Uncanny X-Men #21 // Review
Emma Frost has been manipulating the X-Men since Scott brought them together, but now she needs their help in Uncanny X-Men #21, by writer Matthew Rosenberg, artist Salvador Larocca, colorist GURU-eFX, and letterer Joe Caramanga. Whereas the last issue dragged a bit, this one goes from zero to sixty rather quickly.
The X-Men go to the Hellfire Club and are confronted by Emma Frost. At a secret O.N.E. medical facility, Triage, the former X-Man and healer who is now a prisoner of O.N.E., is brought in to heal a bunch of soldiers who were transporting Wolverine, but instead, he heals Wolverine and is killed by the head doctor in charge. Emma and Havok argue for a bit before Cyclops decides that the team should hear out… and then Mystique and Mister Sinister show up. At the O.N.E. facility, Wolverine is fighting his way out when he smells someone familiar. It’s a former X-Man, Velocidad. O.N.E. has been using him as an incubator to create more Warlocks. Wolverine offers to free him, but Velocidad asks Wolvie to kill him instead and he obliges. Emma explains why she erased herself from the team’s minds and presents her plan to the X-Men telepathically, who all vote to go through with it. Most of the team is sent to the O.N.E. facility to get Elixir back while Dani Moonstar goes back to headquarters to get Fabian Cortez and Doctor Nemesis. The team finds the facility littered in dead bodies and find Wolverine before they’re attacked by a massive robot. Hope and Logan are badly injured and the X-Men lose another member to the robot who is able to destroy it before dying. The team is then surrounded by O.N.E. soldiers. General Callahan activates the implant inside Magik from her time as one of his prisoners, robbing her of her powers, but it leaves something much worse- her demon side. The demon Magik starts sending the soldiers to Limbo and Juggernaut tries to get past her, but she pulls the Cyttorak gem out of him and banishes him to Limbo as well before crushing it. Hope was able to copy Magik’s powers and teleports the team away. In New York, Dani and her charges are being constantly attacked by O.N.E. troops until Havok makes the save. The few remaining X-Men are overwhelmed by O.N.E.’s forces… and then Emma’s plan goes into effect, saving the team. What will be the cost, though?
This issue delivers in a big way. Again, it’s very densely plotted, but that’s a hallmark of Rosenberg’s run. There’s a lot going on, but there’s also a lot of action to keep things moving. Rosenberg knows how to keep things from getting bogged down and that’s what makes this issue so good. He doesn’t waste page space with too much melodrama and gets to the point while still being true to the characters. His run so far has brought back how dangerous it is to be an X-Man and this issue is no exception. There are three deaths in it and Juggernaut is taken off the table. It’s a bit shocking, but it never feels gratuitous. The team is in one of the worst binds they’ve ever been in and things like this happen. Being a superhero is a dangerous game.
One of the most disappointing things about the issue is Emma’s reveal to the X-Men that she wiped their minds and the reason why. If readers were hoping for some grand reason, they’re going to be in for a shock- she just did it so she could use them to hunt mutants and give them to O.N.E. and keep herself alive. That’s it. It’s very anti-climatic. With a character as devious as Frost, it feels a little hollow. However, the ending, the reveal of her plan, and how she saves the day is intriguing and almost makes up for it, but not quite.
Salvador Larocca’s art is perfect for this issue. He’s able to capture Emma’s wicked attitude and draw a great action sequence. In the past few issues, he’s done, his action scenes all felt very static, but that’s not the case in this one. He draws a great Wolverine in action. His demon Magik is amazing looking and the last scene, as the last few X-Men try and escort Dani and company to the Hellfire Club is wonderfully paced and has a feeling of velocity to it that Larocca’s art sometimes lacks.
Uncanny X-Men #21 is a fun read for such a dark comic. Rosenberg has shown a proficiency for heavily plotted comics in his run so far and does it again in this issue. The heroes can’t win clean- they’re facing an enemy with vast numbers and resources behind it and the best they can do is keep their head above water. Rosenberg nails this feeling perfectly throughout the book. It’s one of the reasons none of the deaths feel gratuitous; this is a situation where people will die. They’ll get hurt. Larocca’s art is some of the best he’s done since getting on the book, perfectly fitting the pacing of the script. The reveal of Emma’s reason for mindwiping the team is weak, but the end of this one will have readers dying to find out what happens next.