his stars are currently at war.
Although this particular volume of Uncanny X-Men launched with Greg Land’s photorealistic pencils, Lashley’s moodier style is a better fit for the series. This is a dark and complex group of X-Men. Characters with razor-sharp claws and mouths in the palms of their hands – in Limbo of all places – just call for savage pencils. Colorist artist Nolan Woodard uses muted shades while playing up the shadows, which reminds you that while you’re reading a superhero comic, these mutants are far from the do-gooders your parents grew up reading.
More so than Civil War II, IVX feels like a real war. And for fortunate readers, the spoils of war just so happen to be great stories via creators like Bunn and Lashley.