Writer: Kieron Gillen
Pencillers: Carlos Pacheco and Paco Diaz
Colourist: Guru eFX
Inker: Cam Smith
Letterer: Virtual Calligraphy’s Joe Caramagna
Previously, in Uncanny X-Men: After the Schism, a disagreement between Cyclops and Wolverine over the treatment of younger mutants caused the X-Men to split in two. One half, lead by Cyclops, remained on their island home of Utopia, fighting to protect mutantkind and the world, whilst the other half, lead by Wolverine, returned to rebuild their Westchester school.
On Utopia, Cyclops has formed the Extinction Team – a team of the most powerful mutants that will be able to face any threat. After a breakout at the SWORD intergalactic prison, the Earth is covered with escaped alien convicts, and SWORD’s leader, Abigail Brand, calls in both the Extinction Team and the Avengers to capture them all. Mutant messiah Hope Summers, also a member of the Extinction Team, is tricked into facing the psychopathic supercomputer Unit alone, and he closes in to dissect her…
I’m not sure if it’s because of Avengers Vs. X-Men hitting the title soon, or just Gillen’s inability to end an arc on a high, but this arc, like the two preceding it since Uncanny X-Men relaunched, ends rather unsatisfactorily. I think the problem lies in the fact that Gillen can’t really make any lasting changes to the team this close to the crossover, since we’ve already seen in his work on Journey Into Mystery, Thor, and other titles that he is perfectly capable of ending arcs in great ways. However, this means that this issue seems to judder to a halt rather than conclude, just as before. There are dangling plot threads that could be picked up after the crossover finishes, but for now, this feels a little contrived, like the storyline hit the brakes halfway through rather than coasting to a conclusion.
What we do get is fairly enjoyable, regardless of how it ends. It’s almost worrying to see the entire Extinction Team have the floor wiped with them by Unit, who takes them all down with ease, and all with a smile on his face and a polite voice. When you have a team comprised of some of the most powerful mutants on the planet, watching them get defeated so easily is almost disconcerting. However, when Unit is then easily defeated himself by the arrival of another character, it makes the last few pages feel almost out of continuity. This is rectified with a reveal late in the book, however, but it does make the reader question the motivation of Unit as a character, which remains unclear.
As the final issue before Avengers Vs. X-Men hits, this issue does deliver something quite poignant about the relationship between both teams. Whilst they only meet for a few panels in this issue compared to last issues longer interaction, that is all that is needed to get across what Gillen wants to show. Cyclops says that the Extinction Team is out to save the world, but their actions in this issue show that that is not quite what they stand for, when the entire team leave the battlefield in order to rescue their mutant messiah, Hope. This sets the stage nicely for the conflict in Avengers Vs. X-Men, in which it seems that Cyclops will once again be looking out for mutants ahead of the entire world. It’s a powerful scene that lasts only a few panels, but is noteworthy nonetheless.
Artistically, Carlos Pacheco and Paco Diaz are much more in sync than the last time they graced the pages of Uncanny X-Men, which became a little inconsistent near the end. Here, however, they produce smooth, easy to read panels and have great fun depicting Unit defeating the X-Men – you can feel the impact that the characters make when he knocks them aside, which adds weight to the already strong visual of seeing the X-Men defeated. I will also draw attention to the superb cover, which actually had a few people in my comic shop not realize that this was in fact Uncanny X-Men, due to the destruction of the logo.
To conclude, Kieron Gillen’s run on Uncanny X-Men so far has been hampered by stilted conclusions to well developed arcs, and this is no exception. There are some gems to be found in this issue, but most of it feels like the issue is only biding its time before the Avengers Vs. X-Men crossover hits the pages next month.
GO Rating: 2.5/5