Graphic Novel Review: Uncanny X-Men: Vs SHIELD

Uncanny X-Men: Vs SHIELD

Uncanny X-Men: Vs SHIELD - Credit: Archant

The identity of the mastermind behind the Sentinel attacks is revealed at last...

(Panini Books)

This is it true believers, one of those rare occasions when Brian Michael Bendis actually neatly ties up a host of plot strands into one explosive climax. Yes, the master of meandering, the prince of procrastination, the Marvel writer best known for focusing on characters pretty much at the expense of story development has, for once, played against type.

Throughout the duration of this series, which focuses on Cyclops’ team of mutant outlaws, the X-Men have been plagued by rogue Sentinels which may be under the control of SHIELD. Meanwhile, shapechanger Mystique has replaced Dazzler as SHIELD mutant liaison, with the real Alison Blaire held prisoner in Madripoor and tapped for Mutant Growth Hormone (MGH) to repower those mutants who lost their abilities on M-Day.

While all this has been going on, the X-Men have been recruiting newly awakened mutants to their cause with mixed results, the least successful candidate being David Bond (aka Hijack), who was booted off the team for disobeying orders…

Quite unexpectedly then, these various storylines are all brought to a conclusion in this volume, with decent pacing, logical narrative development and strong characterisation all ensuring the success of this particular collection of issues.

Spoilers follow…

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Throughout both of Bendis’ X-Men titles (he also writes All-New, featuring the teenage time-travelling original X-Men), there has been a subtle focus on the gradual corruption of Hank McCoy, aka the Beast, who has taken some drastic steps to fulfil his own agenda for mutantkind, not least being majorly screwing with the established timelines.

Taking this on board, one might have expected the big reveal of the mastermind behind the Sentinel attacks to be McCoy himself, which in a way it is, but just not the way you would expect. In fact, the perpetrator is the Dark Beast from the alternative Age of Apocalypse reality, who not only has an unexplained beef with Scott, but is dying as a result of the experiments he has conducted on himself, and wants to go out with a bang.

Now this revelation has met with a great deal of condemnation from some quarters, with fans claiming the reveal doesn’t work as part of the ongoing story as Dark Beast lacks any real motivation for his actions. In fact, it fits comfortably with the more naturalistic style of plotting Bendis has adopted for the mutant books, which break many of the established “rules” of drama in the process.

Having a random villain behind these events makes sense when judged against this approach, as it avoids the revelation being played out for dramatic effect and instead focuses on the impact on his protagonists. Basically, stuff happens, just don’t expect it all to make perfect sense.