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Marvel Slugfest: Uncanny X-Men #495

Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2008
By: Keith Dallas

Ed Brubaker
Mike Choi, Sonia Oback (colors)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Uncanny X-Men #495 arrives in stores tomorrow, Wednesday, February 5.

"X-Men: Divided, Part One"

Geoff Collins: 4-1/2 Bullets
Bryant Frattalone: 4 Bullets
Paul Brian McCoy: 3 Bullets




Geoff Collins 4-1/2 Bullets

This could have easily been titled Messiah Complex: Epilogue since it’s the first part of the next arc. The story obviously introduces what’s going to happen next in the immediate future, but there are only a few scenes hinting at that. Most of the issue has characters—primarily Scott Summers and Emma Frost—speculating on their future course of action. The reason that this would be an apt epilogue is that in their speculation, they talk about what just happened in Messiah Complex and what it means to them.

I liked the opening scene a lot. It shows Summers in a dream talking to his deceased father then to his deceased ex-wife Jean Grey. What is unique about it is that rather than the dead characters simply standing there with him, as is common in stories, it shows them in famous scenes—his father fighting Shi’Ar outside a spaceship and Grey ripping people up as Phoenix—as they’re talking to him. If it weren’t for them being in those action poses, the scene would just be talking heads, so it was a nice touch. If you’re an X-Men fan but don’t want to buy the book, at least read through the first scene because it’s fantastic.

Most of the issue is spent with Frost and Summers vacationing in the Savage Land. Their time there doesn’t involve any serious action, and like I said this issue is mostly characters speculating about the future, but there are some interesting conversations about the characters. It’s not important, but it’s not pointless.

What’s best about a lot of the scenes—particularly in The Savage Land—is the artwork. It really is stunning, and there are plenty of panels without words that are fun to sit and just stare at. Choi’s art doesn’t carry it; the color art done by Oback is just as important to the pencils. Artists need to pick up this book and take a look at it; the art really is that good.

The body language and the emotions shown through characters’ faces are also great, and make the best part of a scene between Tony Stark and Summers. Nothing shocking is said in the conversation. It mostly covers how mutants are going to be viewed by the public now. Stark comes off as a jerk pushing an agenda and Summers is hostile toward him.

Readers who loved Messiah Complex will probably have fun reading this. Readers who refused to follow it due to the many crossovers can read this and get a good understanding of what is happening now. I’m not sure if the next issue of Uncanny is going to be good, but any X fan should consider buying this.




Bryant Frattalone 4 Bullets

Plot: Scott and Emma step back to get some perspective on the current status quo of the X-Men and what to do about the future while Logan, Peter and Kurt go road-tripping and something groovy is going on in San Francisco.

Commentary: Brubaker’s doing it again giving us those slow beats that are going to build up into something big in the lives of Marvel’s mutants. For those of you who were concerned about Scott disbanding the X-Men at the end of “Messiah Complex” don’t be. Oh, I’m not saying there will be any more X-Men as we know them. Scott didn’t lie, but he didn’t tell the truth either. That statement was all part of his plans for the future of the X-Men. I’m enjoying what Brubaker is doing with Scott Summers. He is the leader that the X-Men and the mutants of the world need at this crucial time in their existence. He’s been around from the start of the X-Men and been groomed to be their leader since day one. Brubaker finally pulled the trigger (literally and creatively) to make Scott that leader. With this issue we find out he and Emma have withdrawn to a remote and familiar locale in the Marvel Universe to re-assess the state of the X-Men and mutant-kind as a whole. There’s no impromptu battle coming out of nowhere, no arrival of a mystery villain, just the development of Cyclops while on a brief hiatus from the chaotic world of the X-Men. By issue’s end Cyclops has some much needed perspective and it’s established that he’s one, two and three steps ahead in his plans for his various mutant associates.

There’s a great flashback scene with Iron Man which sets the stage for what’s to come. It’s probably the best post Civil War and Initiative conversation a Marvel character has had with Tony Stark in regards to registering. Scott gets himself and his teammates off the hook at least for the time being in a very believable and convincing way. He leaves ol’ shellhead speechless and practically scratching his metal clad head. It’s a well thought out scene and worth the price of admission! We flash briefly across the world where three long time X-Men buddies don civvies and go on an extended road trip to Colossus’s homeland by way of Nightcrawler’s. Brubaker’s really got a handle on Wolverine as a character and to me his Wolverine is the only readable version these days. We’ve had such a glut of bad Wolverine stories that it is nice to come to a place where he’s actually an enjoyable character again.

Brubaker’s sensibilities for these characters tend to lean back to the classic Claremont/Byrne run with a dash of influence from the late 80’s and early 90’s before the X-Men as a team in comics became a hit or miss affair in regards to quality. The artwork by Mike Choi is reminiscent of Salvador Larocca’s style. He’s okay for a single issue or two, but once the action starts to heat up again, which I’m sure it will, I’m hoping we see a more action oriented artist back on the book. If it wasn’t for the art I may have given this issue 4 ½ bullets. Billy Tan was pretty great, so he’d be welcome in these pages again. This issue is the quiet before the next storm in the lives of the X-Men, and even though there is no crashing of thunder, Brubaker still sets up some pretty interesting rumblings of things to come. The issue ends with the high flying Angel somehow winding up in San Francisco in the swinging sixties. Go ahead, scratch your head. I don’t know what’s going on either but Brubaker makes me want to tune in to find out next month.

Final Word: This issue allows us to take a breather after the beautiful chaos of “Messiah Complex,” but by all accounts we won’t be breathing easy for long.




Paul Brian McCoy: 3 Bullets

After the whirlwind that was "Messiah Complex" wrapped up a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't sure where the X-Titles would go next. There were enough loose ends left dangling that each title could pretty much take one and run with it (which is apparently what was planned all along). The only title that didn't seem to have a definite direction was Uncanny and this month, Brubaker slows the pace way down in order to take stock and figure out just what Scott meant when he said the X-Men were no more.

The main focus here is on Scott and Emma and their vacation getaway (although we get a little bit of Logan, Kurt, and Peter, palling around Europe), and to be quite honest, there's not a lot going on. Scott talks a lot about planning their next move, but there's never anything more than that said, really. Emma talks a lot about not knowing their next move (and how cool her boyfriend is during some psychic girl-talk with one of the mystery guest-stars). Logan played an amusing prank played on Kurt, but we missed it, only getting to see the aftershocks. But even though this issue is pretty empty of plot, Brubaker's characterizations are excellent and the dialogue is natural and believable.

The art by Choi and Oback is good, but doesn't grab me. After some soul-searching I think it all comes down to the noses. Every character has a very delicate, slim nose that makes them seem more like dolls than people. The layouts are well thought out, guiding the eye thoughtfully and moving the action along almost seamlessly. The backgrounds are excellent, and the natural elements that are on display during Scott's and Emma's vacation are very well done (how's that for skirting spoilers, eh?), but without Oback's colors providing depth and detail this wouldn't be nearly as pleasing on the eyes. She provides the details of clothing patterns, shading to make faces and bodies seem three-dimensional and solid, swirls in water, lighting effects, and even the feathering of Warren's wings. If I'd laid out the credits on this issue, I would have listed the color art before the artist, is all I'm saying.

I just don't think I care about these characters anymore. Which is sad, since this is one of the first titles I ever collected, starting back when I was just a wee one, right before Byrne came on board as penciller. I'm reading everything else Brubaker writes, too, so there's just no excuse for me not to be reading this. But I'm not. And the mystery in San Francisco that Warren encounters in the final pages, really doesn't interest me.

So the issue is functional, with no major problems jumping out at me. The art is pleasant and inoffensive. The writing is consistent in its characterizations, if lacking any big moves forward, but that's what this issue is all about, really. It's a pause for breath after a lot of violence, death, and general mayhem, before the next round of violence, death, and general mayhem begins. I don't think it will make new readers excited about sticking around, but for those who've been with the title for a while, this might be a welcome vacation.



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