Credits: Whilce Portacio (plot, pencils), Art Thibert (inks), John Byrne (script), Tom Orzechowski and Lois Buhalis (letters), Joe Rosas (colors)
Bishop, Malcolm, and Randall emerge from a time portal and attempt to capture Fitzroy. The X-Men are shocked to see Bishop ruthlessly kill Fitzroy’s henchmen. Bishop is convinced that the X-Men are impostors and they begin to fight. Fitzroy is taken away by the Upstarts while Bishop fights the X-Men. The Upstarts detonate explosives in Fitzroy’s base, forcing the X-Men to leave without Bishop. Meanwhile, Xavier returns Jean’s mind to her own body. Finally, the individuals behind the Upstart competition are revealed to be Selene and the Gamesmaster.
Xavier senses another mind when returning Jean to her own body. I’m assuming this is Emma Frost.
Shaw’s upset with Fitzroy for stealing his ring of leadership and has him placed in manacles. I don’t think the idea of a leadership ring for the Upstarts is brought up again. Shaw toasts the other Upstarts in victory; none of these characters are identified or seen again, but they all have stylish outfits.
Selene threatens that the Upstarts won’t like the true nature of their prize.
It’s the conclusion to the first story arc in the new direction of Uncanny X-Men, and it’s more of the same. This issue marks the first full appearance of Bishop (even though he was on the cover of the previous issue, he barely appeared there). According to legend, Bishop was the first X-Man created solely for marketing reasons. Marvel’s marketing department wanted a new X-Man, and they wanted him to be black. Gun toting tough guys were also really popular back then, so there you go.
Portacio’s plot remains questionable, leaving the scripting to cover up some of the shortcomings. Byrne tries to explain why Bishop is suddenly more interested in fighting the X-Men than capturing Fitzroy by saying that time travel is “disorienting”. He also tries to cover how exactly Jean developed the new power to transfer her mind into someone else’s body by having Forge say “necessity is the mother of invention”. Okay then. In another goofy scene, Shinobi Shaw tells Fitzroy that his Sentinels re-attached his severed fingers. Those giant robots must be very skilled surgeons. I’d love to see them perform such delicate surgery with their enormous robotic fingers. It would actually be more interesting than anything in this issue.
The introduction of the Upstarts themselves is handled just as sloppily as anything else in this arc. Considering the fact that the Upstart competition is driving the plot in this series and its spinoff, it should have received a much clearer introduction. Unless I missed something in one of Portacio’s X-Factor issues, I don’t think one single issue so far has given readers the basics of the competition. Apparently, they kill super-powered beings for points, and this issue introduces the Gamemaster as the arbitrator of the competition. What’s the prize of the competition? It’s a mystery. What does Gamemaster get out of this? It’s a mystery. Why is Selene in league with the Gamemaster? It’s a mystery.
Theoretically, this should be a very important storyline. It’s the first story since the original X-Men rejoined the team, something fans had been demanding for years. It’s the death of several established characters. It’s the introduction of several new villains. It’s the introduction of a brand new X-Man! Yet, due to the frantic pacing of each issue, it’s impossible to care about any of this.