The current run of Bendis penned X-Men books work on me because I’m a huge fan of X-Men mythology. I get excited at the words “new mutants” in ways that probably aren’t healthy. Since the days when I was able to discover X-Men comics (both contemporary Claremont/Byrne and reprinted Lee/Kirby) on the drug store magazine racks, I’ve never been able to stray too far from the X-Men books even if they’ve more often disappointed than thrilled. As Bendis begins his stint on Uncanny X-Men #1, Bendis introduces an edge to the comic that it’s tried to have for the past few years under Fraction and Gillen that it’s just missed. There’s an honest to goodness sense of danger in this first issue as a man, bald and unassumingly seated in a cell, talks to the head of SHIELD about how dangerous and out of control Scott Summers actually is.
With this first issue, Bendis drives home just how isolated Cyclops really is. Even though he’s surrounded by an X-Men team (maybe even for the first time his X-Men team,) he’s a hunted man. The man talking with Maria Hill says that even as he’s becoming more popular with the public in his mutant revolution, “they don’t know what he’s capable of. They don’t know that he is a monster.” In battle with Emma Frost at his side, a woman he’s loved since Morrison’s run almost 10 years ago, there’s none of that familiar banter. That flirtation during battle is gone replaced with a workmanlike relationship that’s far more professional than personal. Magik is a soldier. Magneto is an elder statesman. And then there are the two newbies to whom he is the Professor. This is his team but these aren’t his friends.
The problem with Bendis’ writing here and in All New X-Men is that I don’t know if they’ve shown Cyclops as the way everyone is talking about him. I’ll give you “mutant revolutionary” because that’s what he’s been for a while now but “arrogant,” “broken” or “monster?” Sure, these comics are part of a continuing monthly narrative that’s been going on since before Bendis began writing X-Men comics but there’s nothing in Bendis’ stories to back that up. Maybe that’s the point. Everyone views Cyclops as some kind of monster now but Bendis isn’t writing him that way. He’s much more focused and driven instead. It’s hard to tell still what Bendis’ take on Scott Summers really is.
I wonder how many X-Men comics Chris Bachalo has drawn in his career. It’s certainly been a lot but he always brings a playfulness in the artwork with him. From the way that he hides the identity of the bald man (which is truthfully a slight cheat by both Bendis and Bachalo) to the off-kilter action sequences, Bachalo looks like he’s actually having fun drawing things like the new Nick Fury, Sentinels and Magik’s ginormous sword. Slanting the panels in the action scenes a few degrees, Bachalo also leaves a lot of white space on the page. With the lack of solid panel outlines, there’s an odd flow to Bachalo’s work that I can’t tell if it is good or now yet. It just makes the comic feel different than Stuart Immonen and David Marquez’s tight All New X-Men work.
The X-Men are broken. In this book, it’s that their powers are literally broken and over in All New X-Men, it’s that the original team from the past has to figure out how to fix the present. That gives Bendis and his collaborators an interesting starting point as he’s dealing with two Cyclops; one young and not understanding the future, one old and trying to inspire the best in man and mutant kind. Both books are tapping into the X-Men mythology, mostly the one codified by Chris Claremont. Like Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force or even Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run, Bendis is playing with the mythology of these characters and he’s able to meddle both with the past and the present to create a volatile state for Cyclops and the teams that are trying to understand whether he’s a hero or a monster.