It’s weird to be a comic book fan today. When I was growing up, the only people that cared about what happened in the books were people that visited comic book stores. Which in my circle was limited to me, perhaps my cousin and one or two of my friends. Because of this little thing called the internet, especially social media, the niche has grown into something that’s embraced across the whole spectrum of pop-culture and generates billions of dollars by having its lore mined for movies. With all that understood, I still find it strange when I hear about backlash from something that happened inside of a comic book before I even have a chance to read it. This was the case with Uncanny X-Men #17. What happened? Well, after reading it, I’m not really all that certain.
Before we get down with the happenings of issue #17, we should go over how the road has been shaped thus far. Back during the time gap at the end of Secret Wars, Cyclops was killed by a giant cloud of Inhuman Terrigen Mist. Like most X-Men, death didn’t stick to him. Through an elaborate plan concocted by a teenaged version of his son, Cable, that involved time-travel and Phoenix Energy, Cyclops was revived. Sadly, Cyclops came back into a world without the vast majority of the X-Men. If you followed issues 1-10 (Disassembled) then you know after combating Nate Grey (X-Man), the X-Men are currently denizens of the Age of X-Man. As far as the rest of the Marvel Universe is concerned, they’re dead.
To make things worse, a mutant cure was developed (originally by Beast but leaked to the public by Anole) and distributed across the globe to willing participants and also as a federal mandate. Mutants were becoming even more endangered than ever. Not one to just roll over and die, Cyclops does his best to gather whoever is left. Oddly enough, the person to answer the call is his best frenemy, Wolverine. The two then set out to reform the X-Men, first by setting free their imprisoned friends; Magik, Wolfsbane, Moonstar, and Cyclops’ brother, Havok. Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man, also reluctantly joined the team in official-unofficial capacity. They are later joined by former Gen-Xer, Chamber as well.
With a team being held together with chewing gum and scotch tape and garbed in classic uniforms, the X-Men set out to tackle threats by way of a hit list. Their first taste of action is the Dark Beast. After soundly defeating him, they keep him sort-of locked up and functioning as-as well, their Beast. He’s their medic, engineer, and shares the title of comic relief for the book with Madrox. Along the way, Cyclops and his motley crew make alliances with Val Cooper and Captain America, if for nothing else to keep them out of handcuffs.
The next hurdle the team took on was a bit closer to home. The Mutant Liberation Front is active again and being led by Cyclops’ foster-granddaughter, Hope Summers. She’s flanked by the undead-former horseman of death, Banshee and a host of classic X-Men baddies such as Forearm. Hope seemed to have a real problem with her grandpop following the death of her father at the hands of a younger version of himself. A confrontation between the two Summers ended with Hope literally shooting out one of Cyclops’ eyes. The MLF is defeated and taken into custody, but thanks to their connections, the X-Men are able to keep Hope and Banshee for themselves.
Ever the busybodies, the X-Men confronted what they believe to be Magneto and the Brotherhood, including the unstoppable Juggernaut! The X-Men overwhelm their foes and soon discover that it is not, in fact, Magneto, but Joseph, his younger clone. This turned out to be a shock to everyone, including Juggernaut who was more than a little pissed for being lied to. He immediately jumped ship on Joseph and turned him into the X-Men and joined the already bloated roster. Unfortunately, they aren’t able to turn Joseph over to the authorities before he is suddenly beheaded by the ninja, Kwannon (the original owner to the Asian body Psylocke was in possession of until recent events that saw revert to her Caucasian body)! The team doesn’t have time to catch their breath before Moonstar fell to the ground crying that Wolfsbane, whom she shared a mystical link with and recently left the team to pursue a ‘normal life,’ was dead.
That catches us up to all the internet outrage of Uncanny X-Men issue #17. It opened up with the X-Men preparing to put their friend to rest. Approximately two weeks had passed since her death and the team was still reeling from the tragedy. Wolverine, taking Kwannon with him, tracked down the people responsible. We quickly learn that she was indeed murdered. Not by any of their classic foes, or a new threat, but pointlessly beaten to death by a group of punks in a park, alone and begging. Something Wolverine experienced first-hand after Kwannon ripped it from the minds of one of the culprits and showed it to him.
I’m going to concentrate on this scene because it seems to be the root of all the internet uproar. Rahne (Wolfsbane), was quietly enjoying a hot beverage in a park when she was approached by the quartet of morons. One of them hit on her, but she didn’t bite. When he insisted, Rahne lost her cool and briefly lashed out just slightly revealing her wolf-form. The young man continued to press the matter and was quickly joined by his friends. She finally fully transformed and slashed the group leader across the face, but again pulled back hoping to defuse the situation. The group persisted and continued their assault until she apparently died from the wounds.
The only thing worth being annoyed about in this issue is how unbelievable it is for Rahne to be killed by 4 flat-line humans. Wolverine even commented on how she didn’t bother to defend herself, and that she didn’t transform. That doesn’t fix the issue for me. Rahne doesn’t need to transform to wipe the floor with the lot of them. She’s a trained superhero with superhuman durability, strength, reflexes, healing, and senses, in or out of her wolf-form. Rahne should have been able to slap these guys around without revealing any bit of her furrier side.
Outside of that, and the odd pacing throughout Rosenberg’s run- I’m not sure what the problem is. Is it because she’s a woman and died? Because that happens. It’s sad, but people of both sexes die every day and it’s not always pretty, and rarely ever fair to victims.
For goodness sake, it’s unfortunate, but it is par the course in a book where so far, we’ve had to deal with the death of Guido pretty early on, and then looked on as Cyclops had his eye shot out of his head by his granddaughter! It’s a story set in a world that not just fears and hates mutants, but is stridently on its way to eradicating the entire species- and doing it with a smile.
Uncanny X-Men is dark and this probably won’t be the last tragic scene we’ll have to deal with. What I find disturbing about all this is, that it may affect how Rosenberg shapes his story going forward, and that’s a shame.
I just want to say that I am listening to all the criticism and taking it in. I want to let other voices lead the conversation here. With that said, I do want to apologize to people hurt by our story. That was never, ever our intention.
— 𝙼𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚠 𝚁𝚘𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚋𝚎𝚛𝚐 (@AshcanPress) May 2, 2019
Sans a few leaps in logic and pacing, I’m really enjoying his run. For those that are using this book as some example of the widespread depiction of brutality against women, I say- please go find something worth fussing about. This ain’t it, ya’ll. Rahne’s death was supposed to bother you. If you felt like it was wrong, meaningless, and brutal, then that means Rosenberg did his job. He made you care.