Bendis. Irving. Limbo. ‘Nuff. Said. Whattya mean that’s “not enough?” Oh fine. Frazer Irving is one of my absolute favorite artists when he’s on the right project. Nowhere was this made more apparent than his strange, surreal, gothic talents on display in Seven Soldiers of Victory wherein he drew the Klarion the Witch Boy's segments. So when I heard he’d be tackling the storyline of Uncanny X-Men where the team (in particular Magik) was dragged into Hell (or Limbo), I literally couldn't think of an artist I wanted to see tackle that subject matter more. And he did not disappoint. It’s a fine line to walk, making things clear yet incomprehensible, but everything Irving draws seems like it could be torn from the shattered dreams of HP Lovecraft. Even his mundane panels are excellent, particularly when characters are embarrassed (highly exaggerated, expressive faces being one of his unsung specialties), but the book positively comes to life when it’s time for Illyana to be shunted to Limbo. From the denizens of that strange dimension to the dark lord himself, everything looks exactly as it should: torn from a scream-yourself-awake nightmare.
I don’t even know if there’s anything left to say about Bendis, at this point you either love him or you hate him or you’re somewhere in the middle. We catch glimpses of SHIELD hand-wringing and worrying about Summers’ school, and of course plenty about Illyana, but there’re plenty of great, hilarious moments back at the school (in particular involving their newest recruits and the Stepford Cuckoos). Bendis is often accused of making all his characters speak with the same voice, and honestly I can see that in some titles. Even issue-to-issue, everyone has that sort of David Mamet/Aaron Sorkin “we're all clever and witty,” but in this series in particular I feel that he’s given all the characters their own voice, particularly the new ones. It’s hard enough introducing new characters to the Big Two, so I absolutely love his tactic of slipping them into books with already popular and well-established casts. Better yet, they all have their own voices. I fall squarely into the “love him” camp, so all I’ll say is that his writing of these characters continues to be top-notch.
I got nothing. I said last review that they need to start differentiating this book from All-New X-Men and making it feel much more like its own standalone title, and whattya know, that’s exactly what this issue does. ESPECIALLY the end cliffhanger, which lets the reader know that this problem will, at least, be extending for multiple issues.
Uncanny X-Men has been an unstable, but always great, title, but this arc feels like they’re finally going to start breaking new ground and setting the team’s place in the Marvel Universe. Magik in particular has been an enigma, and was a little too close to falling into the “smug know-it-all” for my taste, but this book reels that particular worry in. She’s always been a tricky character to handle, and not just because her powers are as nebulous as most magic users in the Marvel Universe, but because she herself seems to be at the writer’s whim, at times compassionate and loving, and others being cold and standoffish. And let’s not forget her ill-suited foray into X-Infernus and the whole “Darkchild-thong” look. Though that side of her is brought up, it’s done with a great deal more terror than titillation, which is a refreshing change. I truly can’t wait to see what the future of this book is, it’s one of the most intriguing concepts in Marvel’s wheelhouse. It’s the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants but without the Evil.