I spoke too soon in my review of Avengers vs. X-Men #7 when wondering about how the Phoenix Force is relating to Cyttorak within the mind of their shared thrall, Piotr Nikolievitch Rasputin. It seems that situation is addressed in Uncanny X-Men #15, and now I'm wondering why I so often neglect to pick up this book. I blame my residual Piotr/Kitty Pryde shipping disease that flares up now and again. I still dislike how they were abruptly separated.
But before I go off on that tear, let's talk about UXM #15. The deal with Cyttorak is well formed by writer Kieron Gillen, in a great impugnment of both what Scotty Jive and the Phoenix Five (no, I will never tire of calling them that) are doing, but what superheroes do in general. Sure, Piotr is helping the X-folk remake the world as the "jetpack-future every boy since Wells has dreamed of," in the words of Kate Kildare, X-Men PR. However, the god of destruction makes a biting comparison between Colossus and the former wielder of the Juggernaut power, Cain Marko which also serves as a criticism of superheroics in general. Cain, as a supervillain, only showed up now and again to wreak havoc, spending most of his time in hiding before the next strike. Colossus, however, and superheroes in general, show up in every damn one of their books to slug it out with the jerk du jour – and that jerk is Cain Marko only once a year or so. So Cyttorak is actually fine with all this, because he's well aware that the X-Men's grand plan is going to come crashing down around them – and that'll be all the destruction he needs.
That's B-plot business, though – as any plot involving my favorite X-Man Colossus usually is, sadly. However, the A-story centers around the looming threat of Mr. Sinister that Gillen had been building since the relaunch of UXM with its new #1. The current state of Sinister is oddly as a foppish dandy of sorts. He's created an entire society molded after himself, with each citizen an exact genetic duplicate of him, despite their varying shapes and sizes, in a subterranean Sinister London deep beneath the surface of Alaska – Scotty Jive's childhood home. The Phoenix Five have learned that Sinister is the one who told Hope about the Phoenix, and even though she's off with the Avengers, they still feel the need to protect her, and they believe Sinister is the bigger threat. That mime-faced ne'er-do-well has always had a keen interest in the Phoenix Force, and he's stalked Cyclops since he was a kid, and now that the twain have met, he's gotta have something up his sleeve.
In this issue, we get a sense of how powerful and yet how limited the Phoenix power is in its current state of being split into fifths. Colossus and Magik can't dare to fight Cyttorak in his own realm with their fractions, and the group together has to concentrate some to actually locate Sinister's enclave. Even then, Sinister is prepared for them and has some distraction queued up for them as they eventyally find and approach him. He's been planning for this, and he's declaring war on the Phoenix Five with his entire city of self-made goons. If anybody's got Phoenix contingencies that will actually work, it's going to be Ol' Nathaniel Essex. The batch of Madelyne Pryor clones may speak to that.
Gillen's story is interesting and fun, although it's taken this long to get used to the idea of Sinister as a dapper, snarky-bon-mot kind of morally deficient gentleman as opposed to the shadowy creature of nightmares he once was. He doesn't feel like a threat so much as a goof now, but the X-Men are still taking him seriously as a danger, so that helps. Come to think of it, Sinister also has an interest in the Rasputin lineage, thanks to David Hine's Colossus: Bloodline miniseries, and he's got the Phoenix, too. There's a lot of potential here. Daniel Acuña's art is pretty solid for the most part. Cyttorak looks suitably scary and Sinister's battalions are awash in period detail that really reminds us what era Essex hails from.
It's a good set-up, and there's hope for a good payoff, depending on what Sinister's grand plan turns out to be. I'll certainly check in for the next installment.
UPDATE: Having gone back to read Uncanny X-Men #14, which details not only the inner workings of Sinister's Society of Self, but also sublimely sets up what we see in UXM #15, I'm much more invested in Gillen's story, and I very much look forward to see if Sinister is actually allowed to affect the main story of AvX.