Uncanny X-Men #10
Written by Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson and Ed Brisson
Art by Pere Perez and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10
“...But even you can’t save everything. We do our best, but sometimes we just have to let it go...”
“Disassembled” ends here, and the first chapter of Uncanny X-Men’s return comes to a somewhat lackluster close. A weekly event series is a big undertaking that requires not only a deft balance between decompressed character moments and bigger plot machinations, but a worthwhile story at its heart. Unfortunately, writers Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson, and Ed Brisson’s plotting is ultimately betrayed by advanced marketing. Is it possible to deliver a satisfying ending when readers know almost exactly where you’re going to land? Meanwhile, Pere Perez’s artwork feels as rushed as the conclusion, which is a shame considering the number of big moments that could have been elevated with better lineart.
My disappointment with this arc comes from a number of things coming to a head here. First, books by committee like this often prove to be uneven and choppy even when they do feature some good work. We see that clearly from how the Young X-Men’s arc is handled across these issues - they feature into some really good character work and as a great contrast to the older generation of X-Men, until the narrative requires the focus to shift.
Which brings me to the next point - the threat is too undefined. Readers are at least generally familiar with X-Man, but his mission is never exactly clear. Aside from knowing that his wanting to “save everything” means certain doom for the planet, we aren’t given distinct motivations for the character. The writers attempt to get us there in this issue by suddenly introducing the fact that Nate is dying - and using a Life Seed to maintain his vast powers - but it falls flat. While the final battle rages on, Nate and Jean Grey have this exposition-heavy discussion about why Nate started all this in the first place, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. Ultimately, it becomes clear that the writers don’t have anything to say about this particular battle, it’s just a necessary step to get us to the “Age of X-Man” and temporarily clear the board of most mutants for Cyclops and Wolverine’s ongoing returns to prominence.
In a lot of ways, “Disassembled” is the opposite of the work done by Ed Brisson on Extermination. We knew that the Original Five X-Men would have to be removed from current Marvel Universe in order for us to move forward. But the elements of that plot weren’t entirely just parallels to another story and another set of characters the way that X-Man and his Horsemen echo Apocalypse and his own minions. And Extermination had a conclusive ending that still allowed a way forward for the characters that were left. “Disassembled” doesn’t really end - it just stops. The damage that Nate Grey has done still has to be undone. The characters in the story have not learned anything. And we, the readers, are kind of left holding the bag and asked to pick up six new limited series to get some sort of closure.
Perez seems to suffer from the weekly format, as well. Granted, Perez didn’t handle every issue of the series, but there’s certainly a decline in quality. Body proportions are off across the book. Facial expression work is inconsistent at best, and some of the worst pages come at the expense of big moments - for example, when Psylocke plunges her psychic sword through Storm’s head to free her from X-Man’s control, Perez’ foreshortening is all over the place, a problem we see repeated when Storm angrily flies back into the fray. Colorist Rachelle Rosenberg doesn’t help matters, opting for an ugly gray background as Jean and Nate converse inside his mind, before giving way to a pink background that should be Jean communicating the pain that she’s caused with Nate. But it fails to be a moment of nearly any visual clarity, as the background seems like colors over pencils, and the lack of contrast fails to give us any information more than vaguely human-shaped figures.
It’s pretty safe to call the weekly series a gimmick at this point, and unfortunately, a generally failed one. Now that we’ve reached the end of “Disassembled,” it’s clear that this story needed a stronger and more singular voice. If that wasn’t going to come from any one writer, then it needed to come from the editorial team, but it doesn’t seem like they had any greater grasp on how to establish this threat and get readers invested than the rest of the creative team. This arc had a couple of bright spots in writing and in art, but they weren’t enough to overcome the biggest sin in fiction: a boring story.