Uncanny X-Men #14
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, Al Vey, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olazaba
The short of it:
With the rain coming down, and the dirt hill turned to mud, the students of the New Xavier Institute have to climb to the top without their powers as the teachers stand and watch. The students complain as they tackle the obstacle course, some (like Angel) question how the original X-Men will be treated when they show up, and Ben winds up being the last one up. He doesn’t get why they can’t use their powers, and Scott points out that his powers wouldn’t help him at all there. Scott hits him, dares him to hit him back…Ben does a piss poor job of it and winds up back on his ass. Later, after a shower, Christopher tries to tell him he was awesome, but Ben is just a downer. And Emma…she’s waiting for him in a Punisher top.
Emma wants to teach him how to use his powers, because it’s relatively obvious that Scott isn’t going to be aces at it. She pushes him, talks to him, and breaks down what she believes it is that he does before taking him off for a field trip. To a bar in Atlantic City, to pick up a lonely blonde, and to fail miserably at it as he doesn’t try his powers at all. Security gives chase as his teachers watch on, but he slips into a table and strikes up a conversation with a girl as he takes on aspects of her appearance, and free he goes. Emma keeps it up and the montage shows Ben adapting to so many different people and fitting in perfectly, despite being a stranger to the people.
For a final test, Emma sends him to deliver a letter to a Timothy Duggan in the financial district, but tells him nothing he’d need to know to get there. He makes his way through, charming his way up to the top floor and directly into the man’s office, hand delivering the letter from Emma to the man who…well, it’s Dum Dum Duggan. This is a SHIELD facility, and that letter pretty much says “You’re making Sentinels. Stop. Or else. Love Cyclops”. So guns are drawn, and Yana bails him out, and we finally see just how awesome Benjamin Deeds can be!
What I liked:
Look at that cover! How awesome is that? The many faces of Benjamin Deeds!
Ben coming out of the closet is simple, brilliant, and really, the way it should be handled in most cases. It wasn’t a big revelation, it was a fact stated to someone he assumed didn’t know.
If Chris Bachalo isn’t on your top five list of current artists in the big two, then you have something wrong with you. His work is consistently gorgeous, and he’s only gotten better with age. He brings a level of life and personality to every book he works on, and his art just jumps off the page.
Enough credit also can’t be given to his inkers, who work perfectly together to help accent the pencils. In most cases when you see multiple inkers credited in a book you can tell where one finishes and the next begins, but with these guys it’s absolutely seamless.
Benjamin Deeds powerset is perfectly executed in this issue. I mean, it should be because it’s all about him, but just look at it. He has a subtle powerset, and his look just gradually shifts from panel to panel.
- Alright, one more thing. EMMA! I absolutely LOVE the way she’s drawn when Bachalo and company are handling the art. I absolutely loved the Punisher look, and then the shift to the dress lost nothing. I really wish I was a better art critic so I’ve have better ways to express this. This book is gorgeous.
I love how much smarter than SHIELD Scott is. Really, how much smarter than everyone he is. He’s not a super genius, and he doesn’t have infinite resources, but his keen strategic mind and balls the size of grapefruits have kept him two steps ahead of everyone despite his status as public enemy number one. Bendis writes the hell out of the greatest X-Man.
And him as the drill sergeant is priceless. The powerless mud run, beating up on a student to try and force him to forge a backbone, and then setting up a secret mission just so the kid could gain some confidence and learn how to be as awesome as Scott knew he could be. Powerful and efficient tough love. That’s what a leader does. They boost up every single person around them, and leave no man behind. It’s why Scott is the best leader in all of Marvel.
What I didn’t like:
Why did the girl at the bar freak out so harshly, so quickly? Emma isn’t supposed to have enough control over her powers to turn her against him, so he has to have either said something REALLY creepy, or she’s just a royal bitch. Not knowing is bothering me.
The issue went by way too fast.
This book always seems to ship out a week or two after an issue of All-New X-Men that blatantly happens after it. Case in point, Angel in his old costume training with the Uncanny X-Kids while everyone waits for the All-New X-Kids to show up. They showed up last week and he got a new costume!
I had written Ben off as the most forgettable of the new mutants created in the last few years, ranking him as even less memorable than the cast members of Generation Hope (remember them?). This is what happens when Bendis plays to his strength, though, we wind up with a character driven piece that turns the random guy in the background of the cast into one of the most prominent members.
I feel like we’re missing an issue somewhere. Battle of the Atom ended with Kitty and the X-Kids quitting and getting picked up by Yana and Scott, All-New opened with them walking up to Scott’s base, and this issue began with the Uncanny X-Kids training while they were waiting for them. Scott went to pick them up. Why are they waiting for them?
I would not complain if more issues opened up with Eva and GOLDBALLS front and center. I have my favorites and I will stand by them being prominent in all of the preview art and, thus, in the faces of potential readers. They are awesome and need to be shown off.
The comedy that Bendis tries for in the X-Men books is really not that different from what he tried for in Avengers. The difference being that, while it always felt awkward and forced with the Avengers, it’s worked perfectly with the teenage casts in his X-books. Hell, it works well with the adults too. It really helps that Wolverine and Kid Scott ar the only characters he writes with sticks up their asses. His Cyclops is a revelation.
I spent several minutes looking over Ben’s transition into Emma, and the bit of him looking down the towel, and wondering…does he genderswap? He doesn’t at any other point in the issue, but did he need to? Is he capable of it? His usefulness is now clear as day, but I still have so many questions!
I still can’t get over how quickly Bendis transitioned from a writer I went out of my way to avoid into someone putting out books that I love on a regular basis. I almost feel like I should give his Ultimate Spider-Man another shot because his X-Men is just that good. And I mean, it’s not even that his strength lies in the one off character driven stories, which it REALLY does (and which is pretty much entirely the reason for the score), but everything he’s been doing has been absolute gold.
I never really stopped loving the X-Men, but he made me remember exactly how much. Thanks Brian, this is the X-Men I’ve been wanting for.