Uncanny X-Men #22
It’s the end of the mutantkind… but also a new beginning in Uncanny X-Men #22, by writer Matthew Rosenberg, artists Salvador Larroca and David Messina, colorist GURU-eFX, and letterer Joe Caramagna. This is the last issue before Jonathan Hickman’s takes over and Rosenberg and company go out with a bang, delivering an issue full of big actions and big moments.
In Central Park, Cyclops and Moonstar discuss the ramifications of Emma Frost erasing the existence of mutantkind from the world and Scott’s own motives for bringing together the X-Men. She leaves and Havok shows up. Cyclops expects more drama from him, but he’s actually hopeful about what comes next. Back at the Hellfire Club mansion, Wolverine wakes up and snaps, killing Mister Sinister (who turns out to be clone). When Emma tells him what she did and that it’s all over, he tells her she’s dreaming. Sentinels attack Cyclops and Havok and Havok cuts loose, allowing Cyclops to escape. General Callahan, using a device that blocked Emma’s telepathic attack, and more Sentinels show up to the Hellfire Club and attacks the X-Men. The transmode infested Madrox dupe is able to link with them and Hope uses Emma’s powers to erase his mind, which also erases the Sentinels. Callahan sets them to manual and they continue their attack. Madrox and his dupes volunteer to get Wolverine through the Sentinel’s gauntlet of fire and Wolverine is able to take him out. The team prepares to meet their end at the hands of the Sentinels when the X-Men who X-Man sent to another reality return. Working together, they take out the Sentinels. After some reuniting, Cyclops decides to destroy the enhanced Cerebro that was Emma used to keep mutants blocked from everyone’s memories.
The biggest strength of Rosenberg’s run has been its examination of the character of Cyclops and this issue is no exception. In his discussions with Moonstar and Havok, readers get to see who Cyclops is- a general. He fights for mutants because in the end, it’s the only thing he really knows. His mutation is a weapon, an evolutionary advantage to keep him alive. This led him to the realization that they were always fighting for their survival. He’s resigned to his fate and he knows that he’s going to have to lead his fellows into battle. Mutants are in a fight for their survival and they need him. Rosenberg has done a great job of capturing Cyclops’ fatalism in his run. That said, there are two more deaths in this issue and it’s starting to feel a little gratuitous. It definitely helps underline the stakes for readers, but it’s also disheartening. The issue has enough gravitas going for it. It doesn’t really need this icing on the cake.
The return of the rest of the X-Men is epic and gives the issue a spot of hope. Cyclops and company had believed the rest of the team was dead for so long and for them to come back in the nick of time is kind of perfect. If there’s anything to complain about it, it’s that the Cyclops and Jean Grey reunion is mostly glossed over. It happens and then is abandoned so that Scott can give a speech before he destroys Emma’s Cerebro device. Page counts aren’t infinite and the moment is still pretty great, but long term X-fans will definitely want more from this. There’s always Hickman’s books for that though. Another weird little thing is that it was a device that was keeping people from knowing mutants existed, not actually Emma’s action. In fact, it even worked when she wasn’t wearing. This seems like a way to be able to hand wave it away, lessening the impact of the whole idea. It’s a get out of jail free card and it smacks of narrative convenience.
Salvador Larocca’s art is brilliant throughout. The transmode Sentinels are a new take on an old design and they look very cool. His detail never flags throughout the issue and his superb character acting really makes the dialogue pop. David Messina takes over for a few pages and while his work isn’t bad, it’s tonally different than Larocca’s more detailed style and the transition is a little jarring.
Uncanny X-Men #22 caps off Rosenberg’s run and wipes the slate clean for Hickman to come in and work his magic. Rosenberg has used his 12 issues to let readers into Cyclops’ head and he’s done a great job. Things have gotten a little dark but it all fit the story he was trying to tell. The only weakness of his run has been the tired “mutants are in danger of extinction” trope that has been Marvel’s go to mutant story since the end of House Of M, but he’s made it work rather well. Larocca’s art in this issue is some of the best he’s turned in on the book and really strengthened the story Rosenberg was telling. Messina’s art feels out of place taking over for him, but it is still good. All in all, this issue worked. There were a few little things that could have been better, but overall, this one is an action packed roller coaster.