Uncanny X-Men #4 rolls out almost as an epilogue to the first story arc in a way, and perhaps it should have been rolled out as Issue #1 for a bit more relevancy, serving as a neat little bit of foreshadowing. Coming out as Issue #4, Kieron Gillen uses it to answer a few questions you might have had about Mr. Sinister and his ability to assimilate humans into Sinisters. It feels a bit like a one-shot a first glance, however if you look past the primary villain being a solitary Phalanx then you'll see the left over remnants of Mr. Sinister's diabolical plot from the first three issues. In this way, Gillen made this done-in-one relevant and I found it quite refreshing. Too often standalone issues feel like filler while they are waiting for the next event to unfold, where this one answers a few questions and, thanks to Gillen taking the villain's POV in the story, I actually feel some sympathy for Phalanx.
This, of course, is all directed by the hands of Brandon Peterson and Justin Ponsor. They direct the action well, building from close-ups stuck in the evil laboratory to wide open, jumping-out-of-plane action. It looks good — nothing groundbreaking, but good. Peterson manages to give the lone Phalanx a human quality in a subtle manner, letting the emotions Gillen is setting up roll out in the body language of a being that is use to being part of many but finds himself all alone.
Phalanx is the star of this issue. Yes, he is a villain; after all he does absorb an entire family and then an entire town, but Gillen does a great job of portraying him in a sympathetic light. Imagine, for instance, you've been a part of a hive mind, a collection of beings sharing a singular connection which means you'll never have to be a lone. Now, for some time, you've been kept a lone. Your connection to the collective separated. Wouldn't you do anything to get that back? The story is all a matter of perspective and Gillen does a wonderful job of altering it to build sympathy for what otherwise would be seen as a terrible creature doing unspeakable acts. It doesn't move a story forward, but it does offer closure to some minor plot points and the character development of a villain does a good job carrying the story on its own.
All he wants to do is phone home, like some villainous E.T. Hell, at one point he even emerges from the dirt and fires a red light from his finger. It is up to the X-Men to stop him and this is where the final master strokes from Gillen complete the characterization take place. The villain gives up once he fails to get a return signal. How often do you see a villain give up because his attempt failed? Not very damn often. The Phalanx cannot live alone and once he comes to this realization he lowers his shields and the X-Men do what they do best; blow up big enemies. The issue ends with Storm and Cyclops wondering if you can call it a win and if they'll ever truly understand the motivations of aliens.
Gillen did a great job with what could have been a filler issue, using perspective to make you feel sympathetic toward a devourer of people, towns, cities and possibly worlds.
Dylan B. Tano is a relatively new reviewer powered by a love of bacon and constantly distracted by a kitten who would rather use his laptop as a bed. He grew up idolizing Spider-Man and can’t believe he gets to review comics all day.