For a writer known for "decompressed storytelling," Brian Michael Bendis really packs in a lot of plot in "Uncanny X-Men" #10. With stunning unconventional visuals from artist Frazer Irving, there is a lot to see in the latest "Uncanny X-Men" from Magneto and Maria Hill's secret meeting and the reappearance of Dazzler, to training for X-Men both new and old, a historic visit to a rally in Michigan and an introduction to our heroes latest challenge.
While Bendis' voices for some characters don't always feel quite right, I confess that I love his plot's direction. The way Bendis ties the events of the Phoenix Five into the real world, and allows for serious, complicated and permanent ramifications for "Avengers Vs. X-Men" is fantastic. The fact that these exist well beyond our circle of characters is even better. Although the ramifications are unlikely to last forever, it's a fascinating look at something readers don't get to see often enough: beloved heroes (flawed though they are) operating in a very street level way with the rest of the world. At the same time -- as Bendis reminds in this very issue with the appearance of a "classic Sentinel villain" -- these are still the same battles our heroes have always faced, just with a new twist. It's compelling reading.
"Uncanny X-Men" #10 is straight up a weird looking comic. It just does not look like an average superhero comic, which appeals to me as a reader and reviewer. But it might be a little far out there for people more comfortable with the accepted status quo. Irving's art is highly stylized and as a result sometimes characters look ugly and/or disturbing, which feels nicely real because -- well, sometimes people look ugly and/or disturbing. It's a nice, realistic skew makes the book feel like the creative team's not pulling its punches.
Irving makes stunning use of a stark blue and white landscape for a training sequence and then goes creatively nuts on a double-page crowd scene. It's rare when a crowd scene in a superhero comic looks as good or better than the pages with the heroes on it, but Irving pays insane attention to the small stuff and it pays off. He veers between highly stylized sharp clean shapes that operate almost silhouettes and then into a grainy super textured work and the contrast between the two is sublime.
There are also other (far more shallow) benefits to Irving's work as well. This book (which could easily be subtitled "the book of hot blondes") has six women with the exact same color blonde hair: Emma, the Cuckoos, Magik, and Dazzler. Add at least one dude -- Angel -- and "Uncanny X-Men" is about as blonde-tastic as possible. However, at Irving's hand, all those blondes (except the Cuckoos, obviously) look impressively different. Their faces and expressions and -- perhaps most importantly -- their hair, the style and even quality of it has variety. It's an attention to detail that seems silly on the surface, but is exactly the kind of thoroughness that levels up the art in a book. Although I am a huge fan of Chris Bachalo, these ladies are all almost impossible to tell apart under his pen. It was exciting in this issue to be able to easily distinguish between all the blonde running around.
"Uncanny X-Men" continues to impress and subvert expectations each month. Every issue is consistently smart and beautiful, while pushing a consistent and intriguing agenda. This book feels like it's going places, and while time will tell if everyone on board can ultimately deliver "the place," I'm totally enjoying the ride.