Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Uncanny X-Men 30, originally released January 28th, 2015.
There was an old lady who swallowed a cow
I don’t know how she swallowed a cow
She swallowed the cow to catch the dog
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
I don’t know why she swallowed a fly — Perhaps she’ll die!
Drew: Way back in All-New X-Men 1, Hank McCoy was up against a problem so insurmountable, his only solution was to drag the original X-Men into the present to help solve it. Uncanny X-Men 30 finds Eva Bell against an even more insurmountable problem, one the original X-Men already failed to solve. What’s she left to do but to go back in time and call in the X-Men’s boss? It’s escalation in its purest (and most obvious) form, but does bringing Charles Xavier back from the dead suffer from the repetition?
To be fair, Eva’s plan is actually to change the past — she’s trying to convince Xavier to take a different approach to Matthew Malloy (though she doesn’t offer any suggestions beyond that) — but ends up bringing Xavier to the present (apparently, Hank picked up his “let’s solve a problem by time traveling until after it’s a problem” strategy from his beloved mentor). Meanwhile, in the present, Matthew, Scott, and Illyana have already been killed (oops! might need to time travel to before THAT one…), but Matthew is able to resurrect himself. No luck with the other mutants, though.
That revelation would have a lot more impact if it didn’t accompany a story where a famously long-dead character was featuring prominently. I think the point of emphasizing the finality of death was to add impact to Emma’s demise a few pages later, but again, if Charles Xavier is walking — er, wheeling — around, it’s hard to make death feel even like a minor inconvenience.
I know, I know, complaining about the devaluation of death in comics is beating a resurrected horse, but its rare that a writer aims to make a death impactful in the same issue they’re bringing dead characters back. That proximity seems to reemphasize Marvel’s more recent fickleness with character deaths — Nightcrawler and Peter Parker immediately spring to mind — but closer examination might reveal that both Scott and Illyana have already come back from the dead: Scott died briefly in “Battle for the Atom” and Illyana died back in 1993. Emma doesn’t have any experience returning from the dead, but if all this time travel doesn’t fix the timeline, I’m sure someone will have cause to bring a younger version of herself into the present within the next year or so.
Ugh. I hate nitpicking that larger mythology stuff, but this issue really doesn’t hold together on its own terms. Does death mean anything when anyone can willy-nilly be nabbed from the past? Heck, that very principle is why the Scott Summers that died in this issue wasn’t the only one running around in the present. More importantly, that’s a really stupid solution. Eva is trying to change the past, not looking for a hand in the future. Even if Charles can tame Matthew in the present, wouldn’t it be better for all the people he’s already killed if, you know, he never killed them in the first place? Or maybe nobody cares because all of those folks will inevitably be resurrected, too.
Suffice it to say, I don’t love the premise, but unfortunately, I think this issue fails in the execution, as well. I mentioned as much back in our discussion of Uncanny X-Men 25, but Brian Michael Bendis really doesn’t have a good handle on Xavier’s voice. Bendis’ dialogue tends to feature a lot of snarky banter that fits just fine for his teen characters, but feels particularly awkward coming from the hyper-intelligent elder statesman that is Charles Xavier.
Idle threats? Complaining to a child that they’ve “ruined” his life? Using “so” as an intensifying adverb? Using “obviously” as a sentence fragment? I think these would all be on the list of “don’ts” in the Charles Xavier handbook. It’s so not something Professor X would say. Obviously. Seriously, though, those don’t sound like something any adult would say, let alone one as intelligent and well-spoken as Charles Xavier.
While I’m complaining about that scene, I’d like to renew my objection to Eva Bell’s “skirt.” It’s no exaggeration to say that I own belts that are thicker. I’ll admit that I’m not much of a maven when it comes to women’s fashion, and I know absolutely nothing when it comes to women’s fashion in Australia, but it’s hard not to see Eva’s costuming decisions as being made for the audience’s benefit. I don’t really have anything new to add on the subject of leering depictions of women in comics (and this series has never been great in that regard), but it felt worth pointing out.
Woof. Michael, I’m sorry I couldn’t come up with anything I actually liked about this issue. Did it fare any better with you? Do you have any theories on who they’d call in when Xavier is no longer up to the task? I’m not sure how it would work, but my best guess is they’d bring a time machine back from the past.
Michael: I love your intro poem Drew; it’s a perfect depiction of the insane rabbit hole of comic books, and the current state of X-books in particular. The immensely complicated inner-workings and continuity-ties are the double-edged sword of comic books. Personally, I love it. Most of my current X-Men knowledge is just backtracking from event to event to see how we got here. Unfortunately, it feels like Uncanny X-Men has hit a point of critical mass as far as it’s time-travel-displacement plot devices go. My mind often races ahead of me and wonders things like “Is all of this time travel insanity going to come crashing down in the aftermath of Marvel’s Secret Wars?” With so much convolution and “time travel cheating,” it wouldn’t be hard to imagine a simplified version of the X-Men universe following Secret Wars. But I digress.
I played catch up with my Uncanny X-Men after having read Uncanny X-Men 30, so I wasn’t completely aware of what was going on in the book beyond the credit page’s (much needed) “previously” description. That being said, I was 100% unaffected by Cyclops’ “death.” The way that he was so very unceremoniously “killed off,” I wouldn’t believe it to begin with. But when you are loading an issue like this one with A) time travel B) magic and C) a mutant who “has power over time and space and life-and-death, you CANNOT expect me to believe that a major character has died and will stay dead. It feels a little insulting, really. Though to give credit where credit is due, I did find the scene where Emma Frost has an emotional psychic breakdown touching. Though their relationship strained lately, Emma still loves Scott; he has become her world in a way. Chris Bachalo’s visuals of that world being “shattered” definitely hit the right notes. Then of course Matthew kills Emma, further supporting the likelihood of these deaths being undone in some way.
I agree with Drew on the out-of-character depiction of Professor X. Though we aren’t really sure what point in time Eva has traveled back to, this Xavier is hardly the guy you go to for help; maybe that’s the point. Bringing Xavier to the present instead of “changing his mind” does seem like a pretty half-baked idea. Then again, would changing his mind actually do anything? The fact that the original X-Men are still in the present and have not returned to their original timeline implies that messing with the past doesn’t actually have any effect on the timeline at all!!! Gaaah so many time travel paradoxes and conundrums!
And yeah, what can be said about the unnecessary female costuming in comics that hasn’t already been said? Eva was wearing her X-jacket uniform right before she went back in time in Uncanny X-Men 29, but when she showed up at Xavier’s door she was back in her skimpy white-and-blues. I guess you could argue that she was breaking away from the “group mind” of the X-Men and symbolically was more individualistic in her skirt. But it’s still a stupid short skirt.
Basically Cyclops, Magik and Emma will be back from the dead in an issue or two; Matthew will be killed, de-powered or neutralized by the end of the arc and Charles Xavier will return from whence he came. I love comics; I really do. But sometimes they can do the silliest things.
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