Uncanny X-Men #20 // Review
The X-Men face off against old enemies and the barbarism of one of their own in Uncanny X-Men #20, by writer Matt Rosenberg, artist Salvador Larocca, colorist GURU-eFX, and letterer Joe Caramagna. This issue starts to weave together the disparate plot threads of Rosenberg’s run so far, paying off a lot of things and setting things up for a big showdown.
In the present, a young boy gets the mutant vaccine and reacts violently to it. Three days earlier, the X-Men are looking for their enemies the Nasty Boys, but find them dead, killed by the Upstarts- Fitzroy, Siena Blaze, Shinobi Shaw, and Fabian Cortez. The two teams clash and the X-Men are able to take down the Upstarts. Shaw kills himself because he’s afraid of being taken by the Hellfire Club. Afterward, at their headquarters, Dark Beast reveals that he has solved the problem of the mutant vaccination. Havok doesn’t trust him, but the team votes on whether to use it and decide to. In the present, Wolverine and Revanche confront the Hellfire Club. They get the better of them until ONE shows up and takes out Wolverine with a flamethrower. Revanche is able to escape. In Washington Square Park, the X-Men try to make plans on what to do next when they are confronted by Captain America and Dr. Nemesis. Cap tells them about what’s been happening with the vaccinations, how it putting some children into comas and then reveals that he had never met with them and took any prisoners from them. Cyclops orders Magik to take them and Dr. Nemesis back to their base. Back at the Hellfire Club, Callahan decides to terminate his relationship with Emma Frost and puts her under house arrest. Back at X-Men headquarters, the team confronts Dark Beast about his vaccination solution and he reveals that Mister Sinister gave him the idea for it and that it only affects children with X-genes adversely. Magik takes it into her own hands to deal with him and Dr. Nemesis reveals he can reverse the effects of the vaccine when Emma Frost gets in touch with the team telepathically, unlocking their memories of her and asking for their help.
As has become a hallmark of Rosenberg’s run, this is a densely plotted issue. There are two action sequences and loads of dialogue throughout that move the plots forward. It’s paced rather well, but it’s not perfect. It does drag a little in some parts and the thing with the Upstarts killing the Nasty Boys don’t really make much sense. The Upstarts were a 90s concept that never really took off. Their whole schtick was they were killing mutants to gain points from a mutant called the Grandmaster (not to be confused with the Elder of the Universe of the same name) and the winner would get immortality as a prize. For them to show up here to just kill some mutants just to get the X-Men’s attention takes the one thing that made them different from other X-Men villain teams and invalidates it. It feels like Rosenberg included them just to do it and it rings a bit hollow.
Dark Beast finally doe what every reader has expected him to do since he was brought into the book and it’s pretty perfect for who he is and who he’s been. As the Sinister’s chief geneticist in the Age of Apocalypse and a big believer in mutant supremacy, it makes perfect sense for him to take umbrage with the mutant vaccine and what it represents for his people. It also makes perfect sense for him to do what he did. It’s all a twisted experiment, really- since it only hurts children who have a latent X-gene, it’s a test to see if parents hate mutants more than they love their children since there’s no way to know if their child has an X-gene. Elsewhere in the book, Emma’s relationship with ONE implodes and she’s forced to do the one thing she doesn’t want to do- reveal herself to the X-Men again. Emma, though, will always place her survival over anything. These are great bits of characterization Rosenberg fits in for these two characters.
Salvador Larocca is back on pencils and it’s a marked improvement over the mediocre art of the last few issues. There’s a great splash page at the beginning of the book showing the X-Men fighting the Upstarts. That said, Larocca’s art isn’t perfect either. The Upstarts fight feels very static. The fight between Wolverine and Revanche and the Hellfire Club is better, though, so it makes up for it.
Uncanny X-Men #20 does an admirable job of tying together a lot of Rosenberg’s plots from this run. The inclusion of the Upstarts takes away what makes them special and the fight with them is sort of static and lifeless, but there’s a lot to like about this issue. Larocca’s art is much better than what readers have gotten in the last few issues, while still not being the best it could be. Rosenberg gets in some great character moments with Dark Beast and Emma, though, and it buoys the issue and the fight between the Wolvie and Revanche and the Hellfire Club makes up for the Upstarts fight. This is a solid comic, even if it does drag a little.