Uncanny X-Men #20 Review

by Charles Martin on June 19, 2019

Uncanny X-Men #20 Review
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Salvador Larocca
Colourist: Guru-eFX
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

This title's complicated plot-dance is finally tip-toeing its way toward a climax. There are two issues left in the series, and this one starts the process of tying everything back together.

#20's big development is undoing the mutant vaccine du jour. Since the X-Men's only tool for the job is super-science performed by Dark Beast, you better believe there are unintended - and regrettable - consequences. 

(It doesn't help that Dark Beast turns the trick thanks to a little help from Mr. Sinister; that's like improving your grade in theology class by cribbing off Satan's lecture notes.)

There's also a little action on deck, courtesy of Emma Frost hurling mutants and Hellfire lackeys at Wolverine and Scott's team fighting the Upstarts for … I'm sure there were reasons. 

The two big action scenes are notable mainly through their lack of notability, and I think the problem extends through the whole creative team. Salvador Larocca's art is scrupulous about individual character renderings, but the layouts are messy. The lack of smooth visual flow is further hindered by dialogue that's several steps removed from the action; we have characters debating mutant ethics 101 while some vague fighting happens at the same time.

Guru-eFX's palette work has strengths and weaknesses. Overall, the colours are muted to enhance the grim mood of the story. This becomes counterproductive in the Upstart fight scene, though. The cool nighttime colours don't do much to help the art in its uphill battle for clarity.

I think most readers understand by this point in the series that plot trumps character. The story grinds mercilessly over characters; a few have already been mangled in the process. This does suit the dark subject matter and it helps sell the high stakes. 

And sometimes, Matthew Rosenberg's high-level plotting works wonders and the "big picture" story transcends the individual issues. #20 delivers another conversation between Cyclops and Captain America, and it has a carefully-planned transformative effect on how those two characters have related in earlier appearances.

But sometimes, the plotting decisions can be inscrutable or questionable. For example, I feel little remorse about "spoiling" the fact that Dark Beast's anti-vaccine has terrible repercussions. That's because the issue itself spoils that development, using an "effect before cause" structure to try and exchange surprise for suspenseful foreshadowing. I don't think it was a good bargain.

This run of Uncanny X-Men has always been aimed at tragedy, and here in the final act, the plot zeroes in on the bullseye. The consequences of the characters' poor choices are becoming clear. While the emerging shape of the plot is grimly satisfying, the same can't be said for the characterization, or some of the visuals. The upcoming end of the volume isn't going to be good for the X-Men, but it will allow readers to breathe a sigh of relief.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
I'm shocked, shocked to discover that Madrox was right about trusting Dark Beast. Well, not that shocked.