Comic Picks By The Glick

Uncanny X-Men by Bendis vol. 5: The Omega Mutant

December 25, 2015

This is not a storyline that needed nine issues to tell.  I can understand why Bendis may have thought that it did, as it’s essentially the climax of his run on this title.  It’s hard to see how he can get much bigger than having Scott team up with his former comrades to take on a mutant with godlike powers that Professor X hid from them long ago.  There’s no denying that’s a solid place to begin this story, but the execution is downright terrible.

As we found out in the previous volume, Matthew Malloy is the title character here and after the mental blocks Professor X put in place to keep his powers at bay have faded, their return has resulted in the deaths of several hundred humans.  S.H.I.E.L.D. has been powerless to contain him, so they turn to the X-Men, who recently learned of Matthew’s existence from the Professor’s will, to try and solve things their way.  Mind you, this is after Cyclops has shown up for the reading of the will and is reluctantly going along with his former teammates to take care of this problem.  He gets his shot after the telepathic approach fails, trying to convince the new mutant to come and join his revolution.

Probably the best scene in this volume takes place early on when one of the new mutants Cyclops has recruited to his cause, Triage, starts to wonder just exactly what is this “revolution” that they’re supposed to be a part of.  This is after the new recruits find a danger room program that has the Avengers as opponents.  Triage makes a good point that if they’re fighting the Avengers, who are the good guys, what does that make them?  While the Stepford Cuckoos try to shoot down his argument by claiming that they’re revolutionaries, the fact is that after four volumes that whole point has yet to be explained.  Scott Summers may talk a good deal, but does he actually have any kind of plan or ultimate goal for his revolution?

This volume makes clear that the answer to these questions is “No.”  I can’t imagine that anyone would be really surprised by this answer because it’s been clear from the start that Cyclops has just been “winging it” from the start.  The problem is that it doesn’t make for a satisfying one because it strikes me as being an incredibly cheap one that allows Bendis to try and handwave away one of his run’s central problems.  Why has the whole “revolution” idea felt so half-baked and undefined?  Well that’s because it actually is!

To his credit, the writer does show what Cyclops’ plan actually gets him.  There are some good scenes with him and Matthew as the former does his level best to help get the latter’s powers under control.  The idea that by doing this, Cyclops will have balanced the scales for killing Professor X is also a nice one, and provides a good reason as to why the character would risk his life for this.  Unfortunately, this goes quite badly for him as S.H.I.E.L.D. steps in and tries to solve things their way.  Again.

All of this leads up to Tempus using her time-travel powers to go back and bring a certain someone to the present with the hope of fixing all this.  The problem here is that when the idea first comes up, it’s clear that this is how the story is going to be resolved.  Bendis then compounds things by allowing the story in the present day to play out concurrently, giving us the impression that what’s going on here still matters and won’t be reset by the end of the story.  As is the case with the volume as a whole, the good moments that result from this approach aren’t enough to balance out the fact that it just doesn’t work.  We see Beast realize that, for all of his actions, Scott was right about how humans feel about mutants.  Magneto also admits that he knew Scott was having a nervous breakdown, but refused to help him because he was angry at Scott for killing Professor X.

During these moments, we get to see Matthew going on a virtual rampage as he starts figuring out how his powers work and that he can’t be killed by conventional means.  We get some surprising deaths and a ton of carnage along the way, up until the point that Bendis decides to end the story.  Not only does it result in a real lack of drama, but the writer doesn’t take the events of the soon-to-be-ended timeline far enough to be compelling.  Those deaths and the carnage?  Nothing we haven’t seen before.  In fact, through this whole sequence I kept thinking about how Rick Remender did this kind of thing a whole lot better in “Ragnarok Now.”  If you’re going to reset the timeline at the end of your story then you should take that opportunity to go as crazy as you possibly can.  What’s the point of doing anything less?

It also bears mentioning that Matthew is a real non-starter as a character.  He only exists to be so unstoppably powerful that no one can contain him, and for other characters to project their desires onto him.  This may have been less of a problem if the story surrounding him was better-formed.  As it is, the character is nothing more than a walking and talking plot point.

Being such a zero, personality-wise, the way in which he is dealt with is ultimately fitting.  It also gives Tempus the means to call out Cyclops for all that he has done up to this point.  This should’ve been a real showstopping moment -- the climax of Bendis’ run.  However it, like much else here, falls flat because the buildup to it has been mangled in the process.  Not helping matters either is the fact that at this point, a lot of readers will have realized that Tempus’ actions of bringing a certain person to the future to help things was just a stunt.  There was no reason necessary to bring this person to the future aside from an attempt to blow readers’ minds before they realized what was going on.  This distracts from the real pivotal moment of the issue, which only comes across as such because the writer really wants us to think that it is.

Kris Anka and Chris Bachalo are also back to illustrate this volume.  While the former does some sharp, lively work that makes it easier to get invested in the two issues he illustrates, the latter does not have one of his better volumes.  It’s clear from the SEVEN inkers credited on this volume that Bachalo was rushed here, and there are noticeable stylistic shifts within the issues he does to reflect this.  Though the artist is always great with destruction and drawing things that would daunt others, you’re left wishing that Anka had done at least one more issue if only to give Bachalo the time he needed to really show what he can do.

Si Spurrier’s run on “X-Force” also centered on a leader who had a grand plan, but let things get way out of control in the process.  The difference here is that we knew exactly what Cable was up to in that series and you could clearly see the faults in his approach that lead to his downfall.  Bendis’ work on “Uncanny” is like a bloated, haphazard take on that concept.  Yes, I liked how things came together for the first half of “Vs. S.H.I.E.L.D.” but that arc only addressed the many ongoing subplots in his run.  “The Omega Mutant” reveals the central idea of the writer’s run -- the idea of a mutant revolution -- to be as badly thought out as Cyclops’ own vision of it.  I doubt Bendis will be able to turn things around with the final volume, but I’ll be getting it anyway because “it’s the final volume.”  At least Cullen Bunn of “Magneto” fame will be taking over this title and turning it into a villains book with the Master of Magnetism at its head.  His work on that title gives me the impression he can make that concept work and give “Uncanny” a return to form.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

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