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Uncanny X-Men #494

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2008
By: Christopher Power

Ed Brubaker
Billy Tan, Danny Miki, Allen Martinez, and Frank D’Armata
Marvel Comics
Someone pinch me, I feel like I’m dreaming. I’m re-living my lost childhood of X-Men stories. The X-Men are back with a ripping ride that fills me with such excitement and feeling that I feel like I’m reading “Days of Future Past” or the “Dark Phoenix” saga again for the first time. High praise, but it is well deserved.

I honestly did not think that after X-Men #206 I would rate another book as high for a while. It had everything I could ever want in it, including the big shock ending that Bishop took down Cable to get at the mutant baby. Honestly, I would do a disservice to Ed Brubaker and Billy Tan et al. if I didn’t rate this book as highly.

Ed Brubaker has an amazing ability to take a character, give it a unique voice in his own writing style, evolve it into a character that fits the story, and yet keep it true to the history of the character in tact. This incredible respect for characterization, both past and present, should be treasured in the comic book genre. Let’s look at just a few of the characters:

  • Cyclops – For so many years this character has played second fiddle in the leadership department, even being shown up by Storm in some cases. Admittedly, Joss Whedon did the initial evolution of Cyclops into a real leader, but Brubaker has added an edge to the character. There is a tone in the writing of a man at the end of his rope, a man tired of always getting the short end of the stick, a man who is tired of reacting to what life hands him. In short, he is not taking it any more.
  • Wolverine – A character who has been turned into a cold blooded killer in other books is depicted in this series as a hardened non-com. Brubaker (and the other writers) have evolved Logan into a character who is not feared, but respected, and most importantly is a leader in his own right. He takes orders, but he gives them, and takes no guff from those under him. The characterization reminds me of Wolverine’s behavior under Clairmont’s original title, and a little bit of Michael Ironside for some reason.
  • James Proudstar – What a doofus. But it is completely in character for him (and his brother) to want to protect his teammates above all else and, most importantly, applying this to the woman he loves. The scene between him and Hepzibah could have read like the most ridiculous scene ever, but I did not find that it did. It resonated as true. (In fact it is strangely reminiscent of the scene in Exiles when Thunderbird demands that Nocturne be left out of a mission).
  • Emma Frost – Cyclops’ second in command. A strong woman who acts as confident, advisor and lover, but takes the lead when needed. When things move beyond the battlefield, Emma is there.
  • Cuckoos – I really have to go back and read the original appearance of these characters. They creep the heck out of me.
  • Bishop – The presentation in this book is reminiscent of his first appearances in the X-titles, Bishop is head strong and brash, but driven by purpose. He is a grizzled veteran who will do what needs to be done; something that many of the X-Men probably can’t claim. During the ‘90s he was one of my least favored X-Men, but he is rapidly becoming one.
  • Cable – As he once said about Nate Grey, a good solider, also doing what he thinks is best. Working alone, because it is how he has always worked best.

The incredible part is that Brubaker manages to give all of these characters, and more, voices in a crowded cast. I haven’t even touched on the villains, who had style and menace about them. I also haven’t mentioned the amazingly good scenes in the future with Jamie and Layla, as we get great pieces of story handed to us, just enough to keep us interested and engaged. (Pssssst … writers of Countdown…pay attention to this title…this is how you write a good story in bite-sized periodical format, weekly no less!)

On to the art, I cannot possibly cover everything about this book, but I’ll touch on a few.

  • Vertigo’s powers are pretty difficult to depict. They can come off as cheesy, or not convey anything at all. In a single panel the art time made me feel nauseous. That is outstandingly good form, and you even feel that the power itself is unique the character.
  • Sunfire and his encounter with Bishop was fantastically rendered. It was action based, and brutal, but not blood gushingly violent. I want to see more stuff like this.
  • Gambit is back to his ragin’ Cajun self in this issue. His attacks are full of style and acrobatics that make you feel the movements when you look at the panels.
  • The colors in this book are outstandingly bright and flashy, with enough to distinguish the different powers and characters, but not so much that it overwhelms the reader.
  • The inking on the muscles of the characters is flawless. Bishop looks awesome, absolutely perfect. Fit, but not muscle bound. Then you can compare him to the raw size of Colossus or Strong Guy, and you can tell that they are actually all individuals. Meanwhile, Wolverine’s arms looks like they can bend steel.
  • Details details details! Gambits card backs are an awesome example. That is where the details give the frame depth. The flames licking off of Bishop after the Sunfire attack. Stubble on Gambit’s face is correct in each panel, as opposed to being all over place. The 6 of hearts is depicted as the card that lands the final blows, not the obligatory ace of spades. A minor thing, but it was pretty cool looking.
  • Aging is depicted correctly. Young Lucas Bishop shares the bone structure of his older counterpart. Even the expression is the same from earlier in the book. Most importantly was the depiction of alternating panels of Emma Frost and the Cuckoos. They look the same as Emma, just younger. Much better than I have seen them depicted in the past.

“Messiah CompleX” keeps delivering outstandingly good comic tales every week. Give me the oversized collectors edition hardback gold gilded pages of this one.



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