Uncanny X-Men #21 Chronicles The Fall Of The Mutants

by Tony Thornley

The breakneck pace of this Uncanny X-Men run has been one of the most refreshing things about it. This story has easily gone through about four years of plot in fourteen issues (including the War of the Realms tie-in), which in most points has been to its benefit. Is that still the case in this issue?

Cover by Whilce Portacio & Erick Arciniega

Matthew Rosenberg, Salvador Larocca, Guru-eFX, and Joe Caramagna bring this era of the X-Men to its penultimate issue.

The X-Men remember Emma Frost, and it’s entirely for selfish reasons- she needs Cyclops and his team to come to her rescue. This leads to a risky raid on the Office of National Emergency and a run through enemy-infested city streets. Not all of the X-Men will make it out unscathed, but will it ultimately prove to be worth it?

There are definite highs and lows to the issue. I absolutely love that Emma Frost isn’t welcomed back with open arms. Her heel turn has been addressed wonderfully by Rosenberg (presenting her as an antagonist, but also not an outright villain), and he continues with great characterization both of her as an individual, and in relation to both the X-Men as a whole and specifically Scott Summers. It all leads to a great final page, painting Emma as the hero, even if what she did is less than heroic.

However, a lot that happens in between is where the issue falls short. Once again, we have multiple character deaths (three definite and three maybes), and, at this story’s breakneck pace, they don’t have the impact they need. Also, we see a big change for one of the biggest characters in the run- Magik- which is a major development that hasn’t had any foreshadowing, which cause it to be a confusing moment and not the horrific development that we’re clearly supposed to see it as. It made for probably the weakest issue of the run so far.

Larocca does some great action work in this issue. Often his storytelling is overly static, but he has a good sense of motion on-panel, and has some great layouts to draw us into the moving action on the page. The final page splash is worth calling out on its own, with a group shot that’s exciting and a little scary, including two big new designs for longtime characters.

It’s not perfect though, as Emma is portrayed very inconsistently through the issue. Her face changes shape several times, sometimes from one panel to the next. Also, some of the anatomy is off, both thanks to awkward posing and weird perspectives being used.

In the end, this isn’t a perfect issue. It’s still enjoyable, and will probably read better as part of the larger run, but doesn’t quite live up to previous issues in the run.

Uncanny X-Men #21 is available now from Marvel Comics.

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