UNCANNY X-MEN #21 (LGY 643)
As the X-Men answer Emma’s distress signal they find the Hellfire Club in disarray and Emma guarded by the O.N.E who they swiftly dispatch. Once recriminations are done and she fills them in on the details of her plan, the decision is made that one half goes to collect Cortez while the other provide rescue for Elixir from the O.N.E. They instead find the O.N.E. have bitten off more than they can chew with a revived Wolverine and despite his warnings the X-Men fall in quick succession. First Banshee is taken out by a “Sentilock”, then Callahan unwittingly unleashes Magik’s inner demon, who causally removes the Cyttorak gem from Juggernaut and sends him on a fiery trip. When only Cyclops and Madrox return with a wounded Wolverine and Hope they find Dani, Havok and Warlock holding the fort with Mystique against the O.N.E. until suddenly the enemy stops in their tracks, calmly help them to their feet and walk away. Emma saves the day.
Art: Emma receiving surgery has long been a running joke among X-fans and now it is confirmed. Though Larroca has given her a much more delicate scar than he did for Justice in Newuniversal, possibly she is more selective about using private surgeons. One can only assume Sinister and Nemesis will now go into partnership together. Pinpoint accuracy as only the most skilled practitioners can deliver. No I don’t mean our scientists, I mean Salvador. Once again the textured art is crisp and sharp with exquisitely detailed lines. From the definition in the outfits and Jamie’s jacket, Darkchylde’s horns and even the slow and painful looking takeover of Old Man Velocidad.Everything screams attention to every single minute detail. And the coloring of Guru-eFX is again on form, giving rich depth to the opulent halls of the Hellfire Club. But standout for me is Caramagna adding drama to the explosive dispatching of Banshee, the dispatching of the O.N.E. guards at the Hellfire Club and giving definition to voice of Darkchylde with the boldly encapsulated rune text.
Story: And of course yet more well loved and established characters once again fall along the way, no surprise there. And poor Banshee had hardly been back five minutes. But this surely won’t mean the end for him? Is it possible that his being left behind, along with Elixir and Darkchylde is setting up a magical solution to his current zombie state? And what about the way Emma has done the impossible and masked mutants from the wider world, shielding everyone by using Cortez to amplify her power to such a drastic level, which usually has detrimental effect to those he amplifies. Could this be paving the way for a new era of acceptance for mutants? If only there was a way to tell what may be happening soon to change their fate!!! Hmmm. And tell me I’m not the only one who was reminded of AOA Emma here?
I do love the throwback here, as well as the realisation this is what she needed them all for, to remove Callahan’s device. As well as Cortez to boost her abilities. It was nice to see it and come to the realisation ourselves instead of having it spelled out in the plan. And I always get the feeling Rosenberg is using the opening comment panel as not only the voice of the issues narrative, but as a lightning rod for his own sentiment. If so then it does the job perfectly. While it’s clearly intended to be Emma talking I almost heard echoes of his own voice, like a megaphone directly in my ear. And given how it all plays out I can definitely hear the man himself.
Much as some have thrown their toys out of the pram at his extreme treatment of the X-Men I found it an eye opener and it ensured there are at least some curve balls thrown to keep me guessing. We all have strong feelings when one of our beloved characters dies. When it’s six or seven though? Well we go into shell shock mode. And that’s clearly what the writer is aiming for. One gut punch after another, daring us to look away and knowing we will still come back for more. None of this “will-he won’t-he” ambiguous nonsense and procrastination. Everyone is fair game. Although I seem to remember when this all started, people were screaming that Jamie would surely be the first to die. But guess who’s still kicking. Jamie.
But I also have held out ‘hope’ there is a bigger game plan here and it’s not all just a case of do whatever the hell you like because someone else is changing everything anyway. The events here simply HAVE to be linked to what is to come. Whether or not this all turns out to be a bad dream, there is no denying we all talk about it. It’s tumultuous trauma and tragic train wreck and people love a disaster no matter what they want to claim about it being an affront and assault on their feelings. And when Emma reveals her plan and everyone gets on board with very little resistance I again have faith there is a reason for it after all.
Characters: From the first moment we see Triage and his handlers, it’s no surprise that subjugation is the order of the day. Trying to make him deny his superhero name is a classic demoralising and dehumanising tactic and the way of the oppressor. While the bigoted doctor diminishes his importance and declares him as nothing more than a tool to be used, Christopher insists he is a person worthy of respect. And at the heart of it that is what the X-Men are. People demanding mutual respect and equality. So to see him stand up against the oppression is something we can’t help but admire. And yet he is dealt with so casually, his powers removed with barely a thought. And this is damning to see, as right away it reminds us that it’s all so cheap when it comes to mutant lives and rights. And of course this is everything we know the X-Men stand against.
Scott v Emma was also heartbreaking to see, as it’s now obvious that Scott has drawn a line in the sand as regards what she can get away with. And when he says “That’s over” it was like a knife in the ribs. But Emma is quick to recover from this and remind Havok it wasn’t so long ago the shoe was on the other foot and he was the villain he accuses her of being. And whatever Hope sees in her mind it convinces her that she was right to do what she did. And they all see it now apart from Juggernaut…so is he protected from another mind whammy here or is he just not in the loop because of his protection against telepathy. Whatever it is it doesn’t save him later on against Magik, and he knows it.
Magik becoming Darkchylde is of course as much a dividing factor among fans as the deaths. She has shown considerable growth this series and for once has been used as more than just a taxi service, a position past writers have relegated her to. But it has to be said that to remove her personality to make way for the demon is a setback. But as with the deaths, this will be taken up in future runs and we all know she plays a part there somehow. With Hope ‘collecting’ her power it could be the answer to the mystery character in play with Hickman, only time will tell. If this is all a dream then no problem, this is an easy fix. But I kind of hope it isn’t, as that would be too easy. And the hype around Hox Pox seems to indicate a game changer. Game changers don’t come from “it was all just a terrible dream”. Whatever the scenario, Magik has definitely been given center stage in the endgame here.
Finally I have to say that although things are coming to an end I have enjoyed this story and the way it has kept us all guessing. The battle weary among us have probably felt it was too much and the constant death is taxing emotionally. And at times I too have felt “no, not another one?” and almost despaired in the constant cannon fodder procession of deaths. But once you come to terms with the fact it is part of the plot and realise this is purposefully laying the groundwork for Hickman and not being done deliberately to make things harder for him, you can appreciate the peril is real and the stakes have rarely been higher. Much like the Purifiers taking out bus loads of kids, this is high drama. And whether or not you view it as cheap tactics, or appreciate that the situation makes for higher risk and better drama for the characters, you cannot deny, it has DEFINITELY kept everyone talking. And after all, isn’t that what a successful story is created for?
The X-Men are never better than when put through the wringer, and to me this is one of those times.
The end is in sight and I for one am enjoying the car crash. Whatever he has planned I am in it until the bitter end. Buckle up kids, we are in for a bumpy ride.
Uncanny X-Men #21: The Devil’s in The Detail
Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 8.5/108.5/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 8/108/10
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