UNCANNY X-MEN #16 Variant
UNCANNY X-MEN #16 by Matthew Rosenberg, Salvador Larocca, and Guru-eFX
UNCANNY X-MEN #16 isn't what it could be. Rosenberg knows the X-Men but he continues to throw way too many plotlines and random characters into each issue instead of focusing in on the cast he already has. Until Rosenberg can tell a complex story without having to add so many additional (and confusing) elements, the fate of UNCANNY will remain in question.
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A Disappointment
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You know how I said UNCANNY X-MEN might just be a hit-or-miss series? Unfortunately, I think I was right because UNCANNY X-MEN #15 was a hit and this week’s UNCANNY X-MEN #16 is a big ole’ miss. Writer Matthew Rosenberg knows and loves the X-Men, but he refuses to create a coherent storyline that can build them into three-dimensional characters. A messy plotline, a notable lack of characterization, and lackluster art all add up to make a less than impressive issue.

UNCANNY X-MEN #16 Review
UNCANNY X-MEN #16 Review / Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Mutant Pandemonium on Earth-616

While everyone else is trapped in the Age of X-Man, Cyclops and his team are going through some big changes. Scott steps down as leader of the X-Men which leaves a notable vacancy. Most everyone decides picking a new leader would be fruitless, so they decide to stick to voting. 

In typical Rosenberg fashion, the plot quickly jumps to a battle between Joesph and the X-Men. And then Juggernaut shows up. And then Kwannon also shows up. The strange and confusing battle ends with Dani announcing the sudden death of Rahne, who leaves the team earlier in the issue to pursue a “normal life.” As all of us X-fans know, there’s no such thing as a normal life when you’ve been fighting with the X-Men for the past four decades…   

UNCANNY X-MEN #16 Review
UNCANNY X-MEN #16 Review / Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

What Went Wrong in UNCANNY X-MEN #16

UNCANNY X-MEN has been a whirlwind of semi-okay issues, really horrible issues, and one or two surprisingly (or uncannily) good issues. A lot of fans are enjoying UNCANNY, partly because it features two characters who’ve been out of the comics game for a while: Cyclops and Wolverine. It’s completely okay if you like UNCANNY for that reason. However, if you’re starting to feel like this series keeps letting you down (even though Scott is on every page) you’re not the only one.

UNCANNY X-MEN #16 is an undeniable step back from UNCANNY X-MEN #15, which was sort of a crowning gem for the series. UNCANNY needed more issues like #15. Instead, we got UNCANNY X-MEN #16 which just sort of feels like…nothing. Big things happen in the issue but thanks to poor characterization and problems with pacing they don’t feel big.

Joseph appearing out of the blue is random and poorly planned. In some ways, he serves more as an ideological mouthpiece for Rosenberg to talk through than an actual character. Juggernaut is similarly underdeveloped as is Rahne (and most of the other female characters). Rahne leaving (and dying) is supposed to be a huge plot point but because Rosenberg did absolutely nothing with her character for the last five issues, it means nothing.

What Could’ve Gone Right in UNCANNY X-MEN #16

Matthew Rosenberg knows the X-Men. At NYCC 2018, I interviewed him, and in every answer he gave, I could feel his respect and admiration he had for the writers who’ve molded the characters in the past. Rosenberg isn’t new to the X-Men world which is partially why I’m being a little hard on him. For the lack of a better phrase, he should know better. The other reason is because UNCANNY X-MEN isn’t some small, spin-off series. It’s UNCANNY X-MEN. It’s the series that started it all, and it should always be the best of the best. I think most fans will admit that right now, UNCANNY is not as good as it could be.

So, that leaves the big important question: what needs to change? Looking back, I wish Rosenberg had spent a little more time developing Dani, Rahne, Karma, and Magik as real characters instead of background props. If he had, this “death of Rahne” storyline could really mean something. In a similar vein, I don’t understand why, after the shocking events in UNCANNY X-MEN #15 (a.k.a. Cyclops losing an eye via Hope’s gun) Hope barely appears in UNCANNY X-MEN #16.

UNCANNY X-MEN #16 Review
UNCANNY X-MEN #16 Review / Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Distilling Down

It’s almost like Rosenberg has too many ideas and characters that he wants to talk about yet he isn’t willing to round out any of those characters or give any single plot more than a few pages. Yes, the X-Men are falling apart but why are they falling apart? If he wants to keep his readership entertained (and not ready to tear their hair out over unresolved plotlines), he needs to stick to one, maybe two, well-planned storylines. He needs to focus on developing the characters he has instead of just throwing new characters at the readers with every issue.

Plastic People

I’ve said a lot about artists Salvador Larroca and Guru-eFX in the past, so I’ll keep this brief. A lot of readers don’t like Larroca’s very distinctive style and, honestly, I’m one of them. His figures look strangely stiff and plastic-like (don’t tell me Scott doesn’t kind of remind you of a Ken doll). They don’t convey a lot of emotion which, for a comic book, is important. Pair that with Guru-eFX’s slightly oversaturated palette, and you have a strange artistic approach to what is quickly becoming a very strange book. 

UNCANNY X-MEN #16 Review
UNCANNY X-MEN #16 Review / Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

The Future of UNCANNY X-MEN

So, what’s next for Rosenberg and UNCANNY? My prediction: not much. Hickman’s X-Men takeover is set to start this summer. This means HOUSE OF X and POWERS OF X will push UNCANNY  X-MEN to the backseat. To survive, UNCANNY needs a complete creative overhaul…which, depending on Hickman’s X success, could happen.

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