Uncanny X-Men #3 Review

by Charles Martin on November 28, 2018

Uncanny X-Men #3 Review
Writers: Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson & Ed Brisson
Artist: Yildiray Cinar
Colourist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Have you seen that email forward/Tumblr post/meme where a teacher gives a girl and a boy a collaborative writing assignment and they produce a hilarious, argumentative text that alternates between romance and sci-fi adventure before collapsing into seething mutual hatred?

Can you guess why I'm bringing this up before reviewing a collaboratively-written comic?

Uncanny X-Men #3 is a heavy load of plot progression that trundles forward while jettisoning most of the charming characterization from the first two issues. In the eyeblink between #2 and #3, Jean Grey became 20% colder, the Youngster Squad holding down the Xavier Institute lost all its charisma, and the whole tone of the story took a swerve into grimness. 

Granted, the forces moving against the X-Men are growing more complicated and threatening by the page. This issue forges an important, still-needs-investigating link between the Madroxes and Legion. And it gives us our first mystifying peek at the Horsemen of Peace, who arrive with a bang in the final scene. That's already an ample serving of antagonism, and we still have no idea what's up with Kitty and Apocalypse.

This is also a very good-looking comic. The art makes a feast out of multiple battle scenes, productively employs heavy shadows, and works an impressive visual transformation on Legion as events alter his character. It also links well to the previous issues - this one has its own style, but it adheres very closely to the character design work that's already been done. 

As Jean notes, this issue delivers the for-real version of the Madrox fight she dreamed in #1. This is shown in a panel that precisely, gorgeously replicates the crucial double spread from Jean's dream. It's a very impressive visual callback and it demonstrates an encouraging level of dedication from this title's many artists.

Diverse colours really sell the breadth of the action scenes; there's one gorgeous panel where Jean's team simultaneously deploys all the colours of the zappy rainbow. Purple psionics, green magnetism, blue freeze-rays, orange blast fields, red biokinetics …

Hang on, I may have just talked myself into a bowl of Lucky Charms.

Okay, so it's a very pretty comic. And it certainly doesn't short us on plot developments. But I have to circle back to the startling shortage of characterization. 

This is a big story with a huge cast. While I can understand the need to metaphorically shut up and get the story told, I question the wisdom of that goal if we start to lose touch with the people at the story's center. World-shaking events that are poised to rattle the whole X-family demand more engagement and intimacy than run-of-the-mill challenges, not less.

Uncanny X-Men #3 covers a lot of plot-ground, but it does so at the expense of vivid characterization. While it's pretty and it's eventful, it lacks the engaging, sympathetic connection with the mutants that was so evident in previous issues. The result is a connective episode, a comic you power through in hopes of greater moments down the road.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
At first, I rated Jean's temperature drop much higher than 20%. Then I realized I was confusing her voice with Bishop's in a few panels. That's … actually a much bigger characterization problem?