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. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing A + X 11, originally released August 28th, 2013.
Patrick: A+X prides itself of being a pick-up and read series – a zero-cost entry point for anyone looking to have some fun with the Marvel characters. As such, there’s no nonsense that’s too out of line for these stories – you want Beast and Spider-Man to travel to a post-apocalyptic future? No problem! The carefree nature of these stories is compounded by the fact that there are two in every issue – it’s not just a one-off story, it’s a two-off (or half-off… I guess I’m not totally sure how you’d articulate that). A+X 11 bucks this trend, nestling both of it’s stories between the events of current series. It’s a bold, oddly alienating decision for a series that boasts such inclusiveness.
Drew: Does bravery matter in war? Society has long honored the soldiers most willing to ride out and face their enemies, but modern technology renders that way of thinking almost obsolete. Why risk your life in hand-to-hand combat when you can shoot your enemy from a quarter mile away? Or drop a bomb on him? Or better yet, have a drone drop a bomb on him while you sit comfortably in a control room on the other side of the planet? The danger for yourself stops being physical, and starts being spiritual — under what circumstances is it moral to kill someone who poses no immediate threat to you? America has become a bit desensitized to these drone strikes, but in Uncanny X-Men 11, Brian Michael Bendis examines how would-be-victims react to murder-by-proxy. Continue reading
Ethan: When moderately intelligent villains start going about business of realizing their aims, one of the early practical considerations is that of personnel. If you want to take over the world, or bend its orbit into the sun, or just make a whole lot of money, you’re gonna need some other people to help you get there. You can solve this problem in a few different ways: one common one is to just shell out the cash, but you tend to get an army of dim thugs that way. Another way is to come up with an idea that has the twin benefits of both supporting your own aims while striking a chord in the hearts and minds of your potential followers/muscle. In Uncanny X-Men #10, we start to receive signals that Scott is in danger of following in the footsteps of the bad guys he used to square off against, and I don’t even think he knows he’s doing it. Continue reading
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Uncanny X-Men 9, originally released July 31st, 2013.
Drew: Earlier this year, I became addicted to Radiolab, NPR’s quirky show about science and the philosophical repercussions of that science. The show is fascinating, but is also maddeningly self-referential — the hosts will often refer to massive concepts and conclusions from episodes that aired years before. The one that has come up the most often is the idea that your sense of self — the thing that makes you you — is basically the story you tell yourself about your life. That is to say, it isn’t how you look, how you spend your time, what you value, or even the company you keep — what you are is the narrative you believe about your life. Uncanny X-Men 9 finds Brian Michael Bendis examining every single one of his theories, as our new mutants (and a few old ones) struggle to get a handle on their own identities. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and Ethan are discussing Uncanny X-Men 8, originally released June 10th, 2013.
Are there demons? Please no Dormammu please no Dormammu please no Dormammu… Oh, thank God.
-Fabio “Gold Balls” Medina
Patrick: Scott Summers and the
New Uncanny X-Men have spent the last three issues stuck in purgatory. I’m being literal, but what the hell – it’s a metaphor too. The fall-out from the Avengers’ battle with the X-Men has left the mutant leadership in ruins, their superpowers in shambles, and even fractured our heroes’ goals. Illyana Rasputina Conquers Purgatory featured some fantastic art; Frazier Irving rendered Dante-level hellscapes marvelously, but the story had started to spiral around obscure minutae of the Marvel world, all personified by Dormammu. Fabio starts the issue basically praying to be done with Dormammu – when he opens his eyes to see a familiar sight, home, his relief is our relief. The X-Men are back where they belong. Continue reading
Ethan: One evening in college, I was getting ready to turn in a paper that was due the next day. It was all written & polished, so I was just going to skim it one last time and make sure there weren’t any glaring issues. As the file loaded, Word showed a popup window, which I dismissed without reading in the same way you click “I agree” at the bottom of Terms & Conditions. Computers are always showing popup messages, right? They’re usually redundant, whatever. The first page of my paper rendered as a solid mass of gibberish: letters, numbers, and symbols smashed together without spaces… as did the rest of it. 15 pages of junk characters. Alarmed, I closed the file without saving & re-opened it; it turns out that the popup window was warning me that the file was corrupted. As I sat there, in the fading light of the last day before I had to turn this thing in, I thought about what it would take to reproduce the paper from scratch: all the quotes, analysis, and dozens of footnotes containing the specific page references. All of which didn’t exist anywhere else, neither as a hard copy nor digital. While I knew I could pull it together again given some time, in that moment I was overwhelmed with trying to figure out how I was going to make the situation work. While writing a paper isn’t quite the same thing as fighting a giant, fireball-headed master of a hell-dimension, the characters in Brian Michael Bendis’s Uncanny X-Men 6 are definitely up the creek without a paddle (OR MLA-formatted citations).
Today, Ethan and Patrick are discussing Uncanny X-Men 5, originally released April 24th 2013.
Ethan: Each of us has at least two definitions of self – the one we show to the world, and the one we identify as our true self. The external definition — the mask — is usually a tool we use to fit in. Perhaps your mask is funnier than you believe the “real” you truly is, or more confident, or more flippant, or more compassionate. Some of us may present a version of ourselves that is not too different than the one we believe to be true; others of us may show a face that’s more dramatically different than our internal, hidden one. Whatever the distance between the public and private self, whatever qualities you infuse into this living theater of personality, you — and only you — can fully plumb the difference. That is of course, assuming that you know who the “true” you is. In Uncanny X-Men #5, Brian Michael Bendis begins to peel back the figurative and literal masks worn by Magik, reminding us of her past and exploring the present condition of the rebel mutants.
Drew: Writers love exploring different vantage points on the same scene. In fact, they loved it so much, they named it: the Roshomon Effect, for the film that made the conceit famous. Its mix of repetition and change is a potent one, so its use often comes off as gimmicky, but when pulled off well, it can add immense insight into a character’s subjective experience of the world. In Uncanny X-Men 4, Brian Michael Bendis reexamines Cyclops’ pitch from All-New X-Men 10, giving us a rare glimpse into Emma Frost’s mind. Continue reading
Patrick: The X-Men are the perpetual outsiders. They’re different — that’s their whole shtick. Sometimes the X-Men don’t even get along with the X-Men. With Uncanny X-Men, Brian Michael Bendis doubles down on this outsiderness, pitting Cyclops’ band of merry mutants against every one — the government, the Avengers, the rest of the X-Men. It’s the rumblings of a truly unnerving mutant revolution.