Matthew Rosenberg’s Uncanny X-Men run has come under plenty of fire as of late. Of the many complaints levied against the series, the most obvious was how it had seemed to fall into a rut. There has been plenty of death and violence, but it’s been alongside a pretty ho-hum story. Thankfully, Uncanny #20 finally progresses that story. There are still some moments that have become an unfortunate staple of the series, but it is an improvement from previous issues.
Uncanny #20 does a great job of adding tension to the story. Ever since he “joined” the X-Men, the question has always been when and how will Dark Beast turn on the team. There has been some great foreshadowing mixed with reasons to make readers second guess themselves. Even though it seems fairly obvious what he is planning to do, the evil McCoy has also done enough to make readers wonder what his true intentions are.
The whole thing plays out perfectly in the twentieth issue. The ambiguity of Dark Beast’s allegiance has quietly hovered over the book as he has patiently worked in the background. Each issue has given a taste of what he is doing and has left enough wiggle room to make some question whether he is being honest. When things come to a head in this issue, his help seems genuine.
In one of the highlights of Rosenberg’s run, the debate between the various members of the team echo what readers have been thinking. The end result leads to a whole new set of questions. It also opens the possibility for interesting character development and storylines. It’s the first time in a while that readers have been able to get this involved in an issue of Uncanny.
The conclusion of the book is also the first time the team has actually seemed like the real X-Men. Up until now, the team has felt like the X-Men in name only — this is partially intentional, as it’s clear the team is trying to figure out their place in the world. Some of it is also due to the uninspired stories. It has not felt like the X-Men, because these have not been issues you want your favorite mutants to be a part of. Here, on the last page of the issue, fans finally get the feeling these are the Uncanny X-Men.
Even the art seems to have improved. Artist Salvador Larroca’s work looks less rushed this issue. There’s more emotion in the characters and the fight scenes look less hectic. The panel placement in the issue is great and Magik looks particularly good. The art adds to the writing. The team actually looks like real superheroes instead of powerful mutants that do not get along.
Not everything is perfect in Uncanny #20. Those who have grown tired of the bloodshed may not be impressed with the issue’s story progression. It seems like a death in Uncanny is no longer surprising. The real spoiler is when an issue goes by without someone dying a violent death. There are no spoilers here, and the deaths are particularly ugly.
The biggest problem is one of the deaths is filled with emotion. Unfortunately, since mutants dying in Uncanny has become a running joke, the entire moment loses all sense of gravity. It happens and it is disgusting, but it does not have the emotional impact it should.
Uncanny X-Men #20 is a step in the right direction. The storytelling is more focused, leading to increased tension. Things are also moving at a slower pace that allows readers to actually take in what is happening. The negative impact of a string of deaths is fully felt in this issue. A highly emotional moment comes off as flat and pointless. Still, it’s good to see an issue that has focus.