Uncanny X-Men #16 // Review
Cyclops makes an important decision about the future of the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #16, by writer Matthew Rosenberg, artist Salvador Larocca, colorist GURU-eFX, and letterer Joe Caramagna. Again, Rosenberg manages to fit a lot into this book without it seeming overstuffed or boring and even gives the whole affair a shock ending that no one would have predicted.
Captain America comes and takes custody of the Mutant Liberation Front members the X-Men captured, commenting on the fact that there are other people the X-Men are keeping prisoner that he isn’t taking into custody. He leaves and Havok starts in on Cyclops again, asking him why he’s doing what he’s doing and why they keep going down the same road that leads to ruin led by the same man. Magneto and the Brotherhood attack a military base in Transia as Cyclops comes to a decision about the X-Men: there will be no one leader anymore, as the team is filled with ex-team leaders, and things will be decided more democratically. Wolfsbane decides she’s done with the team. The X-Men fight off the Brotherhood in Transia, discovering that not everything is as it seems with the group. And old frenemy shows up and the X-Men learn of a tragedy that unfolded while they were on their mission.
So far, Rosenberg has proven how good of a fit he is for the X-Men. His issues are very much reminiscent of 90s X-Men books: he’s able to fit in all kinds of soap opera-y X-Men goodness in a way that never takes away from the momentum of the book and even manages to fit in a nice action sequence every issue. That doesn’t, of course, mean that he’s always right on the money: he’s been writing Havok nagging Cyclops every issue of the book so far but only in this one does that nagging finally get coherent and bring about a change in the team. That said, it’s actually the right decision, as Cyclops has built a team full of the best leaders the X-Men has to offer and that in the past, it’s been shown that him taking all the power and responsibility on himself leads to disaster. A more democratic approach makes sense even more because the X-Men are dealing with decisions that will affect their entire race in the future and leaving that all in the hands of one man whose recent leadership decisions left a lot to desired would be questionable at best.
To really cement the 90s feel of this book, there are three 90s throwback characters in it, one of whom is very random and two others who are more important to the plot of this particular issue. It’s little things that like this that remind readers of the era that Rosenberg grew up reading X-books in and they’re nice little appearances, even if one of the returns has no reasons to be explained at all after this issue. The ending is a huge shock to the system as well. It represents the X-Men’s first casualty since Cyclops took over again and it comes completely out of nowhere. There’s no foreshadowing, it’s just there and it leaves a whole lot of questions, whetting the reader’s appetite for what’s to come.
Salvador Larcocca’s pencils are remarkably uneven throughout the book. A lot of the time, the character’s faces have no consistency from one panel to the next and faces are one of his bigger problems in this book, in general. Sometimes, they’re great, but other times they look strange. His action scenes are a little better in this issue than they have been in previous ones, but they still have that snapshot feel with very little kinetic energy. His art isn’t bad, it’s just very inconsistent.
Uncanny X-Men #16 closes out Rosenberg’s first story arc with Marvel’s merry mutants and so far, his writing style is great for the book. He’s able to do a lot of exposition and dramatic work without the book getting boring or wordy. Sometimes, like with Havok’s nagging, it takes a while for anything to develop from it, but when it does develop, it fits wonderfully with what he’s trying to do with the X-Men in this new status quo. The book has a bit of a laser focus on Cyclops right now, which is nice, but Rosenberg will need to branch out and use the other characters more effectively than he has been so far. Larocca’s art is okay, but it suffers from a lot of inconsistencies, especially in facial detail and his fight scenes could feel a bit more kinetic. This is a solid issue, though, and its strengths make up for its weaknesses.