Sunday, March 22, 2015

Uncanny X-Men #31 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Honestly, I can't tell what happened here.  Did Bendis intend the story to end this way, or did he write himself into a corner?

The facts of the case:

Eva and Charles travel into the past and make sure that Matthew Malloy's parents never meet; as a result, he is never born.  (Charles once again uses telepathy to achieve this dubious outcome.)  Despite the fact that it shouldn't be that simple, it apparently is.  We jump immediately to the "new" timeline to see She-Hulk (again) reading his Last Will & Testament; in this version of events, he gives the School to Scott and, if Scott is dead, to Ororo.  Eva pulls aside Scott after this revelation and tells him what she did; she threatens to do the same thing to him that she did to Matthew if he doesn't get his act together.  Scott signs over the School to Ororo, asks her to take his students, and then leaves to find himself, announcing that he loves everyone in the room.  (No, he doesn't fight Alex, despite the cover, in a pet peeve #2 moment, depicting them fighting.)

First, the only apparent repercussion from Eva and Charles' act -- beyond Matthew not being born -- is that the Last Will & Testament doesn't reveal that Charles is married to Mystique.  (It's possible that they were still married; it just doesn't get revealed.)  It's unclear where Bendis is going to go from here; this revelation might be the first of many showing similar deviations from our understanding of the X-Men's recent past.  But, my sense is that we're not going to see other ones.  If we don't, it supports the idea that Bendis wrote himself into a corner and used time travel to escape it.  After all, we knew the ret-con was coming once he killed Cyclops and Magik (not to mention, Emma).

In fact, Bendis almost seems to be trolling us here.  In great examples of pet peeve #3, Eva asks if she and Charles should be worried about the "butterfly effect," and Emma asks if anyone was disappointed that they didn't learn that Charles had a secret family.  Using your characters to comment on the ridiculousness of your plot doesn't excuse the plot for being ridiculous in the first place!  (That said, Emma's comment alludes to the fact that Charles wasn't just married to Mystique, but had a child with her, Raze of the future Brotherhood.  As a result, either Charles just didn't mention it (for whatever reason) in his Last Will & Testament or Bendis just wiped out Raze from existence.)  Bendis seems to be flouting the fact that the removal of Malloy from time will have no other consequences than the ones portrayed in this issue, logic be damned!

In the end, this arc is actually all about Eva.  It was first about Charles, then about Matthew, and then about Scott.  But, it's now all about Eva and her seemingly unhinged willingness to screw with time.  Of course, as I've previously mentioned, it would be nice if we have a consistent portrayal of her powers.  In the annual cross-over story, she "lost" her future because she returned to the "past," wiping away that future.  It wasn't just that a few details were gone; it was clear that she couldn't return to it at all.  However, that restriction seems to have been dropped now that it served its purpose in establishing her tragic back story of losing her husband and child.  Even in that story, she regained her ability to travel to the past without the future disappearing.  But, regardless of how her power works, Bendis makes it clear that Eva's path is anything from certain.

In the end, I'm giving the issue two stars because the story -- in terms of the issue itself -- flowed pretty well.  But, the overall story -- "The Last Will & Testament of Charles Xavier" -- only deserves one star, since it devolved into yet another perfect example of why I hate time-travel stories.  At this point, it would be nice if we could actually go a month without some sort of time-travel story in an X-Men issue.  Wishful thinking, I know.  But, at some point, Bendis has to be able to tell a story that involves consequences.  Too often, he pushes his characters past their limit to see what they'll do when so pushed, but then uses time travel to move them into their comfort zone again.  We really didn't need an elaborate time-travel story for Eva to call Scott on his bullshit in a way that made him go all "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."  But, Bendis has gotten so used to time travel as his crutch that he couldn't even conceive of another way to tell this story.  It's time to lose the crutch.

** (two of five stars)

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