Uncanny X-Men, Vol. 4
written by Kieron Gillen
illustrated by Daniel Acuna, Ron Garney, Dale Eaglesham and Carlos Pacheco
In 2012, Marvel got busy redefining its universe with the epic Avengers vs. X-Men series. That event changed not only the lineups of the two teams, but also the directions in which both would move…and by extension altered the path of much of the entire Marvel line.
Uncanny X-Men, Vol. 4 ties into the A vs. X series, but its most dramatic moment, years in the making, has little to do with that storyline. It involves a pivotal battle between the Russian X-Man Colossus and his sister, the “little snowflake” Illyana (aka Magik, armed with the powers of sorcery and teleportation). Long ago, way back in the 1980s (in real time, at least), Illyana Rasputina was just a little girl when she was warped away to the hellish dimension ruled by the demon lord Belasco. She spent years under his demented and torturous ways, and reappeared back in the X-Men’s regular timeline several years older and possessing some truly amazing powers.
In the X-Men’s current story, Colossus, her always protective older brother, has assumed the power (and curse) of the Juggernaut, a power that is itself ruled by an otherworldly demon, one Colossus is powerless to resist. When Illyana reveals that she allowed her brother to slip into the demon’s grasp as a way of showing the dark and tortured soul she now was --- and how she would never again be the “little snowflake” Colossus wanted her to be --- a sad and brutal battle between the siblings ensues.
It’s here, in that long overdue fight, that we see a culmination of events that deserve to be dealt with. It’s wonderful seeing the human side of our mutant friends being addressed profoundly once again. For years, each member of the X-Men was a carefully honed persona, a distinct individual with certain speech patterns and habits, all immediately recognizable to longtime readers of the series. As writers on the multitude of X-books have come and gone, many of those distinctions have fallen by the wayside. It’s reassuring, then, to read writer Kieron Gillen give Storm back some of her regal African goddess nature, to see Magneto acting cold and aloof yet driven by incredibly profound personal experiences, and, perhaps most of all, to see the downfall of X-Men leader Cyclops.
During the course of the events of A vs. X, five members of the X-Men have assumed nearly infinite powers of the Phoenix Force. Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, and Magik have been transformed into almost all-powerful forces of nature who seem to want to transform the earth in benevolent ways. But their actions have unintended consequences, and one by one, each falls. It’s Cyclops’ journey, however, that is most riveting, as he betrays his friends and lover and causes a death that changes the X-Men forever.
So much more is going on in the pages of this book, and I’ve hardly even addressed the main storyline (an epic battle with Mister Sinister that is incredibly fun to read and watch unfold). This volume feels like a return to form for great X-Men storytelling, and it’ll have readers heavily engaged…and ready for more.