Uncanny X-Men #18 review

Now here’s a surprise – an entirely different perspective on the fight between Cyclops and Emma Frost, and the united X-Men and Avengers, in this week’s Avengers vs X-Men #11. It turns out that as Professor Xavier confronts Scott Summers with the news that he’s invaded his mind, Scott and Emma are sharing an intimate meal. The comic pages divide, with scenes reflecting the crossover book taking up the top half, and the continuing dinner chat along the bottom. These are two multi-tasking mutants.

Writer Kieron Gillen doesn’t so much enrich the storyline as we understand it, but make sense of it; Cyclops’ actions at the close of AvX #11 are cast in a very different light, without contradicting anything in there. It’s clever drama, perfectly presented by artist Ron Garney, and I only wish an editorial note in the other book had pointed readers over here.

The early part of the issue is also rather excellent, opening with X-Men PR woman Kate Kildare understandably dismayed at the idea of spinning the mayhem wrought by the Phoenix Five on the world (are civilians even out there, still? I can’t recall seeing any reaction from ordinary people, or super-villains, for that matter, to the extension of ‘Utopia’).

We then have a conversation between Scott and Magneto emphasising how far the former has fallen, followed by a truly chilling scene. In Siberia, former Phoenix Five components Colossus and Magik reflect on their time possessed by the cosmic force, before a confession forces Peter to see Illyana for the twisted sister she truly is.

This crushing moment for Colossus is followed by the aforementioned dinner, with Emma and Scott sharing a meal that’s no less horrific for being entirely in their minds. Emma’s matter-of-fact manner concerning the menu and Scott’s understated acceptance show how divorced from humanity they’ve become.

Garney shows his facility with character acting, ensuring this is far more than a talking heads scene. The work is especially impressive given that Scott’s beak-visor means we can’t see his eyes – his feelings are conveyed solely via mouth, chin and posture. The panels are arranged neatly, appropriate for a scene concerned with just how workaday life as dark gods has become for Scott and Emma.

The Illyana and Peter scene, though, is another matter. The rose-tinted glasses are removed from Peter’s eyes and the gloves are soon off, too. Enraged, Peter gives in to the demon Cyttorak and takes on his Juggernaut form. Spiky version. The panels become big and angular, with Peter busting their borders. All the while, Illyana is a picture of insane calm.

Colourist Matt Milla joins Garney for the cover, which does a splendid job of capturing the mad love of Scott and Emma as they plunge from grace. Interior colour artists Morry Hollowell and Jason Keith ensure that Garney’s stripwork pops, while Joe Caramagna provides the spooky Phoenix fonts.

While many Avengers vs X-Men tie-ins have failed to synch with the mother book in terms of timing or incident, this issue is a fine example of how to get it right, fitting in while telling its own powerful tale.

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