In theory, Uncanny X-Men should be one of the core titles of the X-book family. And between Schism and Avengers vs. X-Men, that's exactly what it was. However, since this latest event kicked off, the series has been in the tricky situation of having most of the members of its primary cast occupied in another title being handled by other writers. Kieron Gillen's solution to that problem in Uncanny X-Men #14 is to spend the entire issue checking in on Mr. Sinister. I admit, if you described the plot of this issue to me, I would be less than enthused, but Gillen writes such a wonderfully charming Sinister, and his story is so enormously aided by Dustin Weaver's art, that the issue ends up being just...delightful.
The story of Uncanny X-Men #14 is less important than what it accomplishes, which is to give us a tour of Sinister's new base of operations, Sinister London, and let us in on his newest wicked plot. For the first half of the issue, we see this all through the eyes of one of the countless Sinister clones who dwell in the underground city. The clone fancies himself a rebel, the one cog in this enormous evil machine who isn't content to play his role, and we learn he's got a plot of his own to try and change things. Unsurprisingly, this plan fails, because the clone inadvertently makes his move against another clone, and the real Mr. Sinister shows up to explain that even rebels are a planned part of his perfect system.
I say "unsurprisingly" not because the reveal wasn't well-handled, but just because I don't think anyone ever reasonably expected Sinister to be defeated by a copy of himself. The actual moment of the poor clone's realization that he's been playing into his master's hands is, in fact, remarkably well-done. And even better is the seamless transition that follows, where we switch from rebel clone narration captions to the real Sinister explaining himself and his plans out loud while he and another clone walk through his castle. Because, as one Sinister or another says on the issue's best page, "Who doesn't love a castle?"
All of this carries us to another big twisty moment at the end, and while the second reveal was more surprising than the first, it also didn't exactly blow my mind. It certainly sets up exciting, emotional things to come, but really the best aspect of it here wasn't the fact of what Sinister had been up to, but the image of a room full of Madelyne Pryors.
It is just one of 20 pages full of rich artwork from Dustin Weaver, who really is the perfect artist for this story. The level of detail he puts into each of the three Sinisters means that there's never even a panel of confusion for the reader as to which is which. And there are three full-page splash images in this issue that are so majestic and beautifully textured that it almost makes Sinister London seem like a place you'd want to live: the establishing shot of the city itself, the distant view of the castle, and the final page where Sinister, his clone guards, and his collection of Madelynes gather around his throne and eagerly await their enemies' arrival. We as readers are also left anxious for the moment when the X-Men make their move against Sinister, because based on what Gillen and Weaver show us here, that confrontation may be one of the strangest, most beautiful, most challenging conflicts the mutant heroes have ever participated in.