Thursday, January 14, 2016

Here's To Surviving The Experience

I had stopped collecting Uncanny X-Men long before December of 2011 was crossed off on my calendar, so I'm afraid I don't have a point of view on what the quality of the book was at the time. Suffice to say that, like other titles whose issue numbering was reaching into the stratosphere, the axe finally came down on UXM and drew the curtain on a nearly fifty-year span of Marvel history.

As its cover implies, the last issue comes full circle, at least symbolically. The tone of the story, however, is not of celebration or nostalgia, but a sign of changing times, and how the X-Men--as a concept and as a team--will face the future.

The story basically provides us with a general sense of where things stand, enough to bring us up to date without including the details of prior issues. It would seem part of the team is abandoning their "Utopia" base off the coast of San Francisco (a remnant of Magneto's orbiting asteroid base which fell to Earth and was recovered and adapted for the team's use), with Wolverine taking a group of its inhabitants and relocating to Westchester County in New York to reboot the Xavier school and likely rename it--while Cyclops, Emma Frost, Storm, Magneto, Colossus, et al. will remain on Utopia. It's a curious step to take.  Since the whole point of the naming of Utopia was to regard it as a safe haven for the mutants who remained and were in need of sanctuary after the events of M Day, there doesn't seem to be much point to retaining that name if a large segment of its population is abandoning it--but what do I know.

As to how much has changed in those changing times that were previously referred to, the story addresses the point succinctly in a very clever side-by-side look featuring the introduction from issue #1, adapted for its counterpart here at the team's crossroads.

The frank comparison would seem to paint a grim picture of the X-Men's evolution as well as the team's state of affairs as it prepares to take its next step. On the other hand, the fact that there is a next step to take, even in the face of all that's happened to the X-Men as well as to the mutant race, offers a peculiar feeling of optimism as everyone prepares to depart. The perfect contrast between these two points of view can be seen in the interaction between the dour Cyclops and the more light-hearted Iceman, who as charter members of the X-Men go as far back as two men--two friends--can.

Filling in the gaps where needed and acting to provide perspective of a sort is Mr. Sinister, who injects a more formal reflection of the X-Men's activities which led them to this point, as well as looking down the road toward their future (though in a decidedly different manner than Cyclops). Sinister has arguably been a conspicuous presence in this book for quite awhile, at times moving key personnel of the X-Men around like chess pieces in his manipulation of their lives. In his musings, that's made quite clear, as is his almost intimate familiarity with the characters he speaks of.

As for Scott Summers, whatever events have led to this decision to split the team's ranks have left their mark. On Scott... certainly on Wolverine... as well as one other for whom this occasion should mean as much as it does to Iceman. But we'll find no quick wit in Hank McCoy this day, except in the form of innuendo.

Though leave it to Bobby Drake to attempt to lighten the mood:

Sinister's mood is also light, seemingly untouched by whatever setbacks he may have experienced in the past and taking an almost personal interest in a team of mutants which has retained his focus for so long. I would hate for this ending to write finis to the career of Mr. Sinister; fortunately, by all appearances, he has every intention of continuing on.

And Scott? As he packs away mementos of days (and years) gone by, he'll continue on, as well--but this time, in his own way, and at his own direction. It's a moment that first page of the story has prepared us for--and by the time it arrives, we're ready to acknowledge it with him. It's a poignant close to the story, since mementos, after all, need not necessarily be reminders.

Artist Greg Land's double-page spread of this issue's variant cover image!

This puppy is pretty crammed with X-Men memories--
but is there anything missing that you feel should have been included?
(No Shi'ar? No "fastball special"?)

Uncanny X-Men #544

Script: Kieron Gillen
Pencils: Greg Land
Inks: Jay Leisten
Letterer: Joe Caramagna


Colin Jones said...

I liked the fact that some Marvel titles had really high numbers as it showed continuity with Marvel's past, what's wrong with that ? And who's missing from that variant cover - what about Dazzler ? I was quite fond of her in the early '80s and her debut was in Uncanny X-Men #130 (Feb 1980) which featured a suitably dazzling cover :D

Comicsfan said...

I think if you were to open the door to Dazzler, Colin, you'd be doing the same for any number of memorable X-Men who made an imprint on the team, like Gambit, or Rogue, or Banshee, or even the Mimic. (Certainly Thunderbird belongs in this collage. I don't know what the exploding Blackbird jet represents--perhaps the death of Thunderbird, though it was another type of aircraft which Proudstar was attempting to disable.)

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