Uncanny X-Men #23
by Brian Michael Bendis & Kris Anka
When a book is solicited as ‘Classified’ one might expect a major event or revelation to occur. Uncanny X-Men #23 was not the most explosive or turning point issue that readers might assume given the title and the advanced solicitation. What it does contain is the foundation to a story premise that has the potential to be dramatic and revealing in the chapters that follow.
Coming off a frenzied encounter with Dark Beast, who had taken control of a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier and was hell bent on destroying the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning, the team has time to take inventory of their recent discoveries. Hijack is welcomed back to the team and appears to be humbled and reflective upon why he was kicked out. Dazzler is showing symptoms of rage and humiliation after the recent violations accosted upon her by Mystique. Dazzler is not the only one feeling violated, as Eva learns that secrets are non-existent during a conversation with Cyclops. Cyclops appears to be troubled by the recollection of his murdering Xavier while under the influence of the Phoenix force, hence the Original Sin cover tag. Two events both start and end the issue, one is Charles Xavier’s will is discovered by She-Hulk and the other is the introduction of a new character. As with any first chapter of a book, this issue serves as a set up for bigger reveals in future issues.
Overlooking the hype of the solicit and the forbearing title on the front cover, this issue has some heavy dramatic moments. It’s as if Bendis is channeling Claremont without the excessive dialogue narrative or text boxes of the past. Bendis is working on the build up and is keeping the reveals and plot twist close to his chest. Bendis wants to work up the suspense and make readers invested in what’s to come. By doing so, it ensures that readers will come back for more which is an ingredient of good storytelling. As both a transitional and a first chapter for a new arc, Bendis does quite a bit of character and plot development. The new supporting character is given a backstory, there is an emotional narrative for both Alison and Scott and the start to the reading of Charles Xavier’s will. With all these elements in place, Bendis has the potential of a good solid entertaining story arc.
Kris Anka takes over the art chores on this issue. Anka pencils, inks and colors the issue in a sleek, stripped down style. Light pencils and inks grace the page with flashes of monotone colors that add emphasis where needed for dramatic effect. The light line work gives the characters a cartoonish atmosphere. There is nothing cartoonish, however, about the emotion and expressions that Anka captures in the mannerisms of the book’s cast. To the credit of both Bendis and Anka, the sequence in which Alison, Dazzler, starts to feel the emotional pressure of all that has happened is done with a minimal script. Anka’s art visually communicates the pain and anguish of someone whose identity and person has been violated. On a lighter note, Anka renders shock, surprise and a touch of humor in the facial expressions bringing the scripted moments of levity up a notch.
While not a game changing or very special issue of Uncanny X-Men, the book is a good first chapter that has promise of an excellent and exciting new story arc. A new character, a well planned plot device and the addition of Dazzler to the cast makes this a good foundation issue for the new storyline. Anka’s art nails both the humorous and dramatic moments of Bendis’s script making this an enjoyable read in spite of not meeting the ‘classified’ hype.