Editor's Note: Uncanny X-Men #497 arrives in stores tomorrow, April 23.
The sun begins to set below the snow caped mountains of Russia as a train chugs along the frosty earth. Inside Colossus and Nightcrawler peacefully sleep beside their clawed Canadian friend. Suddenly, Wolverine awakes with a start. He can smell it – there’s no one else in the entire train car. The cab begins to shake and rattle as it's lifted high into the cold evening light by two giant robot hands. Meanwhile, Cyclops and Emma Frost fit themselves with more appropriate garb as they search for the dangerous telepathic presence that has brought San Francisco back into the 60's.
Telepathic hippies and giant robots aside, Brubaker is delivering a very engaging story with stunning art by Mike Choi and Sonia Oback that gets better every month. Seriously.
Take a look at issue #495 and see how dark Oback's colors are (somebody turn on a friggin’ light!) and how Iron Man's dialogue with Cyclops is literally repetitive. On page eight: "They're pushing me to officially register all of you… to get the X-Men into the system." Say it again! Page nine: "They’re pushing me to officially register all of you… to get the X-Men into the system." This scene in particular should have had gravitas as it was clearly meant to affect Cyclops throughout the book. He admits later on to Emma Frost that he is second-guessing his decision to disband the X-Men because of his conversation with Iron Man. Cyclops was admitting to the red and gold guardian, an outsider, that the X-Men are no more. That's pretty weighty stuff. Instead, the scene felt cursory and forgettable (you wonder if there's some quota of how many titles Iron Man must appear in each month).
Thankfully, those two flaws did not overshadow the book, nor did they fester into the subsequent issues. In fact, each issue since has gotten better and better, especially in displaying Choi and Oback's wide range of artistic capabilities. This issue shows off Choi's talent for machine design, which is incredibly detailed and functional, and Oback's significant color palette.
Choi, who can draw a woman with the sumptuous grace and curves that can make a man like Scott Summers leave his wife, can also expertly handle the intricate beauty and reality of machinery. As the train car is lifted into the air, a look underneath the carriage reveals the valve gears attached to the wheels, each connected to an axel and an opposite wheel, as a brake separates each wheel. Furthermore, his giant robots appear not only highly detailed, but practical as well. Opting for a mecha-design, Choi gives the robots enough rocket power on their feet and lower back to give the illusion that they could properly lift off and aerially maneuver.
I know it's dorky to point all this out, but Choi's designs give credibility to the scene with its realism. These robots are clearly perilous and the lives of these three friends are in danger. Therefore, the reader can assess the danger of the scene without relying on suspension of disbelief or exposition.
And as this battle ensues, Oback paints the background at dusk with atmospheric power. Oback captures hues of salmon pink and dark blue in the sky that evokes the somber repose of the event and the freezing temperature as well. This environment reflects the battle in front of it, which grows more futile and bitter with each panel. Interestingly, Brubaker has kept the story compelling and mellow. Save for the opening, there is an air of easygoingness to the dialog and events in the issue that creates a welcoming and ominous ambiance. Cyclops and Emma Frost flirtatiously chide each other for their respective 60's disguise, which is subsequently followed by an eerie revelation about those caught in the telepath's presence. The telepath, who is called "Goddess," reveals herself (quite literally) to the reader. The mood transitions from jovial to creepy, focusing on the characters' conversations and planning rather than action.
But where is this all going? Why hippies? Why San Francisco? According to Marvel Marketing Manager Jim McCann on a Wizard World Los Angeles panel, "The San Francisco stuff is not just for fun, this is definitely leading up to something." And Matt Fraction, who will be jumping onto the title come milestone issue #500, said the team will relocate to the city for a fresh perspective on their situation.
So if don’t wanna miss out on half-naked women, giant robots, beautiful sunsets, and the future of the X-Men, buy this book!
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!