Uncanny X-Men #600
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils by Sara Pichelli, Mahmud Asrar, Stuart Immonen, Kris Anka, Chris Bachalo, David Marquez, Frazer Irving
Inks by Wade Von Grawbadger, Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin
Colors by Marte Garcia, Jason Keith, Chris Bachalo, Frazer Irving
Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Here it is, after a needless and mysterious six month delay, Uncanny X-Men #600 has finally been released. There are two prevailing theories as to why Marvel chose to push back the release date from May, the time that all their series were wrapping up, to November, when Marvel was in the midst of creating their new status quo. Marvel either wanted to use this anniversary issue as a springboard to their new status quo but feared that the six month gap between the original release date and the debut of their all-new #1’s may cause readers to lose interest. Or, the far more sinister alternative is that Marvel is trying to smother the X-Men franchise in favor of the Inhumans to spite 20th Century Fox. If that’s the case, then Marvel wanted to drown the hype surrounding Uncanny X-Men #600 in a sea of brand-spanking new, collector edition #1’s for their entire line. Whichever reason readers would rather believe, one thing is abundantly clear, the 600th issue of arguably the most critically and commercially acclaimed comic book series of all time is a massive disappointment in almost every way imaginable.
As an X-Men fan, I have never been so personally insulted by a comic until I read Uncanny X-Men #600. From the horrible framing to the pointless subplots that should have been resolved in previous issue, to the anticlimactic and lethargic pacing, this issue is a slap in the face to everyone who’s invested their $4.00 to buy a single issue of Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Uncanny X-Men. Billed as the denouement to Bendis’ work with the X-Men, the sad reality is that the only lingering plot thread resolved is Iceman’s sexuality, which not only should have been handled in All New X-Men, but once again makes Jean Grey the most unlikable character in an entire issue filled with assholes and jerkoffs. In comparison to the purported “Trial of Henry McCoy”, Cyclops’ mutant revolution, and the ongoing crisis of the time displaced X-Men, the least important subplot winds up being the biggest takeaway from this nominal anniversary issue.
Despite being a landmark issue, absolutely nothing feels special or important about it. This is because of the fact that nothing gets resolved. If anything, all the moving parts that Bendis was juggling seem to just…stop. The two big events that Bendis was building up to throughout his run, the trial of Henry McCoy, and the impending mutant revolution never actually materialize. Because of this, Bendis’ entire run on Uncanny X-Men almost seems like a waste now since he could have used all the space he wasted on needless dialogue, the ill-begotten Omega Mutant arc, and the blatant filler issues leading up to #600 to further the more important plots like Cyclops’ agenda and the madness of Beast.
Instead, all patient readers get are five brief pages of Cyclops giving a speech to the entire mutant population that characterize Cyclops as either Martin Luther King Jr. or William Wallace. The intent, agenda, and outcome of this mobilization are never revealed despite the fact that it was THE BIGGEST PLOTLINE OF BENDIS’ ENTIRE RUN!!!!! Was this a peaceful rally? Was it the opening salvo of an impending war? What was Cyclops doing between issue 32 and now? After building his entire run to this moment, Bendis just pulls the plug and leaves his audience feeling jaded, wondering why he’d cut out on an ending he’d spent two years building to. It’d be like if Return of the Jedi just ended right as Luke and Darth Vader were about to duel, and for skimping out on his own ending, readers should take extreme umbrage to this.
Instead of the teased “Trial of Henry McCoy”, readers are instead treated to a rendition of junior high group bullying. Despite their best intentions, Shadowcat, Storm, Dazzler, and everyone else say all the wrong clichéd things in a seemingly purposeful attempt to come off as treacherous asses. The X-Men essentially accuse Beast of the following: 1) Things that everyone else either agreed with at the time or were complicit in, 2) Acts committed by his future self in a future that probably won’t happen, and 3) Acts committed by an evil version of himself from an alternate universe. Granted, Beast doesn’t do himself any favors by acting like a more devious version of Dr. Frankenstein, but this bullshit therapy session seems to prove that the X-Men are much tougher on each other than they are on actual villains. The so-called “Trial” doesn’t even reach its climax as the entire team is teleported to Washington D.C. to listen to Cyclops give his vague speech about mutant unification. Lingering plotlines that Bendis had years to tie up and conclude still go unresolved in this anniversary issue despite promises to the contrary. Maybe if he wasn’t so focused on needless dialogue, there would have been a visible climax to this issue, but alas, Uncanny X-Men #600 is left bereft of such luxury as a conclusion.
Uncanny X-Men #600 is more concerned with setting up a new status quo than it is with resolving storylines that had been brewing for over two years. But without concluding those vital storylines, there can be no effective springboard to the new status quo. If the final issue of Bendis’ run on Uncanny X-Men doesn’t conclude any of his plots, yet Extraordinary X-Men #1 jumps to a new status quo, the readers are ultimately the ones who suffer since they’ve invested their time and money without any commensurate payoff. Equally infuriating is that the exchange between Colossus and Illyana is copied in Extraordinary X-Men 1. Why waste precious space in this issue, if an almost identical scene would be played out in another issue? Because of these little missteps, there is no outcome to the “Trial of Henry McCoy”, as Beast simply runs off into the night, and the direction and purpose of Cyclops’ mutant march is never revealed either. Simply put, there is no excuse for this oversight. But, at least we know that Iceman thinks Angel is hot.
No matter how good the art is (and it really is quite good), it can’t compensate for the directionless narrative. Although each artist is perfectly suited to draw the scenes they were tasked with, it can’t save this issue. Brian Michael Bendis makes issue #600 seems less like a tribute to the X-Men mythos, and more like a self-satisfied tribute to himself. His obsession with needless and indistinguishable dialogue, his impotent resolution to major plotlines, and his mismanagement of the material he was working with make this celebratory issue seem more like a sacrificial issue. And that’s not saying anything about the self-involved where he congratulates himself for his runs on Ultimate Spider-Man and New Avengers. If he’s half as great as he thinks he is, why then couldn’t he provide a proper ending to his run on Uncanny X-Men. After all the controversies, horrendous storylines, and editorial edicts plaguing the mutants since 2005, fans of the X-Men deserved much more from this anniversary issue. Issue #600 could have been worse I suppose, it could have been written by Chuck Austen.