Uncanny X-Men 17

Alternating Currents: Uncanny X-Men 17, Drew and TaylorToday,  Drew and Taylor are discussing Uncanny X-Men 17, originally released February 19th, 2014.

Drew: What would you do if you found yourself lost in the wilderness? It’s the kind of thought experiment that captured my mind as a child. I’m sure the survival skills I cobbled together from movies and second-hand stories from friends wouldn’t have gotten me very far, but I liked to imagine that I would be cool and in control. I still find myself mentally preparing for similarly absurd hypotheticals (where would I go if there was a zombie apocalypse?), but experience has made it clear that decision-making tends to be impaired by the heat of the moment. That is, you may know you’re supposed to turn into the skid, but there’s a pretty big gap between what you know and what you’re actually capable of when in a state of panic. The only way to practice working under pressure is to actually be under pressure, which is exactly what Uncanny X-Men 17 is all about.

This issue finds the kids literally dropped in Tabula Rasa, Montana, home of Marvel’s 10-mile-wide temporal anomaly. The kids are split up surprisingly quickly and eventually run into some hostile natives, but are saved thanks to their own temporal anomaly, Eva Bell. Unfortunately, David’s cell phone (which Cyclops had expressly forbidden) is traced by S.H.I.E.L.D., who arrive in force, and offer the kids immunity if they give up the location of the New Charles Xavier School of Mutants. David uses his abilities to turn the tables on the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents before Magik FWASHes them away, but it’s not enough to redeem him in Scott’s eyes. He gets kicked to the curb (specifically, the curb outside his old apartment), apparently never to X-Man again.

David protests that it isn’t fair, and I’m inclined to agree. Sure, he stupidly and selfishly held onto his cell phone after getting specific instructions to ditch it, but is that really more irresponsible than dropping a group of unprepared kids in “an unpredictable environment”? Like, isn’t Scott just as responsible for orchestrating this situation as David? It’s not exactly like David asked to be dropped into a dangerous scenario, or that he was prepped ahead of time to think tactically. This apparently being their first field test (since nobody seemed to know what was going on),  the point must be to test their instincts, and axing somebody because their instincts weren’t up to snuff seems overly punitive. Isn’t this supposed to be a school?

My problems with Scott’s hypocrisy aside (seriously, if this was such a big deal, why didn’t Magik pull them out the second David revealed his phone? Or the second S.H.I.E.L.D. showed up?), I actually enjoyed this issue quite a bit. It was fun to see the team in action, from the Cuckoos showing their utility in keeping Triage calm, to a solid win for Goldballs. Obviously, the biggest thrill of the issue is when Eva returns from her time-warp, with disheveled clothes and significantly longer hair.

"Remind me to pack a more sensible skirt next time..."

Eva expressly asks Celeste not to share what’s going on in her mind with the others, accompanied with one of the most knowing “I’ve seen some SHIT” looks I think I’ve ever encountered.

In general, I thought artist Chris Bachalo’s work on this issue was stellar. This issue finds basically all of the characters cycling through feelings of confusion, terror, confidence, and elation, and he nails every single one of them. I’m still distracted by his affect of slanting all of the panels on the page. I appreciate its use here to punctuate the off-balance nature of Tabula Rasa (and honestly, if he didn’t use it in every issue, I might have found it effective here), but I still found myself wondering if there are any photoshop-savy fans out there that are de-slanting these pages, just to cut down on the awkward triangles of white space the slanting creates at the top and bottom of each page.

Ultimately, though, I had a lot of fun with this issue. This series seems to have settled into a more episodic rhythm, which I personally find extremely refreshing after the likes of Battle of the Atom. Were you as pleased with this issue as I was, Taylor? More importantly, can you wait to find out exactly what Eva was up to all that time she was missing? Like, her hair grew six inches — you’d think she might have had enough time to just walk out of the 10-mile-wide diameter of Tabula Rasa.

Taylor: Or get a haircut — that damn hippie! I really have no idea where Eva went in her time bubble. But when you exist in the Marvel Universe and you use a time-bubble in a place known for being a temporal anomaly, you know something weird is going to happen. That being said, I don’t really give a damn where Eva went and I mean in that in the best way possible. Does it really matter where she went or what she did? Not really. Sure, I look forward to hearing about it eventually but for now it’s just some good fun peppering this delightful issue.

I think stories in modern pop-culture tends to place too much emphasis on the grandiose and epic. To nerd it up in here a little bit, I’m going to use Star Trek as an example. Remember in the 90s when we had TNG and all it was a series of one-off episodes of strange adventures? Wasn’t that great? Fast forward to more recent sci-fi shows and you have the likes of Battle Galatica – a fine program, but one more epic and serious as a heart attack. A lot of comics these days are the same way too (coughDCcough), but Uncanny X-Men and a slew of other Marvel titles defy this trend. Instead, we get issues that are fast and fun and a nice change of pace in world that enjoys taking itself very seriously most of the time.

This issue achieves this comic feeling through both the art and the writing. Brian Michael Bendis has mastered the art of interjecting humor into his stories and making it seem like an effortless affair. His humor never seems forced and like natural part of the issue, born out of events befalling our heroes and their reactions to it. In this particular instance, there’s a myriad of examples to choose from when it comes to humor. My favorite, however, comes when Nick Fury makes his appearance.

White is the new black.Thinking that perhaps they are still in the danger room,Christopher brings up that Nick Fury’s appearance is different from how he is portrayed elsewhere. This is a reference to how he looked was, how shall put it… well, when he was white. It’s a funny nod to a continuity issue that probably irks some, but is a source of amusement for a lot of us. The scene is made even better when Fury answers “enough with the commentary,” as if he’s not speaking to Christopher but to the very man who is penning his words. It’s a weird and funny little exchange and it fits so snugly in with everything else in this issue it’s easy to miss.

Bachalo, for all his slantiness is obviously having fun doing the art for this issue. What I appreciate most is that he really lets his imagination run wild when pondering what creatures from the Earth’s far future will look like.

Top predator.I mean, I’m pretty sure that’s a thirty-foot tall ostrich. What the hell happens to Earth’s habitat that allows ostriches to become a top predator? It’s hard to imagine and frankly impossible, but aren’t those the very things we want out comic book artists to show us? I’ve never been much of a fan of weird for weirdness’ sake however I do enjoy weird for fun’s sake. This instance clearly is the latter of these two scenarios and it’s hard to dislike a comic when it’s obvious both the writer and artist enjoy working on it so much.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

4 comments on “Uncanny X-Men 17

  1. The most upsetting part about Cyclops kicking that kid off the team is that it reveals a very uncomfortable truth about our Old, Evil Scott: he’s more interested in someone’s tactical usefulness than their safety. Like, it makes the first 16 issues seem much darker – less about saving mutants and connecting with them and more like building an army. I’ve been an OE Scott Booster, but I do not quite feel that way anymore.

    • Right? He’s not really fighting for the protection of all mutants anymore. It seems like his actions are motivated more by self-interest than any sense of justice.

  2. I really hope there is method to Scott’s madness and this action leads to future storylines. I think it could be a trap of some kind.

  3. Nobody else enjoyed the species diversity in Tabula Rasa?! You touched on it with mega-ostrich, but the giant rhino reptile, worm-ish spider, the tentacle trees, the six-foot fungi, and the people-like creatures were left un-examined. I thought those were awesome, even if some were not realistic.

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