Being a fan of Brian Michael Bendis can be very frustrating at times. While he is known for his long arcs, sometimes the plodding pace of the exposition is enough to make a reader give up entirely. This is especially tiresome when his books cover the same ground, week after week. Luckily for us, Bendis is starting to pick up the pace with Uncanny X-Men #5, a solid entry that helps bring the book back toward ‘must-grab’ stature.
After last issue’s unfortunate re-run of All New X-Men, Uncanny is trying to give the readers what they want, albeit, in the form of a flashback (sigh). It seems that even Illyana has fallen victim to the power of the phoenix force, but in a worse way than the others. Since she is the guardian of limbo, Illyana’s powers are not just her own, but connected to another dimension entirely. So just how much of a problem is this? Well, it’s enough to get Dormammu off his butt and tell her to knock off the magic crap. But, like any good superhero, does she listen? Heck no, and now the entire team is trapped in limbo.
Gripes with the pacing aside, this is a fun book that more than makes up for last issue’s dull affair. The focus on Illyana and the strength of her character is really what saves this book. Yes, it’s still just a flashback issue, but at least it’s a story we haven’t read elsewhere! What’s even more interesting is the introduction to Illyana’s evil alter-ego The Darkchilde, a bad-ass, demon slaying version of her former self. The battle, or should I say ‘ass-kicking’ between Darkchilde and Dormammu is both exhilarating and terrifying. This is a great power that Illyana clearly doesn’t understand, and in terms of X-history, we know that with great power, comes terrible repercussions.
This issue also features Frazer Irving taking over for Chris Bachalo on art duties and to say that Irving knocks it out of the park is an understatement. The world of limbo is a very serious place, and Irving’s fantasy inspired style is a perfect match. Illyana’s transformation scene will probably be the best couple pages in books this week. When Illyana’s powers explode into a hodgepodge of colour and flame, it is a sight to behold. The only downside is the recycling of character models. Cyclops’ stance on the cover is used at least twice within the book, on two separate characters. This is forgivable, since the hard work that Irving puts forth definitely overshadows the faults.
After scanning the forums of the interwebs, it’s clear that a lot of readers were debating whether to keep Uncanny in their grabs and rightfully so. But does Uncanny X-Men #5 make up for last issues glaring faults? In some ways, it does. Uncanny X-Men #5 is a gorgeous book that actually manages to take a couple steps forward. However, since the issue is told through flashbacks, it’s safe to say that Bendis had better step things up for Issue #6, or else Uncanny may be lost amongst his other books currently on stands.