Comic Reviews, Comics, Reviews

Uncanny X Men Volume 4: Vs S.H.I.E.I.D.

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When I saw that the name “Bendis” was on the cover, I knew that things were about to get a little dicey. Little did I know that I would be so right so fast. The original Uncanny X Men series was a lot of fun and probably one of the best X Men series of all time. This one? Well, this is the first volume that I’ve read in the series, but I can certainly say that I was not impressed. The writing is weak and the story is not very engaging. Let’s launch into the summary!

The Uncanny X Men have been hunted by Shield (Let’s forget the periods for a while) for too long. Sentinels keep attacking them at every turn so Cyclops decides to pay Maria Hill a visit. He declares that if Shield is attacking the mutants, it is war. If it is not Shield, but they continue to allow the attacks, then it is war as well. With his ultimatum at the ready, Cyclops storms off. Maria Hill has no idea who is doing this, but she’ll arrest the mutants to at least stop one problem!

There is a Vs in the title so that means that we get a lot of action here right? Wrong! There aren’t any real action scenes to speak of here. The big scene at the end simply involves taking over someone’s tech and using it to stop the crisis. There were no big battles and that was a little sad. I like dialogue based comics as much as the next guy, but when Bendis is the writer…that’s simply not going to work. The issues aren’t very interesting. You can tell that the series is building up to something of course, but it’s not going fast enough.

I’ve been taking my shots at Bendis for a while so let’s elaborate on why his writing isn’t good here. First off, we have a mutant who can project energy balls around himself. Naturally, this means that the kid only talks about the balls and constantly says it in a way that can be taken in other directions. It’s obvious to everyone that he is talking about his ability, but naturally a character has to actually point this out and put him on the spot.

Next up, the telepaths decide to invade more minds to dredge up some dark secrets like Maria Hill having a crush one on of the main characters. The scene is rather unnecessary and just goes to show that Bendis doesn’t have a strong script at the ready so he has to distract us with filler. I could go on all day, but the point is that the comic is all about dialogue and yet, the dialogue is not that good.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that the art isn’t very good. It’s certainly subdued, which hurts its cause in the brightness angle, but the main problem is how similar some of the characters look. Why do Magik and Emma Frost look the same? That shouldn’t be possible and Magik’s costumes from the past were all rather iconic and epic. They were fitting for such a demonic princess. Wearing the same costume as Emma Frost is just taxing on the eyes as you can never tell who is who giving the pages an extra minute each time. The energy blast scenes have the potential to be good and we get some nice visuals in the first comic, but a lot of them are too big for the comic to keep up. You know what is happening, but only because it was a quick action. In a real fight, I have a feeling that the art would crumble.

The other X Men group gets to appear, but all of the members are extremely unlikable. Seriously, they just come to pick fights and then get mad when Cyclops puts them in their place. Iceman decides to pick a fight by insulting Cyclops and trying to make him look bad in front of the others. Cyclops naturally responds with an optic blast and Iceman immediately escalates into near death threats. Iceman used to be a good character, but his current personality coupled with his terrible design didn’t do wonders for him as a character. Storm also looks very unreasonable and let’s not even get started with the Beast. The Beast just seems to have finally cracked and he certainly can’t be trusted.

Although it is easy to lose sight of this, the main plot is about someone who is framing Shield. We eventually find out who it is and I have to suspend a lot of disbelief because it’s a very big stretch of the imagination. Someone popped in from an alternate universe and managed to hack into Shield’s tech? Hacking into Shield is apparently easy, but this is really pushing the envelope. This character is also pretty unlikable so it was a twist that didn’t help the comic at all.

Meanwhile, we have a subplot where Mystique is essentially ruling an island as a drug lord and getting people hooked on it at the expense of Dazzler. Magneto frees Dazzler and wants vengeance on Mystique and her posse. I’m sure that the group will fight soon, but it’s another subplot that I didn’t care for. On the contrary, removing the subplot would have probably helped the comic as we could have had more issues for better plots.

One issue was all about Professor Xavier’s will, which apparently leads into the next volume as it is the big cliffhanger. If you wanted Prof X’s reputation as a hero to remain, you may want to skip that issue. He admits that while he was telling the X Men that all mutants should live in peace with humans and to protect them, he was actually brainwashing one. You see, there lived a mutant so powerful that he could apparently destroy the Avengers with ease. Prof X had a vision of this guy taking Thor down with a single blow among others. So, he decided to remove the boy’s powers with his telepathy and trick him for eternity. The boy caught on though and in the present, his powers are starting to run rampant.

When he powers up, everyone who is around him is instantly turned to dust. As his last command, Professor X wants the X Men to go and brainwash the kid once more and steal his memories/powers. Cyclops is disgusted with this mission while the others are mostly ho hum about it all. Cyclops is fighting to protect mutants so I hope that he ends up trying to lead this kid down the heroic path. It’s certainly going to be tricky though and I imagine that a lot of fights are about to begin.

The bright side is that this plot seems to be a lot more interesting and engaging than the rest of the issues that we got. I didn’t think that a comic with as many big characters as this one could be boring, but that’s essentially what happened. I found the big “Vs Shield” graphic novel to be a little dull. Things moved at a snail’s pace and Sentinels stopped being a threat decades ago. Cyclops typically got all of the interesting scenes so hopefully he will get some interesting fights next time.

Overall, It feels like it has been a while since I’ve given a main stream DC or Marvel title under a 6, but this one just couldn’t make it for me. The negatives were simply too much and it reminded me of the Amazing Spider Man series. Cyclops is still a good character and he has some epic moments, but the comic is really just missing a golden opportunity where it could have had some epic team battles and good plot developments. I can only hope that this series gets better soon as the premise behind Cyclop’s group is still rock solid. Where are the Avengers? Having another scuffle with them would have been interesting. On a side note, Magneto really let himself go. You’ll probably cringe when you see his new design.

Overall 5/10

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