We’ve seen the X-Men in the Age of Apocalypse and we’re getting our first glimpses of Marvel’s mutants in the Age of X-Man, but what do the X-Men look like in… the Age of Trump? In my opinion, the giant-sized Uncanny X-Men #11, which kicks off writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Salvador Larroca’s “This is Forever” story arc, answers that question in bleak detail.
Anyone who finished writer Ed Brisson and artist Carlos Gomez’s Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 thinking sunnier days were ahead are in for a rude awakening. From the get-go, this comic establishes its tone with its pitch-black first page. Gone are the multi-tentacled Omega Red and Gandalf-cosplaying Magneto and in their place is a world without X-Men–a human-dominated planet that’s fed up with mutants’ destructive antics. Tomorrow’s mutations are blocked by the mandatory anti-mutant vaccine while O.N.E. takes the remaining mutants off the board.
Where is the outrage? Why, it’s directed at mutants thanks to anti-mutant politicians all too happy to stoke the flames of anger burning inside everyday humans following Nate Grey’s thwarted attempt at “saving” the world.
Good thing Cyclops is back to set things right. Only… Scott Summers is a bit off. He’s angry. He’s reckless. He’s… drunk? This bearded, shaggy-haired Slim is far from the boy scout X-Fans got to know in the ’90s and nowhere near as calculating as the mutant revolutionary who challenged the world in defense of mutantkind.
But you know what? he’s the Marvel hero we need in the Age of Trump. He sees bigotry in the street and he kicks it in its ugly face. He stands proud in a sea of ignorance and directly challenges politicians who peddle hate. And… he has no problem, on camera, delivering a nice “F*** You” to a beloved Marvel Universe authority figure who, honestly, has had it coming for many years.
A big part of Cyclops’ appeal has always been that, though he’s one of Marvel’s most famous mutants, he’s all too human. He is every single one of us these days who wakes up and can’t believe we have yet another day of outrage ahead of us. Scott Summers is mad as hell and he’s not going to take this anymore.
In this way, Rosenberg does an excellent job of redefining Cyclops in his latest chance at life. Following Scott’s return in the recent annual, I saw people complaining online that their beloved revolutionary had gone soft–that Marvel had hit the reset button on his personality. Nothing could be further from the truth based on what unfolds throughout Uncanny X-Men #11. This is very much the same Slim we saw before he caught a deadly case of M-Pox. Only he’s probably worse off than he was after he murdered Professor Charles Xavier.
Despite Scott’s bleak outlook on the world he’s returned to, this is only the beginning of Rosenberg’s story. As Scott interacts with a who’s who of famous Marvel faces in his quest for answers, you realize he’s not as alone as he thinks he is. Whether you were #TeamCyclops or #TeamWolverine during Schism, if you’re a longtime X-Fan, it’s likely you’ll be a happy camper when you see how these two heroes reunite. Rosenberg’s a student of X-Men history and knows how to craft a kickass mutant moment that’ll be remembered for years to come.
Of course, Rosenberg owes a lot to the art team of Larroca and color artist Rachelle Rosenberg, who bring this moody tale to life. Larroca’s style has really matured since his “classic superhero” approach to illustration on past X-runs, like Chris Claremont’s X-Treme X-Men. What we see here is ultra-detailed and lifelike with a brutal weight to it whenever a battle breaks out. Specifically, that final battle where the dialogue stops, allowing each action beat to breathe. So many panels in here are stylized and flat-out gorgeous.
But Larroca isn’t this comic’s only artist. As it’s triple-sized, readers are treated to a Wolverine story illustrated by John McCrea with colors by Mike Spicer and a Blindfold tale drawn by Juanan Ramirez with colors by Rosenberg. This is where I become a bit critical of this gigantic comic’s structure. Uncanny X-Men #11 is very much like Uncanny X-Men #1, in that the additional tales could have easily been folded into the main story. McCrea’s part of the comic is basically filling in blanks we didn’t know existed in Larroca’s main story… but it’s not like that Cyclops-focused chapter was released a decade ago. It’s all in the same comic–so why not just tell one story in order, from beginning to end?
Still, the additional stories are enjoyable as they’re all written by Rosenberg and, as a result, don’t really suffer from the “back-up story syndrome” seen in many past, oversized comics. For that reason, I’m not too bothered by this issue’s $7.99 price tag, which I know is a problem for many fans. The way I see it, if I go buy a sandwich for lunch, I’m paying the same amount or more. As a die-hard Cyclops fan, I’m fine with paying a little more for extra pages in a single week (especially after the Cyclops drought we’ve had to endure over the past few years). Do I want to do it every week or even every month? No–especially if the comic’s focused on a character I don’t care about. But this week, with this Cyclops-centric comic, I’ll let it slide.
“X-Men Disassembled” wasn’t every reader’s cup of tea. It threw a lot at readers at a very fast clip. Uncanny X-Men #11 slows down that pace while taking the stakes in terrifying new directions. If Jesus-X-Man was a bit too goofy of a nemesis for your tastes, you may prefer the all-too-real threat of everyday prejudice on display throughout this comic.
And, if you’re a good person, you’ll cheer along as Cyclops kicks it in its grotesque face.