Today, Taylor and Michael are discussing Uncanny X-Men 32, originally released March 25th, 2015.
Taylor: In the modern world revolution has become sexy. One has but to look at our continued fascination with James Dean and Che Guevera to realize this. One reason for this obsession with revolution is that we always love new things and, if nothing else, revolution promises something new and different. However, strip away the romanticized version of revolution and you’re left with something much less appealing. In particular, the likes of the ongoing war in Syria comes to mind. In the end while we appreciate the fruits of revolution the actual process of it turns out to be quite messy. Uncanny X-Men 32 explores the difference between the perception of revolution with the reality of it to mixed results.
Scott Summers is at an impasse. After traveling back in time to ensure thousands of people don’t die at the hands of a killer mutant, he now has to ponder what to do next with “revolution.” Still feeling guilty about the death of Professor X, Scott is planning to turn himself in. In doing so, he’s disbanded his school. Scott’s brother, Alex (Havoc) has shown up as well, offering both advice and support. What exactly this all means for Scott’s revolution, we have yet to find out.
Issue 32 is aiming for the slow burn. It’s packed full of dialogue and aside from some balls hitting Scott’s face, there’s essentially no action. It all sets the stage for an exploration of what exactly Scott’s revolution is about and what he hopes to achieve with it. This sets the stage for Chris Bachalo to creatively lay out his panels to help maintain the readers’ interest. We first see this when Scott and his brother Alex are catching up while setting up Alex for the night.
This is an untraditional panel in a lot ways. First, it’s huge — taking up half of the page hot-dog style. We don’t see that particular layout used often in comics because it easily causes things to look cramped. Bachalo avoids that by letting his drawing spill off the page which focuses our attention less on the cramped space of our characters and more on the dialogue taking place in the scene. This successfully focuses our attention on what’s being said in a wonderfully vertical fashion. I simply love how we can read this conversation in much the same way we would read a book. By all means, a panel with this much dialogue shouldn’t work, but Bachalo finds a way to do just that in an interesting fashion.
Later in the issue, Alex presses about the reasons for his revolution. It’s a similar conversation to one that Scott had earlier with Emma Frost and writer Brian Michael Bendis and Bachalo take this opportunity to employ a neat mirroring effect.
The technique of having two simultaneous conversations happening in a scene is nothing new. However, what stands out is how Bachalo and letterer Joe Caramagna show how the conversations overlap. In particular the way he draws Scott delivering the line “I stood on the bridge…” is really unique. Scott’s speech bubbles overlap from one panel to the next, which again, is nothing all that different. However, when you consider that the words he is saying were delivered at two different points in time and to two different people, the subtle cleverness of the panel layout reveals itself. Being able to have speech transcend both space and time is no small feat, yet Caramagna makes it look so effortless it’s easy to overlook. Just as with the other panels in this issue, the layout shows us something neat in the details of the book.
It turns out that Bachalo’s gymnastics with the paneling are much needed in this issue. Dialogue rules this issue and without Bachalo’s inventive layouts this issue could have been a real slog. On his best day’s Scott Summers isn’t the most interesting of the X-Men and devoting an entire issue to his feelings of guilt is a lot to ask of most readers. This isn’t to say the dialogue is unneeded since readers must understand Scott’s actions, but that doesn’t change the fact that Cyclops isn’t a magnetic character and few readers want to spend twenty minutes moping around with him.
All that being said, this issue makes me appreciate the way a good artist can make an issue worth reading even if its content is lackluster. In a way, that’s sort of revolutionary. Michael! Were you as bored by Cyclops’ guilt trip as I was or did you find the exposition more interesting? Also, what do you think of the scene between Emma and Scott? Is that a final break-up or a sign of more conspiracies in the future?
Michael: Taylor, you make some excellent points in your dissection of Bachalo’s layouts that support an issue that was heavy on dialogue and character self-examination. A lesser artist would have allowed the weight of that kind of script to be felt, but Bachalo’s action-to-action panels slow down the scenes and really allow the reader to digest the material in front of them. I think that group scenes like the one where Scott tells his X-Men that he is quitting can sometimes be overwhelming with the amount of characters and opinions being presented. That’s another benefit to give the reader a bit of a breather with two-person scenes like those with Scott and Emma and Scott and Alex.
I don’t think that I’m necessarily bored by Cyclops’ guilt trip, Taylor. Cyclops has always been in the position of being hated. Any fan of any X-Men incarnation would probably agree that Cyclops is good at what he does, but is kind of a tool; a necessary evil, really. I think that Cyclops may be an even harder character to write for than Superman. I haven’t liked Cyclops since way back in Avengers vs. X-Men; I guess I’ve understood why he was doing what he was doing, but he was so thick-headed and narrow-minded it drove me nuts. To see him break down and tell Alex/Emma that he didn’t really know what he was doing was probably my favorite Cyclops moment in recent memory. To me, that was such a beautiful moment of honesty; one I’d like to see more of from Scott Summers.
We at Retcon Punch love to speculate where writers’ opinions and questions peek through their characters. So I suppose it’s possible that Scott’s speech about his revolution being an “idle threat” could be a stand-in for Brian Michael Bendis describing his X-Men run? Bendis is coming to the end of his tenure on Uncanny X-Men and All-New X-Men, which is his own revolution in a way. Does Bendis see his bringing the original X-Men back in time and having Cyclops start a separate X-team as an idle threat? I could see the conversation between Scott and Emma Frost being a Bendis’ soliloquy: asking himself if he did the right thing and then strongly replying “yes” and “stop questioning yourself.”
Which brings us to Emma and Scott; what a can of worms of a couple those two are. Sure, Emma is kinky, witty and rebellious, but she loves the mind games; not to mention that she can actually telepathically play games with your mind. I think that most fans would agree that Scott/Emma is way more interesting than Scott/Jean (though I may be biased — I’ve read more Scott/Emma stories than Scott/Jean.) X-books love to bring the baggage, which at this point Scott and Emma have an emotional storage unit full of. After everything that’s happened in the past two years or so, should the two even consider getting back together? I’m not sure. Uncanny X-Men 32 seems to argue that Scott and Emma need each other — maybe not necessarily romantically, but they often play devil’s advocate for one another and make them take a deeper look inside themselves.
Going back to my thoughts of the “necessary evil” of Cyclops, Emma sees that Scott can be a self-righteous tool, but she can see that he is a complicated man full of conflict, and she loves him for that. I think that Scott needs Emma, but I’m not so sure that Emma needs Scott. While she is certainly not the soft-spoken type, I’d argue that Scott diminishes Emma into a weaker character: the hero’s girlfriend. Emma is good for Scott because she makes him own up to his own bullshit. Scott is good for Emma because…? The answer eludes me, to be honest.
This serves as an epilogue to “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier” arc, with the threat of Matthew Malloy contained/wiped out of existence. Besides the troubling notion of Eva Bell and Charles Xavier going back in time to prevent someone from ever being born (abortion analogy!), this act also changed the circumstances of Xavier’s will — giving everything to Scott Summers. Scott is once again faced with the fact that he killed the surrogate father who loved him so much. Breaking that down a bit, the impetus of Scott’s change-of-heart/coming-to-God moment in this issue is a little fabricated. Time travel stories often feel like a narrative cheat, so I get that there is nothing exactly new there. But it just seems like Bendis is coming to the end of his run and decided to wave a magic wand and have Cyclops be sensible again. I don’t dislike the outcome, but the way we got here kind of rubs me the wrong way when I think about it.
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?