In the wake of "Battle of the Atom," Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo deliver a wonderfully quiet story in "Uncanny X-Men" #14. However, because they're particularly clever, they manage to tie this "small story" nicely into the event in a way that is both satisfying and resonant.
Bendis does a good job in this issue of continuing to build up the new mutants' personalities and relationships to one another and to their "mentors." However, this issue is mostly the story of Benjamin Deeds, a guy with an awesome power that is also seemingly useless when it comes to being in any kind of mutant army. Emma Frost takes Deeds under her decidedly un-nurturing wing to give him a crash course in what he's really capable of, as well as a glimpse of what his future looks like (i.e. he'll be in "covert field ops"). Emma's strategy of dropping Benjamin in the deep end of the pool pays off for both for the character and for readers, in that it makes for an engaging and informative tale as well as one with a handful of great laughs. Though any Bendis story is going to be heavy on the witty banter, this issue is a stellar example of showing rather than telling in comics.
Moreover, the tiny twist at the end, ties this otherwise small character-based story nicely into the events and reveals in "Battle of the Atom." "Uncanny X-Men" #14 is an excellent comic from start to finish, setting up what the future of the X-Men (and the world) looks like, as well as how our anti-heroes continue to operate aggressively in that world.
Bachalo's visuals, with his traditional army of inkers, and with Bachalo himself on colors, are outstanding this month as he brings emotional gravitas and personality to these new mutants. This is a book low on high-octane action sequences, but high on subtle effective storytelling, which Bachalo pulls off effortlessly. Though well-known for his kinetic -- sometimes loose -- illustration work, this is a relatively restrained issue for Bachalo in that the work feels calmer on the whole, which is not a criticism. It's as if he's simply being a bit more deliberately clear and precise in his storytelling. I'm a fan of Bachalo's more un-restrained work, but the art style is a good choice for this particular story. Bachalo clearly loves illustrating these new characters, many of which have more "personality" to them than the traditional array of supermodels as superheroes, and it's a nice change of pace visually. As is tradition, Bachalo also pulls no punches when it comes to his character acting, and bold fashion choices (Emma's "Punisher look" is sure to turn some heads). "Uncanny X-Men" #14 bounces from a training sequence in the pouring rain to an Atlantic City casino to a suite of stark financial district offices -- yet, Bachalo executes each as if it was as second nature. There's a depth to his skill that is simply masterful.
While "Uncanny X-Men" isn't doing anything important or even groundbreaking, the book is consistently funny, charming and stunningly illustrated. At the end of the day, "Uncanny X-Men" #14 is simply a joy to read, managing to be engaging emotionally and highly amusing at the same time.