Uncanny X-Men #16 Review

by Charles Martin on April 17, 2019

Uncanny X-Men #16 Review
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colourist: Guru-eFX
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The surprise announcements have come and the writing is on the wall now: Jonathan Hickman is gonna give the X-Men an auteur shakeup in the near future.

So what does Uncanny X-Men have to work with in the meantime? A short team of exhausted mutants, burnt or burning out, grappling with classic hate and fear and paying a frightful cost for the struggle.

My reaction to this issue crystallized at the midpoint, where Scott and Logan clink whiskey glasses and discuss the riskiness of their latest stratagems.

It's tough guys drinking tough booze talking about the tough choices their tough world demands of them. It's so very, very 90s. Logan would absolutely be smoking a cigar if Marvel's smoking ban weren't in effect.

And Salvador Larroca has detected the spirit of the book and delivered suitable character art: Stiff, muscley, splash-panel-happy. It's refined to a very high level in terms of anatomy and blocking, but there's a limit to how much emotion the faces can convey. 

That becomes a bit of a problem as the plot and character work turn melodramatic in the back half of the issue. This story starts with an excellent team shake-up. 

Scott gets serial lectures from Captain America and his brother. This pushes him toward leadership changes, and that segues into a great ensemble scene for his whole team.

It's the rear half that gets into trouble, starting with a classic (maybe too classic, ie clichéd) fight with the Brotherhood. After a dose of visually-impressive combat, the conflict shifts into a more philosophical plane with big speeches and big ideas. Coming after the momentous meeting in the middle, this thoughtful but laborious debate veers toward word overload.

The delivery of three dramatic twists in close succession doesn't help. The first feels logical, the second, surprising, and the third, unfortunately, superfluous. By the final page, the developments strike the reader as desperate instead of dramatic.

Although it seems unlikely that this arc will ascend into the pantheon of great X-Men stories, and this particular issue is awfully wordy, it steers clear of outright disappointment. That's thanks largely to Matthew Rosenberg's obvious commitment to the characters and engagement with the ideas that challenge them. Though the story is struggling to connect with readers, its importance to the characters is never in doubt. That's the lifeline holding the book together.

Uncanny X-Men #16 shows mutants questioning everything as the world around them grows ever more hostile. They weigh their options with insight and wisdom, which makes for enjoyable reading. The brakes on the plot fail at the end, though, burying the characters in a landslide of twists and screeching inadvertently into melodrama. This remains a decent story, but the latest revelations don't do much in its ongoing struggle to justify itself.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
This art hearkens back to the good ole days when you judged quality by the number of separately-defined serratus muscles visible on the page.